A Boxful of Ideas is the latest and most ambitious anthology from Gay Authors Workshop. More authors. More titles. A greater range of forms: short stories, poems, and essays. A varied line-up and a new take on current and abiding topics.
Paradise Press, founded 1999, is run by a collective within GAW, and has published over forty titles, including full-length novels, poetry, memoirs and history, and six previous anthologies.
Authors featured in this anthology include:
FROM THE FOREWORD BY NICHOLAS DE JONGH:
‘… this fascinating LGBT anthology of original poems, short stories, excerpts from novels and non-fiction – nicely titled A Boxful of Ideas. … As long as we are treated and regarded as separate and outsiders we need to record our own histories, experiences and life-themes in whatever art form. It’s for this reason that I heartily welcome A Boxful of Ideas.’
'... a superb anthology not just of good stories filled with humor, honesty and well written plots ... It has range and ambition and also a cozy comfortable edge. I enjoyed reading it all.'
— Eric Page, 'BOOK REVIEW: A Boxful of Ideas: John Dixon & Jeffrey Doorn' Gscene, 28 November 2016.
'... These writers are good! ... The spectrum of thoughts, emotions, and happenings in this anthology, is so vast that it is impossible to review a few stories, and then generalise, without misleading prospective buyers about the content. Take a chance – buy and read.Count that as a recommendation.'
— Clive La Pensée, 'Book Revews: A Boxful of Ideas', New London Writers, 30 November 2016.
'... The LGBT world is like a continuous conversation between lovers, friends and acquaintances, an ongoing exchange of desires, affections, hopes and anxieties, common and diverse histories, and stories and ideas. Books like this are a crucial part of that conversation. This book is most obviously an anthology of short stories, fragments of novels, poems and non fiction pieces that reveal our diversity. As such it gives great pleasure. But its ultimate success is as part of that ongoing dialogue across difference that gives us a sense of who we are, what we have in common and where we might be going. It is a box of many insights and multiple delights.
— Jeffrey Weeks, historian and sociologist and author of Coming Out (40th anniversary edition 2016).
'... The multi-voiced patchwork of this anthology bears vibrant witness to the fact that LGBT lives in this country are being lived in extraordinary times. Many of the old facts of life – discrimination, invisibility, illegality, secrecy and fear – are now becoming, in theory at least, things of the past. As they do, the thirty writers whose work is featured here remind us that rather than erasing what makes us special, these changes are freeing more and more voices to tell us about how our LGBT perspectives on the persistent enigmas of daily existence – love, lust, mortality and the counter-claims of individuality and Society – still matter . Reading this book reminded me of going to the very best kind of party – you'll meet new friends from around the country and around the world, hear some surprising stories, be touched, spot the odd stranger who will stir your loins, get into one or two cracking arguments – oh, and laugh out loud.
— Neil Bartlett
This brilliant anthology benefits from a Foreword by Nicholas de Jongh who highlights the editors’ note of defiance: ‘Is the gay label necessary?’ Asserting that it is, Dixon and Doorn point to Mid-West bigots (the unreconstructeds who elected Trump), African evangelicals and East European politicians – in other words, The New Normal. Against that appalling backcloth we must tell our stories or go under. Dixon and Doorn have assembled a wide variety of literary weapons to help gay folk wage and win this war.
So – Ladies First: Kathryn Bell takes a firm stand against heterosexist garbage, i.e. the straight-love-interest that ruins otherwise fine films, TV programmes and novels. Elsa Wallace constructs an amusing fantasy about a girl whose rich father supplies her with silent and solitary chauffeurs who enjoy a rather different role collectively. Alice F. Wickhams ‘Julie and Carol’ springs perhaps this collection’s most stunning surprise; and (in ‘I Won’t be Writing Any More Novels’) Beth Lister pays tribute to Elsa and Kathryn (also to May Sarton) and then – delightfully – sings: ‘There’s a wee bittie hoose, it’s in Berwick-on-Tweed, in a street that gangs doon tae the sea | Through a great big gate in the auld toon wa’s (that Elizabeth’s ramparts be) …’
Before focusing on what Gentlemen contribute to A Boxful, I’d like to say the editors are wickedly witty in their juxtapositioning. Elsa’s ladylike opening (‘The Tenth Chauffeur’) neatly offsets Ivor Treby’s defiant conclusion; Rex Batten’s ‘Man on Ham Common’, ‘flicking ash off his suit’, is echoed by Barbara ‘brushing a speck of dust’ in Ross Burgess’s ‘The Reunion’. Look out for these transitions; they’re a treat in themselves.
A Boxful is dedicated to Michael Harth. In the era of UKIP and Nuttall, let’s more-than-ever heed Mike’s warning: gays risk ‘(getting back) that sad lonesome look’ by acquiescing in The New Normal, by colluding with our oppressors. Even in the fun piece that gives A Boxful its title, Jeff Doorn’s ‘unhinged narrator’ story (‘Comrades’) displays a talent perfectly capable of this; Ross Burgess’s ‘Friday Night’ demonstrates how gays betray gays, undermining this; Zekria Ibrahimi’s sonnet-sequence even hints at self-betrayal: ‘I want every sonnet to degrade.’
For my money – and at £8.99 this book’s a bargain (a ‘bank of beauty’) – the boldest narrative here is Tim Blackwell’s ‘A Night on The Rack’, especially when its Dilly-based hero heads for the Thames and for ‘a strange building … like Marble Arch in miniature … an entrance-way to somewhere old and grand’. We urgently need more gay writing in this ‘old and grand’ genre – gay authors to rival Dickens and Hardy. That is the necessary project, now that we’re once again at war. This ‘literary feast’, this Boxful of Ideas, gives us an excellent start.
— Adrian Risdon