• Keith Banner

"This Is True Love" Is Out

Here's the way I've tried to frame the whole thing:

I’ve been writing these kinds of stories and essays for 30 years. They are about people, most of them gay, who work shit jobs and have less than wonderful lives. Not that pretty, and a tad-bit sad, they are always trying hard to make it anyway, but usually just shuffled into the background, or scorned when they have the spotlight.

In my mulish allegiance to this endeavor I keep finding reasons to continue it.

Coming up with these stories helps me to know how to love people who often don’t end up getting a lot of love. In fact, my focus almost exclusively here is “true love.” And for the past 27 years the stories have basically remained the same, except I think I may have gotten to a point here lately where I feel things a little deeper, and am trying harder, as I get old, to figure out how to conjure a fever-pitch empathy and tenderness with the least amount of bull-shit.

28 stinking years, here, from the first story I published professionally (“Mars” in Christopher Street in 1992) to assorted essays and stories I came across in a plastic tub in my basement I’d totally forgotten about. In that little over a quarter century, by the way, I’ve published a couple other collections of stories and a novel, but somehow these ones collected here got left out of the mix. They’ve become my favorites in many ways – full of feeling that year by year has grown into a practice, a habit. The last two stories, written in 2019, are products of all the work before: characters driven by a desire to find a way to love and a way out of their individual predicaments, often stumbling into tragedy, but more often than not finding beautiful yet temporary releases somewhere along the line.

Which is all you can really ask for, in art and in life.

I've been writing stories for 30 years -- more if you count attempts and stutters and flourishes that don't matter. The first story in This Is True Love is called "Mars." I wrote it in grad school, and it's autobiographical, full of homely details, focused on a guy named Paul. A real person in my life. I wanted to convey in that story the feeling I had about him, and reading it now I feel like I accomplished it. I wanted the story to be a TV movie about him, encapsulated, dramatic, quietly on target, low-budget. It is. I'm proud of a story I wrote in 1992. I think that means I am no longer hating myself, which might be an indication that I'm getting wiser as I get older.

I also based "Mars" on "Come as You Are" by Nirvana, which was just out then. The video, full of neon-blue waterfalls and broken concrete and Kurt looking pinched and hurt... That song, that song: a pop tune but somehow separated from itself, turned inside out in the best possible way. That string of chords, that chorus, that blurry hum. I wanted that in my stilted little words. That power.

Gonna write about each story in the book on this blog... Why not?

Stay tuned.

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