Pulpy romance novels, figurative painting and other culture picks from queer friends

Plus more of what’s up and on starting Aug. 18

Good day and glad tidings, my tender shoots and leaves, my hearty rhizomes and fabulous fruits, and welcome to a languorous, late-summer edition of Queer Culture Catch-up. I am feeling loved and tender and held in community this episode, so we’ll be rounding up some cultural options for a cool and air-conditioned room alongside others for lolling in the sunshine like a happy dog in the park grass, all on a theme of things that came into my life through my beloved friends. 

“Here Comes The Sun,” Ned Wilkinson

Thirty years ago when I was a queer teenager, I made a bunch of *Doja Cat limp wrist* friends on America Online, and one of them was Ned Wilkinson. He was the beloved sweetheart of another AOL friend, Chris Leavy, who sat with me while my parents read my coming-out letter, and regularly collected me from the safe side of buildings after I gave impassioned pro-queer speeches that inflamed the religious right. Ned was and remains a talented musician who can play a truly astonishing number of instruments (all of them, possibly) earning him the name Ned The Band. Ned is playing a nostalgia concert, Here Comes The Sun, made up of 70s and 80s summer songs—doubtless many of them with a queer twist—live in Florida this weekend and streaming online Sept 2–5. Catch tickets and admire my extremely talented longtime friend while you sip a coconut drink (a brightly patterned resort shirt is optional, but recommended for the vibes). 

“The Walrus Talks: Reconnecting Arts and Culture”

Artist, activist and educator Syrus Marcus Ware

Credit: Jalani Morgan

My sweet friend and collaborator Syrus Marcus Ware, with whom I have made several projects, as well as having spent innumerable hours watching our children run amok together, not only brought this to my attention, but is in it! “The Walrus Talks: Reconnecting Arts and Culture” is at the Halifax Central Library, but will also be streamed live and features the wisdom of several LGBTQ2S+ panelists. On Tuesday, Sept. 13, at 7 p.m. ADT (or later on the library YouTube channel), listen to such luminaries as Syrus and his colleagues, including Reneltta Arluk, Peter Hinton-Davis, Ian Kamau and Owen “O’Sound” Lee discuss the question at the heart of this column: how can arts and culture connect people, especially in the midst of a pandemic?


Virology, by Joe Osmundson

Credit: Jalani Morgan

Longtime dear pal, children’s book designer and tattoo artist kd diamond brought this book to my attention, in the way where your smart friends pop something on your radar and you grab it without hesitation (also check out her amazing ACT UP manifesto tattoo work here). kd introduced me to the work of Joe Osmundson, who somehow is: 1. a brilliant writer, 2. completely adorable and 3. an actual genius public health expert and professor of biology. His book Virology is a collection of essays about queerness, sex, food, parties, HIV, COVID-19, life, death, hope, community and the ways we all impact, intersect, interact, infect and more. I’ve never read a book that was so funny and tender and deeply sweet about queer public health and I doubt I ever will again. Highly recommended. 

Carina Adores series from Carina Press

This entire week of soapy, satisfying queer romance joy came from my friend, production manager and logistical mastermind Pip Bradford, who took a monthlong reading vacation (so dreamy) and spoke so enthusiastically afterward about this line of LGBTQ2S+ romance books that I had to see for myself. The Carina Adores imprint has dozens of options in romance, with many themes and genders represented within them in case you, like me, find that your reading tastes are rather … omnivorous (very common among all my favourite dirty queers, to be honest). The publisher is especially strong in the genre pieces, so if you need cowboys or whatever, they’ve got you covered. 

A Place for Me: Figurative Painting Now

“Sleeping on Your Roof” by Louis Fratino

Credit: Louis Fratino via the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston

From my brother Jeff Bergman, my stalwart visual arts connection and general art-world interpretive guide, comes the recommendation of A Place for Me: Figurative Painting Now at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston, notably the only museum where I have ever had to lie about my age to access (I went to see a Robert Mapplethorpe exhibit when I was 17 and it was 18+, but I calmly said I was 19 and a student at Emerson, which they believed). This exhibition features several queer artists, particularly Louis Fratino and Doron Langberg, who bring queer love front and centre in their work. You can see the whole show in person at the museum or get a pretty good taste online, with a fair few of the paintings available to view online, as well as videos and podcasts featuring the artists and their work. 

There’s more, too. The next edition will be all full of new books by more of my amazing favourite folks, including Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha and Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg, and just wait until you see what else, but I trust this will hold us all in the meantime. From now until then, I hope the last popsicle and the last park hang that stretches right through dinner and the last wildcrafted, hand-harvested sun tea and the even the last school-shoes shopping are so good, for all of us. As always, if you’re making something new and queer, drop me a DM—I love to hear your news.

S Bear Bergman

S. Bear Bergman is a writer, educator and advice columnist. His ninth book, Special Topics In Being A Human, was published by Arsenal Pulp Press in the fall of 2021.

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