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Theatre, Music, etc.


January 14, 2011

Evenings Out

A storyteller in the top of her form

In the history of the human race, there have been some outstanding storytellers. Homer, long-winded as he was, definitely fits that bill, as did H.H. Munro, Rudyard Kipling, the Brothers Grimm and Aesop.

In the first decade or so of the 21st century, there are two names that spring to mind when one thinks of contemporary storytellers. The first is the undoubted champion, the uncrowned king, Sherman Alexie. The second, however, is far more intimate, far more personally revealing, and far more queer.

Were one to speak to the Inuit and ask them of their pantheon of gods, the name Coyote would no longer simply be the trickster. Instead, Coyote would be the Butch Storyteller God of the North.

Of course, they would be talking of Ivan E. Coyote, whose burgeoning body of work more eloquently examines issues of love, honestly and gender roles than perhaps any other living writer.

Having already put out four collections of short stories and a novel, she returns with her latest volume, Missed Her (Arsenal Pulp, paperback, $16.95). Much like her previous anthologies, it is another tome filled with family stories, snippets of love life, and tales of children whose sexual orientation and sexual identities put them at the fringes of society, but at the center of Coyote’s voluminous heart.

Some of her most moving stories in this go-round revolve around her 90-year-old grandmother, whose death is chronicled in these pages. The old woman led a full life, and her wisdom comes through in so many ways: surprising takes on women’s Olympic hockey, illicit affairs, and even the power of her death to bring together estranged siblings can move people to tears.

Those are, without a doubt, some of the most emotional stories she tells this time around, but all of her other hallmarks are present in full force as well: home improvement, dogs, snow tires, questions about her masculinity now that her big dog, the husky Deja, died and she was left only with her lapdog, a “Pekinese-Pomeranian mix with a foreskin abnormality” named Goliath.

One might think that the mathematical equation would read Lesbian + Lapdog = Femme. Logically, it would then follow Lesbian + Lapdog ¹ Butch. However, Ivan E. Coyote, being the brilliant sociological mathematician she is, proves that, in some cases, Lesbian + Lapdog = Butch. And you can be butch and still care about the thread count of your sheets, you can care about window treatments, you can care about a myriad number of things that some would write off as “femme.”

She recounts the first-ever Butch Voices conference in Oakland, California, being in a hotel full of every stripe and variety of her brethren, and seeing butch women who were afraid of disappearing in a cloud of femmes and trans-men, while others knew that the butch rainbow had more shades and tints than could every possibly be filled.

Of course, if all of this sounds terribly adult and mature and serious, there is her piece announcing the formation of the “Boner Preservation Society,” an organization devoted to keeping boners going, whether they be women’s or men’s, gay, straight, bisexual, anything. Unlike fight club, though, the first rule of the Boner Preservation Society is not to keep quiet about the Boner Preservation Society, it is instead: “Feel This.”

Yes, Ivan E. Coyote is at the top of her form. Considering this is her sixth book and pretty much every single one of them has been “the top of her form,” that makes Missed Her the latest in a continuous line of her work, well, not to be missed.




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