Page 23


Lesbian Novels Boldly Going Where No Woman Has Gone Since the Mid-Seventies BY KIM EMERY Hodag Winter by Debora Wiese Mega by B.L. Holmes Singin.’ the Sun Up by Ocala Wings Mother Courage Press, 1991 1 F YOU’RE INTO alternative lifestyles, self help and visualizing world peace, you might like the latest from Mother Courage Press. Begun as a booster of “bibliotherapy,” producing “books for healing to be used by therapists and helping people,” Mother Courage has branched out from this base \(now best represented by its “Self-Help, Sexual in the “Humor,” “New Age,” “Biography,” “Travel Adventure,” and “Lesbian” categories. Nevertheless, these three new novels from the lattermost group follow faithfully in Mother’s respected tradition . . . sort of. Sometimes it seems that ever since The Well of Loneliness “came out” in 1928, lesbian literature mediocrity. Unfortunately, Hodag Winter, Mega, and Singin’ the Sun Up \(by Deborah Wiese, B.L. Holmes, and Ocala Wings, respecwhile these different novels deal with diverse personal dilemmas, they seem to suggest singularly solipsistic solutions to social problems. The jacket blurb for Singin’ the Sun Up describes a protagonist who, “abandoned as a child, first by her mother and then by her abusive father, …maintains a well-insulated distance with her adoptive parents, her friends and her women lovers, [but] begins to learn about sensuality and trust when she becomes involved with captive dolphin.” Surprisingly, this novel is the best of the bunch. Essentially a coming-of-age story, the book begins in the central character’s childhood. At first, Martha Jean Kincaid \(or just smart-but-poor white kid growing up in the rural South and Singin’ the Sun Up seems just another rip-off of Rubyfruit Jungle. Wings rejects the Rita Mae Brown model of rapid-fire oneliners, however, in favor of a gentler, more generous style. And Kincaid comes to discover mystical, almost magical powers within herself by coming to terms with her past. Building this bildungsroman slowly at first, then upping the tempo to an at times annoying pace, Wings at least manages to keep the episodic plotting grounded in earnest, generally Kim Emery is a graduate student in English at the University of Texas .at Austin. honest prose. The jacket promo is potentially misleading, though: For better or worse, the expected inter-species sex scene never materializes, and bestiality isn’t even a central theme of the novel. Although “Martha had learned more about how she believed sexuality should be expressed in people’s lives from watching dolphins than from all the lectures and discussions she’d been subjected to by well-intentioned adults,” she passes on an opportunity for direct experience: “Apollo floated by on his back, pushing a small plastic lid around with his erect penis…. He retracted his penis and rolled over to breathe. Swimming _close, he leaned into [Martha’s] hands, listing to one side so she could reach his chest and belly. Startled, Martha felt the brush of his penis against her hand and jerked away. He looked at her quizzically and opened his mouth wide. “I think this is going to take considerably longer than touching your tongue!” Indeed, the issue does not arise again. In the end, apparently, the satisfaction of Martha/ Kincaid’s self-discovery is supposed to supersede any unsettling questions about non-human animals and communication, sex and exploitation, etc. At the novel’s conclusion, Martha has reclaimed the name “Kincaid” and is ready to risk commitment with her best friend and lover, Karen, but Apollo has faded from the scene. Overall, Singin’ the Sun Up is an enjoyable, gracefully written book although it is a little odd that in this avowedly lesbian novel, sex itself is unproblematically figured as male, symbolerect penis. Similar oddities simply overwhelm the sci-fi thriller Mega, promoted as a neo-Orwellian escape adventure ip which “Kerek Leight, who is monitored by computer because of her past crimes of lesbianism and a previous escape from the vast city-state of the Chicago-MilwaukeeMegalopolis, is approached by a group consisting of three scientists, a programer, a teacher and seven DNA-improved teens who have various psychic powers.” Of course “the group wants Kerek to lead them in a new escape from the Mega’s excessive social controls and its selfcontained atmosphere,” and of course “Mega Central learns of their escape plan and is determined to stop them.” Although broadmindedly including a few “DNA-improved” male teenagers and one embarrassingly passive adult gay man in her heroic band, author Holmes seems intent to boldly go where no woman has gone since the mid-seventies or so, playing off the paradigm of a goddess-worshipping return to some pre-patriarchal paradise. Although thus treading the domain of such lesbian-feminist classics as Sally Gearhart’s The Wanderground, this book is disappointingly deficient in both insight and vision. The sort of social critique associated with the genre is only embryonically evolved here: Holmes gets in a few good digs at objectionable institutions and inclinations, but never develops an overarching analysis of exactly where this society went wrong. In the Mega, it seems, men and women are fairly equal \(and seem to dress exactly the same, and homosexuality is violently suppressed. Curious, then, that this issue-oriented adventure story never once engages the idea that sexism and heterosexism may be intricately entangled \(or explains how these future folk are supposed to exists only in regards to the bronze-skinned DNA-improved individuals \(those other characters whose skin color is mentioned all appear racism or all other races have been wiped out, however, is left unspecified. In this book, excessive social controls, big government, violence, and pollution are bad; personal freedom, tribal units, peace, and nature are good; and the difficult questions about how to achieve some delicate balance whereby destructive behavior can be controlled without any imposition on individual liberty are simply unaddressed. Perhaps the most interesting thing about Mega that the triumphant conclusion appears to have no causal connection to the action comprising the bulk of the book. The good guys win \(and, THE TEXAS OBSERVER 1 1