Review: Conversations with S. Teri O’Type by Christopher Allen

A review for Review Forward:

Conversations with S. Teri O’Type by Christopher Allen.

Curt Child is gay but wants to look and act more gay to help him attract a man and make everyone see that he’s gay so he doesn’t have to tell them directly, including his own parents.

To help him be more overtly gay, Curt consults an old friend, S. Teri O’Type. He is a guru of all things (stereotypically) thought of as gay, a gayru. As his gayru, Teri tries to teach Curt how to act, talk and dress more gay, where to go clubbing, what dog breed to choose, which tv-series to like, how to become a Pink Swan, who in Friends is not a gay man deep down (and it’s not the female characters), and much, much more.

All of this is described as dialogue between Curt and Teri and his very gay little dog, Cary Grant. The dialogue is laugh-out-loud funny, satirical, witty and at times surreal, with surprising word plays and associations and leaps of logic, plus some nicely recurring images. It’s a little like watching Alice in Wonderland taking lessons from the Mad Hatter. And it does bring out your inner drag queen:

– “A cute little girlfriend does not a straight boy make.” It seems like a tangent from the dog discussion, but I have to concur. I used to be one, with one, though wasn’t one. Like a one plus-one-is-zero situation, I reckon.

– “Are you absolutely sure?” he wouldn’t stop asking. And when I said that I was very sure, he pouty-smiled at me as if I’d claimed to have an IQ of 230.

– “Of course there is,” Teri shouts from the bedroom. “They’re right on the other side of that wall, behind the sodding Yucca, you goat. Can’t you hear the applause?” “Really? They’re applauding? For me?” I say, examining the walls in vain for an audience.

As Teri exists mostly in Curt’s head, as what he believes a gay man should look and act, Curt doesn’t really manage to become more overtly gay. He even falls for a man Teri describes as a “latent heterosexual” and does not approve of.

But the failed attempt at “gayification” does still lead Curt to accept who he is, without the imagined pop-culture expectations of his sexual orientation and the actually two-dimensional Teri.

This is the heart-warming core of the book and what makes it worth reading, beyond the hilarious dialogue, the surreal episodes, the giggle-inducing satire about various pop culture icons, and the deft play on words. Because as long as there are expectations instead of acceptance, they are wrong, even if they come from one’s own mind instead of from others.

And at the touching end of this book all the readers will know what people really mean when they say “Just bring anyone home with you for Christmas”.

*

About the reviewer:

Berit Ellingsen is a Korean-Norwegian writer whose stories have or will appear in Elimae, SmokeLong, Metazen, decomP, Unstuck, and other literary journals. Her novel, The Empty City, is a story about silence and is reviewed here. Berit’s short story collection, Beneath the Liquid Skin, will be published by firthFORTH Books in late 2012. Find out more at beritellingsen.com.

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