(Vintage, UK, 1996; Haworth, US January 1999) $17.95
Click on book for back cover info.
In this hilariously perverse collection of essays and adventures, controversial British writer and satirist Mark Simpson takes a warped look at a fin-de-siecle world of pop culture where nothing is as straight or gay as it seems.
PRAISE FOR IT'S A QUEER WORLD
"THESE UNFALTERINGLY SHARP AND AMUSING ARTICLES AND INTERVIEWS TAKE THE PISS OUT OF BRITAIN AT THE SAME TIME THAT THEY REVEAL ITS FABULOUS QUEERNESS." - Out
‘Brits make better fags, and Mark Simpson is among the very best, pushing the envelope of what the hell faggotry is. Simpson's latest, IT'S A QUEER WORLD, is a biting and perverse journey through 90s pop culture. It further establishes Simpson as one of the most insightful and hilarious commentators on queer and straight culture - and all the grey areas in between. And did I mention he's a massive beauhunk stud?' - D. Travers Scott The Seattle Stranger
'Mark Simpson casts a cool eye on the paradoxes of gender and sexuality in the 90s. This collection shows him as his scathing and irrepressible best; a queer critic with a fierce analytic intelligence, a zippy and incisive way with words, and an inexhaustible sense of adventure.' - David Halperin
INFAMOUS" - Seattle Gay News
"LIKE A VERY DRY MARTINI IMBIBED AT HIGH ALTITUDE. GIDDY, GINNY CYNICISM AT ITS BEST.'"- Glenn Belverio, Glue Magazine.
"ERUDITE, SASSY, FRESH, HILARIOUS." -Publishers Weekly
"MARK SIMPSON IS ONE OF THE BRIGHTEST WRITERS AROUND, AS THIS COLLECTION AMPLY PROVES" -Time Out, London
"WITH WICKED, WACKY HUMOUR, THIS BOOK IS ONE OF THE MOST ENTERTAINING EVER WRITTEN ON POPULAR CULTURE AND SEXUALITY." - Gay Times
"BRILLIANT... SERIOUSLY FUNNY." - Scotland On Sunday
"YOU'D HAVE TO BE A CHRONIC DEPRESSIVE NOT TO LAUGH" - New Statesman & Society
"PROVOCATIVE, IRREVERENT... A VALUABLE AND ENTERTAINING READ FOR THOSE OF ANY PERSUASION SEEKING FRESH PERSPECTIVES ON THE ERA IN WHICH WE LIVE" - The Hot Press, Dublin
"PERCEPTIVE AND FUNNY" - The Scotsman
"MAY BRING A TEAR TO YOUR EYE" - Irish Gay Community News
FORAYS INTO MUNDANIA (Bay Windows, September 1999)
Mark Simpson finds the impact of gay culture in places youd hardly expect to find it
By J.S. Hall
Its a queer old world and getting jolly queerer all the time, Mark Simpson declares in his introduction, immediately setting the chipper yet sardonic tone for this collection of essays, most of which were first published in 1994 and 1995. Lesbian chic is now used to sell womens cosmetics, while a drag queen utilizes a mens electric razor in a TV advert. Gender expectations continue to be subverted, and Hollywoods biggest stars camp it up as pansexual vampires and outrageous drag queens. Even the straight men most threatened by all these changes fall victim to it themselves they retreat into New Laddism a mass-marketed hyper-masculinity that verges on camp and looks too much like Edina and Patsy meets Liam and Noel Gallagher [of Oasis].
Even earlier in his preface to the American edition, Simpson freely admits his book is even more obsessed with that no-mans land between straight and gay (and bisexual), a region beyond and before sexuality in other words, the place where most people live, albeit unconsciously. Most of the first half of It's a Queer World concerns Simpsons forays into the dull, heterosexual world, and his ironic observations thereof. Al the same, he takes time to point out that In their humorous critiques of such naff institutions as bingo and boxing, daytime TV and football [soccer to us], shopping centres and stag nights, I hope these columns dont merely score cheap shots against ordinariness (although they certainly do that), but instead illustrate how things are frequently never quite as settled, quite as unambiguous as they seem or would like to be seen. It would not be unreasonable to view Simpson as a queer Captain Kirk who navigates the national boundaries between straight and gay only to blur and betray them whenever possible.
The first sections formula quickly becomes apparent: Simpson reports, on location, from some thoroughly heterosexual venue, event or location, and proceeds to comment saucily on his surroundings and/or fellow attendees (usually managing to get a few choice quotes in the process). Invariably he finds a queer element lurking within mundania, whether it be the strangely mannish older women who frequent bingo games, or the peculiarly homoerotic overtone between boxer and trainer between rounds in the ring. At a Take That concert, he marvels at both the frenzied female fans and the then-young men who entertained them with shaved chests, nipple rings and skimpy costumes, commenting Its only fitting that the nearest thing to heterosexuality that the future mothers of our nation have witnessed all evening is pretty boys in bondage gear singing a gay disco classic to Lulu. He visits car shows and home shows, jaunts to EuroDisney, and goes bar-hopping in Tijuana with some young American Marines, hoping to do some recruiting of his own. At various points he tries hitching a ride on a busy London highway; vainly searches for reputed transvestites on the resort island of Gran Canaria; subjects himself to David Hasselhoffs hairy bosom on Baywatch and British Saturday morning TV; and attends a straight stag party, complete with matter-of-fact professional lesbian strippers.
The second section contains contemplations of various lengths on Hollywood, television, pop stars, shopping, and men. Few things escape Simpsons dry wit: Tom Cruises stint as Lestat; the homosexual overtones of male comedy duos from Laurel and Hardy to Bert and Ernie (although he considers Ren and Stimpy by far the greatest, most dangerous most passionate queer comedy lovers ever to hit the screen). He interviews Jimmy Somerville and members of Suede, muses on Morrissey and conducts a hypothetical interview with Oscar Wilde which, while side-splittingly funny, also shows that the father of modern gay sensibility might not be that pleased with his inadvertent legacy: Has the love that dare not speak its name real become the love that will not pull its pants up?
Simply put, It's a Queer World is an acerbic delight from cover to cover. Its often Anglo-specific subject matters, vocabulary and references may be confusing to some, but Simpson excels at casting a cynical gaze over British and American pop culture with hilarious results. To his way of thinking, were all in the same boat, and guess what its leaking! Bitchy yet pithy is a rare combination to pull off, but Mark Simpson has it in buckets.