Felice Picano’s Latest Memoir is Too Good to Pass Up! by Eric Andrews-Katz
Felice Picano is perhaps one of the most prolific writers on the GLBT literary scene. His work has excelled in the forms of poetry, plays, or written prose – fiction or non. His collection of personal essays True Stories: People and Places from My Past (Chelsea Station Editions – 2011) is a beautifully put together anthology of the various people he’s met throughout a fascinating life. In his latest collection, True Stories Too: People and Place from My Past, Picano once again revisits those individuals and special locales that have resonated over the years, and shares a range of emotions associated with each.
The first collection drew on stories that seemed centered around a particular person(s), many of them celebrities. With this new anthology, Picano discusses people as well, but they are neither as well known (which leads to some beautifully intimate portrayals and observations) nor as centrally focus on individuals as some of the physical scenes he writes about. And in many of the essays, these locations are described so well and in such a way that they become tangible characters, important to the plot unto themselves.
An essay entitled ‘Brother Bob,’ a sentimental tribute to Picano’s older brother, makes up the Prologue. This essay is more than tales of his family life. It is also an analysis of Italian-American family dynamics. It further explains, through family anecdotes, the importance of placement for children in the family line, and a personal struggle of defiance against a long line of historical tradition. Other personal observations occur in ‘Holiday’ – an essay about an evening in New York that rang in more than the New Year. ‘The ‘Nick’ Diaries’ explores an unexpected friendship with a man who professes to be straight and yet is drawn to the author for more than conversation.
The reader is taken on several foreign journeys as well. Picano’s essay ‘Another Berlin Story’ tells of his visits to Germany (including his time partially living there). He observes the modern contrasts between today’s diversities and those ghosts from a half-century before. Picano relates going up into a building with a stranger only to discover himself on the same balcony where Adolf Hitler had been overlooking a Nuremburg field that was filled with goose-stepping soldiers less than 60 years ago. Another example is the modern-day freedom found in sunbathing in a park while surrounded by beautiful (and naked) German men united in the playing of volleyball and not worrying about potential sexual differences.
A look at modern Japan’s view on homosexuality is observed in ‘Two Gaijin in Gay Japan,’ where Picano and Dr. Charles Silverstein (co-authors of The Joys of Gay Sex) traveled to Tokyo and were met by a surprising wave of how Gay Japan has developed.
Of course, New York and Los Angeles are heavily mentioned throughout the anthology. Being the two places Picano has spent the majority of his life it would be something impossible to avoid. While New York has several people mentioned and talked about, it is an essay about a building called ‘The Federalist’ that holds a strong appeal involving eccentric landlords, and haunting inspirations.
These essays actually include several stories of apparitions, ghosts, and hauntings. ‘Uneasy Spirits’ tells the tale of Nunzio and his affiliation of angels of any kind; especially when his family’s home seems to be haunted. It is in the Epilogue tale of ‘Vicenzo: Return of a Death’ that Picano begins to delve into an old family mystery of a young cousin’s murder. He explores the possibilities of what could have happened that would result in a child’s murder, and why his family didn’t want it to be further explored.
As with the first collection, True Stories Too is a delightful read. The subjects are fascinating, not only as insight to other people and foreign places, but also a (potentially) unintentional look into the author’s fascinating life and events that have helped shape him as well. True Stories Too is not only well written, but continues to support the prolific reputation of good writing that we have come to expect from Felice Picano.
Eric Andrews-Katz has contributed to several anthologies and is the author of the Agent Buck 98 series. His work can be found at: www.EricAndrewsKatz.com