Meze: male friendship in fiction

It begins in medias res. I am listening to a high-hype tv ad for a movie whose title I didn’t catch:

This compelling story of male friendship will move you deeply!

Whoa, I think, this is my stuff, I’ve gotta make a note of that URL and search for a theatrical release poster or something else I can put in a posting.

Then I realize that this is a dream, and in dreamland there’s no way to save notes and images on your computer.

I’m only two hours into my sleep for the night, but the related idea of fiction about male friendship — I’ve posted quite a lot about male friendship in the movies and tv and, of course, real life — grips me, so I get up and go to my actual computer to see what’s out there. I check stuff out for maybe an hour, taking copious notes and saving some images, and then go back to bed; returning to sleep takes me no more than a minute, sometimes I’m back in ten seconds. (Yes, I realize that this ability is some kind of gift from nature, but I’ve had it, strikingly, since I was a teenager. Occasional moments of insomnia or disordered sleep are, for me, red flags signaling a serious problem.)

Very satisfying search; report below. But first, the prequel to that dream.

Going to sleep. Yesterday was a long day for me: 19 hours  — 3 am to 7 pm — though with an hour out for a siesta after lunch. Also a day full of physical activity, including some tasks that were seriously challenging for me (but the more I do, the more I become able to do, so I plug away at the labor). I was then pleasantly tired by 7 pm, lay down, and ordered up one of my sexual reveries, engaging fantasy stories that are more relaxing than arousing. I don’t know how most of these stories end (though I assume with full satisfaction for me), because I only get into them for a minute, max, before I’m gone to dreamland, where my chosen script morphs into something totally different, always a surprise.

Last night’s script was You Smell Like Sex. Yes, they have names; and I’m entirely prepared to tell you how this  particular story begins, in some detail, but that’s beside the point in this posting. (A few named scripts, with a variety of emotional tones: Guys Say You’re a Fag, Alex Befriends a Stud Hustler, Best Friend Says He Loves Me. It has occurred to me that I might try developing one of the conventional queerboy fantasies, like Pirate Prongs Slave Boy, but my tastes run to more personal stories. Alex is my way-sexy alter ego, by the way.)

Jackson Frons on Electric Literature. My first discovery, on the Electric Lit site (“reading into everything”): “9 Fictional Friendships that Explore Male Intimacy: From Bolaño’s poets to Beatty’s teenagers, men in fiction often get more emotional freedom than the real world allows” by Jackson Frons on 12/26/17. Beginning:

(Electric Lit’s accompanying photo, by Matheus Ferrero on Unsplash) [AZ:] Men arranging themselves physically in a conventional side-by-side scheme that allows (hat tip to Deborah Tannen) for intimate association while reducing direct exchanges of gaze that could be viewed as either challenging or affectionate — no threats of either fists or kisses

While constructed masculinity often represses conversations about the intensity, messiness, and vulnerability of male friendships, many novels and stories display men behaving together in ways the public discourse shuns. For this list, I chose pairs I found compelling in their contradictions. Many of the men rely on each other while struggling with addiction and mental illness, railing against their own toxicity to achieve a more honest form of vulnerability. Others compete for validation, dulling their sensitivities in the process. But whatever the dynamic, these are the kinds of friendships between men that reflect something much closer to real life than your average bromance caricature.

The nine sets of characters, with their sources in fiction. (On the site: Frons’s thoughtful commentary on each of them.)

Arturo Belano and Ulises Lima, The Savage Detectives by Roberto Bolaño

Robby and Todd, “Midnight in Dostoevsky” by Don Delillo

Gunnar Kaufman and Nicholas Scoby, The White Boy Shuffle by Paul Beatty

The narrator and Robert, “Cathedral” by Raymond Carver

Scott and Chris, The Sarah Book by Scott McClanahan

Gnossos Pappadopoulis and Heff, Been Down so Long it Looks Like Up to Me by Richard Fariña

Georgie and Fuckhead, “Emergency” by Denis Johnson

Jude, Malcolm, Willem & JB, A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara

Gene and Phineas, A Separate Peace by John Knowles

Background notes. About Electric Lit, Jackson Frons, and the music that was playing when the male-friendship dream came to me (which might conceivably have subliminally influenced my dreaming).

Electric Lit (as it’s known for short), from its site:

Electric Literature is a nonprofit digital publisher with the mission to make literature more exciting, relevant, and inclusive. We are committed to publishing work that is intelligent and unpretentious, elevating new voices, and examining how literature and storytelling can help illuminate social justice issues and current events. We are particularly interested in writing that operates at the intersection of different cultures, genres, and media.

Electric Literature began as a quarterly journal in 2009 and became a non-profit in 2014.


Jackson Frons, who describes himself on Twitter as a writer / tennis coach. His site on Neutral Spaces tells us he lives in New York City, lists works of fiction, and one of non-fiction: “I Would Also, Also, Like to Die in New Orleans”, a review of Sun Kil Moon’s latest record, I Also Want to Die in New Orleans (Caldo Verde Records, 2019) (in TNB [The Nervous Breakdown, “an online culture magazine and literary community”], on 5/10/19).

The background music. Playing at the time of my male-friendship dream: Nico Muhly’s Speaks Volumes album (now very much in my head, because, once I was conscious, I went back and played it all). My 7/3/13 posting “Music and words” has a section on (gay) composer (of classical music) Nico Muhly.

Also cool.


One Response to “Meze: male friendship in fiction”

  1. John Says:

    Dude you’re like my hero now

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