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Toby Johnson

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Publisher:  White Crane Books (Lethe Press) ISBN-10:  1590210166


Copyright:  Nov 28, 2006 ISBN-13:  9781590210161

An anthology of stories and essays revealing the positive and wonderful--even magical-qualities of gay consciousness.

Barnes &
Charmed Lives

Storytelling can be a way of spinning straw into gold, of showing ourselves we have drawn a long straw in this life. A finalist for Best GLBT Anthology for the Lambda Literary Awards, Charmed Lives offers readers a collection of over thirty short works of fiction and personal essays as an alternative to the stories that society often tells about gay men. Some are whimsical with a touch of enchantment, some profoundly spiritual, others romantic--all offer insight into modern gay life that will inspire and shed light on the grace of being gay with tales of hope against adversity and love over loneliness.


“Let me tell you a story…” These are words as potent as the creative declaration in Genesis: “Let there be light.” For in just the same way that from the light (of the Big Bang) flowed all that now exists materially, so from the stories told through the ages, the world of human experience has been created.

Everything we know we learned from “stories” others told us: about experience, about life, about meaning, about love and sex, about God and the whole of the cosmos.

Some stories scared us—like those about “the boogeyman” or about “the Terrorists” or, too often, about “the sexual perverts.” Some of the stories literally produced our personalities—like the stories of The Little Engine That Could or The Three Pigs and the Big Bad Wolf or Goldilocks and the Three Bears. If we’re tenacious, provident and temperate as adults, it’s in great part because we took to the heart the lessons of those stories. Telling stories can be powerful. Stories set up “self-fulfilling prophecies.”

The goal of this collection of stories and personal anecdotes is to offer alternative stories to the ones the culture is telling about what it means to be gay. The stories we tell ourselves and share with one another are the way we alter our attitude of mind.

Some of the entries in this collection are personal anecdotes and accounts of real experiences. Some are delightfully whimsical, some profoundly religious. Most are fictional short stories in the vein of the TV show The Twilight Zone, that is, tales with imaginative fantastical elements and neat and surprising—and meaningful—twists. Gay consciousness seems to naturally see life with a twist—sometimes ironic, or sardonic or campy, sometimes sweet and sensitive. The point of telling stories with a touch of the Twilight Zone is to move them into the realm of myth and metaphor. That is, after all, how the stories of religion have come down to us: adding mystical, magical, miraculous details to a story gives the insight or spiritual/moral wisdom eternal verity. Such stories are not literally “true,” but, and more importantly, they’re memorable and richly meaningful.

Such stories achieve mythic stature because they transcend ordinary reality to hint at something beyond. Dealing with death and afterlife is one of the most familiar ways stories achieve this mythic stature. A number of the stories in this collection are like that. Death signifies transcending ego, going beyond self into a greater—and mysterious—reality. In that sense, death is a metaphor for eternity.

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