Here comes the third author I tagged: poet, author and literary man-about-town Charlie Vazquez…
What is the working title of your book?
Hustler Rave XXX: Poetry of the Eternal Survivor is the full title. David came up withHustler Rave, and I added the XXX and the rest of it as a kind of nod to sleazy old Times Square movie theaters and such. I miss places like that. Without realizing it this book wound up becoming things other than just a collection of erotic poems—in David’s case a riveting testimonial based on his days as a sex worker working to pay for college, and for me an exposé of the gay sex underground I discovered as a young man and continued to explore for another fifteen or so years.
Despite the fact that we now have institutions like “gay marriage” and greater “acceptance” in New York, honest and visceral discussions of gay sex and pornography still disturb lots of people in the mainstream, yet LGBT folks are bombarded daily, by the hour, by heterosexual sexual expression. People are still much more conservative than they want to admit. As a working-class New Yorker it was time to put something out there that captured the grit that once made New York so exciting and fertile for the arts. Our city has turned into a destination for rich zombies, and they are the least interested—or interesting.
Where did the idea come from for the book?
I thought it would be fun to collaborate and David came up with the theme. This was last summer and much has happened since, so I hope I didn’t get this wrong. Regardless, David and I both write in English and Spanish, so the book started as a bilingual collection. But David decided that the English pieces had a better flow, so we dropped the few Spanish pieces we had at the time. As he used to actually hustle, I gave him a lot of freedom to sequence the pieces, etc.
As for me, I used to know lots of hustlers and junkies and had a knack for hanging out in sleazy places, gay bars, punk joints, strip clubs. I’ve always had a fondness for dubious places, because the people who generally inhabit them are honest about why they are there. I know that the concept for this book made some people shudder, but I’ve always admired honesty no matter how disturbing. Shoot me: I was raised in the Bronx in the 1970s/1980s. I like grit.
What genre does your book fall under?
Poetry. Noir. Hot. Sleazy poetry, pretty poetry—tragic, sordid, ecstatic. Erotic poetry.
Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
Well, it would be a large cast as there are nearly 50 poems that take place all over the world and feature a myriad of characters from various nationalities, races, etc. Being that I’m almost 42, I’d want James Franco to play me when I was a bolder 25-year-old with a knack for being naked—a lot.
What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
An intimate and poetic investigation of the young men of night and the men who pay them for their beauty.
Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
The wonderful Lethe Press published it. Back in 2011 the amazing Charles Rice-González brought me on board to co-edit the anthology From Macho to Mariposa: New Gay Latino Fiction, so this is, in many ways, a continuation of that relationship. David also had a story in that book…small world, eh?
How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
David and I started piecing it together back in August of 2012, that is, while working around other projects. He was finishing his sex memoir (Diario de una puta humilde) and I was starting my first stage play and was studying and reading a lot. I decided to take a short break from fiction, to recharge after trying to resurrect my hopeless first novel, so this little detour was the perfect opportunity to invent new dramas. I would say we kept developing the poems for a solid six months or so. Adding, axing, cutting, disintegrating, rearranging.
What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
I’m not sure. Though while I was working on the book it was hard not to think about people like Jean Genet, David Wojnarowicz, Reinaldo Arenas, John Rechy, etc. I make references in the author introductions to My Own Private Idaho and the bookQueer Latino Testimonio: Keith Haring and Juanito Xtravaganza by the Puerto Rican scholar Arnaldo Cruz-Malavé, which if you haven’t read is terrific. Some people might find parallels to Emanuel Xavier’s earlier work, which I’ve always loved. But something David and I strove for was to populate the pages with multiple voices. We even break from the hustlers on occasion to give a few of the “johns” voices. Some of the poems are written in lacy, worldly language, and others bark in street slang. We wanted to cover a range of colors and language.
Who or what inspired you to write this book?
David and I had been proofing and translating one another’s work and it just seemed like a fun idea. Perhaps his mentioning the title of his sex memoir sparked a fire—for him I think it was to get certain memories off his chest and to focus on writing in English. For me it was about revisiting old ghosts and dressing them in new clothes, so to speak. I work for the dead.
What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
Aside from the juicy subject matter—that is, as we revisit yet another Age of Conservatism—I would say the use of language and voice and locations. Hustler Rave XXX tells the stories of Latino rough trade Castro Street boys to struggling San Juan college students to runaway white boy junkies in Seattle. Even if we’ve fictionalized them, someone needs to give them a human voice. Hustlers often come from very troubled backgrounds to begin with. They’re people, too—no matter how we might feel about their ways of surviving. I can assure you that some of their worst critics might be guilty of much more heinous things.
Hustler Rave XXX is available at the following Barnes and Noble URL: