cover image Drag King Dreams

Drag King Dreams

Leslie Feinberg, . . Carroll & Graf/ Avalon, $14.95 (302pp) ISBN 978-0-7867-1763-7

After a harrowing encounter with a bigot on the PATH train, Max Rabinowitz, drag king and bouncer, quarrels with cross-dressing friend Vickie—who is brutally murdered that night. Soon a transgender friend with AIDS is hospitalized, the East Village club where they work closes and a friendly Muslim neighbor disappears after defending his kids from the cops. Loyal, tender and apt to paint apartment walls with Yiddish poems, Max is appealing yet strikingly isolated and quick to get enraged. At the book's beginning, Feinberg, author of the queer classic Stone Butch Blues (1993), only hints at why Max, now hitting midlife, carries pre-Stonewall armor into a post-Stonewall world of polysexuality and queer television. Though seemingly trapped in a world-weary, self-made transgender noir of tough breaks and lassitude, Max is returning to activism by book's end. Max's first person is charged and poignant, and the appealing group of secondary characters makes Max's world as desperately full as it is bleak. Still, readers who don't define themselves by their political protests are likely to want a lot more dancing to join this revolution. (May)