cover image Swish: My Quest to Become the Gayest Person Ever

Swish: My Quest to Become the Gayest Person Ever

Joel Derfner, . . Broadway, $23.95 (251pp) ISBN 978-0-7679-2430-6

Derfner (Gay Haiku ) recounts his forays into indignity, knitting and unlikely friendships in this engaging if uneven memoir. Derfner's affectionate portraits of the men he met at a Christian homosexual conversion retreat and his account of his dueling desires—to accept them or shepherd them toward self-acceptance—provide welcome gravity in a book that flirts with more substantive issues of intimacy, identity and masculinity but never fully engages them. The book's conversational tone suffers from a heavy reliance on hyperbole, and the author's carefully cultivated campy persona feels tiresomely derivative and forced. And while Derfner's foibles—losing his aerial cheerleading position to more capable females, making only $5 in his first night as a go-do dancer—are amusing, his kiss-and-tell accounts of hookups and bad sex rarely rise above their own prurience. The most forceful ruminations arise gracefully from unlikely sources: memories of his musical theater education digress into a discussion encompassing concentration camp artwork, ancient Hebrew concepts of creation and the Columbia space shuttle explosion. Derfner's essays on his struggle to form meaningful relationships benefit more from his emotional intelligence than his wit. (May 13)