Book Review: The Kinda Fella I Am (Raymond Luczak)
Reviewed by Travis Lau
In one of his later interviews, Michel Foucault described a unique quality of queerness— its "slantwise," "diagonal lines" that not only "short-circuit" normative relations but also alter the social fabric of everyday life. His claim is powerfully simple: queerness, as a set of practices, habits, and acts, enables new ways of living together. In this sense, queer desire is inherently political, for it resists even at its most quotidian the calcification of certain ways of being. Queer relations are characterized not by lack but by plenitude—one that expands the relational possibilities of a restrictive world of social conventions. Beyond simply an intersectional set of stories that knits together the experiences of d/Deaf, disabled, and queer identities, Raymond Luczak"s The Kinda Fella I Am imagines queer potentials that emerge from the lived experiences of disabled embodiment.
The "fellas" that appear in Luczak's fiction vulnerably yet boldly embrace intimacy's many forms. In the title story, we witness in vivid detail a queer crip orgy. Despite how "fear quivered in the core of [their] nakedness," the scene is hardly pornographic in its representation of crip sex. Instead it is one of tender mutuality and joy, where Alan, Phil, Mark, Roddy, and Miguel explore one another's bodies, each disabled in a different way (12). Yet these differences do not impede their embracing, their fucking, but rather open up a utopic space that empowers all five of the men to openly desire and experiment sexually for the first time. Despite Roddy and Mark later moving in together, Alan expresses his gratitude for how they still welcomed being "crips with benefits" for the remaining members of their group (13). Importantly, Luczak does not confine the couple to monogamy but instead demonstrates how coupledom can coexist with other forms of queer intimacy like the orgy. The pleasures of queer crip sex move beyond the limits of a single partner, or as Alan himself puts it, "is it possible to be in love with five different guys at the same time? I know I was. I cared intensely for each one of them in my own way" (7). At the heart of this sexual and erotic openness is care, generous and nurturing, as we later see between Eddie and Greg in "Riverwise," in which both characters grapple with impotency and personal trauma.
Luczak also returns us to historical spaces of queer intimacy like bathhouses, which have long been fraught places for people with disabilities. The voyeuristic nature of queer cruising inevitably exposes disabled bodies to the cruelty of the gaze—one made even more cruel by a hypersexualized mainstream gay culture dominated by able-bodied, young gay men. Disability, then, exposes the limits of this erotic visual field that leaves out many bodies with visible disabilities like that of the narrator of "Cartography," who desperately tries to conceal his psoriasis with a shirt. Many of the stories witness the violence of being rejected repeatedly by members of a community and the ways in which such events come to shape queer crip identity. Healing these kinds of deep woundings often occurs through unexpected forms of connection, sometimes erotic or sexual. In the case of Larry and Mick in "September Song," the mutual experience of stigma enables powerful solidarity between queer and disabled men.
With a magical realism reminiscent of Radclyffe Hall's "Miss Ogilvy Finds Herself," "The Room of My Eyes" imagines a queer crip dreamscape in which the narrator reencounters "the ghosts of all these men [he]'d starved for from afar" (126). At this "abundant feast," there is a seamless connection among sensuous bodies satisfied, "lonesome no longer" and "gloriously alive" (127). Echoing the utopic collective of the opening story of the collection, "The Room of My Eyes" imagines a breathtaking intergenerational intimacy among queer crips "connected… in the flesh" (127). Written in memory of "25 deaf gay friends who've died from AIDS-related complications," Luczak's touching tribute transforms the liberatory possibilities of gay sex in the face of the AIDS epidemic into queer crip fantasy. Together we will draw a new cartography, Luczak writes. The Kinda Fella I Am teaches us how to navigate this new space of possibility even as it negotiates the"imprecise language of precise desire" (125).
Title: The Kinda Fella I Am
* See Foucault’s "Friendship as a Way of Life." The Essential Works of Foucault 1954-1984. Volume 1. Ethics: Subjectivity, and Truth. ed. Paul Rabinow. Trans. Robert Hurley. New York: The New Press, 1997. 135-40.