There's nothing ambitious about the way gender bender Ivan E. Coyote writes. His stories are simple, his language direct. He doesn't massage a metaphor until it cries out and gets in the way. And he's not at all crafty.All these things make the vignettes in One Man's Trash refreshing. These are little nuggets about a truck-driving dyke who loves to hit the road and to manifest a very fluid sexuality.
I really like the fact that I'm not totally sure whether I should refer to Coyote as "he." The book blurb says "she," but I'm sometimes calling him "he" -- if only because so many characters in these stories do, most of the time to Coyote's pleasure.
Those moments when she's talked to as if she were a man, or she's surprised because an unlikely character gets that she's a dyke, have a real poignancy. And it's very easy to go with Coyote's flow. There's something weirdly comfortable about being in her narrative orbit even though she happily operates on the fringe.
A few of the early-childhood episodes aren't that special. Just Reward, about the time Coyote found 1,000 bucks and returned it to the cops, reads as if it came out of a high school writing class. It Doesn't Hurt, about a pain-inducing kids' game, should not have made the cut.
But once Coyote gets into the gender-fuck zone, things begin to happen. Makeover, about Coyote's new reason to love cosmetics, questions all the right assumptions. And Fear Of Hoping In Las Vegas, which tracks Coyote's attempts to get married to his girlfriend, is wonderful.
Too bad Coyote couldn't take The Test, a story about possibly getting turned on in the gynecologist's chair, to the limit.
Coyote is part of the Wilde About Sappho slate that includes Michael Riordon, Michael V. Smith, Kevin Bourassa and Joe Varnell, moderated by Camilla Gibb, Friday (February 14), 6 pm, at the Toronto Reference Library (789 Yonge). 416-393-7088.Write Books at firstname.lastname@example.org
ONE MAN'S TRASH by Ivan E. Coyote (Arsenal Pulp), 136 pages, $16.95 paper. Rating: NNN