A Queer Love Story: The Letters of Jane Rule and Rick Bebout

In 1981, prolific lesbian novelist Jane Rule (Desert of the Heart) and the Body Politic magazine editor Rick Bebout began a 26-year correspondence and strong friendship. Marilyn R. Schuster (Marguerite Duras Revisited) compiles the first 14 years, succinctly editing 385 letters from 2,800 pages down to 619. In her foreword, Margaret Atwood writes, "The letters collected here are in the old tradition of literary and political correspondence: two thoughtful, engaged people dancing together on paper." Both Rule and Bebout are fiercely intelligent, thoughtful, opinionated and perceptive writers, and A Queer Love Story offers their fascinating personal experiences and thoughts on contemporary LGBT history, culture, identities and civil rights.

Rule (1931-2007) ruminates on commitment vs. sexual fidelity, the writing process, gay politics, mortality and her 46-year relationship with Helen Sonthoff. "Helen doesn't give basic meaning to my life," she writes, "because that meaning is my own responsibility, she's at the same time central to my life, and, if I'm ever faced with having to live it without her, it will take me a long time to figure out how to do it and whether it's worth it." Bebout (1950-2009) grapples with keeping his magazine afloat, loneliness, activism, censorship, his ambivalence toward "coupledom" and his 1988 HIV diagnosis: "Yes, it's bad news, but bad news that, for the moment, has given me a sense of clarity and resolve."

This voluminous and essential collection offers delights on every page: beautifully crafted sentences and astute opinions on racism, health care, same-sex marriage, violence and publishing. --Kevin Howell, independent reviewer and marketing consultant

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