Queer Doings

(She Blows! catch-up post, two of three.)

Another thing I wrote about last November, in my first note about one of my great-grandfather’s books, the one with one of the best titles ever, was that it had inadvertent gay overtones—which, again, is not to say that men did not have sexual relationships with each other on long sea voyages, which obviously they must have (I’m sure there are other examples of this in both fiction and scholarly writing, but one great recent one that I know of is Austin Bunn’s amazing story “The Ledge,” which ran in One Story in January 2006).

But most of the sexual overtones of She Blows! have to do with the juvenile and, I think, homophobic sense of humor that sometimes seems like it’s nearly completely overtaken our culture; the way everything can be read as code for something dirty—cf. Beavis and Butthead; the persistence of Amanda Huggenkiss and her colleagues (Mike Hunt, et al.); “Joey, do you like movies about gladiators?“; etc.

In spite of my nostalgic sense that whatever we might have gained by American culture becoming one gigantic frat movie, we’ve also lost something, I still can’t help but think it’s funny that the hero of She Blows! is named Timmy Taycox, and that the older, grizzled whaling veteran on the ship who befriends Timmy is named Peter Bottom, and that the book has the occasional great paragraph like this one (to give you some context, the Annie Battles is the name of the whaler that Timmy and Peter’s ship, the Clearchus, is in constant competition with, as they circumnavigate the glove in search of pods of whales):

“Now, what do you make of that?” [Peter] cried. “They’re holding her there, and the Battles’ crew ain’t making any sort of objection that I c’n see. It’s a queer vessel and a queer crew and queer doings, and Cap’n Coffin’s the queerest of the lot, if you believe what they say of him—which I don’t. There goes Mr. Wallet over the side, and that’s queerer yet. Mebbe he thinks he can clear up the queerness, but I miss my guess if that’s what he thinks.”

From p. 152 in the Riverside Bookshelf edition, and p. 169 in the original Houghton Mifflin, according to Google Books.