GLR September-October 2022

Fire Island

Friendship” and to a “keener penetration [than] other people.” Aside from the frightful possibility that Lydia Bennet might “come upon the town”—become a prostitute—sexuality is otherwise nonexistent in Austen’s fiction. Noah is well-versed not only in Austen but in such other literary heavyweights as short story writer Alice Monroe—his first meet-cute centers on a debate with Will over the best of Monroe’s works—and poet Walt Whitman. Rejecting the idea that he came to Fire Island solely to have sex, Noah insists that “I contain multitudes” to his four closest friends. These include Howie, the couple Luke (Matt Rogers) and Keegan (Tomas Motas) and the bookish Max (Torian Miller). The catty Luke and Keegan are meant to be versions of Elizabeth’s younger sisters, Kitty and Lydia. Of Max, Noah tells us in a snarky aside: “He claims he doesn’t come on this trip to hook up but he puts out in the meat rack just like the rest of us.” Margaret Cho plays Erin, the den mother and lesbian nurturer in what Noah describes lovingly as our “makeshift little fam

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it as just another accoutrement of white male privilege. In the words of Noah, “That sounds like some hetero nonsense,” which he later criticizes as the golden rule of a “monogamy industry complex.” Conrad Ricomora (in the role of Will) is the gay Darcy to Noah’s Elizabeth, and the name play is ingenious as readers of Pride and Prejudice learn, late in the novel, that Darcy’s Chris tian name is Fitzwilliam. “He’s from LA,” says Noah, “he’s super rich and thinks he is way better than all of us.” As the new “gay Darcy,” Ricomora plays Will convincingly as erudite and aloof, the perfect embodiment of what Austen described as Darcy’s “unsocial [and] taciturn disposition.” It is often said that Austen was a prudish, even asexual, writer. True, in a work of juvenilia, her “History of England,” she makes a playful reference to the closeted King James I as a monarch of such “amiable disposition which inclines to Do Not Go In In October, you fall in love with the sky. You can spot her while she’s still miles off, a doom horizon singing come undo all that you’ve made, the smell of incendiary leaves licked with flame unto distraction. Bring in the sore-throated violin to ache with you. Bring in Eggleston’s color-drenched diners, those lonely Americans flung onto lawns, dreaming. What hasn’t the sky brought in? It’s all here: her small cold hands, bad life choices, old chickens, and eyes to rend a dress in two. Bring in the lake, everything black except water

ily” and the “closest thing we have to a mother.” What Fire Island celebrates is the importance of a queer person’s “chosen family,” the group of friends and lovers selected for companionship and emotional support. Howie is like a brother to Noah and, sharing a joint on the roof of Erin’s bungalow, confides: “I like the rom-com stuff, like kissing in the rain, standing outside my win dow with a boombox, or kissing in a gazebo.” Fire Island is not the first gay film to reimagine Austen’s most popular ro mance. Before the Fall (2016) was there first, even if it was a little on-the-nose with a pair of lovers named Ben Ben net and Lee Darcy. In a subtler way than Before the Fall , Fire Island bor rows Austen’s marriage plot, which she herself borrowed from Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing —think of the verbal sparring that functions as another form of foreplay between Beatrice and Benedict—and unites Noah and Will as what Austen calls “the happiest couple in the world.” True to the original, Fire Island delivers a happily-ever-after fi nale—a heart-to-heart between Noah and Will while sitting on the dock of the bay, a shimmering sunset, even Donna Summer’s “Last Dance”—and the as surance that true and lasting love is al ways within reach.

reflecting the last pink of the day. The black trees double themselves in the glass of the lake until you can’t know for sure which is real. Sky sentinels, Lake sentinels. The lake is another day shining in the ground. And anyway, does it matter which is sky, which water? The beauty is real, isn’t it? And though you know the lake is a cold beyond all bearing, though you know the black will confuse you until you swim, desperate, for the bottom, hoping to break surface for sky; you want to fling yourself into the black, eyes shut. Going wholly nowhere, going to hell. Walk in the reeds. Stare at the pink draining out of the skywater. Skirt the border as if your life hung on its very measuring— K ATIE H ENSON

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September–October 2022


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