“De Anima” by Joel Derfner from Fool for Love: New Gay Fiction (Cleis Press, 2009).

“Totally original.” That’s the note I jotted down in my Kindle the first time I read this, and it’s true. You have never, ever read a story like this. It’s funny, touching, educational, and metafictive.

What would you do if the man you loved suddenly caved to pressure from his relatives and signed on to be brainwashed by a bunch of folks hell-bent on convincing him he couldn’t possibly love you? Noah opts for passive-aggressive tactics, and when those fail, denial. He watches episode upon episode of “The Golden Girls”, “Designing Women”, and “Law n’ Order: SVU”. He eats an ice cream flavor he hates. Finally, he decides to knit a replica of the human brain. The last affords the author the opportunity to write fantastic passages like this:

The amygdala seemed like a natural place to take out my own aggression—It’s not like I’m a moron, the metaphor was staring me right in the face—and….I yanked the yarn so hard…I ended up with an amygdala the size of a grape.


The occipital lobe is a large structure in the back of the head that deals with vision…I was knitting with a chenille yarn, which was irksome because it has no give and take, but it was shiny so I kept with it.

and finally:

…I realized I was sitting on the angular gyrus (understanding of metaphor)…

See? Hysterical. And, of course, it allows Noah to come to terms with what is happening with Bill, and how he feels about it, and figure out what he’s going to do to actually deal with it.

This story feels like the start of a novel. I’d definitely read more chapters if there were any.