Book Review: The Mechanics of Homosexual Intercourse by Lonely Christopher

Ben Arzate
6 min readJul 4, 2018

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The Mechanics of Homosexual Intercourse, released in 2011 through the Little House on the Bowery series from Akashic Books, was the full-length debut of pseudonymous New York City author Lonely Christopher. Little House on the Bowery was a series of books curated by transgressive author Dennis Cooper as an effort to discover and publish unusual, experimental, and avant-garde fiction from young North American authors. The nine stories of this collection certainly fit that bill, even if not all of them work. Like Lonely Christopher’s moniker suggests, many of the characters in his stories are lonely, alienated, and lost in the world. Like the title suggests, many of the characters are gay or lesbian. There is, however, very little sex, and what is there is usually awkward and unfulfilling.

The book opens with one of its shorter pieces, “That Which.” This story reminded me a lot of Samuel Beckett’s trilogy of experimental novels. It’s told in a disjointed, stream-of-consciousness manner with no paragraph breaks and choppy sentences. The story is told from the perspective of a young boy with brain damage who recounts the accident that gave him a fractured skull and the fallout from it. His father becomes distant and hateful and his mother becomes neurotic and smothering. It’s a disturbing read, but an excellent start.

The next story, the titular “The Mechanics of Homosexual Intercourse,” is about a young man trying to cope with his boyfriend’s suicide. Here, one of the recurring motifs in the book of characters with strange names starts. The main character is named Dumb and his dead boyfriend Right. The names are a bit on the nose. Right, when he was alive, was a pretentious ass who believed he was right about everything and Dumb is, well, not that bright. At one point, Dumb has a rebound fling with a boy named Orange, whose name is far less obvious to its meaning.

Dumb’s parents try to help him cope by doing therapeutic reenactments of his time with Right. While he plays along, it’s clear that he finds them a waste of time. One day, Right shows up at his door alive and well to the surprise of Dumb and his parents.

My problem with the story is that it seems to peter out after Right comes back to life and it does nothing with this magic realist conceit. The title implies that this story is about homosexual relationships, or at least relationships in general, but I came away feeling as if it started to say something but just decided it didn’t want to. Despite that, I still found it mostly entertaining.

“The Relationship” is probably the most experimental story. Rather than one narrative, it consists of three loosely connected vignettes in the same small town bookended by meditations on the new road being built in the town.

In the first vignette, a policeman harasses a slow-witted man named Grover in his house. In the second, pair of young men named Hamlet and Francis have sex and then practice on targets for a school shooting they’re planning. In the final one, a psychotic man named Monday beats up and kidnaps a 33-year-old man who he believes to be his runaway 12-year-old son.

This is probably my favorite story in the collection. The vignettes show Lonely Christopher’s ability to make incredibly disturbing things seem horrifically mundane and the meditations on the road are some of the most accomplished writing about “nothing,” which many parts of this book seem to be trying to do.

“The earth is moving. We have to pray for the road to reach us. We want the road to come and the road is going to come. When the road is finished, our prayers will be answered. We expect the road. The road is going to be built. We’re waiting; the road is coming.”

“Game Belly” is my least favorite story. There are two narratives here; a first-person story about the narrator seeking his lost “game belly,” and the second about a bunch of young people at a bar who go home in a chauffeured town car told in third-person.

The first one is the far more interesting. The story never explains what a “game belly” is (when I Googled it, the results were about video game characters who were belly dancers) and it has a pleasantly surreal atmosphere. The second narrative is meandering, boring, and reads like something a young Bret Easton Ellis would write while on morphine. Unfortunately, much of the story consists of the second narrative.

“Milk,” the shortest story in the book, is much better one as well. It’s an off-kilter story about a family’s horse who wanders from the stable into the kitchen and refuses to move. The family tries to ignore it, but the father finally gets sick of it and shoots it. It’s an entertaining little dark comedy.

“Burning Church” is another dark comedy. The story is a week in the life a put-upon high school English teacher named Burning Church. Throughout his week, he has a meeting with the parents of one of his students to address the boy’s disturbing stories, he has an uncomfortable lunch with the dumb principle, his class TV breaks, and he goes to a dingy dive bar on the weekend to get away from everything. The story has a deadpan sense of humor in how it showcases the small indignities the lonely Mr. Church suffers daily.

In “Nobody Understands Thorny When,” a young boy named Thorny When is kidnapped by a pedophile named Normal and returned to his family four years later. The story cuts between Thorny trying to cope with being back with his family, having developed Stockholm Syndrome for his kidnapper, and his time from when he was picked up by Normal to when he was rescued by police.

There’s a lot going on in this one. There’s satire of the media and how they cover Thorny’s disappearance, an examination in the psychology of how trauma like this would affect a young mind, and a look at what motivates sex offenders like Normal. While I enjoyed the story, I ended up wishing it was a bit longer. I could easily see this story being expanded to novella length to explore its idea even more in depth.

“The Pokémon Movie” manages to be one of the strangest stories in the book while also being one of the least interesting. In it, a young boy named Ash runs away from home with his friend named Computer. They wander through the woods, spend the night at a farm with a man named Cowboy, Computer disappears, Ash watches Cowboy get fucked by a horse, and it ends with Ash being kidnapped by a UFO.

One would think a story with all this happening would at least be an entertaining failure, but it just limps along in a dull way from beginning to end. It feels like a first draft that was banged out in a few hours based on a half-baked idea.

“White Dog,” the final story, is much more mundane but manages to be far more interesting. The story is about a 7-foot-tall woman named Martha wandering around a supermarket after waking up in the backseat of her car in the parking lot. It’s implied, though not explicitly stated, that Martha suffers from some sort of mental disorder, making it feel like a sister story to “That Which.” It makes a nice ending for the collection.

The Mechanics of Homosexual Intercourse is a mixed bag, but I believe it does more right than it does wrong. There’s certainly enough good here to recommend it. Even though some of his experiments fail, it shows that Lonely Christopher clearly has talent and is willing to push the boundaries of what literature can do. I’ll be checking out some of the work that he’s put out since this debut.

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