Swish and Swagger


By Jerome Murphy

If you ask author Joel Derfner why his spot-on accounts of modern gay life resonate with barflies and bookworms alike, he's ready with the simplest explanation: 'It's because I'm so attractive.'

Facetiousness aside, Derfner's omnivorous literary diet and his capacity for self-examination give his writing an incisive edge over run-of-the-mill blogger bitchfests. In his new memoir, Swish: My Quest to Become the Gayest Person Ever, Derfner unpacks the tightly packed Prada bags of Manhattanite wit offered in his debut, Gay Haiku.

Whether recounting his stint at New York's cheerleading squad or the eye-opening week he spent undercover at a North Carolina 'ex-gay' ministry, his inner terrain of hope and devastation is recognizable to anyone who has felt the scrutiny of peers. In one typically sidesplitting passage Derfner leads his step aerobics class, seemingly with unflappable confidence, while harboring private fantasies of boosting student morale with a tray of homemade brownies.

'I have these moments of insecurity quite often,' Derfner admits. 'If you can point to your flaws in a way that reveals them to be universal, then your flaws are not unattractive -- just human.' Whether he's the next No'l Coward or a male Bridget Jones, one thing is clear: Queer America needs Derfner. In a culture where we disguise vulnerability with physical perfection and material success, Derfner skewers heartache with Wildean wit.

Read an excerpt from Swish.

Send a letter to the editor about this article.