THE FOURTH ACOLYTE READER
The Fourth Acolyte Reader, was published in March 1990 by The Acolyte Press, a publisher in Amsterdam recently founded by the American writer Frank Torey (1928-96) and dedicated exclusively to pederastic publications. It was the fourth of twelve volumes published over a decade when hopes for acceptance of Greek love had recently evaporated and it was coming under rapidly intensified persecution, both in the Netherlands and elsewhere. The stories in all the Acolyte Readers are by various authors, but they were all edited by Torey.
This article serves as both a synopsis and a review of the fourth volume’s content. The original list of contents is represented in brown. There was no introduction.
Contents [list, synopsis and review]
This volume is much shorter than any of its predecessors, with only six stories, all of them set in the then present, and all but one by Americans. The quality is not as varied as hitherto. All are entertaining enough, but none are real gems.
Hakim’s account of his stay for sex with boys in a fictitious city surely based on Manila is by far the longest story. From the outset, it is sexually graphic without being very erotic, which initially provokes unfavourable comparison with Gabriel Matzneff’s accounts of his encounters with Filipino boy prostitutes in his journals of 1978-84 (not only do these have the considerable added interest of being literally true, but Matzneff is far better at evoking the exquisite delights he experienced in bed with his boys). Unexpectedly, however, for the narrator as well as the reader, the former ends up devoting himself to one particular, finely-portrayed boy and his tale evolves into a touching love story with plenty of local colour. Hakim’s philosophic musings can also be thought-provoking. Ultimately, therefore, this is the most satisfying of the stories.
None of the others have much substance. The best is probably Campbell’s short skit Child of the Age, which sparkles lightly and happily like its ever-present champagne. Pubescent American boys of 1990 come to vivid life in Esser’s two contributions, but neither story is very inspiring. Journey by Water portrays a twelve-year’s feelings being introduced to sex convincingly but ultimately lamely. I was not expecting Lost Property by I. L. Ingles to be up to the standard of the others, having read and disliked some of his other writing, but actually found it rather sweet and mildly witty.
4. Brothers in the Dark / Kevin Esser
Two realistically-depicted orphaned brothers from Chicago, aged 13 and 15, come together sexually in their new home. PDF.
14. Pompa: A Book of Hours / Hakim Bey
Middle-aged, bearded American “Hakim” (the name suggesting autobiography) writes to friends in New York about his time in a fictitious country in the South China Sea much more similar to the Philippines than anywhere else. Having gone there for sex with pubescent boy prostitutes, he ended up with more than he expected with Roberto, an effeminate 14-year-old. PDF.
60. Child of the Age/ Robert Campbell
13-year-old Bobby comes back from boarding school for the first time since his elderly father died to find his Mississippi home and his mother transformed with joy, a party in full swing. An attractive and charming man takes him to his bedroom to redress in tune with the new spirit of the house, meanwhile liberating him from sexual shame. PDF.
70. Journey by Water / K. I. Bard
12-year-old Harry is introduced to sex by an older boy encountered at a pool in the woods near his new Minnesota home. PDF.
99. Ordinary Secrets / Kevin Esser
Sexy 14-year-old Eric’s parents are away, so Uncle Michael comes to stay at his home in the fictitious American town where many of Esser’s stories are set, and Eric’s slightly younger best friend joins them. The boys are experienced together and a little improbably forward with Michael, who offers no resistance when they come on to him. PDF.
115. Lost Property / I. L. Ingles
Henry, a 40-year-old teacher, is befriended in a London park by 13-year-old David from a boys’ home who, after several meetings, reveals himself to be a prostitute, though seeking love rather than money with the hitherto celibate Henry. PDF.
133. A Note on the Stories
Rather than being about the stories in this volume, this is rather a summary of the other writings of the six who wrote them.
Contributed by Edmund Marlowe, 24 March 2022.
Comments of general interest will be collected at Letters To The Editor (some editing may be involved)
Sam Hall, 11 June 2022
Kevin Esser's fictional world is a curious fusion of the pederastic and gay. As an author he has a modern gay sensibility, but he hews to the outdated notion that male adolescence is homosexuality's raison d'être.
The boys in Esser's world represent nature's unstoppable vitality and fecundity. In a local neighbourhood, twelve-to-fourteen-year-old boys, restless with new instinct, seek each other out, check each other out, develop an exotic argot all their own. The young adventurers are always rambling and ripening and sexually connecting in increasingly entangled patches of juice-spilling life-affirmation. It's a fertility ritual that precedes the more sombre procreative concerns to come.
To all this, Esser's occasional adult male interloper makes a shocking contrast. "Ordinary Secrets" presents a good example. Uncle Mike: I cannot take him remotely seriously as a character -- and I suspect I'm not meant to. He is a flat, lifeless collection of sentences that are nothing more than dim echoes of the red-blooded boy-life thundering around him. I'll eat my hat if he really manages to pedicate the Mexican firecracker at the end.
It's the same with Peter in Street Boy Dreams. A dreary gay man in his thirties, who has never quite got round to having sex with anyone, and who discovers the attractions of early teen boys in the manner of a philatelist discovering a new Queen Anne. Well, well, you never know what you'll find if you rummage round the op shops long enough.
Esser's adult male characters, usually gay, cannot find a way to successfully escape or mature beyond the hot, dense-matter gravitational pull of adolescence. The man part of the man-boy dyad has no secure standing, no independent weight or foundation. These drab men are like the ghosts from Homer's Odyssean underworld, listless and disembodied, approaching the rude and red-blooded boys in the hope of snagging a libation, a brief reminder of what is was like to live.
Gay community as a land of shades, a place where heroes like Achilles go to spend an eternity of worthless, sterile tolerance. It's certainly one valid reading of Esser's always interesting work. And it might explain why I can't find out a damn thing about this fine writer on the world woke web.