By Melanie Mitzner
Special to Lesbian.com
Set in 1990s New York, Slow Reveal paints a portrait of artists who defy the arbiters of culture and challenge social norms. Art, addiction and family dynamics capsize the Kanes when they discover the parallel life of Katharine, film editor, mother, lover and wife.
“A poem is never finished, only abandoned,” wrote Paul Valéry, an outcome echoed in her decade-long affair with Naomi, a lesbian poet. Katharine’s marriage to Jonathan collapses in his struggle with sobriety when he’s ostracized for politicizing art and abandons his career for advertising. Faced with confrontations from her two grown daughters, an installation artist and an aspiring writer, Katharine hangs onto her former life. When unforeseen tragedy strikes, devotion and commitment are not the guardrails that keep their work or relationships on track but rather a form of entrapment.
A captivating story about relevance at the end of the 20th century, the novel questions the voracious demands of contemporary society through a riveting portrayal of turbulent family life, impacted by art shaped by the media and influenced by social and political injustice. Success is redefined by the courage to embark on the artistic process, as risky, messy and unpredictable as building intimacy and trust in love.
Please enjoy the following excerpt.
Naomi tried on every jacket and pair of pants hanging in her cramped closet. She couldn’t decide which one looked best, berating herself for wanting to look that good in the first place. Her indecision had nothing to do with vanity but more perversely, how she would replace Jonathan at his own memorial service. Attending wasn’t her idea. Katharine insisted on it. She needed her there but never explained why.
From the valet box on her dresser, she found the studs for the cuffs of her starched black shirt. The macabre image of funerals as weekly tributes came back full force. She’d been to too many over the years for friends and artists who died of cancer and AIDS. They were her peers, just like Jonathan, not her elders as was commonly the case except for the demise of her mother, given her rapid deterioration from Alzheimer’s. The only saving grace was her father, who buffered her mother’s degenerative decline by finding Devon Donovan, a doctor who treated the terminally ill without the notoriety of Kevorkian. Death, unlike life, had become a close friend. Intimate, dependable, remarkable in ways, someone she could trust, someone who reliably showed up only after a brief absence and never lacked enthusiasm for her own personal struggle.
“This,” she said, dangling the leather harness she used to seduce Katharine, “is completely inappropriate, therefore I will wear it fully accessorized.” Her somber mood was broken by this crazy gesture. The inanity of it all… She imagined cutting through the crowd of mourners yelling, “Thou art art!” pointing to the urn of Jonathan’s ashes. Cruel and unbecoming, yes, but honest. Why weren’t people honest anymore? Have lies been told so often they now appeared absolute and irrefutable?
She dropped the briefs she planned to wear, walked out into the living room sporting her harness and over to the window where she pulled up the shades and yelled, “Cocks and crows be damned. I stand before thee naked. A man, a woman, a monster.” And she cackled and crowed maddeningly before whisking a bottle off the cabinet, lifting the cork and guzzling it down then spraying her woolen rug with a shower of ruby wine, rubbing it in for good measure with the heel of her bare foot. Sick and tired of the tidy lies, she fixated on the stain. There will be no more deception between us.
In Katharine’s absence she could not dispute her claim.
The act revitalized her and her dynamism returned. She recalled the last time they spent together. Bathed in the pale moonlight, Katharine’s face showed subtle signs of confusion, that slight slant of the lips and the faint trace of the dimple on her left cheek. Their fingertips touched and the lightning struck with a force that traveled the length of their bodies. No longer imprisoned by thoughts, they ventured out feeling the curve of the earth, their orbit a slow spiral down where gravity was not essential.
With the pulsating rhythm of her sex locked up in a harness, she felt the energy bound up and turned inward. She wasn’t fixed on a singular mind set about what makes a man, what makes a woman. To her, it was not the body or the genitals but the orientation of energy. An orientation that was not absolute. She always loved women but knew that to love them truly she had to love herself. It hadn’t been easy, not because of her identity but her disorientation around gender, like those little icons stuck on the walls of public toilets indicating which door to use. She rarely interpreted the symbols correctly. They made no sense to her, which accounted for the way she often walked blindly into the wrong bathroom. As if there were no subtleties in the evolution of the human race…
One glance at the clock over the kitchen stove and she dashed into the bedroom to dress. If she didn’t pull herself together, she’d be late for the memorial service. She knew her presence would make things worse and she hated herself, their relationship, for that.
in and out
in lame attempts
of swift escapes
from savage ways
flesh and bone and wit.
Edward Albee Fellow and fiction grant recipient, Melanie Mitzner is the author of Slow Reveal, published by Inanna Publications in May, 2022 and selected for Best Women’s Fiction Writers 2022 Debuts. An excerpt was published in Bloom. She’s a finalist in four fiction and screenwriting competitions. Her work appears in Gay & Lesbian Review, Wine Spectator, Vol1Brooklyn, Harrington Lesbian Literary Quarterly, Hamptons, The Groovy Mind blog, Society for Curious Thought and Submerging Artists. As a former journalist for tech, she covered television production/visual effects. https://www.melaniemitzner.com
Melanie Mitzner Photo Credit: Robert Laliberté