In it, Calvin, a single accountant, must look after Joey, a porn character who unexpectedly steps through the TV into Calvin’s life — and can’t go back. Calvin’s friend Peachy comes to the rescue, declaring that he and Calvin will teach Joey what he needs to know to be a gay man in this world — from Cher and Liza to how to cross the street without getting hit.
But on a deeper level Joey’s presence causes Calvin to reevaluate what he desires, and his yearning for connection propels everyone through the story, as they find themselves forming a family of choice.
As our work shares many themes, primarily those of love and family, I appreciated the time Pratt took to connect to discuss our definitions of family, particularly their meaning for us as gay men.
Kergan Edwards-Stout: David, thank you so much for taking the time to chat! As you know, I was a big fan of “Bob the Book,” and was so pleased to hear of your new novel. One of your gifts as a writer is in bringing objects to life. In “Bob the Book,” you animate a book, and in “Looking After Joey” you create depths and layers in a porn character.
David Pratt: In”Bob,” I actually created humans in the guise of books, who live as books might if books were sentient. In “Looking After Joey,” it’s Joey’s vulnerability and curiosity that bring him alive. He’s a porn character who crosses into our world, like a baby bird fallen from the nest. His reactions to what we call “real life” are hilarious and touching. Or both at once, as when he sees his first handicapped person. There is humor to it, but the scene is also gripping.
Edwards-Stout: Key to my enjoyment of the book was the role that family plays in it. Your lead character, Calvin, is on a quest to find a relationship, but ends up finding much more than that. It occurred to me, though, that while I know much about you as a writer, I don’t know much about your personal life, aside from your relationship with your partner, Rogério. How did you meet him?
Pratt: We both volunteered for the Gay Men’s Health Crisis in New York — me as a buddy, he as a translator of materials going to Brazil, where he is from. We attended a workshop together. We were talking up on the roof, and the door got locked!
Edwards-Stout: Does Rogério ever pop up in your work?
Pratt: Not in person, but the love and loyalty that I have experienced influences my work. Loyalty is so central! Rogério is all over “Joey” in that way, though “Joey” is not a romance. It’s a comedy, a “ripping yarn” for grown-ups. I had huge fun writing it. Rogério humor is all over it.
I am curious, having read and enjoyed “Songs for the New Depression” so much, how did your current immediate family form?
Edwards-Stout: My journey to family life was completely circuitous. During the early 90s I was in a relationship with a man, Shane Sawick, who would go on to die of AIDS. That experience, being lover and caregiver, fully transformed me. In my next relationship, we made the decision to adopt, leading to the birth of my eldest, Mason. When Mason was a year and a half, however, that relationship took a dramatic turn and dissolved. Later, I met Russ and, after settling into family mode, we adopted our youngest, Marcus. As you might imagine, it’s been one hell of a ride! (laughing)
Pratt: Does your family play either a direct or indirect role in your writing?
Edwards-Stout: While I’ve written pieces about my family, they haven’t yet turned up in my fictional work. But my desires and love of family and companionship echo through everything I write.
Pratt: What about your family of origin? Have they shown up in your writing?
Edwards-Stout: Not directly. In fact, when writing “Songs,” I really tried to create the kind of mother for my lead that I wished I had… Warmer, more understanding. While currently my relationship with my parents is terrific — theyíre both wonderful grandparents — my being gay caused numerous issues along the path. It seems I’m always pushing and pulling to get them to be where I’d like… I’m working on a memoir, however, so my parents and sister will be central to that. Tell me about your family of origin.