100 BOYFRIENDS is all you need this Pride 🌈
June 14, 2022
Our Authors on Authors series continues, kicking off Pride Month celebrating the work of the “gay punk messiah,” the one and only Brontez Purnell. For all the good, queer vibes, feels, and philosophy on life, we have a deep dive into Purnell’s 100 Boyfriends by author of Breathing Fire, Jaime Lowe:
On the front cover, a penis, a bridge, a tongue, a mountain, a wave, a heart; on the back cover, a shirtless Brontez, the author, staring down the lens, hands resting on jean pockets, but not in them. Standing there, naked as he can be and still sell copies in Barnes & Noble.
I told Sean McDonald that was the vibe wanted in my author photo. He said Brontez would show up to marketing meetings shirtless. I said, damn, maybe I should too, making everyone uncomfortable since my shirtlessness would incite an HR meeting. I regretted making the joke, but Brontez’s nakedness is what 100 Boyfriends is about. His nakedness on display through clarified writing. The writing is so clear, so precise, not one word out of place, not one word gratuitous. Linked vignettes of scenes and portraits braided with desire and body and fluid and power, tenderness and messy raw sex, sometimes broken, sometimes orgasmic, sometimes both.
I read the book, needed to read it, devoured it really.
I was so hungry for this titillation, these extreme human interactions in a time when I was siloed, the world was siloed. Boyfriends came out in February of the first Covid winter, before the vaccine, and provided this portal to humor, to touch, to flesh, to want, to a little bit of frivolity AND THAT IT WAS OK TO BE FRIVOLOUS. Important even, life sustaining.
I needed to hear from the Brontez Purnel, the artist, his gogo dancing, his steam baths, his fucking, his loving, his cumming, his gazing, grazing, ball gagging, blind folding, petting, putting out, putting in. To read about his bodies, many bodies. All the dirty details in a swirl of love, care, feeling, numbness. Memory and sensation. All of it. Blurry but clear. Real but maybe fiction? Fiction but maybe real? It didn’t matter. It was a riotous bouquet of humor, terror, cattiness and love.
Boyfriends is a gateway drug. I watched Brontez Zoom readings, went into a deep dive — Brontez punk, Brontez dance, Brontez Instagram live, Brontez in a metallic g-string, Brontez gyrating, Brontez grinding, Brontez face tattoos, Brontez pool parties, most recently Brontez fully naked getting a buzz cut. He advertised a room for rent in his house in the Bay Area and for a second I thought maybe I should leave my life and bask in the glory of Brontez. Join the cult of Brontez.
Why was I so taken with this book, these stories, this voice, this person? This person aptly known as a “gay, punk, messiah”?
Cloaked in fiction, he seemed to also offer himself whole, seemingly unaltered, absolutely clear about who he was, how he lived and what he wanted. The book has been described as transgressive, and maybe it is in some ways, but it follows a traditional narrative structure. Each sentence, finely crafted, each story, deftly edited. Pulling you in with details and emotional resonance about his characters, about him, his world, his life, what the flap copy describes as the “unexposed queer underbelly.” The book is not really about the one hundred boyfriends, it’s about the Brontez. Whoever Brontez is, the small sliver revealed in those 177 pages is enough to know the world needs more. And also, please, maybe start that cult?