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Out in the Bay: Friday broadcasts start with 'The Guncle' interview

by Eric Jansen

"The Guncle," Steven Rowley's latest novel, was published May 25, 2021. Photo:  Courtesy of G.P. Putnam's Sons
"The Guncle," Steven Rowley's latest novel, was published May 25, 2021. Photo: Courtesy of G.P. Putnam's Sons   

[Editor's note: This summer, Out in the Bay is airing a mix of previously recorded shows and new content. This week is a rebroadcast.]

What's the role of a gay uncle? "The Guncle" suggests possibilities, dishing out lots of laughs as a guncle, his niece and nephew deal with deep past and present grief.

Steven Rowley reads — dramatically — from his latest novel and discusses its "Auntie Mame" genesis on this week's Out in the Bay — Queer Radio at its new 5 p.m. Friday broadcast time on KALW, 91.7 FM throughout the Bay Area.

"The Guncle" is a heart-warming, humorous work of fiction about a once-famous sitcom star whose unexpected family tragedy leaves him with his 9- and 6-year-old niece and nephew for the summer.

Gay Uncle Patrick, or "GUP" as his family calls him, helps his young charges work through their grief with love and non-stop wit. And for himself — although he offers them to the kids too — plenty of mimosas. Amidst the summer pool parties, bike rides and sleep-overs, Patrick gains insights into his own grief and life, too.

Guncle Patrick is a tribute to his namesake, "Auntie Mame" author Patrick Dennis and Mame's nephew Patrick, the boy Mame cares for after his parents' death, in Dennis' 1955 novel. "This is my 'Uncle Mame,' if you will," Rowley explains.

A running amusement is Patrick's growing list of "Guncle Rules" he declares for the kids, like "Brunch is splendid," "Know your angles" and "If a gay man hands you his phone, look only at what he's showing you. Don't open any apps!"

"Anyone who fashions himself after Auntie Mame will come loaded with a certain amount of bon mots," says Rowley, and Patrick packages many for the kids as "Guncle Rules."

"One of my favorites is 'Bottomless Mimosas is not the same as Pantsless Mimosas,' and he goes on to say he can't count the number of restaurants he's been kicked out of for not knowing the difference." Although most Guncle Rules Patrick contrives to make the children laugh, there are "surprising nuggets of wisdom" and life lessons, Rowley said.

As the bond between Patrick and his nephew and niece gradually grows stronger, they and the gay throuple next door help Patrick emerge from his grief-induced isolation after the death of his lover 10 years earlier.

"The Guncle" is "meant to be read by the pool with a cocktail in hand," said Rowley. "I hope it entertains you ... but I really hope that it sparks a conversation about grief — the grief we all carry and how we can help each other let it go."

Two of Rowley's previous books, "Lily and the Octopus" and "The Editor," about a young gay writer who befriends Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis during her "incredible third act" as a book editor, are being made into films.

Hear more from author Steven Rowley on this week's Out in the Bay — Queer Radio from San Francisco. The program airs at 5 p.m. Friday, August 13, on KALW, 91.7 FM throughout the Bay Area, and at 9:30 a.m. Saturday, August 14, on KSFP, 102.5 FM in SF only. It is available anytime, anywhere on Out in the Bay's website.

Eric Jansen is founding producer and lead host of Out in the Bay - Queer Radio from San Francisco. Learn more and listen at https://www.outinthebay.org/

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