If Lifetime Television for Women did soft porn, the result might be something like Holding Fire—a desanitized Harlequin Romance with room for dildos and anal sex, gay sugar daddies, and clinical depression.
Holding Fire, a thinly veiled autobiographical novel, has been the subject of controversy since the author’s revelation that the character of Jonah was based on Captain Patrick Brown, a much decorated firefighter who was killed in the line of duty at the World Trade Center on September 11. Brown’s family has distanced itself vigorously from the book, while Wald insists Brown felt honored by his portrayal. Meanwhile, Pierce Brosnan’s production company has reportedly bought the movie rights for close to a million dollars.
Holding Fire—which walks a tightrope between tastelessly raunchy and repulsively syrupy—features Alicia, a young stripper-cum-writer (much like Elissa Wald herself, who wrote about s/m in Meeting the Master), who lives near a firehouse in Brooklyn and flogs her flesh by night to support her daytime artistic aspirations. Alicia devotes herself, first, to Jake, a macho firefighter who uses her for sex and calls her “babe,” then to Jonah, an older, martyrlike, manic-depressive firefighter who offers true love and calls her “honey.” Jonah, we are told, had once saved Alicia from a burning house when she was a small child, spawning a lifelong obsession.
At times, the sensitive Alicia writes poetry that celebrates the firemen’s derring-do:
The men I dance for work in boxes,
And pay too many unspoken taxes,
All joined at the neck by an unseen yoke;
But you’re of a tribe that carries axes,
With danger trailing you like a cloak
And irises eaten away by smoke.
It is unclear whether the egregiousness of this verse is a product of conscious authorial intent. In any case, Alicia, sadly hobbled by a lack of talent, can do nothing but give herself fully to the firemen, who, finally, spurn her because of, well, intimacy issues. The men who voluntarily risk their lives every day in fiery blazes are not, at least according to Wald, the most well-adjusted and secure of America’s citizenry. One can only hope that future literary tributes to New York’s Bravest hold more water.