Reading: July: Finishing With Gay’s Hunger

In this entry I will be discussing MODERN GODS, by Nick Laird, THE FALLEN, by Ace Atkins, and HUNGER: A MEMOIR OF (MY) BODY, by Roxane Gay.

I read 19 books in July, during which I needed much distraction as I continued my eight month slog through the medical/insurance establishment in search of answers for the questions; “What disease do I have?” “Will this rash EVER go away?” “Why do so few doctors in Maryland accept my Maryland-assisted insurance that I have to drive an hour to an out-of-state provider to get treated?”

But those are issues for another type of blog-post, and, as a friend recently told me, “I think more people like your live-Tweeting about cooking than like your book blog entries because your cooking Tweets are shorter and funny.”

Okay then, short and funny, like most of my relationships. Got it. Or, wait, short and tragic? Whatever. Here are the final three reads of July.

Modern Gods, Nick Laird, Hardcover, 336pp, June 2017, Viking

I am of two minds about this novel, which is fitting since it feels like two half-novels awkwardly trying to meld into one cohesive whole. Two sisters on very different journeys of re-invention navigate foreign lands — metaphorically and physically — discovering during the treks that people are not at all what they seem, that they themselves may not be what they imagined themselves to be, and so they struggle to come to grips with the recondite realities of emotional connections, love, forgiveness, and the meaning of survival.

Alison Donnelly is about to be remarried. Liz Donnelly is leaving a disappointingly dishonest relationship and heading to Papua New Guinea to investigate a nascent religion for a BBC documentary. Alison’s husband to be has dangerous secrets she refuses to hear until it is impossible to ignore them, while the subject of Liz’s programme, Belef, a Melanesian woman who has gained a following for her pronouncements about the messages she claims to be receiving from a divine source, is also more and less than she appears to be.

There is a lot of marvelous writing and imagery here — the author is also a poet and it shines through — especially in the opening chapters which feel inspired in ways the middle of the novel does not, and the ending feels somewhat contrived and rushed, almost dishonest in its calculation. In short(ish), it feels both as if the author tried too hard and yet, not quite hard enough.

The Fallen (Quinn Colson #7), Ace Atkins, Hardcover, 384pp, July 2017, G.P.Putnam’s Sons

This is my third Ace Atkins novel and he has become a new “regular” for me. The books are fast paced, compellingly plotted, and I find the Quinn Colson world  — a Southern gothic, near Flannery O’Connor collection of misfits operating in a steamy, dangerous, ole boy sort of noir world in which danger and humor compete for air — to be equally delightful and appalling — don’t want to be a spoiler but there is a death in this book, the occurrence of which made me weep. Be warned. In this installment, a series of well-executed bank robberies performed by bandits in Donald Trump masks vex Sheriff Quinn Colson who’s also busy falling for the new old girl in town who knew and crushed on him as a little girl — she’s not little now and she’s not alone in her crushing. Things do and don’t work out, there is plenty of ambiguity and the final pages set up the next installment and I am ready.

Hunger: A Memoir Of (My) Body, Roxane Gay, Hardcover, 320pp, June 2017, Harper Collins

This was devastating. A blunt, searingly honest exploration of what it is to be other, to be caged in cultural presumptions so powerful that you yourself reinforce your incarceration. So many passages in this memoir resonated for me and echoed my own experiences as a queer man who grew up in the 1970s, it felt as if Roxane Gay had accessed the painful and embarrassing places and traumas I had locked away, kept to myself, refused to face, and done some of the work for me. This isn’t just a memoir, it’s an act of extraordinary bravery and service. Warning: it is NOT easy, in fact, it is emotionally draining but also enlightening and thought-provoking and encouraging; Roxane Gay has survived what could have been an overwhelming amount of horror, pain and abuse (physical and emotional), and ugly energy — from herself (to which she freely cops) and others, and the culture at large. If I had the power, I would make every child entering adolescence read this as it would be a benefit to those who feel alone and unseen and not right (and what adolescent doesn’t feel those things?) as well as those who might be bullies, haters, judgey popular kids who think it’s okay to mock and torture others, never having a thought to the long-term (permanent?) damage it can do.

And so it goes . . . goodbye, July . . .

It’s been a long month of doctor visits and disappointments, but, bright side, I got to read 19 books of which three were 5 Star reads, three were 4 Star reads, twelve were 3 star reads, and only one was a 2 Star read. Pretty good. And I booked and did a couple of house/petsits, had some quality times with family and loved ones, and made the best cake I’m ever likely to make (or eat), Beringer’s Brooklyn Blackout Cake, and created a cookie recipe involving four kinds of chocolate, chipotle, and cayenne, called Milamos. So, in addition to reading quite a lot, wow, I did a lot, too. I’m getting a slower start in August, aghast at how slowly time is moving since January when the tragedies of the inauguration and the onset of my still undiagnosed illness occurred. Not original to me, but, these eight months feel like eight years.

Anyway, off to more reading and family-ing and cooking and pill-popping and such. So, Love and Light to my regulars, nice to meet you to my new friends, and here I am, going.

Existential Cozies, Comforts, and Joys

capote warhol

Truman Capote hugs Santa Warhol

‘Tis the season.  For the past week I’ve been in semi-seclusion here at Sepia Fallows, wallowing in ague-fuguery. My restricted life has consisted of nose-blowing, croupe-like-hacking, head and joint achery, sleep-deprivation resulting in head-lolling-exhaustion naps, intermittent cold-sweating, off-and-on feverish semi-hallucinations, and that consciousness of, “I really need to take a drink of that water,” coupled with a staggering lack of energy or will to actually do so, the “Yes, I will in a second” syndrome: I meant to take a drink of water, really I did, somewhere around Tuesday. Here it is, Friday. I’m parched.

Yet, silver lining: I may be down, but I haven’t been out, because, through it all, I could read. Granted, Kathryn Davis’s hallucinatory, acid-trip of a novel, Duplex, was not, perhaps, the best choice given my delusory state, but, there it is. Was. Whatever. Is, was, will be, the point is that in Duplex — unlike this post, the sentences sure were pretty.

For me, long, uninterrupted (if one doesn’t count the hacking cough and nose blowing breaks) stretches of reading are like being cozied beneath a warm blankie, tucked in by a loving someone who has just rubbed Vicks on one’s chest. Books — as ’twas ever thus — get me through. Comfort and joy, so to speak (type). And, hey … I’m a giver so …

… since it seems a lot of folks are feeling a bit under-weathered, and, too, since it’s prime suicide season — holidays and what-not — I’m guessing you might need some jollying along to get you through the remaining weeks of hall decking and such.

Here you go. Wrap yourself in these thoughts and observations. You’re welcome.

hemingwriteI am obsessed with (as in, a stalker of) authors, publishers, literary agents, editors, and other TwitterLiterati. Of late, many of them have been blogging, writing, talking about the Hemingwrite. [CLICK HERE FOR HEMINGWRITE] What it amounts to is an old-school word-processor/typewriter. It’s not even MANUFACTURED yet, and everyone wants one. It’s a KICKSTARTER dream, people, and everyone wants one. LOL. So do I. Oh wait, I had one. It was a Smith-Corona electric typewriter about twenty years ago. Life. Next up, a throwback washing machine: here you go, kids!

washboard

Crazy world. And I’m not going to get into all the things in this crazy world that are INFURIATING me; like torture reports, Duggars donating and campaigning in Fayetteville to deny rights to LGBTQ folk, the Rolling Stone debacle and its resultant rape-victim-blaming-demonization, the lack of diversity in the publishing world and year-end “best of” books lists, Trayvon Martin, Mike Brown, Eric Garner, Ferguson, racism, misogyny, homophobia, transphobia, ageism — well, NOT GOING TO GET INTO ALL THAT – and point out the ignorance and idiocy.

COMFYVBALLS-570

Instead, look at this ignorance and idiocy. “Comfyballs” underwear is denied a trademark. What the actual ball-busting fuck? Click HERE for Huffington Post article: ‘Comfyballs’ Underwear Denied Trademark Because ‘Balls’. LOL.

Speaking of balls. Ben Affleck’s penis. [CLICK HERE]

Affleck penis

Which is all well and good, but, finally this week on American Horror Story: Freak Show, we were treated to Evan Peters’ ass. It took long enough. And, try though I might, I have been unable to find any GIFS or even screen-caps of it. WOW. I mean, in seasons past, as soon as Evan’s ass hit the screen it was Tumblr-d and Tweeted everywhere. I, myself, have frequently featured it on this blog, especially the Coven season. Remember?

Evan Peters Coven 3

Of course you do. But this season it seems Finn Wittrock as Dandy Mott is the ass-man of Mr. Ryan Murphy’s choice. And, well, it is a nice ass … and everything else.

ahs dandy buttahs freak dandy dec 2014 2

I’m not the only one noticing the butt-work on AHS. CLICK HERE FOR MTV STORY ‘7 TIMES AMERICAN HORROR STORY HAD THE BEST BUTTS ON TELEVISION’. Visuals included.

Lest you think ALL I care about is balls, Ben Affleck’s penis, and Finn Wittrock’s ass, I hasten to get all intellectual again. Well, my version anyway. Many of my TwitterLiterati — the ones I follow who, in many cases, indulge me by following back — have been linking to this piece in The Awl titled ‘The Untold Story of the Doodler Murders’ [click here]. It’s written by Elon Green — who is followed by (and follows in return) quite a few of the same people I follow and they keep linking this. So, despite the fact that Mr. Green — like Darin Strauss, Bill Walsh, Roxane Gay, and Daniel Mendelsohn — does NOT follow me (and really, why should anyone? Well, I’ll tell you why, if I’m good enough for The Duchess Goldblatt to follow, then … enough said) I still think this is worth a read. Well done. And fascinating.

joe and andyBut, wait, this was supposed to be about what gives me comfort and joy, and giving you that same cozy feeling. Ok. Well, hmm … if Santa Warhol wanted to visit me and couldn’t manage to get Joe Dallesandro down my chimney — I don’t actually have a chimney, damn the luck — then, what would make me feel good?

Simple things. My simple Christmas wish(es):

Starbucks. Can’t help it. I dream of winning one of those 10 Lifetime Supplies they keep talking about on television. And the Christmas Blend Keurig K-Cups. Oh my. Simple pleasures.

And Books. Can’t go wrong with visiting THE CURIOUS IGUANA [click here], my favorite bookstore, ever. And, too, confessions, for old books, I do the one cent shopping thing on Amazon and visit church book sales and used bookstores — like the one the Girl Scouts run where every hardback is $1 and paperback fifty cents.

And YouTube. I watch all sorts of clips for all sorts of hours when I am too tired to read. Or, in need of some Judy Garland or vintage Broadway or Julia Murney or … well, you get it.

Santa Colby Keller

Colby Santa Keller

And Colby Keller. I can’t stop myself. I guess it is — with me — again — about the balls and the penis and the ass — and when it comes to those things, porn performer, Colby, is great. But even better, he’s literate and funny and original and an artist. Check out his BIG SHOE DIARIES blog. CLICK HERE.

And quiet. And solitude. And sun. A window of my own. Yes, what I really like in life is peace and quiet. I like alone time. I like silence. No traffic noise. No TV noise. Just, quiet. I am afforded some quiet in my Crazy Potty Mouth Uncle Basement room here at Sepia Fallows, but, sadly, it’s dark down here. One little window on the other side of the basement, not near my room. I lack light. I dream of one day living somewhere with light. With a window I can open. A balcony onto which I can step. And quiet. Real, true, quiet. Actually, I will be spending much of the holiday season at Aftermath, out in the country, lots of quiet and lots of light. Me. Judah. And more time to read and fantasize about Colby and Dallesandro and ruminate on the cozies of life.

Happy Holidays, dears. Love and Light and Hemingwrites and Affleck Penis and Wittrock and Peters ass and being tucked under blankies by loved ones brandishing Vicks-Vapo-Rub to you all. I have a feeling I may be backing off posting for a bit … holidays, not my best time. Much love ….

MERRY, MERRY