Saturday, December 20, 2014

I was doing some blogger-vanity-Googling

and discovered that FWL is a source for what looks like a pretty serious book. Granted, it was a commenter's writing instead of mine that was quoted, but it's still gratifying.

The book is Unfinished Lives: Reviving the Memories of LGBTQ Hate Crimes Victims, by Stephen V. Sprinkle. One of the subjects of the book is Scotty Joe Weaver, who I wrote about in 2006. Click here for my writing on the matter. Weaver was brutally murdered in 2004 in Alabama, a crime I first learned about in the great documentary, Small Town Gay Bar. I'm glad Weaver's story got some attention in a book like this. Nice to know FWL contributed to it.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Speaking of Edmund White,

if I had been a little more active on FWL lately I might've written about how moved I was by his first memoir, My Lives, which I finally got around to reading this year, although it's almost a decade old. White is meaningful to me because he's one of the first gay novelists I read after coming out. Kevin gave me a copy of his fine novel, The Beautiful Room is Empty, after we'd had at least one heart-to-heart about what was going on with me. Years later when I mentioned it to him he was confused; he thought I'd given him the book. He's always been much more well-read so I think it's safe to say my version is the correct one.

There's a chapter in the book, "My Master," that is extremely raw and revealing, detailing White's relationship as submissive to a much younger actor (for whom he initially wrote his theatrical riff on Timothy McVeigh and Gore Vidal, Terre Haute), a masculine southern narcissist to whom he refers only as "T." White sets up this scene well; he's a self-described sex addict with a predilection for hustlers. With all his sexual adventures, it's astounding he's managed to make the time for such a rich body of work. What's most impressive to me about the story he tells in "My Master" is the candor and depth of feeling he puts on the page. He mentions at the top of the chapter that he's just had his heart broken by T., and you can really tell. Here's a sample passage, describing his abjection after T and he agree to stop seeing each other for a while--
Forty times a day I checked my e-mail, but never a word. On the train back from Princeton I wept openly, the tears flowing down my cheeks uncontrollably. I didn't have a tissue to blow my nose. No one noticed. If they would have they might have thought I was a grandfather mourning the death of his old wife, not an antique libertine bewailing the loss of a hot hard dick.
His sense of humor is welcome, but after reading this chapter I wanted to find him and give him a comforting hug. The writing in "My Master" is strange, sexy, and surprisingly devastating, and most effective on me because I knew exactly where he was coming from as I read it. It's refreshing to read someone so unreservedly expressing such (some would say unflattering) detail, such vulnerability, and to be so relatable while describing such a transgressive relationship.

Perhaps that's one reason why my brief return to Joe Orton's diaries on the occasion of the Taper's production of What the Butler Saw was so jarring to me. Orton's brief, matter-of-fact descriptions of sexual encounters are equally shocking for their lack of warmth. There are obvious moments -- such as his tricking in Leicester after his mother's funeral, for example -- where you see a sex-as-escape pattern about as plainly as possible, but detachment, or even depersonalization, seems the norm for him.

I suppose I'll always be attracted to literary libertines. But I guess these days I'm more impressed by risk and revelation of an emotional sort.

I might write a little more on What the Butler Saw in a bit.

So yesterday came and went

and where's the self-congratulatory 10-year anniversary post?

Looking back on the first posts of FWL, there's nothing to be exceedingly excited or embarrassed about, nothing poignant or momentous, but there's a funny bit of symmetry in the December 29, 2004 memorial to Susan Sontag, as I've gotten on a bit of a Sontag kick this month. I just finished Edmund White's My Lives and City Boy and, particularly with the final pages of City Boy, I was pretty heavily immersed in Sontag and his friendship and falling out with her. There are so many good passages in his writing about her in City Boy, but here are two of my favorites--
She was a terrible snob. Once I had her to dinner with a beautiful and charming young couple who each eventually went on to write successful novels but who were unknown at the time. Susan said in an embarrassingly loud stage whisper, "Why did you invite them?" I was so vexed that I lied and said, "They're terribly rich." Susan nodded sagely, as if that answered all her doubts.
Once she read something I'd written where I'd carefully ascribed my thoughts to the sources that had inspired me. She said, "Cross all that out. Claim it for yourself. No one will ever notice who said it originally. It weakens your argument to be so scrupulous." Perhaps she was right, but this kind of recklessness got her into trouble later, when she was caught for plagiarizing, word for word, in a few passages of her novel In America.
Then Kevin got me Sigrid Nunez's slim memoir of Sontag, Sempre Susan, which I plan to read on the plane to Arkansas for the holiday. And I have her early journals, Reborn, as well, which I need to get around to.

And just as a fun bonus, here she is in 1992 pretending she doesn't know who Camille Paglia is.

Monday, December 08, 2014

We're approaching

the 10-year anniversary of FWL, so I thought I'd do a victory lap with a few new posts and then call it a decade.

Before I begin, isn't it funny that I started the blog this year with a declaration that I was going to write every day this year? If I actually did this (and of course I didn't), the blog didn't benefit from it all that much. Looking back over the year I'm pleased with some of the writing I did, but considering this is the first post since late September and updating the page has been on my to-do list for weeks now, I think the writing is on the wall.

I've rebooted this page more than once, of course. One memorable event was some irritated writing I did about some theater commentary in the LATimes. Of course now L.A. theater is all abuzz with the 99-seat debates, and I've been following them as well as I can, but I can't seem to get passionate enough about them to put in my two cents. I think it's a mess and I hope it gets figured out...and figured out in such a way that upstart producers like myself can still do new work.

So I've got at least a couple more posts in me before I resign myself to Twitter and Facebook like all the rest of you. Stay tuned.