Archive for July 2007

Top o’ the World, Ma!

July 17, 2007

I arrive twenty minutes early. This time is necessary for the climb up to the Pearl Room atop Powell’s City of Books in Portland, surely the longest flight of stairs in the continental United States now that the upraised torch of the Statue of Liberty has been classified as an unacceptable security risk.

Given the number of folding chairs thoughtfully placed in the Pearl Room, my projected audience here in the stratosphere exceeds the estimate for Harry Potter at the mall. After terror, the first thing that strikes me is the extraordinary confidence placed in me by Powell’s management.

At t-minus ten minutes, I face a sea of empty chairs. Unfailingly cheerful and competent Powell’s staff (about to be stranded on a desert island? Choose Powell’s Staff!) assure me that the rather eccentric physics of the Pacific Northwest mean any appearance of the sun slows time considerably.

At t-minus five minutes, the sea is half empty…or half full, depending on your perspective. Said perspective in my case involves looking toward the audience rather than the podium, which at the moment is satisfactorially full of writer, teacher, performer, transsexual, and a nice seersucker shirt from J. Peterman.

At t-plus three minutes the hordes descend.

While the cheerful and competent Powell’s staff go for a crate of emergency back-up chairs, I disguise myself as a mild-mannered audience member. Briefly, I flirt with the idea of remaining in this position, but vanity wins out.

Besides, I note that the still-arriving hordes are getting smaller, not in size but in average dimensions. Either I’m the new N’Sync, or something very interesting is going on.

One of my previously-unsuspected teenage fan base has worn a black leather minidress and fuschia hair for the occasion. Another has carefully waxed his moustache. My heart melts, and I spring to the podium with the strength of thousands.

There follows an extraordinary evening. For more than an hour I get to watch squadrons of literary people, trans folk, crews of gay men, cadres of lesbians, camps of straights, knots of those who nest beneath the bookshelves at Powell’s and feed on lost backstock, mixed with slews of teenagers of all descriptions and united in a single psychic wave of good will, listening raptly to me and each other. The audience, in the way of audiences, believes this wonder of the world is entirely my doing.

Silly audience. I love you.

The mystery of my new youth cult is explained as the entire contents of Lewis and Clark College’s summer literary workshops for young writers. They will return to their homes all over the country, bearing copies of What Becomes You.

I have a posse. I now have a sacred responsibility to rock the world for all time.

Afterward, I seem to have become a celebrity. Writers as young as fourteen lead the way in asking smart questions; we discuss collaborative writing, the memoir format, culture shock in encounters with gender and society, and the challenges of shaping new language for forms of experience that change with every generation. And how the heck do you write with your mom

I feel old in the best possible way.

An elderly expatriate, a middle-aged trans man, and an adolescent boy and girl all bring up questions of transition, silence, and finding a voice. Burning questions respect no borders.

An earnest young man with the face of a very young Gary Cooper and a formal skirt with kick pleats asks me to sign his book, takes my hand, and thanks me gravely. A gray-headed teacher from Lewis and Clark buys a book and gushes. I gush back. A freckle-faced boy faces me with wide eyes, takes a deep steadying breath (this is a big moment, and Lassie is mysteriously absent), explains he’s on the debate team at school, and asks for help with his homework. His ninth-grade debate contest asks the Question of the Day:

“Do you think homosexuality is an inborn genetic defect, or is it a choice?”

Lassie, come quick! Tommy’s fallen in the well.

A squadron of Radical Faeries absconds me for martinis. Then it’s off to Castro Street. In San Francisco I’ll be reading at A Different Light, which, I am assured, is the nation’s choicest LGBT bookstore.

The word for the day, saith Merriam-Webster, is onomastics: the system underlying the forms and uses of words.


Zyzzyva Turns Buttocks To Wall, Publisher’s Weekly Thinks I’m Hot

July 6, 2007

The Story So Far…Denver Airport, Que Bueno Resturant, Gate B32 (freelance). Dispaches continue; messages are coming from all quarters.

News flash: Publisher’s Weekly has dubbed the book “One of the hottest memoirs in the [LGBT] category this year…” in their May 7th profile of top LGBT titles.

(Okay, so my dispatches go by courier snail. Still, good news never goes out of style.)

Wait…Just Out writer Glenn Scofield Williams has called What Becomes You “…the best memoir I’ve read in a decade.” This, as of the first of July. Ha!
Meanwhile, Howard Junker, the editor of Zyzzyva, has reviewed the book at the Zyzzyva blog. Check out May 30, My Colleagues.

Blog of the Day:
Go, thou, and read. Support your local literary magazine.

Question of the Day: I invite media-savvy readers to consider the uses of the word “shrill.” To what groups of people is it applied, and under what circumstances?

Quote of the Day: Richard Burton talking about the American press, quoted in The Celluloid Closet: “…reporters keep asking me how I’m going to ‘disguise that magnificent voice to make it homosexual.’ They frighten me. Don’t they realize that some of the most magnificent voices in the theatre belong to homosexuals?”

Speaking of great pix, Zyzzyva was apparently not satisfied with the book’s graphic and accurate description of my penis. They want photos. Okay, but I am informed by (as yet) unimpeachable sources that if anyone ever posts naked pictures on the internet, civilization will fall. And I don’t stay over on the first date.


Speaking of great reviews, Angel Curtis at OutSmart Magazine in Houston says What Becomes You is “…the best book I’ve read this year.”

Kiss a queer reporter today. But since I don’t have a picture of Angel, or even a physical description, Howard Junker has my official permission to just send flowers.

The writer of the day is: Jim Shephard. Jim Shephard rocks. Fan club t-shirts are in the works.
Website of the Day:
Don’t forget to go forth and find his new book, Project X, which will make you laugh or cry depending on whether you have to wake up tomorrow and still be an adolescent.
Go, thou, and read.