It Chooses You by Miranda July

Miranda July has written what is probably my favorite collection of short stories, “No One Belongs Here More Than You” and is the writer/director of two movies I really like, “Me and You and Everyone We Know” and “The Future” so I had high hopes for this book.  Although there were interesting tid-bits in the book, I find her other work to be much more compelling.


The thing I really enjoyed about this book was the insight into July’s quirky mind and her creative process.  The book picks up with July being stuck while writing and trying to get funding for her new, yet to be made movie, “The Future.” For some reason she decides she will interview one person who is selling something in a little newspaper called “PennySaver.”  In this weekly newspaper, it’s free for a person to advertise anything they are selling as long as it’s under $10.  So July picks out a person each week (I think for 13 weeks) and goes to meet and interview them about their life and what they are selling.

At first it’s a bit hard to get into because some of the interviews are fairly boring and trite. But then some of the interviewees turn out to be really bizarre and interesting, like the man under house arrest or the woman who is selling a hair dryer whose daughter sings her a Miley Cyrus song.

However, I think that some of the interviews could be seen as exploitive. Not that that’s what July’s intention was, but she interviews some people that one never reads about in mainstream media, the very poor who don’t have internet access and so are selling cheap things in a newspaper.  I don’t think July means to exploit these people but it’s obvious she is not really from their world and is pretty brazen in some of the questions she asks. Read the rest of this entry »


2011: My Year in Reading!

Friends, here is my 2011 year in reading! (Not counting all of the children’s books I read when I was a nanny,  various zines, magazines, newspapers, online articles, and blogs I read.)  I wanted to write a blog for every book I read in 2011 but that didn’t exactly happen. Out of the 31 (almost 32!) books I read this year, I only wrote blogs for 13 or 14 of them…  Better luck next year I suppose.  I had hoped to read more like 36 to 40 books in 2011, but that’s okay. In 2012,  I am setting my goal at reading 35 books, with the knowledge that I will be in school and will not have as much time to read for pleasure.  Also in 2012, I would like to broaden my reading spectrum and include more non-fiction books and more classics, as the majority of what I read this past year was either young adult or contemporary fiction. So friends, here is my year in books broken up by category. In color is my favorite book I read in 2011 from that genre, followed by a brief synopsis. Oh, and I also tried to include the month I read the book, (although the months may not be entirely accurate…)  Oh, and I made a section for all the LGBT books I read this year even though the books are listed by other genres as well.  Enjoy! And feel free to ask me questions about any of these!

Young Adult Fiction

Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan (July)

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman (February)

Forever and Are You There God, It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume (February)

Crank by Ellen Hopkins (March)

Catching Fire, Hunger Games, Mockingjay (series) by Suzanne Collins (April and May)

Amazing! Highly rated by many “best of” 2011 book lists and not without cause.  Many people that I spoke to about these books had to run right out and get the next book after finishing the first one.  These books are set in a dystopian society in the future where kids are picked from each family to fight against each other to the death in a giant arena filled with traps. It’s the government’s fucked up way of keeping control of the people.  We follow the heroine, Katniss, as she is chosen to be one of those who fights in the arena and how she comes to win “the games” as they are called.  Thrilling and a must read if you are into young adult fiction or dystopian fiction. Disclaimer: The third book isn’t quite as good as the first two.

Uglies/Pretties trilogy (series) by Scott Westerfeld (April-July)

Matched by Allie Condie (December)

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian by Sherman Alexie (August)

Empress of The World (March)

Read the rest of this entry »

The Inverted Gaze by Francois Cusset

In his new book, Francois Cusset says that: “We need to learn to take the text, turn it over, penetrate it, play with its sex, slip ours into it, follow it to the end of its fine ambivalence, and force it along the way to assume a position.”  Finally a writer who shares the same queer biblio-lust as myself!  With “The Inverted Gaze” Cusset presents a new addition to the study of queer theory, dissecting the French literary classics from the point of view of what Cusset calls a “QC” or queer critic.

It must be noted that this is not a book for the faint of heart and is a highly academic read.  I have read a few authors who belong to the French canon that Cusset discusses, (most notably Proust and Balzac) but I was not nearly as familiar as I would  like to be with the authors and works discussed.  I think this book would be most enjoyed by someone who is well versed in the French literary canon.  I could also see it being a valuable resource in an academic setting for a class about queer theory, especially in regards to French texts.

The subject of theory can be somewhat dry but Cusset queers his discussion of theory by inserting such metaphors as the use of glory holes to illustrate what it means to look at literature through a queer lens.  He says “We are looking for the details that have been ignored, but then take on the sudden tumescent vigor of that which passes through the glory hole.”

One of the things I found most fascinating about the book was Cusset’s take on what makes a work of literature queer.  Rather than focusing on what is explicitly queer such as the actual acts of sodomy or lesbian affection, Cusset says that being queer is about the loss of the self, “the art of being where nothing awaits you” and that “the queer approach… loudly proclaims lack of definition as its major virtue.”   One of the French authors that Cusset discusses is Baudelaire who has a quote which I particularly enjoyed: “To fuck is to aspire to enter another, whereas the artist never leaves himself.” (from “My Heart Laid Bare”).

Particularly interesting was Cusset’s pondering of what makes queer sex queer: “…The multitude of sophisticated caresses not involving penetration, not to mention the ecstatic pain of unfulfillment– and “To keep inside oneself, at the tip of the penis or the base of the perineum, that primal itch without trying to scratch it (or destroy it) with a harmony of bodies, with the illusion of another: that is the program of queer erotics, perisexual or even masturbatory; a painful caress…”

I also appreciated  Cusset’s discussion of what makes for a queer reading of a work rather than a more traditional gay or LGBT interpretation.  Cusset says that a traditional gay approach looks at what is most easily understood as being overtly gay and attempts to put it in the category of hetero-normativity while a queer approach to literature looks at what is seedy and underlying in a text, what is inferred and undefined as opposed to the observable and plain.  He says that traditional gay studies try “to establish a homo counter-corpus, as canonic in the end as the official corpus” whereas queer studies “does not limit its field of investigation to any pre-established criteria, explicit thematic, or author biography, preferring not the celebration of difference, but rather the insinuation of constant doubt, and the political, playful, and insatiable erosion of the usual borders between homo and hetero.”

Altogether a highly intriguing and academic text which left me pondering over such sentences as: “A finger in your nose, as Roquentin could tell us, is sometimes richer in queer meaning than an entire session of fist fucking.” Amen!

A Field Guide to Getting Lost

Rebecca Solnit’s writing is wild, wandering, wondering, free, luminous and full of the bittersweet ache of nostalgia.  Her descriptions and stories in this book are fragile, intricate, and determined.

She talks about the feeling of being lost and says:

Lost really has two disparate meanings. Losing things is about the familiar falling away, getting lost is about the unfamiliar appearing….

While reading this work I found myself lost in her words and in the feelings they evoked within me.  She describes things in such a beautiful and nostalgic way, and her words pack a punch of feeling that made me ache.  I felt myself wandering through a harsh but beautiful word climate, much like the physical desert that Solnit describes so wonderfully in this book. Read the rest of this entry »

The Geography of Bliss

So I just moved to Portland 5 months ago and am in a very broke place in life.  Every day I apply for jobs but moneys are very low and it’s stressful.  I look forward to the day when I can buy a cup of coffee without thinking of the  financial repercussions.  As a result of my desperate financial state,  I’m always looking for ways to supplement my income.

I saw an ad on craigslist about being paid to take part in a research study about depression.  I have had depression in the past but am actually happy lately in spite of my financial stress.  So I decided to try and fake being depressed.  I made it through the initial screening process and came in for the next appointment where I was asked a series of questions to evaluate my mood.   I tried my best to sound depressed  but after the evaluation, the psychiatrist looked over my answers and said I did not qualify for the study.

So I got kicked out of the study for not actually being depressed.  Oh man, and American psychology is so weird!  He said something like: “Don’t worry, it doesn’t mean you’re not depressed.  Just not depressed enough for this study.” Ha ha, oh man!  Even though I was not able to participate in the study and would receive no moneys, I went home and felt happy all day about not being depressed.  It felt like a small victory. Definitely one of the stranger ways I’ve tried to make money! Read the rest of this entry »