Monday, June 4, 2012

A Secret Code Only Visible in Certain Lights

June is national LGBTQ Pride Month. If you know anything at all about me, you'll know that I'm always hesitant to reveal anything about myself. I'm like a slow leak, hoping no one will notice. But here, in honor of Pride Month, I'm listing the books helped shaped my queer identity, that kept me queer company, so to speak, since I was a young teenager.

Mapplethorpe's Warhol
The Andy Warhol Diaries. No shit. I read these when I was fifteen, and I fucking loved them. I liked, too, that they were not really written as diaries, but spoken, publicly into the phone, meant to be recorded and shared, meant for public consumption -- like all of Andy's work. I like the telling, about other celebrities -- John Travolta: hello. And the pictures of Andy's boyfriend, Jed, who was a twin, and who was beautiful.

Less than Zero. I read this at fourteen. If anyone had paid attention, I probably shouldn't have, but I did. I loved the bleakness of this book. The language, the despair, the cocaine. It was confirmation of what I thought might be true about LA. That it was sunshine on the outside, and something dark and damp right under the surface, black and bottomless. I had been to southern California,  had been to Hollywood even as a little girl, and felt it then, the pull of something terrible. There was the repetition of the phrase Disappear Here. The cars and pools and repeated TV screens. And tragic, doomed Julian.

Possession. I first read this at eighteen, and then a few times since, and it changes for me every time. It's probably not traditionally considered a queer book, but it's queer all over the place. Not just in the relationship between the two women, the poet and the painter living quietly together. The painter's sharp neuroses, but even the straight relationships are queered a little. The way they finally come together, the images of the empty white bed. Beautiful, cold Maud. It's a book extraordinarily aware of the body, and the body as separate, as closed off from other bodies, the body alone. So much so that the collisions are finally shattering.

Written on the Body. So sly and so beautiful. I think I read this at about nineteen, some summer in between college semesters. This book made me want to write. It made me want to write about love, and about the body, in small, beautiful, crushing ways.

Really, every book shapes you. Every book becomes what you want it to be for you. The magic of these books was the language, the emotion, the revelation, finally, of what it means to be, not just human, but a separate bubble, colliding, like Pynchon's kiss of cosmic pool balls.

The beauty of queer to me is that it's complicated. It's not either / or. It's both / and. It all those letters before and then some. It shifts beneath your feet. So if you were expecting a blanket coming out statement somewhere in this post, there it is. It's more complicated than one sentence. It's a fragment and a run-on. It breaks all the rules, of grammar, and logic, and otherwise. Like love.

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