In 2012, I was given the privilege of performing my high school ska-punk hit song "Adam Wants A Blowjob" during a performance of Mortified in Brookline, Massachusetts. Mortified is a gloriously hilarious and cathartic evening of performance, wherein people perform excerpts from their actual, real-life high school and college journaling and other writing. It's embarrassing; it's touching; and it's utterly delightful. In the years since then, I've had the privilege of performing my absolute worst high school pop-punk songs — some of which are so bad that it physically hurts me to play them — for sold-out audiences in Boston, New York, and Portland, Maine.
Over these years, I've gotten to know Mortified producer Sara Faith Alterman. Besides being a generally wonderful person, Alterman has a knack for figuring out the best way to present your most embarrassing high school material in the most enjoyable and emotionally impactful ways; I've worked with her enough that I can genuinely say that her curatorial eye is a true and rare talent.
And it's that unique talent that she's channelled perfectly into her new memoir, Let's Never Talk About This Again. I had glimpsed pieces of the story over the years — through Mortified performances, and through social media — but reading it all compiled with Alterman's trademark wit was a wonderful experience.
Given all that context, let me just pause for a moment to give you the official synopsis:
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Twelve-year-old Sara enjoyed an G-rated existence in suburban New England, filled with over-the-top birthday cakes, Revolutionary War reenactments, and nerdy word games invented by her prudish father, Ira.
Today on Oh Joy Sex Toy (previously) guest-artist Alex P Perkins offers us a graphic memoir of her breast reduction surgery in 10th grade, and the way it put her on a journey toward "loving my body for what it is: mine."
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John Perry Barlow lived many lives: small-time Wyoming Republican operative (and regional campaign director for Dick Cheney!), junior lyricist for the Grateful Dead, father-figure to John Kennedy Jr, co-founder of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, inspirational culture hero for the likes of Aaron Swartz and Ed Snowden (and, not incidentally, me), semi-successful biofuels entrepreneur... He died this year, shortly after completing his memoir Mother American Night
, and many commenters have noted that Barlow comes across as a kind of counterculture cyberculture Zelig, present at so many pivotal moments in our culture, and that's true, but that's not what I got from my read of the book -- instead, I came to know someone I counted as a friend much better, and realized that every flaw and very virtue he exhibited in his interpersonal dealings stemmed from the flaws and virtues of his relationship with himself.
When legendary (and deeply private) New York Times street style photographer Bill Cunningham died in 2016, he left behind a photo archive valued at $1M. His family soon discovered he left the world another gift, a photo-filled memoir he penned secretly. It's titled Fashion Climbing and is due to be published in September.
The New York Times reports:
But aside from some scenes of family discord, Mr. Cunningham’s memoir is a rosy account of an irrepressible dreamer who tripped his way from the stockroom of Boston’s newly opened Bonwit Teller to hat shops of his own in New York. He arrives in the city in November 1948 on opening night of the opera — then a tent pole of the New York social calendar — and stays long after the Social Register stopped being anyone’s bible.
Much of the material is new, even to his relatives. “Bill kept his family life in Boston and his work life in New York very separate,” wrote his niece Trish Simonson, in an email. “He told us stories over the years, but nothing that painted a full picture of what he did and how he came to do it. The drafts of the memoir we found, titled and edited and written in his own unmistakable voice, filled in a lot of blanks of how he made it from here to there, and what he thought along the way.”
Also, if you haven't already, do check out the 2011 documentary Bill Cunningham New York. Read the rest
Coming Out Like a Porn Star is genderqueer porn star Jiz Lee's new anthology collecting the personal stories of porn stars and other sex-trade workers, in which they describe "coming out" to their friends and family as workers in the trade. Read the rest
Last month at the LA Comics Arts Festival, I met David Wolter, a Dreamworks animator who draws the autiobiographical indie webcomic Mascot Zodiac. Read the rest
Cece Bell's young adult graphic novel El Deafo
is a beautiful, sweet, moving and funny memoir about growing up deaf. Take one part Ernie Pook's Comeek and two parts of Peanuts, mix thoroughly, and add some indefinable secret ingredients, and you'll get El Deafo
, which Cory Doctorow
I have never killed anyone, but I have certainly wanted to. I may have a disorder, but I am not crazy. In a world filled with gloomy, mediocre nothings populating a go-nowhere rat race, people are attracted to my exceptionalism like moths to a flame. This is my story.
That's the beginning of an essay about sociopathy written from the perspective of a sociopath. The author, M.E. Thomas, recently published a book about her experience being a sociopath. The name is a pseudonym and it's not totally clear how much of this story you can trust. For instance, whether Thomas' sociopathy is actually professionally diagnosed or not seemed unclear to me. Another example: At one point in the essay, she says she wasn't an abused child — then goes on to describe a childhood with a father who once beat apart a bathroom door to get at her and a mother who nearly let her die from appendicitis to avoid the medical bills ... and then blamed Thomas for her own illness. It's all a little weird.
That said, there's value in the "interesting, if true" sort of read that this is. At the very least, I've never seen an actual sociopath describe their own condition before. So, if that's what's actually going on here, it's a tour of a very different way of thinking. I'm not sure whether the fact that it all comes across as very manipulative is evidence in favor of, or against, the purported origins of the narrative. Read the rest
Back in June, blogged about Ben, a young man with autism who had a fierce devotion to the Snow White ride at Walt Disney World, and who was the last person to ride it, after more than 3,500 turns on it.
Ben's father, Ron Miles, has published a memoir of his life with Ben, in which he narrates his journey as the father of a child with a profound mental disability, his love affair with Disney parks, and Ben's development through the extraordinary adults in his life (including some very special and caring Disney cast-members). It's an unflinching -- and sometimes unflattering -- account of the challenges of parenting and the special challenges of parenting a child with autism.
I read it very quickly, and often had to dab at my eyes, but it's not a weeper, really -- there's plenty of hilarity and thoughtful wonder and appreciation of the sweetness of parenting as well as the difficulties. Here's the blurb I sent to Ron for the book: "Brimming with heart and tragedy overcome, this is a book that captures the tribulations of parenthood, the magic of Disney World, and the wonderful online communities that allow us to lend aid and comfort to strangers around the world."
It's called 3500: An Autistic Boy's Ten-Year Romance with Snow White, and it's just out, and I heartily recommend it to you.
3500: An Autistic Boy's Ten-Year Romance with Snow White Read the rest
Over the weekend, I read a couple of the posts blogger Ana Mardoll has been writing in which she deconstructs some of the weirder/more objectionable elements of the Little House books. That sent me looking for an essay I'd read several years ago on the actual history of how the Osage people were removed from southeastern Kansas ... which is given a prominent, if rather warped, role in Little House on the Prairie.
I didn't find that essay, but I did find several references to a story I had never, ever heard before. Turns out, the Ingalls family's sojourn in Kansas might have overlapped with that of a family of serial killers. At the American Indians in Children's Literature blog, Debbie Reese writes about stumbling across the story in the transcript of a speech Laura Ingalls Wilder gave in 1937. Here's an excerpt from that transcript:
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There were Kate Bender and two men, her brothers, in the family and their tavern was the only place for travelers to stop on the road south from Independence. People disappeared on that road. Leaving Independence and going south they were never heard of again. It was thought they were killed by Indians but no bodies were ever found.
Then it was noticed that the Benders’ garden was always freshly plowed but never planted. People wondered. And then a man came from the east looking for his brother, who was missing.
... In the cellar underneath was the body of a man whose head had been crushed by the hammer.
Rudy Rucker sez, "So I decided that I’d better write my autobiography before it was too late. What with death and senility closing in! I didn’t want my autobio to be overly long or dry. I wanted it to read something like a novel. Unlike an encyclopedia entry, a novel isn’t a list of dates and events. A novel is all about characterization and description and conversation, about action and vignettes. I wanted to structure my autobiography, Nested Scrolls, like that."
In addition to the Tor edition, there's a fine limited edition from PS Publishing.
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Nested Scrolls reveals the true life adventures of Rudy Rucker--mathematician, transrealist author, punk rocker, and computer hacker. It begins with a young boy growing up in Louisville, Kentucky, the son of a businessman father who becomes a clergyman, and a mother descended from the philosopher Hegel. His career goals? To explore infinity, popularize the fourth dimension, seek the gnarl, become a beatnik writer, and father a family.
All the while Rudy is reading science fiction and beat poetry, and beginning to write some pretty strange fiction of his own--a blend of Philip K. Dick and hard SF that qualifies him as part of the original circle of writers in the early 1980s that includes Bruce Sterling, William Gibson, John Shirley, and Lewis Shiner, who were the founders of cyberpunk.
At one level, Rucker’s genial and unfettered memoir brings us a first-hand account of how he and his contemporaries ushered in our postmodern world. At another, this is the wry and moving tale of a man making his way from one turbulent century to the next.
Hyperbole and a Half, the brilliant, frenetic, illustrated memoir, tackles sudden depression, its effects and eventual cure in the long awaited new installment.
I spent months shut in my house, surfing the internet on top of a pile of my own dirty laundry which I set on the couch for "just a second" because I experienced a sudden moment of apathy on my way to the washer and couldn't continue. And then, two weeks later, I still hadn't completed that journey. But who cares - it wasn't like I had been showering regularly and sitting on a pile of clothes isn't necessarily uncomfortable. But even if it was, I couldn't feel anything through the self hatred anyway, so it didn't matter. JUST LIKE EVERYTHING ELSE.
Adventures in Depression
(via Beth Pratt) Read the rest