I recently discovered that one of my favorite writers/thinkers/editors lives in San Francisco and keeps a blog! Most cool! I discovered this when Amazon.com sent me an email to "alert" me that Matt Bernstein Sycamore (AKA "Matilda") had a new book of collected essays out. I clicked in to just take a look and discovered a link to his blog!
Well, yesterday afternoon, after a day on the job boards, I ran to an indie book store and picked up a copy. Unemployment and low funds be damned! Oh, and support indie book stores if you're able. Just say no to Borders! If you can! But, if you've no choice - you can find nearly all of his work on Amazon.com. Actually, you can find nearly everything on Amazon.com. But, still -- support your local book merchant!!!
Tho, I have written about his work in this blog more than a couple of times I wanted to post a link to his blog and tell you all a bit more about him.
Matt Bernstein Sycamore first came to my attention in the 90's when me and my ex temporarily moved to San Francisco. I remember hearing his "drag" persona being discussed at a gay club and reading a few quotes from him in the BAR. He was pissing a lot of gay boys off at the time. As I remember it, he was trying to bring attention to the vapidness that had become the SF Gay Pride Parade --- and the vapidness of gay culture and the one-sided nature of the most vocal of the gay male population in SF. He had some potent and interesting things to say. At the time, I was too absorbed in my father's death and matters of love and work to fully focus on these issues. But his ideas and his name stuck with me.
Several years ago I came across a copy of his novel, "Pulling Taffy" which totally captivated me. It reads like pages torn from the journal of a boy fighting to survive the scars inflicted by incest and abuse --- and fighting in the most frustrating ways possible. And, though the book is filled with tragedy, confusion, sadness, horrors, addiction and transgression --- it also has a spirit of hope. It is about surviving. I related to so much in it. Though, I often found myself wanting to shake the narrator and pull him to safety --- I realized that these feelings were really aimed at myself.
If you're reading this and you've been abused sexually by one of your parents you know that this level of damage never goes away. There is an unspoken pain that we survivors of violent abuse carry and fight all of the time. It impacts us on all levels. And, results in a sort of familial war that never seems to end. I am still fighting it out with my mother for standing back while my father hurt me. I guess, in some ways, I always will. I love my mother dearly. But, I will never understand. Nor will she. Shit. I loved my father. It hurt when he died, but the anger I have at him for what he did. ...I can't capture it in words. This book pulled me in and pulled me out. Amazing bit of writing. He has written a number of stories, essays and pulled together anthologies -- I have avoided this one which I believe deals with incest that I think might be too disturbing to me. However, some day I will read it.
Shortly before I left Boston for good and returned to San Francisco to save myself, I purchased a copy of Bernstein Sycamore's collected anthology of viewpoints on queer culture/theory/movement called "That's Revolting" this collection made me cheer, angry and caused me to re-evaluate every idea I had about being a member of queer culture. I don't agree with a number of the ideas represented. I support a good number of them. And, some still leave me wondering how I stand. This is revolutionary thinking at its best! It caused me to seek out more of Matt's writing and editorial collections. It caused me to seek out the writings of some of the other writers in the collection. I even ended up being an acquaintance of one of the writers thru a romantic encounter I enjoyed.
There are more than few incredible works out there for which Matt is responsible. This collection really fascinated me. As someone who once "dabble'd" in a bit of sex work as a phone sex operator --- it was an interesting read. And, an honest one filled with challenging ideas, humor, experiences, sadness and opinions. Like all work in which he is involved or creates --- he stimulates ideas that challenge you as a reader, a thinker and a citizen. Matilda enjoys shaking things up. He pushes the envelope off the counter and lets it fly away with the wind out the door.
This new collection is called "Nobody Passes" I believe it will be exploring the nature of gender identity within the context of our rather rigid societal "norms" ---- I think this collection goes far beyond the queer theory label. I can't wait to get started reading! Later today!
Anyway, I hope I've stirred your interest and decide to check out his work or stop by his blog. It is listed along with all my fave blogs to the left, but here is a
Here is what some cool folks are saying about "Nobody Passes":
"Â“In this beautiful, surprising collection of essays,
Matildaa brings together the smartly told, diverse
stories of social refuseniks. The result is a
provocative critique of the act of passing, and a
lively, challenging, often moving account of the
pleasures and pains of not passing. Nobody Passes
kicks ass. It will mess you right up." —Joshua Gamson, author of The Fabulous Sylvester
"These essays, in all of their militant heterogeneity,
with all of their ease and rage at being on margins,
chart some of the most important ground on which the
desire for a new society is finding expression. They
show rebels that we are far from alone in feeling such
desire." David Roediger, author of Working Toward Whiteness:
How America's Immigrants Became White
"Â“Nobody Passes is a fascinating example of how
feminism and gender studies can support radically new
identities that develop at the speed of life —or it may
be part of the end of identity politics as known so
far." Naomi Zack, Professor of Philosophy, University of
Oregon, author of Inclusive Feminism: A Third Wave
Theory of A Womens Commonality