Jessica Hoffmann

Queer Lit: What I'm Reading (Offline)

Filed By Jessica Hoffmann | November 23, 2008 5:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Entertainment, Media, The Movement
Tags: Ali Liebegott, animal shelter, bisexual, Invert(e), Jennifer Doyle, Masha Tupitsyn, Mattilda Berbstein Sycamore, queer fiction, queer literature, Randa Jarrar, Semiotext(e)

Earlier this year, I realized that I don't read nearly as much in print as I used to. That, and some other things (like the fact that I typically spend more than 10 hours a day at my laptop, and the related fact that I tend to be a bit -aholic in my relationship to the machine and the work I do on it), inspired me to try something new: no-computer Sundays.

It's been about six months now, and I love it. I'm reading more in print, and I'm also spending more time doing stuff outside, taking care of my apartment, and cooking -- all of which, of course, improve overall quality of life enormously. So, I'm typing this post in advance on Saturday night to let you know about some of the rad things I've been reading on my computer-free secular sabbath. (This'll be the Queer-as-in-Something-Other-than-Gay-Lesbian-and/or-Straight-Lit edition.)

a map of home.jpgI just finished A Map of Home, the recently published first novel by Randa Jarrar (who writes a column for make/shift, the magazine I coedit). Its narrator is a smart, feisty, and charmingly foul-mouthed girl navigating multiple cultures, geographies, and desires. I love Randa's writing, so I knew I'd love the book -- and I was so pleasantly surprised to read, in the midst of the culture- and border-crossing narrative that's been the focus of most reviews, a portrayal of growing up bi/queer that is nuanced, authentic, and about individual, embodied desire as much as social identity.

AS-1.jpgI'm also excited by Animal Shelter, a new journal on "art/sex/literature" from Semiotext(e). It opens with a piece by Jennifer Doyle in which a woman who dates men enthusiastically champions Monique Wittig's directive "Flee from Heterosexuality! Flee! Flee!" (The essay begins with a delightful dressing-down of "pseudo-bohemian straight guys" who ask the author if she's read a certain macho-lit author as a come-on. It's a "doomed attempt," Doyle writes. "A true top would care less about what I've read.") There's also work by Masha Tupitsyn, whose brilliant Beauty Talk & Monsters -- which collapses and flits between memoir, film criticism, and fiction -- looks at gender construction and desire as filtered through the movies in a way that seems to me different invertsmall.jpgfrom the way most feminist and queer theorists are reading heteronormativity in pop culture right now -- it's almost like, where lots of feminist and queer writers are focused on trying to undo binary gender, Tupitsyn is staring obsessively at it, trying to read how it works. Animal Shelter also contains interesting work by about a dozen other writers, much of it in translation, and I've been looking and looking again at a lot of the visual art.

This weekend, I'm excited to check out the print edition of Invert(e), a journal of "flagrantly queer culture, politics, sex, and dish," which recently landed in my mailbox. It features work by Mattilda, Cristy Road, Ali Liebegott, and many others.

What are you all reading?

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Michael Crawford Michael Crawford | November 23, 2008 8:03 PM

I am trying to find time to actually read books as well. I am currently reading Markos Moulitsas' Taking on the System which is kind of a Rules for Radicals for the digital era.

Jessica, your reading sound really interesting, but a bit over my head . . . especially the Animal Shelter stuff.

Right now I'm in the midst of an obsession with historical fiction. I'm all over the Phillipa Gregory books about the wives of Henry VIII. I've gotten totally inspired to write some hf of my own. We'll see . . .

No computer Sundays sounds like a great idea. I'm a bit-aholic too. This morning I got up, made some pancakes and ate them in front of the computer. I think next Sunday I'll get up, make pancakes and eat them in bed with a book on my lap.
I've been meaning to read Starved and Stuffed by Raj Patel for months now.

I completely get no-computer-Sunday. Like you, I live by the computer.

I've taken to trying NOT to open it after dinner. After that it's either TV time with the family (Paige likes certain shows and for me there's Survivor!), but otherwise it's a readin' time again! I miss it too much!

I'm majorly plugging Sarah Schulman's work these days, much of which I'm reading for the first time. It's queer, and complicated, and hopeful.

Also, The Shock Doctrine (Naomi Klein), while not queer, is so important for folks on the left.

I'm reading Jonathan Amis's "The Extra Man", which is about a gay/straight roommate situation, and has an air of farce about it. I mean that in a good way, as that's clearly his intention. It's not going for the more obvious stuff either. If anything, it's a love/hate letter to New York.

Wow -- how wonderful to turn the computer back on on Monday morning and find all these great comments about reading and taking a break from the machine!

Thanks, everybody, for commenting! I'm more convinced than ever of the benefits of setting some boundaries to create computer-free zones in our lives. (Your after-dinner rule sounds like a good one, Bil, though Sundays I think remain more feasible for me, since after dinner is often my make/shift-work time.)

I've also been meaning to read that Raj Patel book -- and Sarah Shulman's work. Soon, I hope ...

I have been working my way through James Baldwin's novels. I am in an historical "classics" reading mode at the moment.

Eventually I will start L. Timmel Duchamp's five-volume SF series. Duchamp's short stories tend toward "queer" due to the fantastic element, and I have pretty much run out of short stories and one-volume novels. Google "Aqueduct Press" for info.

I am reading "Genderqueer" anthology, ed. Nestle, Wilchins, and one other - old, but I admit that I don't quite get the younger generation's proliferation of identities.

Brynn Craffey Brynn Craffey | November 25, 2008 10:48 AM

Jessica, a sabbath from the Web is such a great idea! Although, mark of a true addict, the mere contemplation of the idea freaks me out. Food for thought! I'm going to check out folks' titles here. Thanks!