Tag Archives: san francisco

Many Persons Mirrored and Duplicated In One Person

Not nearly enough has been written about John Irving’s In One Person since its publication in 2012, so having read it just now I thought I should contribute notes of both a literary and a most spiritually didactic nature. For a synopsis one can visit any number of websites.

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In One Person’s world has a private language habit, a Shakespeare lens for everything, and a spiralling theme of crossdressers and otherwise non-gender-binary men. Irving’s trademark truly excellent characterization and cagily naive narration abound. What struck me most about Irving’s book, however, is how funny it is.  Even in the grim third quarter in which we watch most of protagonist Billy Abbott’s friends die of AIDS, we get about 500 words of tragedy and then an offhand remark that makes us laugh out loud. Maybe it’s just my sense of humor. Like when he comes after a long series of AIDS vigil sequences to his hometown for a relatively simple checkin with a dead faculty member of his school: it is discovered that the orderly has only brought the corpse out in the snow to smoke a cigarette, not to wait for the hearse. Anyway, In One Person has no gags; rather, the timing is incredible.

I would like to point out a marvellously-rendered literary surprise in the book out of fear that it may be too often missed. The arc of investigating people’s identity soars beautifully throughout the book, but the end holds a satisfying surprise. As much as the book’s title may allude to the folly of casting people into vulgar categories that support people’s gang mentality, and the phenomenon of these categories occurring “in one person,” the title is revealed in the final chapter to also represent a conceit about our lifespan, aging, and successive generations. When the son of the protagonist’s forbidden crush from the very beginning of the novel shows up, bearing the only reliable evidence of what’s become of the wrestler Kittredge (his own one person mirrored in the elder wrestler and love interest Miss Frost), Billy underscores the voice and look of the younger Kittredge, who is the spitting image of his father. As Kittredge helped Billy start off on a path, Billy is now providing perspective for Kittredge’s kid.

Here the story’s spirals finally converge: we have not only the sexual phenomena gathering in unexpected groups in one person, but also the mysteries of maturity and life experience. The son of Kittredge and his father are as one person, but also the fate of Kittredge, Miss Frost and now the young transgender student Gee fit into one person, shifting identity through time.

Irving has  been subtly warning us about this conceit throughout the book, particularly with the symbol of the yearbooks and with his complaints about terminology. As an artist who’s also struggled with the identity police over time, I really appreciate Billy’s annoyance not with the new terms, ie., transgender vs. transsexual, but with the rigidness with which successive generations of people insist on the correctness of these terms. Irving argues hereby for compassion and also curiosity: before you criticize someone older for not using the new hip term, be a fucking smart person and find out the nature of the old term.

Finally, I’m grateful on behalf of those old enough to remember that Irving has chosen now, in the age of complacent suburban gender-queerness that seems unable or rather unwilling to see itself from its socio-economic angle, to force AIDS back in our faces. People my age will always remember that AIDS was far scarier than nuclear war, and people Irving’s age get the satisfaction of having their 1980s set –properly, I would argue –in the frame of the AIDS epidemic. Think of the suburban Christian terrorism we’ve lived through since the late 80s-early 90s: the PMRC, enforced gangster rap, youth group, Faith Driven Consumer, the Bush administration, No Child Left Behind, Gay-Straight Alliance … what would Robert Mapplethorpe, Klaus Nomi, Essex Hemphill, Marlon Riggs, even Eazy-E and the local dancer, have taught us about these assholes and their judgmental phoniness if they’d made it longer??? Irving reminds us of the time not so long ago when we had to try to stick together, rather than run our campus GSA into the ground for not being suburban white gay or trans enough, because our fucking lives depended on it.

Thank you, a thousand times thank you, Mr Irving, for reminding us about all the possibilities and the cumulative richness of life that must be pursued In One Person.

Smuttywood

Almost forgot to mention Smuttywood, whose charming integrants I met at Local Color during their zine fest in downtown San José. They make comics about either famous people’s dicks and boobs or famous people portrayed as dicks and boobs. The thing that caught my attention, however, was the photographic zine Men are Disposable, which I regrettably didn’t buy, but which you can order at their site. They make great gifts!

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Purissima by Megan Delyani

Got this at the Local Color gallery’s zine fest over the weekend right in downtown San José. Purissima concerns a pair of young people who’ve come home from their respective west-coast megalopoli, which of course in 2016 represent the hopeless quest to gain success and meaning from a nonexistent higher rung of success after the conclusion of one’s education.

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The back of the zine says “Leigh wants answers,” but I’m not sure that the character conveys that, unless only in a very very aloof way. Having made it clear that she doesn’t want to catch up with anyone, Leigh nevertheless lets herself be invited out late at night for donuts by former schoolmate Jen (note the archly stereotyped naming conventions circa 2000-2010 for bookish and popular characters, if only the fault of their pretentious pathetic gen-X parents).

They cruise toward environs that will be familiar to those who’ve haunted author Delyani’s native coastal peninsula, particularly the San Mateo County stretch. Remember those shows they used to have at San Gregorio with the old bar and the campfire ring and there was no boss but just the show promoter??? When Mammatus and the Broads played???

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The zine deals brusquely and with late-adolescent acid with the topic of acceptance by a presumably oppressive popular kid in school. It also briefly runs through the confrontation between a humiliated kid and the attacker, and the attempts by the attacker to make amends.

I’d be interested in seeing Delyani pursue this scene further in a future zine, as I’ve been through that myself and would love to see more details and twists and turns in the gut-wrenching process of receiving, recognizing and trying to prove growth from having inflicted that old but significant wound. I’m still upset about the whole two people I was mean to in my life, in seventh grade, even though we’ve since made our peace. I also still hate the one guy that bullied me, mister immature over here…

Find Megan Delyani’s stuff wherever you can!

SONEX – The best band in the world

I saw the best band in the world last night in a cheapass converted truck at the SJ Jazz Summer Fest. They’re called Sonex, from Mexico City, and you must listen to them immediately!! Sonex because their songs are focused on the son beat (two triplets, for you gringos). They had big harmonies and would throw big fusion windups into the songs like a Mexican Mahavishnu thing. We have one more chance to see them the 16th of August in SF.

sonex-raw-2_626x350Photo from the SJ Jazz website.

On top of everything, on two occasions the longhaired requinto player broke down and tapdanced. Anyhow, THIS WEEK they’re headlining the Son Jarocho Festival in San Francisco and I know you fuckers up in SF can come and go from work as you please, except those of you serving them coffee and lunch. http://www.sfsjf.org/

Get to see these dudes 16 August in San Francisco at all costs!!

Here’s a sweet video of them doing zapateado in the song “Luna de mi corazón”

 

SF ZINE FEST is coming in August!

Once again Negro will be at the San Francisco Zine Fest in Golden Gate park the last weekend of August!
It’s right on 9th and Lincoln, a block from the 9th stop on the N-Judah line and there’s a really good inexpensive non-yuppie normal people breakfast joint between them. Don’t drive, jolines!
Negro will be selling and signing comics, doodling on demand, dispensing advice and generally making trouble. Admission is free so bring lots of money to buy a large assortment of fairly-priced zines and comics. V Vale probably will be there too, wow! And he’s really easy to talk to!
You can be a Zine Fest participant too for only fifty bucks! Visit the link below for more information:
http://www.sfzinefest.org/