Detail from I'M FROM NOWHERE book cover

Lerman: Climate anxiety that is ‘subcutaneous—felt but barely articulated’

One of my favorite author-written Forewords is to Lindsay Lerman’s I’m From Nowhere. A decade before the publication of her book, she had moved from Toronto to Istanbul, where she was a research assistant and taught English. She didn’t really speak Turkish, and she lived in “relative isolation” in a little apartment. Of this period in her life, she says:

…I was given permission to abandon myself, and to recreate myself as I saw fit. I didn’t have enough to ask myself: What will you do? And I did not have the dangerous lure of doing the usual shit to distract myself from the question. I was fortunate to be there, in Istanbul, no matter how maddening and difficult it was, but anyone who has abandoned and recreated themselves out of necessity knows that it’s not quite fun, that it feels like death—is death—and of course it’s beautiful, but beauty hurts.

Did I have the luxury of shattering, or the sudden absence of the luxury of habit and inhabiting recognizable norms? Probably a bit of both.

Lindsay Lerman, I’m From Nowhere. CLASH Books, 2020. Foreword, p. xiv.
Book cover for Lindsay Lerman's I'M FROM NOWHERE

Those of us who have moved far away or otherwise gone through a period that feels somewhat like a hiatus or personal reinvention might relate.

Much twentieth-centry literature imagined that “personal crises could often be neatly separated from political crises,” and “all the books I read that inhabited that fantasy world made me sad, not in the deep reckoning-with-reality kind of way, but sad in the way you feel when you watch someone walk unwittingly into danger, knowing you can’t stop them.”

In this book, she acknowledges that “the issues related to ‘climate’ are subcutaneous—felt but barely articulated…I don’t necessarily like the way we continue to carry on as we make the world less and less inhabitable, and as we see fresh evidence of it each day. But…we are allowed to create characters and milieux that we find disagreeable, or troubling, or don’t fully understand.”

A red car, 1920s-style. Detail from the book cover of THE PURSUED AND THE PURSUING by AJ Odasso.

2021 Gatsby reboot: ‘The Pursued and the Pursuing’

Book cover of "The Pursued and the Pursuing" by AJ Odasso

F. Scott Fitzgerald’s 1925 novel The Great Gatsby entered the public domain in the United States this year, making space for this sequel by AJ Odasso, The Pursued and the Pursuing. In this version, Jay Gatsby survives the bullet from Myrtle’s husband, and during his recovery he rekindles his old feelings for Nick Carraway (who narrates the original novel as well as this sequel). Jay and Nick reveal to each other that, in addition to having tried to settle down with women, they had brief affairs with other men, but they have never stopped thinking about each other.

That the newspaper has already run an obituary for the socialite Jay Gatsby gives him an opportunity to reinvent himself as—or, more accurately, revert himself to—his James Gatz identity. He and Nick have lots of sex, live as partners, and are cavalier about their obviousness, so people in close proximity tend to pick up that they are a couple. Meanwhile, Jay’s old girlfriend Daisy Buchanan gets back in touch. Jay and Nick don’t much care for her or her husband Tom, but they adore her teenage daughter Pam, who has her own sexuality and gender journey and becomes like a surrogate daughter to them. Thus they spend the 1930s.

Odasso’s voice in this novel is different from F. Scott Fitzgerald’s, especially in the homoerotic escapades and related discussions which feel much more modern, but neither is it entirely dissimilar from Fitzgerald’s. It’s an homage, and there’s some artistic continuity in the setting, the language, and the rhythm of the sentences. It’s a good balance between familiar and speculative, breathing new life into old characters.

Do we need a gay Gatsby? Yes. Yes, we do.

The ending draws the novel gently to a close. At that point, the story feels not quite wrapped up, but perhaps nothing needs to be wrapped up. Instead, the ending draws us to a very particular place we need to be.

I received a free advance review copy from NetGalley.

Detail of book cover: TRANS-GALACTIC BIKE RIDE

‘Trans-Galactic Bike Ride’ is a Lambda finalist!

On Monday, Lambda Literary announced the 2021 finalists! Who’s on the list? Stellar work from a lot of great authors, and I’m honored to tell you that Trans-Galactic Bike Ride: Feminist Bicycle Science Fiction Stories of Transgender and Nonbinary Adventurers made the list! (I have a short story, “Lucy Doesn’t Get Angry,” in this anthology.)

Ebooks and print books are available internationally from Microcosm. In the US only, you can order print copies from Bookshop. If you’re not ready to place an order, just mark it as “Want to Read” on Goodreads so that you will find it again someday when you circle back around the galaxy. But please consider how cool it will be to be holding copies of all five finalists in the Transgender Fiction category when one of them is announced as the winner on June 1!

2021 Lambda Literary Award finalists – Transgender Fiction

Detail of book cover: TRANS-GALACTIC BIKE RIDE

Trans-Galactic Bike Ride

We have waited so long for the Trans-Galactic Bike Ride anthology, and it is finally, finally, finally here. This cover art is by Cecilia Granata. Look. Look. Look at it.

Subtitle: Feminist Bicycle Science Fiction Stories of Transgender and Nonbinary Adventurers

Ebooks and print books are available internationally from Microcosm. In the US only, you can order print copies from Bookshop. If you’re not ready to place an order, just mark it as “Want to Read” on Goodreads so that you will find it again someday when you circle back around the galaxy.

Abstract digital art. An oblong shape on a dark blue background.
fiction, nonfiction, poetry

On the infinite expansion of reading lists

Over the past two decades, I’ve read fifteen hundred books. I’m not including newspapers, magazines, online articles, or sources briefly consulted. I mean books with ISBNs that I’ve read cover-to-cover. Over the same period of time, I’ve listed an additional two thousand books that I’d like to read but have not, to this day, yet read.

The “to read” list usually presents itself as a “to-do” question: When and how will I acquire copies of each book and sit with it? Won’t it take more than two decades to read them all? The “to read” list seems to prompt goal-setting. It’s an achievement that lies in my future. It’s an ambition. We are so often taught to think that way: Something we want to do is necessarily something that we are supposed to do, or else others will interpret us as disappointed, ineffectual, unhappy, and therefore pitiable.

There is a better way of understanding this phenomenon: I add books to my “to read” list at more than twice the speed that I read them. If this week is typical, I’m likely to add five books to my list, yet I can only read two. This is a permanent condition. I can’t catch up with my own list. This is not a problem. The only problem is in imagining that I can read five books a week. I can’t.

One solution is to want less. Just delete books from the list. Don’t tell people that they exist. Downsize my imagination to fit my capacity. This would make other people more comfortable around me because they would remain blissfully unaware that there are things I want to do that I will never do. I wouldn’t be giving them the terms by which to interpret me according to my unrealized potential.

But what’s wrong with having unrealized potential? The list does not have to be a source of frustration. Instead, it can represent abundance. It is the abundance of my own imagination regarding what I would like to do with my time. I may never cross everything off the list. That just means I will never run out of things I’d like to do.