Faggots on Tape.
Why are Faggots so Afraid of Faggots? Flaming Challenges to Masculinity, Objectification, and the Desire to Conform by Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore (AK Press, $17.95)
Narrated by Mark Bachman (Audible.com, $19.95)
If I review a book, there is something redeeming to it. The characters are enticing; people you want to know, or people you know and avoid. The writing hooks you and is an intoxicating drug you can't give up. The story is told with vivid recollection and places you in the world of the book. These are some of the things I look for in a book that is worth a read, or even a listen.
Audio books have been around for about 80 years, and thanks to the digital revolution a person no longer needs a box of cassette tapes or CDs. Companies like Audible.com bring audio books to our computers, tablets, and even phones. I usually have two or three books I'm reading and one audio book at one time. My most recent listen is this month's book review.
Why are Faggots so Afraid of Faggots? Flaming Challenges to Masculinity, Objectification, and the Desire to Conform by Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore is not a fresh pressed book. The print version was published in 2012. The audio book, however, was released in March of this year, so I feel this can be a fresh
The brilliant title is what drew me in. I had never heard of Sycamore before, but was intrigued by the Audile.com blurb that derided current gay culture and asked, "Whatever happened to sexual flamboyance and gender liberation, an end to marriage, the military, and the nuclear family?" So I took the bait, and downloaded the file on my phone.
I was treated to eight hours and thirty minutes of essays ranging in topic from online dating to the masculine boxes gay men put themselves in; recounts of one night stands to life before AIDS. Sycamore acts as editor and curator for these stories. She is outspoken in her opposition to gay marriage--something she says does nothing to address the "fundamental problems of inequality"--and was involved in Act Up in the early 90s.
While I disagree with her stance 011 gay marriage, I was floored by how much activism she has done in the San Francisco Bay area, and how little I had heard of her.
The essays are not all brilliant, but the first one. Fierce.net: Imagining a Faggotty Web, by D. Travels Scott has to be my favorite. Scott skewers the norms of online dating, especially the notions of "tops" and "bottoms," "dads" and "lads." and such boxes a person checks off on dating sites. And while Scott does over-romanticize "the way things were," he talks about a time when people met, talked and found a connection, as opposed to narrowing a search down by predetermined types and hoping for a connection.
Some of the essays are more florid and read like romance novels that take you nowhere, but there is some great prose in this collection. I have to say, I was more drawn to the essays about the foibles of modern culture--Death by Masculinity by Ail Abbas, which questions the Caucasian male norm in U.S. gay culture is another favorite. There is something for everyone in this collection.
I am torn on suggesting the audio book over the print version. This could be a knockout audio experience, akin to the great episodes of Snap Judgment and This American Life. While this is not a podcast the writing just begs to have that kind of treatment, with sincerity breathed into it. The entire collection is read by one man who does a valiant effort trying to convey the subtle differences in tone and voice in each piece, but it doesn't reach its full potential.
My suggestion, if you have a long drive or need something to listen to at the gym, download the audio book. Otherwise, stick with the print version.
WITH CASSIE LEHNHERR AND BEN RIVERS