When I was an MFA student, Stephen Beachy’s beautiful debut novel, The Whistling Song, was one of my talismanic objects of worship kept close to my bedtable (Anna Karenina is there right now). Stephen is one of my heroes, and he surprised me by showing up at my reading here in San Francisco last night and telling me he teaches my novel, which was an honor. If you don’t know his work, one way you may know him is that Stephen was more or less the guy who unmasked JT Leroy in New York Magazine. Stephen’s shopping a book of essays around and if you’re an editor reading this you should track him down and buy this book.
I’m thinking of this because I’m a little high on Bluebottle coffee, French press, and whole grain hot cereal from Boulettes down at the Ferry building, and a live sighting of Laura Albert, the woman who is/was JT Leroy, who was at the next table. She was in my line of sight, and we gave each other a look of, “don’t I know you?” and then I remembered who she was, and then also remembered how a former agent of mine once told me JT Leroy was reading my book as a possible film project (this was 5 years ago) for Gus Van Sant. We never heard anything because that’s how film stuff is and also, when my agent told me that, I had a sinking feeling, because I didn’t think Leroy would like the novel for a film as everything Leroy seemed to do involved helping Leroy and not other writers in getting to Gus Van Sant. Also, I think it would be better as a 4-part TV series for Showtime. But in the meantime, Gus, if you’re self-googling, I would love it. Just in case she never passed it along.
That was also, it should be said, the second time I got close to Mr. Van Sant in that way. In an age almost past remembering, when I was in this documentary, the film-maker, Marc Huestis, told me he’d passed my reel along to Gus or that he wanted to–I don’t remember. It may be he and I aren’t meant to work together or perhaps that we just have to meet right.
In any case, it was strange to be here less than 24 hours and feel like I was in a movie about my life complete with themes and mildly uncanny coincidences.
I’m writing this from within the Loyola Villages apartment the USF people have put us up in for the Emerging Writers Festival, where I’m rooming with Sarah Gambito and Maggie Zurawski, with Alex Lemon around the corner. The reading went well. Sarah Gambito read first, and was amazing. She read new poems. I then read from St. Spencer of the Lost, which seems to me increasingly to be my homage to Escape To Witch Mountain, the mu dang of Korea, video games and the idea of Joan of Arc. In 20 minutes, we appear on a panel on how to turn yourself into writers, and then tonight, Maggie, Alex and Katherine Noel read. And then we’re turned loose in the Castro to drink and feast. Tomorrow I go to bounce my niece Lucy on my knee out in San Mateo and listen to her experiment with Stmaking the sounds that become language, and I will make howling vowel sounds to help her shape them. And read Anna Karenina at the beach.