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.
I was there today – but I did not recognize you sorry to say. You could’ve said howdy, always really nice to connect with another writer, even one that was just interested in connecting to JT to get to Gus Van Sant.
I’ll be honest—I think you’re a great writer, and we were in anthologies together where I admired your writing, but I didn’t believe the JT Leroy story, for having lived out in SF during the beginning of his career—someone like that, if he was real, it seemed to me, would have stood out, given everyone I knew who either worked with youth at risk, was a queer writer or a sex worker or club kid. For that reason, it made me not trust a situation predicated on the approval of someone I didn’t believe existed, as it were. And as my memory of the situation my agent described was also not a sort of situation of favors or patronage, but a professional submission for consideration given what I’d heard was a development deal JT had with Gus Van Sant, I have no guilt about wanting to be in touch with him through JT or you or an open comment on this blog, as I think he’s brilliant also. I wish you’d done it as yourself, but I understand why you didn’t. Also, you look great.
As I said, you should have introduced yourself. You have made decisions based on no direct dealings with me. And that is not required – I am a fiction writer. My books are published as fiction. That said, If you want to have a direct talk with me, I am here.
Email me your number and I would be honored to talk to a fellow writer that enjoys Bluebottle coffee in a French press and anything from Boulettes. Thank you for not writing how I eat everything not bolted down. And then wanted more. Actually I took some home.
Take care, Laura
ok. I’m going to jump in here as the giggling schoolgirl…
you see, the brilliance at play here is two writers that I ADORE in a bit of an exchange about the randomness of coffeehouse sightings.
that’s just downright surreal.
to both of you… Thanks for the great works.
Please check out the USC Lecture Religion, Media & Hollywood. It is of continual service to me.
“You know, people say that my writing is dark. And for me it’s quite the
opposite. It sees light in darkness and it doesn’t try to distort darkness.
The essential thing is that the seeing itself is joyful.” —David Milch
I’m with Lance, sort of– haven’t read JT, though the book sits on the shelf here somewhere. What a strange and cool exchange to witness, though.
Yeah it is nice just having a place where writers can talk. That was the point of putting the email in Jt’s book. It was rare that an author did that at the time Sarah came out. There should be contact – it was like that in the punk scene – there was accessibility – that is what I desired. And the deal is – you always send the elevator back down. I got as many through the door as I could. It is my mandate. Always was, always will be. That’s why when someone wanted to do any kind of business inspired by the novels – there was never any fee required or – that would be insane to my paradigm. When you come from the punk paradigm. As a punk in the NY city punk scene – I made badges, bumflaps, arm-bands – never occurred to me to pay a license fee nor would anyone ask for one. It was a felt sense of community. Sharing our goals, our voice. I did all I could to open the doors for any one I could. Sorry your agent played you otherwise. Not my deal.
Well, while that wasn’t part of why I fired that particular agent, it might as well be–and to the casual reader, this post does NOT refer to my current agents, who I love. Thanks for explaining, and sorry to be shady.