Friday, November 4, 2011

Big Sex Little Death

One of the odd things about caretaker literature is the way it treats all people requiring care as interchangeable or the same. So it doesn't matter if you're taking care of a husband or a mother or a child or a brother; there's no real sense of the attachment--particularly the erotic attachment-- you might have to an ill person's body. A whole physical history of intimacy and tangled sheets and smells--and the way it can hurt to see someone's body change so much. Different smells. Strange indentations where muscle used to be.

I finished reading Susie Bright's Big Sex, Little Death-- a wonderful memoir and a wonderful, informal reminder about the porn and sex debates that seemed to tear the feminist movement apart in the late 70s/early 80s. Susie Bright grew up in SF and spent a great deal of time in Santa Cruz, so I'm surprised that I never met her. She knew so many of the same people and moved in similar circles; I was the general book buyer at the UC Santa Cruz Bookstore when she taught for UCSC. It seems impossible that our paths never crossed, but I pored over the photos in the book and do not recognize the young Susie at all.

Except in life experience. Her mom had a mean crazy streak that mine, thank God, did not have. But SB's relationship with her mother was complicated in the same way that my relationship with my own mother was complicated; and she had the same close relationship with her father that I had with mine. But it was the parts about being a baby socialist and about the AIDS crisis that really got me. Not so much the writing-- although she does have a gift for leading you into little terror corners that you don't see coming. No, what got me was just the history she writes about. "Susie Bright's life is just as compelling--more compelling-- than her sex life. And that's saying something," Dan savage writes in his all too true blurb for the book. And Alison Bechdel notes that it's scary to think Bright's not making anything up, that this is all true. "Guns, drugs, threesomes, socialist factionalism, a stabbing...all before she got her GED?" Well, yeah-- but it was the 60s/70s after all.

Moved from Big Sex to another memoir, Catherine Texier's Breakup. About the end of her marriage to write Joel Rose. This is a re-read. I first read the book-- obsessively
read and re-read the book-- a couple of summers ago when I was also obsessively reading and re-reading Katha Pollitt's Learning to Drive. This one is beautifully written-- little snapshots of a breakup in progress that just take my breath away. Every time I read this book, the food invades my life. Last night I made sauteed potatoes and grilled some burgers. Tonight I made a large pot of Cuban rice and beans. Could almost see the colors in her kitchen and hear her daughters playing as I cooked. Texier is one of the writers from the Downtown group I'm currently working on, so perhaps this memoir will help me to get back to my own book.

Finished revising an article I've been working on since summer and heard that it's been accepted by CTheory. Once I get the proofs, I can take books back to the library and clean my study. Get ready for the next essay.

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