Ever wondered how drag queens get ready for a night on the town? Or how sadomasochistic male escorts manage their professional lives? Then do I have aEver wondered how drag queens get ready for a night on the town? Or how sadomasochistic male escorts manage their professional lives? Then do I have a book for you- I'm Not Myself These Days, by Josh-Kilmer Purcell. This memoir (or at least, I assume it's a memoir, though it was reviewed by the infamous James Frey) tell the story of Josh's early days in New York as a hungover ad agency art designer by day and a drunken, 7'2" tall drag queen named Aqua by night.
Josh, a young man from Wisconsin, comes to New York after graduating from college, ostensibly to start a career in advertising, but really to hit the drag circuit. Soon he is doing several shows a week in clubs all over town, and in the process becoming a raging alcoholic. It is at one of these shows that he meets Jack, a handsome young man from California, who turns out to be a make escort specializing in bondage and humiliation. Let the love story begin!
I know, it doesn't sound like the setting for a love story, but in fact it is. The story of Josh and Jack is almost cliche in it's ordinariness...if you discount the setting. They go to dinner, they spend days at the beach, they order in breakfast and read each other the paper-in between sex parties and drag shows. By the time it starts to go so horribly wrong, you feel almost like their crazy lifestyle might not actually be a bad choice. I suppose after a while even the craziest of circumstances comes to seem normal. Eventually the drinking and drug use engaged in by both of them tears them apart. While that may seem inevitable, the sadness that you feel for them as individuals and as a couple does not.
This is my favorite kind of memoir. It is told in a very engaging, easy to follow narrative style that just tells the story like it is. No sentimentality, no pages and pages of deep psychological discussion of why the author chose that particular shade of corset to wear with this fish boobs (yes, he put goldfish in his boobs)-just good ol' storytelling. Plus Josh is that kind of sarcasti-gay that I adore, and he lays into himself more than anyone else. At its core, this is the story of a fresh-from-the-closet gay man hanging all his hopes and dreams on New York City, and getting a slap-in-the-face dose of reality instead. Josh may have felt to big for his small town in Wisconsin, but his brush with the dark side of sex and drugs ensures that the wide-eyed naivete that he arrived with is gone for good....more
Mrs. Olinski couldn't tell you why she chose the four students she did for her Academic Bowl team, but Noah, Ethan, Nadia, and Julian were it. As farMrs. Olinski couldn't tell you why she chose the four students she did for her Academic Bowl team, but Noah, Ethan, Nadia, and Julian were it. As far as she knew they were not really connected to each other in any way. But it turns out that they were-they called themselves the Souls, and every Saturday they met for tea. And that wasn't their only connection-Noah was accidentally the Best Man at the wedding of Ethan's grandmother and Nadia's grandfather, Nadia and Ethan had bonded over saving sea turtles in Florida, and Julian started their group off with his invitation to tea. The book traces their stories, as well as their journey to the state championships, in a fun, slightly quirky way.
OK, I want to say upfront that I enjoyed this book. I thought the story was creative, and I enjoyed the quirkiness of each of the characters. However, it won the Newbery Award in 1997, and I have to admit I don't really get it. I guess that 1996 must have been a slow year for quality children's literature, because I didn't find the story nearly as good as, say, The Graveyard Book or Holes or The Giver.
That said, the story is cute, and the themes of random acts of anonymous kindness is a good one. The Souls go out of their way to do nice things for their teacher, without expecting anything in return. They also allow each other to be themselves when they are together, and they keep their tea parties a secret so that no one at school actually knows how close they are. The secondary themes of dealing with major life changes (divorce, marriage, family moving away) are dealt with honestly and sweetly. Each of the characters is a child I would like to have in my class-kind, smart, and compassionate. And of course, friendship is also a major theme. The Souls are bonded in a way that few people are, and completely supportive of each other.
The writing style is superb, as it always is with Konigsburg. I especially like the way she uses questions from the Academic Bowl as the frame for telling the story of how the Souls got to know each other. The books is a cleverly put together combination of present action and flashback that could make a good talking point if teaching the book as literature....more