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3.93  ·  Rating details ·  176 ratings  ·  31 reviews
Sketchtasy takes place in that late-night moment when everything comes together, and everything falls apart—it’s an urgent, glittering, devastating novel about the perils of queer world-making in the mid-‘90s.

This is Boston in 1995, a city defined by a rabid fear of difference. Alexa, an incisive twenty-one-year-old queen, faces everyday brutality with determined nonchalan
Published October 9th 2018 by Arsenal Pulp Press
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Average rating 3.93  · 
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Julie Ehlers
Early in my publishing career I read a short story by Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore. If I recall, it was only a few pages long, but I never, ever forgot it. The voice! I never forgot it. I noticed over the years that Sycamore was publishing books, but my (long-subconscious) fear of no author living up to my first experience with them kicked in, and I never got around to any of them. Until now! When I won a copy of Sketchtasy in a Shelf Awareness giveaway, I was psyched! And when I read a few pages ...more
Aug 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is my first (but definitely not last) book by this author. I was absolutely blown away by how much I enjoyed this novel. Set in 1995 and using first person stream-of-conscious writing style I was thrown into a whirling spinning drug laden world. I must be in the target demographic, because I could grasp every mid 90's references. The writing is fluid so I felt as if I were coasting through each 'trip', revelation, and self discovery seamlessly. I felt a total connection with the primary cha ...more
Sassafras Lowrey
Jun 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
i love being lucky enough to get to read queer fiction before it releases! eep! i feel bad that people have to wait for October for this book - Mattilda is such a queer literary treasure <3
Sarah Schulman
Jul 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
So well written it is exciting to read.
Katrina Ayala
Jun 15, 2018 rated it it was ok
Sketchtasy held so much promise yet fell incredibly short of my hopes for an LGBTQ book. It’s pride month and as a flaming dyke (not a butch – look it up) I am reading every gay and lesbian book I can get my queer little hands on.

Sketchtasy reads like what I can only imagine is a heavy drug haze. As someone whose never touched a hard drug, its hard to immerse myself in a story surrounded by drugs. Especially when the main character is perpetually snorting coke, ingesting K, and combating it with
Mar 18, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Ah, youth. They believe they have so much to say. The trials of Alexa are written in a stream of consciousness style--long paragraphs, little content. Finding a place in the world, when you surround yourself with drugs, prostitution, bar hopping, possible incest, and other shadows of life, has been told much more successfully by others.

Thanks to Treeline for this electronic edition.
Glowing review to come! I loved this book!
a gorgeous story of how desire and loss cling to one another in the fast-paced backdrop of 90s boston. i’ve never been particularly interested in boston but this plus eileen myles has me curious about queer boston histories outside the suffocating university presence. really skilled drug writing. that said, stream of consciousness narratives have never really been my thing (tragic as i love a good party story), though sycamore bends the form effectively.
Jan 23, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I found this book almost hard to read — I remember those days, and I remember those people. A very real portrayal of the way some people lived and died.
Ralph Bardsley
Mar 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
This review first appeared in New York Journal of Books https://www.nyjournalofbooks.com/book...

“Everything in Boston is about no one noticing.”

In Sketchtasy, Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore attempts to take a page from Bret Easton Ellis or Chuck Palahniuk, with a fierce, glittery, fast paced romp through 1990s Boston. While not as well executed as Glamorama or Invisible Monsters, the book tries to create the dreamlike quality and thrilling pace of those novels. The story follows Alexa, a twenty-som
Jul 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
It took me two starts to get into the book and that was after I heard Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore read from "Sketchtasy." The second round I was ready and heard her voice, but there are many characters, and the book moves so fast that I had to use a notepad and write down the names so I could track the connections. The book is truly genius, written from within action from start to finish.

Alexa, the main character has an alternate name, Tyler, that she cannot face. That boy was abused, and she h
Content warning in this book: child sexual abuse, incest, and rape.

Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore has broken all the rules in this incredible work. I've read a good slab of her non-fiction, and in this one fiction read, I find I love it as much as I love her non-fiction. The way she chaotically weaves through first and second point of views in a stream of consciousness that somehow still makes sense, is incredible. Stream of consciousness writing is a style that is so frustratingly difficult, desp
Oct 01, 2019 rated it liked it
Mixed feelings about this. At times the content was dark, spoken on a time where AIDS was killing so many gay men, when LGBTQ were abondoned by family members, often turning to prostitution due to not being hired places, being used and abused as a fantasy, rampant drug abuse and rape in this LGBTQ, discrimination, depression, the underground nightlife, trauma, etc. The dark moments are where I connected most. I felt it, I felt what he was saying.

But then..... he often lost me with his style of
Karen Mahtin
TW for this book: drugs, incest, rape, theft, AIDS illness and deaths, and hot gay sex.

At first I was pretty annoyed at all the descriptions of different highs, but Mattilda's descriptions are so beautiful. The drug use is an important theme as it affects every aspect of her life. After a while I realized that the prominence of the descriptions reminded me of Kerouac or Kesey or someone else I read 20 years ago.

I'm from Boston and was an active member of the (sober part of the) queer youth scene
Rob Forteath
Jun 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The author demands that you put some effort into the first half of the book, following Alexa through a revealing, dense stream of enhanced/suppressed consciousness. While charging self-destructively through sensual overload, suppressing the trauma, somehow Alexa moves into a place to confront and continue. We readers are aware of the enormous cost being paid for any eventual future closure, and fear for Alexa constantly.

Alexa's private trauma is playing out while the community is being torn into
Dec 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is the second queer novel I've read this year set in the 1990s & it's been fun to revisit that time and place again through these talented authors. Sycamore has such an incredible voice and her characters glitter on the page. I was completely sucked into the world of Alexa and her friends -- the drugs, the tricks, the late-night club scenes. Totally captivating and frequently heartbreaking. Highly recommended for fans of Michelle Tea and Andrea Lawlor. ...more
Sep 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
I don't even know how to begin talking about this book so I'll let Julie Buntin do it for me:

"Every sentence in Sketchtasy is a living thing, fierce and funny and a little bit dangerous—a voice made of coke dust and club lights, cut with crackling insight. I was completely addicted to the story of Alexa's search for connection, set in the gritty Boston nightclub scene in the 90s. Nobody writes like Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore—most writers wouldn't dare try." —Julie Buntin, author of Marlena
Jordan Villanueva
Dec 09, 2020 rated it liked it
Sketchtasy made me feel like I was on just as many drugs as the narrator, which was amazing. The voice and style of this novel was flawless yet overwhelming at times. I wish there was a bit more continuity between chapters. It was hard to conceptualize the depth of relationships when characters went in and out so quickly.
Rudy Russell
Jul 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Struggled with the first couple of chapters as the writing is really dense and confused me before I got into the rhythm but so glad I perservered, stunning evocation of trashcan queer icons suffering and stumbling through the 90s. Big recommend for fans of Valencia and the like. Trigger warnings for most things.
Juliet Escoria
May 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book literally took my breath away, multiple times, with its astonishing moments of quiet beauty, in an otherwise frenetic, maximalist (in the best sense) book. This will stay with me for a long while. So many things to admire. Mattilda is a true visionary.
Aug 02, 2020 rated it it was ok
Not really sure what to make of this one. Kept reading to see if it went anywhere, but it didn't. What I did enjoy about the book was the vibrant language, that was almost poetic in parts. If you're looking for a story with a plotline and a finish, this isn't it ...more
Erin Read
Jan 22, 2020 rated it liked it
There were moments where I enjoyed this book very much, and other times it honestly gave me anxiety. Taking a full on incoherent drug binge every few pages does distract from what the story is really trying to convey.
Sep 04, 2021 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Gritty, chaotic, immersive
Mar 13, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The very end was surprisingly moving and put me in mind of the most affecting passages from Jean Rhys. Oh! ...more
Vera Wilson
Won a copy of this. Started a couple times before, but lost interest. So tried again. Guess just not to my liking, but found book a little boring.
Erin Ronald
This book was chaotic and devastating. Pinpoints of hope smothered by more trauma. The narrative was hard to stay focused on, bit that worked perfectly for what this book was. Still, ouch...my heart.
Josephine Quealy
Jan 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2019, 5-star-general
Oh, Alexa, you made me love you and you broke my heart.
Feb 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2019
an absolute masterpiece
May 12, 2019 rated it liked it
“I’m thinking about the shame we all carry, the shame that means we deserve to die” (188).

MBS calls her work “challenging queer literature” and I’d, uh, agree with that. The pace and prose of SKETCHTASY had me feeling at least a quarter as high as Alexa, Joey, Polly, and Avery, and it took me a good minute to realize all four characters used both she + he pronouns. This disorienting haze of gender and drugs and sex made for a wild ride. It was such a relief when the narrative slows down, and al
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Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore is most recently the author of Sketchtasy, out in October 2018. She’s the award-winning author of a memoir and three novels, and the editor of five nonfiction anthologies. Her memoir, The End of San Francisco, won a Lambda Literary Award, and her previous title, Why Are Faggots So Afraid of Faggots?: Flaming Challenges to Masculinity, Objectification, and the Desire to ...more

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