Guilty Pleasures discussion

15 views
Spanbauer

Comments Showing 1-7 of 7 (7 new)    post a comment »
dateDown arrow    newest »

message 1: by Hiram (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:15AM) (new)

Hiram | 12 comments Mod
Started reading Tom Spanbauer's "The Man Who Fell in Love with the Moon." It's been sitting on my bookshelf for more than a decade and finally picked it up. Less than halfway through but so far really enjoying it. Has anybody read this or any other of his books?


message 2: by Mare (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:15AM) (new)

Mare | 2 comments I've never even heard of this. I know, I'm a sad case. Can you summarize in less than 50 words? :)


message 3: by Hiram (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:15AM) (new)

Hiram | 12 comments Mod
only half way through, but story takes place after gold rush, in the town Excellent, Idaho (think Deadwood), told from perspective of Shed, teenage half Indian/half white boy. Shed lives with his mother in town's brothel where she is a prostitute. After she is murdered, he takes over her role as prostitute. Eventually he leaves to find his mother's people and learn the meaning of his Indian name. Novel also deals with effects of Christian morality on Indian sexualities (narrator identifies himself as berdache).

Producer Ross Grayson Bell (Fight Club) has film rights. Interestingly, the synopsis on Bell's website makes no mention of queer sexuality: "A mystical western about a native American boy, raised by a family of whores in a town that is turning Mormon, who searches for his own identity through the ruins of his once proud homeland."


message 4: by Hiram (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:17AM) (new)

Hiram | 12 comments Mod
Ambivalent about this novel and still processing how I feel; curious to hear other responses if anybody out there has read it (or other work by Spanbauer). It’s often a gorgeous and challenging novel, but I also found it predictable and flawed in ways that left me disappointed. I appreciate Spanbauer’s attempt to imagine a frontier sexuality, presenting the frontier West as a geography for sexual exploration, a space where people find a freedom to construct and reconstruct—to paraphrase the language of the novel—the "stories" they tell themselves about themselves. At the same time, I think Spanbauer also importantly establishes that the freedom of the frontier, which is after all linked to a rhetoric of American freedom, is staked on genocidal state violence, represented in the novel by sheriffs, Mormon missionaries, the Indian Affairs Bureau, the cavalry, and the culture of lynching. It is not incidental that the novel’s gendered and raced violence climaxes on the eve of the Fourth of July. So the sexual liberation that the frontier makes possible is always complicated by the racist violence that makes the frontier itself possible. In other words, the conceptualization of “frontier,” even a radical and sexually liberating frontier, requires the violent evacuation of indigenous civilization. This aspect of the novel I find useful and provocative. My difficulty with the novel is with its representation of the racial other. (I’m not entirely settled on this yet, which is also why I hope to hear other responses.) The novel is concerned with imagining sexuality unrestrained by Christian morality, which it ultimately conceives as a kind of pansexuality, unrestricted by taboos against interracial, homosexual, incestuous and intergenerational sex. My problem is that the fantasy of this pansexualism requires a racially othered body in a way that I ultimately find fetishistic. (To Spanbauer’s credit, I do think there is in the novel a kind of self-consciousness about this dilemma; I just don’t know that he overcomes the dilemma, not to my satisfaction at least.) Indian and black bodies are necessary (for the novel’s white characters as well as for the narrative itself) to imagining this frontier pansexuality. The fantasy of this pansexuality is located as much in black and exotic bodies as it is in the frontier. This problem is perhaps most evident in the representation of the four black men who bring a minstrel show to Excellent, Idaho; their troupe’s name, the Wisdom Brothers, already bespeaks a kind of racial fetishism. The Brothers are introduced to satisfy the desires of both the characters and arguably the very narrative itself for some kind of primitive sexuality that can counteract the “opprobrium,” as the novel puts it, generated by Christian morality. The Wisdom Brothers are doomed from the moment they enter the narrative. I wish Spanbauer had given them lives beyond their symbolic significance to the novel’s radical sexual politics. Interestingly (although not surprisingly), Spanbauer does nothing with the Chinatown adjacent to Excellent, Idaho. Here is a space historically marked by its opposition to dominant culture standards of morality—an opposition predetermined by anti-Chinese legislation that created the very conditions it then condemned. Nineteenth century Chinatowns were notorious for their marginalized sexuality in the form of bachelor societies, interracial contact, and sex work. The protagonists in the novel venture into Chinatown to purchase opium but the Chinese man (represented by a single character, Dr. Ah Fong) remains outside the sexual imagination of the novel, typically desexualized. Chinatown is also curiously written out of the conflict between the town’s original frontier population and its later Mormon settlers. Certainly the Mormons’ moral campaign would have extended into Chinatown.


message 5: by Hiram (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:17AM) (new)

Hiram | 12 comments Mod
All that said, I definitely recommend the novel (and may even teach it, if I get the chance), since I think the problems it raises are productive ones.

I have a hard time imagining how this novel can be adapted into a Hollywood film without compromising the spirit of the work. Hope to be pleasantly surprised if it ever does get made. I can see Johnny Depp, or Keanu Reeves, or Wentworth Miller as Shed (the mixed race--ambiguously raced--narrator), definitely David Straithern as Dellwood Barker (the sexy, melancholy cowboy in love with the moon), Cate Blanchett as Ida Richilieu (the tough Jewish Madame of the town's brothel), and Scarlett Johansson as Alma (dreamy, pink nippled, bird-calling prostitute and lover of Ida). Gus Van Sant or Ang Lee or Patty Jenkins for director. If the Hollywood adaption never gets made, I suggest the very same cast for a porn adaptation.


message 6: by Matthew (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:24AM) (new)

Matthew | 1 comments I will be brief, as it's late for me now, but I've read Spanbauer's "In the City of Shy Hunters" and absolutely loved it. In this case, it follows a Midwestern man to NYC, in search of a lost love. More like Paluhniak's Invisible Monsters than Tales of the City, there's quite a bit of surrealism, fluid sexualities and genders, individuals passing as other races.... it does a brilliant job of creating a "queer" world, all while positing that the uniquely queer aspect of this world is its inability to accept reality as a given. I've started The Man Who Fell in Love With the Moon many times, and never quite finish it.... less because I don't care for it, more because I loved Shy Hunters so much. I'll try to post a more substantive review soon.


message 7: by [deleted user] (new)

Wow, I loved Spanbauer's novels. I really like what both Hiram and Matthew wrote about Spanbauer. I love GoodReads! I love it that there are people as excited about literature as I am.


back to top