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'Cruising' the operative word in entertaining LGBT memoir

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 16/5/2015 (1987 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

It's always refreshing in any kind of LGBT memoir when the tension and buildup of coming out is waived in favour of the actual meat of day-to-day life living as an open queer.

This is largely what My Body Is Yours, a hodgepodge memoir by Michael V. Smith -- author of Cumberland, What You Can't Have and Progress -- is about: life as a self-described sissy fey kid growing up into a (also self-described) failed man.

The book disjointedly careens through a lot of ground: Childhood small-town loneliness, alcoholism, quitting drinking, cruising for sex, the construct of masculinity, cruising for sex, the Radical Faeries, gender as a fluid entity, a videotaped art project where he has sex with a woman for the first time, therapy, cruising for sex, his alcoholic father's slow and painful illness and death... and cruising for sex.

Cruising, if you couldn't tell, is the common thread that links most of these recounted experiences. These parts are awesome -- Smith has so much to share about sex, desire and physical intimacy in general as he ruminates on his experiences sleeping with thousands of men, yet having no luck in relationships.

These bits -- besides being, for the most part, deliciously unprintable in this review -- are usually sad, funny, and emotionally close all at once. This will be the case for straight and queer readers alike. An example of an early scene, where Smith is cruising in the park:

"I moaned and swore and grunted and shook and bit the air with the effort of not falling to pieces... My back was rubbed raw against the earth.

Men heard us and flocked around like puppies at a bowl of kibble. Someone stepped on my forehead.

I told [the guy] through gritted teeth, 'Believe it or not, I'm trying to be quiet.'

He told me, 'Go right ahead, Mikey, do what you have to do.'"

The aforementioned disjointed-ness of the book's structure, however, doesn't work quite as well. The reader is tossed from subject to subject, from person to person.

Halfway through, Smith's first boyfriend Patrick is introduced as a major part of his life, but then disappears until Patrick breaks up with him a few dozen pages later. It's a sad moment, and devastating to Smith, but the reader never really met Patrick, and so the emotional weight of the moment is lost.

Similarly, Smith's father is mentioned in fleeting asides at the outset and in only one (albeit hilarious) brief scene as a physical, talking character -- until the last third of the book, where his illness becomes the main action. It's hard, touching stuff, but on the page it doesn't quite land.

Smith, like many queer writers before him, celebrates the failure of not living up to gender norms (Jack Halberstam is cited, naturally), but doesn't offer many new thoughts on the subject.

Still, much of the book is funny, enjoyable and insightful. Smith has a story to tell and the chops to tell it -- hopefully this isn't the last (or best) book he'll write about his life.

 

Casey Plett wrote the short story collection A Safe Girl To Love and is a queer who isn't great at relationships either.

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History

Updated on Saturday, May 16, 2015 at 9:05 AM CDT: Formatting.

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