Some Audacity

Maybe the first band I ever got obsessed with was R.E.M., and the peak years of my obsession were like 1991 to 1993—i.e., the Out of Time and Automatic for the People era. I listened to these records hundreds of times, just hundreds. And then around 1999 I pretty much never listened to them again.

Tastes change. I don’t know that I need to say anything more about it. And yet here I am about to: these records had too many soft textures for me to get excited about listening to them. They weren’t necessarily too slow and still—I listen to Smog once every other week or so, another onetime obsession. They were very 90’s.

And they both had all these missteps. “Radio Song”‘s cornyness. “Man on the Moon”‘s pollyannaism. I got “Ignoreland” of all things stuck in my had a few weeks back and when I listened to it I just got embarrassed. “I’m just profoundly frustrated by all this so fuck you, man.” And that “yeah yeah yeah” in the background of the chorus? Awful.

I felt I had to do something.

Some years back, Topher Grace got famous again for taking the Star Wars prequels and cutting them into one movie he’d screen at parties. Everyone agreed it was a finer film than any in the trilogy.

Could I make a better R.E.M. record out of these two subpar R.E.M. records? Yes. I loved the band enough to do this for them.

I laid some ground rules:

  • I couldn’t make a record longer than Automatic (48 mins) or shorter than Out of Time (45 mins).
  • I had to mix the tracks among each other, and not block sort them by album.
  • I couldn’t follow any song with the song that follows it on the original.
  • I had to make a record I wouldn’t want to skip any song of, but play all the way through.
  • I had to call the whole thing Outtamatic.

I wanted a rule that no track could appear at the same position it appeared in either original, but that didn’t work out; “Me in Honey” is my favorite album closer in all of R.E.M.’s catalog. Maybe one of my favorite album closers of all time. I wasn’t about to close Outtamatic with anything else.

Here’s the tracklist. If you’re on YouTube you can stream it here.
1. Belong
2. Monty Got a Raw Deal
3. Low
4. Nightswimming
5. Sweetness Follows
6. Shiny Happy People
7. New Orleans Instrumental No. 1
8. Drive
9. Half A World Away
10. Country Feedback
11. Star Me Kitten
12. Me in Honey

As you can see I wasn’t very kind to Mike Mills, and as a big huge B-52’s fan I’ve left all of Kate Pierson’s songs intact. I took it as a challenge to include “Shiny Happy People”, which if you ask me holds up better than “Losing My Religion” or “Everybody Hurts” in terms of overplayed R.E.M. songs.

Anyway it’s a better record, so rejigger your listening mechanisms and enjoy it when it comes up in the queue—if anyone’s queueing whole records in 2018.

My Year of Queer Reading: Ari Banias’s Anybody

[Full disclosure: Ari teaches with me in the MFA Program at the University of San Francisco. He signed my copy of this book.]

“Mostly a name feels like the crappy overhang I huddle under / while rain skims the front of me.”

This is how one poem late in Ari’s debut collection starts, and I loved it because it’s so unlike how I feel. My name I did the good work to grow into, and any changes I made to it—going from David to Dave around 1992—I did because it felt faster, easier.

But such is the luck of being assigned at birth the gender I feel inside. From the position of the trans body Ari maps so movingly in this book, names mean more, and come packaged with more. “I admit it keeps me visible,” the above poem continues, “the agreement to call this that.”

I’m not a strong reader of poetry. It charges a part of my brain I don’t often exercise, a darker part perhaps that makes me feel uncomfortable. Perhaps this is why I was drawn to the darker corners of Ari’s poems. “The Feeling” starts with a red cloud that comes annually up the Aegean—Ari’s people are Greek—and “covers the buildings, the cars, / in a fine red film of dust from elsewhere.” But soon the poem shifts to the moon, and then to the incarcerated, and throughout the field of war on which nations play.

It’s an unstable place, and this is a book that felt drawn to, or driven to understand, unstable places:

I can say moon and tree and fox and river,
or me and you, or love and stutter,
but I can mean corporation I can mean police.
I can mean surveillance,
or that the moon is a prison, it is daytime,
and in daytime no one sees the moon.

The poem reads like an essay with images that arrest me, which is basically everything I ask a poem to be. “This is not our poem,” it ends. “The poem has been privatized. Its flag will be a red feeling.”

I also loved “Hog”, late in the book, which is a kind of bestial/motorcycle/leather fantasy that reminded me of Samuel R. Delany’s novel Hogg. Ari’s landscape here is blurred, or maybe tilled up is the better metaphor: “What’s a hog / but gleam of handlebars, leather, that roar speeding by. / The scared parts dressed up tough, saying / ah come on let’s go chop up the wind.”

“Narrative” might be the closest the book gets to a clear portrait of the young trans body before coming out, and it’s so good I want to just quote all of it, but instead I’ll point you to its initial publication in Verse Daily and quote this part I love the most. It’s one of my favorite images I’ve read all year:

In Illinois I tried to build a kind of Midwestern
girlhood that failed and failed
into the shape of a flute
I played only high notes on.

What else? Oh, what a joy it was to read this part from “Handshake”! I felt heard, understood. I felt like I could find the friends I need if only I could open up about the honest parts of myself I feel it would be better to keep inside, lest I scare off potential friends:

I know I'd prefer to misbehave
continuously. Any squirrel gets what I mean—anarchic revelry,
refusing to ever be still, such keenness.
They own no tree so they all own all of them.
I'd like to flick my tail too whenever I want as if to say WHAT.

But at any moment I'm wherever someone puts me—
then change my mind. I'll pick a side
when I need to

You can buy Anybody here.

Some Thoughts on Pop Music

I.
This one’s prompted by a tweet I read this morning from a writer I follow but don’t know, which tweet said in so many words that, as late as 2018, it’s foolish and snobby to state a dislike for pop music, given its prominent role in the culture. The tweeter, too, had a punk-rock background, so the implication was that an appreciation for pop music was something one ought to grow into or acquire upon shedding certain adolescent trappings.

I didn’t buy it. Or: I bristled at the idea that my stated dislike for pop music was a form of snobbery and not just a value-free preference. But did I’m Not A Music Snob I Just Don’t Like Pop Music carry the same whiff of blind bigotry as I’m Not Racist I’m Just Not Attracted To Asians?

I wanted to figure out why I didn’t like pop music, where that taste is coming from, and because when I hear the phrase “pop music” I think almost immediately of “Call Me Maybe” by that solo artist I need a web search to help me remember the name of,[**] I’ll use it as my prime example here.

II.
I hate “Call Me Maybe” conditionally. I hate it in a waiting room, or a store, or a mall, or any kind of commercial setting. I probably hate it in a stadium or arena. I hate it as a ringtone. I hate it a little less in a car, but I still reach for the tuner. Sitting among a karaoke audience, though, I find I rather like it, and many times on a dance floor I have loved it.

What does this say about my relationship to pop music?

III.
I might relegate pop music to the social, the way I do what I used to call “techno” but now I know to call “EDM”. Much of my enjoyment of music is wrapped up in the private: rewinding tapes in my bedroom to learn the words of a song I loved, blocking out noisy public spaces with earbuds. I like to play the guitar, but I never play the guitar with another person in the room, unless that person is also playing a guitar.

In this regard, I like music the way I like books.

Pop music originates from and amplifies all the feelings and thoughts I’ve had that I know other people have had, too. (How I know this is from a lifetime of listening to pop.) They aren’t necessarily easy feelings, or even feel-good feelings, but they are safe feelings because they’ve been normed. They, by the needs of pop’s dictate to find a huge audience, fit the norm.

The music I like to listen to (shorthand: rock, though not categorically) I listen to because it’s shown me that the weird or dark feelings I have aren’t weird or even that dark, and that I don’t have to feel alone in having them. The music I like helps me feel less alone, whereas pop often reminds me I’m not hanging out with friends at a party or club. I feel more lonely when I listen to it.

No: pop has ever taken Assuaging My Loneliness as its task, but there it is.

IV.
Another idea: production matters as much as reception. I hate much of how “Call Me Maybe” sounds in my ears. I like synths (I grew up in the 1980s) but the synth-strings in “CMM” are sheenier than those old synths. They match the raspy sheen work they’ve done on her vocals. The song as produced is all thinned and flattened and leaves little to pay any attention to. (Years ago I read an article about how music producers are working hard to ensure songs still sound good coming from a phone’s tiny speaker.)

I love, though, “Call Me Maybe” as performed by the Roots with toy instruments, from when Carly Rae Jepsen[††] was on Fallon. (Which has been scrubbed from the Internet except with bootlegged-off-the-TV YouTubes that sound terribler than the original.) You can scoff here and say I love this for twee or hipster reasons.

That is: snob reasons. I’ll give you a moment to scoff. I see the argument and I see that it’s irresistible.

BUT, let me just point out how textured the song becomes when thrown together in this slipshod way, and how smart The Roots are to do some Pixies-style loud-quiet-loud dynamics when the chorus kicks in. To put it clunkily, it has more going on in vertical dimensions (Y-axis, I’m talking) while the song moves through its X-axis.

It’s such a good song. It’s just a wonderfully good song I almost always hate to hear playing.

V.
I had another point to make about how the original of “CMM”, the production, seems to be all vocals (the better for folks to sing along) and beat (the better for folks to dance), which was going to bring EDM back up, calling it “dance music for the chthonically stupid”, but I can’t even imagine anything more snobby than that, so I’ll end instead with that positive note just above.

Footnotes    (↵ returns to text)

  1. Brady Mae Stimson is the closest approximation I have to the name right now. Kelly Rae?
  2. The crazy thing is that now I look back to the original tweet and see the abbreviation “CRJ”, meaning she was what prompted all of this, which I, a total dolt, originally read as some kind of K-Pop band, or perhaps an online magazine of pop.

An Open Letter to Gay Men Who “Aren’t Racist They’re Just Not Into Asians”

…or black guys or latino guys or whatever you claim not to be interested in sexually. This letter isn’t going to scold you. I think that you’re wrong, that you are in fact racist, but I also think I know why you believe you’re not.

I think the racism everyone accuses you of you see as something different. You see it as being ignorant to your own desires. And I want to write about that.

One of the hardest things to do in life is to know yourself and then to be okay with it. The first time we gays reckon with this process is in the closet; it takes a lot of time and pain and then courage to take ownership of what you’re attracted to and to refuse to be ashamed of it any more.

In fact, we queers are stronger than straights in this regard: every out queer person has done far more sorting of their sexuality than any straight person has had to. You trust yourself, is what I’m saying, to know very intimately what turns you on and what doesn’t. You should trust yourself. You’ve earned that trust.

Now here comes somebody taking you to task for being clear about all this in your app profiles.

I get it. Some guy you want to hook up with is trying to tell you that this element of your sorting—I like men but not Asian men—is racist. Which then sheds light on the flimsiness of the hard work you spent all those agonizing years on. No no no I’m not racist I just know what I’m attracted to.

Here’s the problem: “Asian” doesn’t mean what you think it means. The only thing “Asian” means in a context of bodies is “from a certain racial background”—and even that is up for debate. An Asian body can’t be more or less attractive than a white body, it can only be more Asian.

Or, more accurately, less white.

So this is, I’m afraid, a sorting of your attractions that is informed by racism. And it makes you a racist. It’s okay. We’re all racist. You’re not the first person to look at somebody whose skin color is different from yours and erroneously bring in a whole bunch of stereotypes and associations. The best thing you can do is own up to this—accept it, the way you did your sexuality—and do the work to treat people better.

Here’s a quick story. I used to be A Guy Who Wasn’t Racist, I Just Wasn’t Into Asians. When I clicked on the “Asian” porn category in the websites I’d visit, I wouldn’t want to watch any of the videos through to the end. I wasn’t very attracted to thin men with little to no body hair, and when I thought of Asian men, this is what I saw in my mind.

Then, I was lucky to get to move to San Francisco, where men from all over the continent of Asia are everywhere, and I thought, “Oh, it’s not that I’m not into Asians, I’ve just been racist.” Some I wasn’t attracted to, but many I was. The same with all the white people I’d been living around in Alabama.

I know you know yourself, and that you’ve worked hard to understand what attracts you. But this categorical exclusion you’ve made is built on the lie that there’s one physical way to be Asian. Or Chinese, or Korean, if you want to get into it. Variation in human bodies is as wide as your imagination, and saying no to a whole group of them shows your imagination to be very small.

So just decide to stop. I know you can’t choose who you’re attracted to, but you chose to be gay. You chose to take on that identity. Choose to be the guy open to someday finding the Asian—or black or latino or redhead or whatever—guy of his dreams.

My Year of Queer Reading: Nick White’s Sweet & Low

Nick is a dear friend. Fellow Nebraska alum (though later), fellow Sewanee alum (we were suitemates). You’re not going to get an objective review here of a collection that is gorgeous in its compassion, and in the compassion it made me feel for its characters.

Maybe it’s not compassion I want to write about, because the OAD has it as “sympathetic pity and concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others,” and that’s not what I felt reading these stories. But I don’t want to write about empathy because I’m bored of talking about empathy in fiction.

Let’s try this: Nick’s writing made me feel feelings toward made-up people I have a very hard time feeling in my waking day-to-day life.

I’ll start with his final story, and I think his best: “The Last of His Kind”. It’s about a family in Mississippi, a somewhat bare-bones family of son, dad, and grandmother. The inciting event is a woodpecker hammering away at the house at early hours, which bird turns out to be the last Ivory-Billed Woodpecker (hence the title). Family lore has it they’re under the spell of a Choctaw curse, and it’s the task of the son, Henry, task to try to rid them of it.

The story comes at the end of the book’s second section, which is a story cycle centered on the life of the dad, Forney, and much of its wonderfulness comes from Nick’s skillful way of tapping into the histories of these characters we’ve been dipping into over the past 100 pages. Many of the passages felt buoyed by the culmination of lives I’d seen so much of.

The wonderfulness also comes from the wide range Nick allows himself in the POV, dipping even into the woodpecker at times. Here’s a moment, for instance, I loved:

She turns the record over, and George Jones’s duet with Tammy Wynette, called “Golden Ring,” fills up the house. MeMaw sings over the Wynette parts, her voice and achy. She imagines the little bird inside her being nudged awake. She sings and sings, her throat opening. She pictures the bird clawing up her rib cage one curved bone at a time, then, seeing light, flitting out of her mouth hole and soaring away. Oh, to be a bird! To shed this wrinkly skin and become all feather and claw. Nearly reptilian.

The boy, becoming braver, swigs the beer. Some of it fizzes down his chin, and MeMaw roars with delight. He wipes his face and comes in close, his face inches from hers, his eyes large and brown.

“I thought birds fly south for the winter. Why don’t it fly south?”

MeMaw takes the boy’s face in her hands and kisses it. “Because, baby, we are the South.”

I loved “mouth hole”, but mostly I loved the simple grace here, and how much love emanates from the scene. It’s one of Nick’s gifts. He’s got a heart bigger than anyone’s, and a vocab more colorful than a Cezanne.

You can buy Sweet & Low here.

When the Internet is Good

I can’t imagine what it must be like not to feel unusual every waking day, and whether or not I ought to believe such people exist, I do. Maybe they’re not online. Or maybe they make online unbearable. The Internet is good when the loneliest person who feels like a freak clicks somewhere and reads someone else also lamenting the same lonely freakishness.

For years I’ve convinced myself that I’m the only person on the planet who, when writing by hand, leaps ahead a letter or two before they’re supposed to. I’ll start on “the” and go “t” and then “e” and then stop, rewrite an “h” over the “e”, and then go do the “e” again. I do this on the board when I write on the board in classes, and I know my students notice and I always pretend I’m not freaking the fuck out.

I do this when I speak, too, in that my thought comes to me faster than my mouth can form it, and so I rarely enunciate. My brain moves too fast. What an arrogant problem to decide I have! And yet: what else is the Internet for than googling one’s shameful arrogant problems?

Last night I found this forum discussion: Does Your Brain Go Faster Than Your Mouth/Hands? That I found it on a discussion board for people on the autism spectrum is something I’m continuing to ignore. Here’s what I was made to feel less lonely and freakish by:

I can’t sort out my writing though – I’m constantly thinking way ahead of myself when I’m writing, and sometimes I find that because I’ve been thinking about a particular word I’m going to write a bit later, I’ve actually half-written one word and merged it with the word I was thinking about. My handwriting is a terrible mess.

My handwriting is a terrible mess. I think of all of these things—my clumsy leaping ahead while writing, the general mess of my penmanship, my froggy voice that fails every time to be clear and project—as failings. They are ways I disappoint and come up short.

Whether or not this is a good way to see my behaviors, the Internet, when it’s good, shows me that other people struggle with the same problems. Solidarity. Solidarity gives me objectivity. These aren’t necessarily failings if successful people manage them. Now: what do I want to do about these features, if anything?

It struck me that one useful project might be to start writing into or about the things that make me feel alone and freakish, because I have to believe from all the evidence shown that I’m going to reach someone like me, and maybe we in our distance can help each other out.

Incidentally, on looking around for voice specialists (yes, it gets this bad sometimes that I’m willing to pay another expert to fix me in this other way), I came across what speech pathologists call the “Rainbow Passage” which from what I can tell comes from an old voice articulation textbook from the 1960s. I’m becoming obsessed with it:

When the sunlight strikes raindrops in the air, they act like a prism and form a rainbow. The rainbow is a division of white light into many beautiful colors. These take the shape of a long round arch, with its path high above, and its two ends apparently beyond the horizon. There is, according to legend, a boiling pot of gold at one end. People look but no one ever finds it. When a man looks for something beyond his reach, his friends say he is looking for the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

What Love the Californians?

Once or twice a month, toward the end of the class period, Frau Griffith would announce that we’re gonna play Was Lieben die Deutschen? which wasn’t so much a game as a call-and-response lesson. “What do the Germans love?” Frau Griffith asked, in German, and we answered, in German.

The Germans love flowers.

The Germans love coffee and cake.

The Germans love hiking.

The Germans love sunshine.

They were outdoorsy, these Germans, and so gemütlich! I learned certain nouns during Was Lieben die Deutschen?, but I also learned that a culture of people in Europe all loved the same things, and that by the nature of their being European these things became in my mind un-American things, not in a way that meant I had to avoid them, much less somehow disavow them, but just that they didn’t seem to be for me.

I was 13. Still today, though I love coffee and cake, I don’t care for hiking or flowers or sunshine.

The Germans love regular exercise? That one can’t be right. The old litany is lost to memory, and in its place is a question: what can we know of a whole people?

*

Yesterday, the morning after the election, it was clear that no amount of dreaming about pending mail-in votes was going to change the fact that Californians, of whom I’ve been a part for 5 years now, said no to expanding rent control protections. The arguments my fellow Californians bought into claimed that more communities with rent control would lead to less development (an easily stoked fear in a state with a massive housing shortage), or that what they called “mom and pop” landowners would lose so much money they’d have to sell their buildings to some faceless company.

My city’s big daily newspaper profiled such a mom a couple months back, with big color photos of her in front of her building and a tone of “I just don’t know what I’m going to do if I can’t set whatever rent prices I feel I can get away with.” It was one of a number of reasons I canceled my subscription, all of them about the predictability that the Chronicle sided with money, believed in money, and covered any contest or opposition to moneyed-interests with skepticism.

I thought we renters were the majority, but it turns out just 45.2 percent of Californians are tenants. Somehow, in this state that leads the nation in highest median home costs, the majority of people own their home. In a democracy, we can’t ask for minority rule (though we have it, the ruling GOP repeatedly unable to win popular votes), but what still makes me angry about the defeat of Prop 10 is how we weren’t even asking the majority for sacrifice.

Just help. After living for 10 years in Nebraska and Alabama, moving to California felt like coming up from the depths of a pool. I could breathe, relax. It was like coming out of the closet. I felt that I had finally found my people—here, a gay person had rights; here, Neal and I could be legally recognized as partners; here were real investments in green energy and publicly funded healthcare and easy(er) access to abortion services.

But what I didn’t expect (stupidly) was the unimaginable wealth I was going to live among. And I didn’t know that the liberalism that so many Americans deride California for only went so far. Rights for us gays and gender-neutral bathrooms cost Californians very little and made them feel very good. But long-term residents staying in their homes when newly arrived workers will unfussily pay twice the rent? That sort of thing is unacceptable to a Californian. The principles of liberalism, I saw, got quickly tossed out the window when there was money to be made.

This is probably true to all of the U.S. these days, which is why the happy news from election night was the success of billionaire Marc Benioff’s campaign to support the tax on corporate profits to fund homeless services in San Francisco. I can’t remember the last time I saw a billionaire not just accept having to give up some of his profit to help the rest of us, but actively work to make it happen.

It’s a shame our corporate-moneyed mayor couldn’t get on board.

*

This just hit me: I’m writing as a wealthy person with rent control. I moved here five years ago and paid the astronomical rent I was charged, albeit with much fuss. If I’m not part of the problem I’ve been writing about, I’m an example of it. Maybe it’s because of this that I volunteer with the San Francisco Tenants’ Union and donate to the Coalition for the Homeless. Or maybe it’s because of this that I vote the way I do, and have turned far more progressive and pro-union since moving here. I recognize that many people need help, and I see that I have help I can give.

Also: I might have a rotten and tiny idea in my head of what is a Californian. What do the Californians love? Money, is the first thing I’d say. Feelings of superiority toward the rest of the country and its citizens. These are true. I’ve had them myself. But Californians also love sunshine. They love coffee and cake and hiking and flowers. It’s hard to believe that you can get a read on A People by looking at their loves and desires, because desire is so apolitical and a people are a polity ruled by laws and custom.

This is why it’s easy for me to be friends with a Republican and hate the Republican Party. I’m not looking past a person’s politics, I’m looking at a person, and a person is not their politics. I worry that, because the TV show American Politics is so thrilling these days, more and more people are taking sides—Team Edward!—because taking sides feels good, or it feels like a way to know you Are Good. You’re on the Good Team. I’ve never been a good team player, and yet here I am: Team California. The best way I think I can play for that team is to lead from my desires, my loves. Going in the opposite direction—choosing what I desire based on my politics—is a trap I’m afraid to fall in, showing fealty to ideas some people have paid millions of dollars to make me believe.

My Year of Queer Reading: Recommenced

Welcome back. I took some time off to redesign the website, and I want up front to thank Beth Sullivan for the outstanding (and very patient) work she did on it. You should hire her.

While things were under construction, I was keeping up with my year of queer reading. To catch you up, here’s the list since Humiliation:

  • Are You My Mother? – Alison Bechdel
  • Andy Warhol – Wayne Koestenbaum
  • Zami: A New Spelling of My Name – Audre Lorde
  • Caroline, or Change – Tony Kushner
  • Less – Andrew Sean Greer
  • The Fact of a Body: A Murder and a Memoir – Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich
  • How to Write an Autobiographical Novel: Essays – Alexander Chee
  • Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl – Carrie Brownstein
  • Paul Takes the Form of a Mortal Girl – Andrew Lawlor
  • Abandon Me: Memoirs – Melissa Febos

I’m also a slow reader. Expect a post or two about these once I’m back from the NonfictioNow conference. I’m happy and relieved to have this space back to work out ideas about books and queers and teaching and guitar tabs and whatever messes I get into.

My Year of Queer Reading: Wayne Koestenbaum’s Humiliation

It’s unconscionable that it’s taken me so long to discover Wayne Koestenbaum’s essays: he’s writing in the precise mix of intellectual, critical, and personal that I aim for. A role model. I read his My 1980’s and Other Essays, a kind of omnibus of recent shorter pieces, earlier in the month, and it made me hungry for something longform. Humiliation is a booklength essay on that topic in the shape of 11 fugues.

It’s the sort of book I hope this book I’m writing might turn out like.

Here are just two of the things I loved (of so much in the book worth loving, like Koestenbaum’s writing on shame and the body and the queer body and porn and desire). One is what he calls “the Jim Crow Gaze”:

The eyes of a white person, a white supremacist, a bigot, living in a state of apartheid, looking at a black person (please remember that “white” and “black” aren’t eternally fixed terms): this intolerant gaze contains coldness, deadness, nonrecognition. This gaze doesn’t see a person; it sees a scab, an offense, a spot of absence.

It’s a useful term for a look I’ve seen on faces my whole life. A face we see every day on the president. A look I imagine I’ve worn more than once.

The other thing is the entirety of page 171, from the book’s final fugue, listing humiliations from Koestenbaum’s past:

23.
I gave two of my poetry books, warmly inscribed, to a major poet. A few years later, my proteg? told me that she’d found those very copies, with their embarrassingly effusive inscriptions, at a used-book store.

24.
At an academic conference, a student stood up, during the question-and-answer period, and accused me of assigning only white writers in a seminar he’d taken with me. Some audience members, appreciating the student’s bravery, applauded.

25.
After the panel ended, a colleague?whom I considered culturally conservative?came up to hug me. I told him not to hug me right now; I didn’t want my revolutionary accusers to see me collaborating with privileged humanists.

26.
The next day, I called up this colleague and asked him out to lunch. At first he refused. He said, “You shunned me.” The next day, at the cafe, he told me about a lifetime of being shunned.

27.
Later, this colleague died of AIDS. I didn’t visit him in the hospital.

This litany of humiliations piled on each other makes me feel terrible. I feel Koestenbaum’s humiliation not just for having been an unsavory person, but for recounting these humiliations on the page. (This feeling of mine he expects and accounts for and speaks to throughout the book.) It’s so brave, which is a word I’ve tended to hate applying to essays.

Lately, I’ve been auto-sending a tweet each morning asking for suggestions of Twitter accounts that intentionally embarrass themselves or don’t try to appear likable or admirable or aggrieved. None have come in. Unsurprisingly, the only suggestions I do get are of parody accounts, or folks tweeting as some kind of funny character.

I read Humiliation, especially its final fugue, and trying to imagine it as a series of tweets I find myself dumb. My mind blank. To be a whole person online feels almost anatomically impossible, righteousness inhering to that experience as grammar does to a sentence. These days I’m seeing any such denial or avoidance of my embarrassments and private humiliating miseries to be a kind of self-treason.