Friday, April 01, 2016

Guttersnipe Bookshelp: Wayne Koestenbaum

Wayne Koestenbaum, 
Moira Orfei in Aigues-Mortes Soft Skull Press, Brooklyn, NY, 2004

I found this book in New Orleans, in the dollar box of a used book shop: it was one of the best dollars I’ve ever spent.  As I read it I thought, “I’ve wanted to read this book for years, but I had no idea it actually existed.”  Let me explain.

Many years ago, in graduate school, the other kids and I were so excited when the department said we could have a class in Queer Lit.  A dozen of us ploughed through a tall pile of books but -- please don’t shoot me for saying so -- we were kinda disappointed.  The only books that most of us entirely loved were by Genet and Jane Bowles.  (OK, so we were snobs.  But we were not wrong.)

I think we would have been really excited by this book.  Anyway, it’s what I was looking for: real swagger, daring, vice, zest, energy, innovation.  It’s a truly great queer novel.  Or, to put it another way, it’s a great novel about fame, the history of piano music, the circus, rent boys and having anal sex with one’s aunt.

The book -- which consists of 25 “notebooks”, 25 series of jottings -- is about a hypersexual pianist obsessed with the Italian circus legend Moira Orfei.  His mother is a legend, his sister a victim, his aunt a lover, and he is falling apart -- brilliantly, with amid hustlers and music history.  My god, it’s so smart, so depraved, so much fun.  

A word to the wise: I am guessing that this book is very nearly out of print.  Soft Skull publishes great stuff but when it’s gone, it’s really gone.  (That’s why I never got to read Antler’s Selected Poems. . .)  Get your copy now, before we have to pass around photocopied bootlegs -- because somewhere this book has GOT to have a cult following. (Dear cult of Koestenbaum: Sign me up.)


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