A special shout out to a fellow blogger tonight. You may know Bob Mould, singer/songwriter and former member of Husker Du, who has sent much kindness and traffic my way lately. I told a friend when I first heard from him, “I got an e-mail from a famous person!” And I thought I was so above that.
Speaking of e-mails, I got an interesting one from a guy who wanted to know if there’s been any fiction or non-fiction books about gay couples, who in the end live happily ever after together. I drew a blank. I wrote back that most literature, whether about gays or straights, is usually bittersweet at best. Happily married couples don’t make for interesting art, I’m afraid. At least not good art. I’m going to go over and look at my bookshelves now to see if any of these gay couples live happily ever after. Okay, first, James Baldwin’s “Giovanni’s Room”. Um, no. Two books by Michael Chabon: “The Mysteries of Pittsburgh”: bittersweet. “The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay”, bittersweet. Three books by Michael Cunningham: “A Home at the End of the World”, very bittersweet; “Flesh and Blood”, bittersweet, “The Hours”: bittersweet, though the lesbian couple stay together. Mark Doty’s “Heaven’s Coast”, well it’s a memoir about his partner dying from AIDS, so no. Larry Kramer’s “Faggots”, hell no. Tony Kushner’s “Angels in America”, bittersweet, with differing fates for different characters. David Leavitt’s “Equal Affections”, bittersweet. Armisted Maupin’s “Sure of You” (the last book in the Tales of the City series), bittersweet, with different fates for different characters. Dale Peck’s “Martin and John”, bittersweet at best. Manuel Puig’s “Kiss of the Spiderwoman”, no. David Sedaris seems to have a decent relationship, though you have to read between the lines to see it. Tom Spanbauer’s “The Man Who Fell in Love with the Moon”, bittersweet. Lyle Leverich’s “Tom: The Unknown Tennessee Williams”, no. Patricia Highsmith’s “The Talented Mr. Ripley”; ha, that’s a good one.
Maybe this says more about my taste for bittersweet then it does for gay characters. I don’t read a lot of self-described “Gay Fiction”. I veer away from books with half-naked boys on the cover just out of principle, and that narrows the field considerably. I’m sure I will hear a few suggestions after posting this, I will pass them along to the guy who wrote me.
Now I’m looking at my DVD’s, and guess what? Hedwig, Lost in Translation, Blood Simple, Blue, White, Red, Heaven, Crouching Tiger, Fight Club, Mulholland Drive, Magnolia, In the Mood for Love, and Grey Gardens. I think Amelie is the only one that qualifies for “happily ever after”. And she’s straight.
I’m not surprised. A couple of weeks ago I decided to enter a contest for California writers working on unfinished manuscripts. There was a 100-page limit for submissions, and I didn’t think I’d even get close. But it gave me the impetus to look back through my archives, all two years, to gather up the few gems. After reading through a few months, I was a little overwhelmed at the pervasive air of sadness contained within. I grew a little weary and defensive, as though for the sake of readers everywhere who just want a little entertainment, thanks for asking. But I stuck with it, and was pleasantly surprised that I had well over a hundred pages of halfway decent material. Very rough material, but not as bad as I’d feared. In the end I let myself off the hook; different writers have recurring themes, or moods. Mine is a little melancholy and that’s fine.
But I wonder sometimes, today, if that preference for the bittersweet isn’t a self-fulfilling prophecy. Do I bring sadness upon myself, if only because I think I understand it? Or is that my fate in life, to be obsessed with longing? I don’t know. There are many things that I don’t feel free to write about here, usually for good reason, like other people’s privacy. But tonight my heart aches, and I’m tired of keeping that a secret. So I’m giving myself permission to be a little melancholy, and to turn to my bittersweet heroes, like Hedwig, for comfort.
You think that luck has left you there
but maybe there’s nothing up in the sky but air
and there’s no mystical design
no cosmic lover pre-assigned
There’s nothing you can find
That cannot be found
And though I have it now on DVD, I’m going to take myself tonight to see Lost in Translation, for the fourth or fifth time, while it’s still in the theaters. I was waiting to take someone else, but I think it’s time I went alone.