TOWLEREAD: LGBTQ BOOKS FROM THE AUTHOR’S MOUTH
I first met author Paul Lisicky in 1991, when we both were introduced to Provincetown, Massachusetts as fellows at the Fine Arts Work Center, an artist and writer’s colony founded in the ’60s which awards off-season residencies to emerging writers and artists. Today, nearly 30 years later, I’m thrilled to feature him in our returning ‘TowleRead’ feature in which authors read from their works. Because our arrivals in this singular queer resort town coincided, his memoir has personal resonance for me, and carries the feelings of freedom, joy, fear and pain unique to those gay men who experienced the height of the AIDS crisis in their early 20s. If you’re looking for something relevant and relatable during your social distancing in the plague year we’re currently living through, I can’t recommend it highly enough. You can get it right here.
I asked Paul to speak a little about the brief excerpts he reads below in the Soundcloud player.
Said Paul: “My book Later: My Life at the Edge of the World is about so many things. It’s about coming of age in Provincetown in the early 1990s at a time in which the town was a refuge for people with HIV and AIDS. It’s about how one community with a winter-time population of 3,000 pressed on when ongoingness wasn’t guaranteed. How do you stay vital and awake under those conditions? It’s about belonging, and sex—trying to figure it all out. It’s about identity and saying goodbye to your family when you know you have to say goodbye in order to live. It’s about finding your tribe and home at a crucial moment, and for me that meant a place in which I could live my writing and queer lives simultaneously. That doesn’t mean that my Provincetown came without challenges. How to read the social rules of an inscrutable place that made itself up on its own terms, in those last days before HIV drugs started working, and the internet changed everything?
“One of the four passages I’m reading is called ‘New Boy.’ The new boy in town is longed for and resented: a mirror, a projection screen, a cipher, an archetype, born out of our collective desire to stand out and matter at a time in which so many of us had to turn down our light in order to survive. He’s both known and unknown. And he’s close enough that you could possibly be him for two weeks and not even know you’d stepped into that role. And as soon as you figured it out, the new boy would become someone else, walking down the street with his back to you, too immersed in the feeling of his shirt against his lats to hear you calling out his name.”