Pills, Thrills, Chills, and Heartache: Adventures in the First Person

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9781555837532: Pills, Thrills, Chills, and Heartache: Adventures in the First Person

Thirty-seven writers. One rule. Each story must be told in the first person. Clint Catalyst (Cottonmouth Kisses) and Michelle Tea (The Chelsea Whistle) bring together what can only be described as a dream cast of literature's new avant-garde, sandwiched with a few writers appearing in print for the first time. Catalyst calls the end product "a wonderful sampling of oddities, like a dangerous box of chocolates or an unmarked prescription bottle." Oddities? Oh, yeah. These stories offer scary, funny, chaotic, moving, poignant, intimate glimpses into lives on the fringe, and they will get you up close and personal with speed freaks, scat freaks, gender benders, shoplifters, sober virgins, cybersexualists, Tourette's syndrome fetishists, and even a naked Butoh dancer. What can we say? We're not sure if we're proud or if we should apologize!

Contributors include:

JT LeRoy (The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things, Sarah)
Dennis Cooper (My Loose Thread, Period, Guide, Try, Frisk, Closer )
Eileen Myles (Cool For You, Chelsea Girls, The New Fuck You)
Kevin Killian (I Cry Like a Baby, Little Men, Shy )
Pleasant Gehman (Escape From Houdini Mountain, Princess of Hollywood, The Underground Guide to Los Angeles, Senorita Sin )
Alvin Orloff (I Married an Earthling )
Shawna Kenney (I Was a Teenage Dominatrix )
Thea Hillman (Depending on the Light )
Jayson Elliott (Clamor magazine)
Charles Anders (The Lazy Crossdresser )
Inga Muscio (Cunt: A Declaration of Independence )

Clint Catalyst is the Southern-fried, sissified, Goth--damaged, punk-spirited, hyper-hyphenated, degenerate author of Cottonmouth Kisses.

Michelle Tea is the author of the memoir The Chelsea Whistle, the Lambda Award-Winning dyke drama Valencia, and The Passionate Mistakes and Intricate Corruption of One Girl in America.

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"Sex, Drugs and Kink in the Bay Area": an alternate title for this largely unexceptional anthology. All 40 pieces are told in first person, though this is hardly a distinguishing feature. A far more apparent link uniting the collection's content and context is sex; the majority of the tales focus on it, and the majority of it is queer. The compendium successfully creates a wonderfully rich portrait of queer subculture, but few of the individual stories are particularly grand examples of the short form. There are exceptions: Cara Bruce's "Love Boat and Lingerie" offers a comic and achingly realistic account of teenage mischief, as three nice suburban girls ditch class, smoke some PCP, and attempt to steal high-end bras from the local Macy's. In "E.I.P. BID" (Early Intervention Program Twice a Day), by Leo Blackwater, a doctor tells a man with HIV to go off his meds for a week in the hopes of curing his fatigue. This simple act revitalizes him and makes him forget about dying ("I do not rush places") until the week is up and he resumes his pills. Kathe Izzo's "The Black Hand" is a brief but powerful account of a wife and mother who leaves her husband for a woman, then finds herself in court with a restraining order against her from her new lover. One of the best tales is editor Tea's "Paris: A Lie," about a confusing morning-after involving two girls in a bathroom, missing underwear, and a regrettable promise to sell some much cherished Xanax. It has what a lot here lacks: distinctive prose and a wise sensibility on some rather raunchy topics. If 300-plus pages of beautiful boys, speed freaks in the Castro, girlie-girl orgies, and Allen Ginsberg's dancing boyfriend sounds like your kind of ride, then get on-but expect some bumps. (Kirkus Reviews)

From Publishers Weekly:

Thirty-seven writers, ranging from veterans to neophytes, followed one rule for this anthology: each story had to be told in the first person. Aiming to offer "insight into the life of the outsider," these pieces reveal idiosyncratic and often disaffected worldviews; the main characters are struggling, troubled, intelligent observers of life's darker sides. In Charles Anders's "I Am So Smart," the lovelorn narrator thinks of his female crush, "You're all the genders I want to be naked with." In the comic "Love Boat and Lingerie" by Cara Bruce, the eponymous narrator recalls a bra-shopping (or shoplifting, rather) expedition when she was 14, high as a kite and questioning her sexuality: "I was now convinced that PCP made you gay." One of the collection's more shocking pieces is "The Shitty Schoolgirl" by Lisa Archer, in which a Ph.D. student blithely recounts defecating on blissful clients for fistfuls of cash. There are numerous short takes: Bee Lavender's haunting "The Theory of Maternal Impression," about a terrible and rare cancer and the historical implications of being considered a freak; Shawna Kennedy's cursory "Shiny Baubles," about bulimia and an abusive relationship; and Eileen Myles's potent "Liquid Sky," concerning the devastating effects of alcoholism. J.T. Leroy's "When to Be a Girl" is quick and rough, full of sharply portrayed angst and the palpable fear of not fitting in. Though wildly uneven, the collection is bound to make a splash with readers seeking edgy fiction.
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