|Early review of Bitter Orange and another guest blog post
||[May. 26th, 2013|08:58 pm]
It seems that Bitter Orange is off to a good start. The first few reviews have been very positive, and I'm cautiously optimistic about its prospects. This time around, I'm trying not to throw my own book under the bus in order to focus on books by our (Signal 8 Press) other authors. (Yes, I did that last year, and I regret it.)
Here's what Jerry Wheeler at Out in Print had to say:
The poor human animal. Buffeted by technological advances and fishbowled by social networking, his response in many cases is to disappear into anonymity—surfing secretly behind IP scramblers and stalking friends and enemies alike online. Taking that a step further, what might it be like to actually be invisible? Seth Harrington finds out in Marshall Moore’s sardonic Bitter Orange.
Seth is a moderately wealthy San Franciscan living with his Korean roommate Sang-hee, wandering aimlessly through life with the aid of his friend Elizabeth, a tattoo artist. Only she really isn’t his friend. Harrington discovers his powers of invisibility quite by accident but rather than be elated by his newfound abilities, they instead cause him even further distress and confusion.
One of Moore’s greatest gifts is his ability to isolate and illuminate societal anomie. He finds the very heart of our disconnectedness, distills it into a character like Seth Harrington, and puts him through the paces of life (not plot, though there is some of that here). The result is both intriguing and reflective, and you might find yourself putting it down, as I did, just long enough to digest an experience before picking it back up with either recognition or denial of your own response.
If this sounds boring or too deep for enjoyment, it doesn’t take into account Moore’s second biggest asset—his enormously smart-assed sense of humor. This manifests itself in chuckling asides as well as broader slapstick. All are on Moore’s pallete, and he paints Bitter Orange in wide swaths of funny.
But Moore is almost always at his funniest when he’s being mean—his characterization of the Asian woman who runs the convenience store Seth discovers his powers in (by stealing a bottle of wine) is so devestatingly real that you know this is someone who’s pissed Moore off in real life. His other characterizations are equally adroit. Seth comes off the page quite well, as does his roommate Sang-hee.
But really, this is a novel populated by characters in a plot which really can’t be encapsulated in a review. But keep reading until the end. The last thirty pages are marvelous and revelatory. If you’ve liked Moore’s other work, you’ll find this to be all of a piece with it.
And if you’ve never read him before, this is a most excellent place to start.
Here's the direct link:
The guest post appeared at Rick Reed's blog. I wrote it in response to another author's post on warnings about being perceived as a gay author. Because I used to obsess over that to an irritating degree and have moved on to not giving much of a damn, I figured I might as well weigh in. This is actually a much shorter version of a 2000-word essay I've written on the subject and will post here or publish somewhere sooner or later.
My Open Relationship with Genre
A decade ago, when my first novel The Concrete Sky was published, someone close to the process warned me (off the record) about gay fiction: “It’s like a roach motel. You can check in, but you can’t check out.” The Concrete Sky is very gay, and it is exactly the book that I wanted it to be: it has the style and structure of a thriller (think The Living End meets Thelma and Louise), but underneath the rambunctiousness it’s also a comment on Generation X and the beginnings of the American decline. I had ambitions, and that “roach motel” remark would keep me in a state of vague panic for years afterward.
Sometime later, I was having dinner with the publishers of my second book. That night, I brought up my anxieties about being considered a gay writer, having not yet realized the extent to which I had become a pain in the ass about it. Visibly irritated, one of my publisher friends asked, “What is this gay shame you have?” The question was an interesting slap across the face. I fumbled for the right words, finally saying that shame wasn’t the issue at all, but writing had been my raison d’etre since early childhood, perhaps the main reason I was still drawing breath. I didn’t want to see it co-opted or derailed by limitations associated with genre, any genre. What if I were to write a book not about gay life? Gay publishers wouldn’t want it because it wasn’t gay enough; mainstream ones wouldn’t want it either because of my pink-bookshelf backlist. Where would that leave me?
Another source of discomfort with the label was its implication that I’d be putting myself forward as a gay role model. Although I understand the role-model impulse, I’m not arrogant enough to embrace it. If I have something to offer as such, it’s the fact that I have lived my life openly and on my own terms. Maybe a year after The Concrete Sky was published, a young guy emailed me to thank me for getting him through a bad night. I don’t remember his circumstances, only that he was ready to give up. My book stopped him: it spoke to him and kept him turning the pages; he found a spark of hope and decided not to check out after all. I don’t know how often that kind of thing happens to writers who aren’t gay, and it’s an experience I’ve always been thankful for. Even so, I can’t put the cart before the horse because writing doesn’t work that way for me: I wrote that book in order to tell a story. (I hope that guy will email me again someday to let me know he’s still around.)
A lot has changed. What it means to be gay has evolved: we are individuals, not the Borg. And in the publishing world, now that we are no longer pariahs, and now that self-publishing is a respectable option, many literary barricades have come down. In fact, the concept of genre itself has evolved. Literary fiction is understood to be just another genre, neither the baseline of all writing nor the end-all-be-all, and it has borrowed from what used to be dismissed as genre fiction. There are more options, both in life and in publishing. So if you find it meaningful to call me a gay author or my work gay fiction, go right ahead.
And the link:
On the odd chance anyone noticed the tweet Rick introduced this with (he used the same verbiage on Google Plus) and took umbrage, I'd like to make sure it's clear that I did not compare writing gay fiction to checking into a roach motel. This version obviously doesn't say that; nor does the longer one. The provocative intro might have been intended to get people to read the post, but what it mainly seemed to accomplish was making people unfollow me on Twitter!