The PRETTY Book Tour Begins

I visited my book at LAX before embarking on this first leg of the tour, which seemed like a good omen.

Dragged the fam with me and we’re having a fantastic time in NY so far. We’re doing all kinds of touristy stuff, like riding the Circle Line cruise around the island and going bowling at Chelsea Pier. We’re getting soaked in thunderstorms and having a heck of a time trying to convince T that you don’t splash around in puddles on NY streets (staph infection just doesn’t seem to be a compelling argument for a 3 year old). But as far as problems go, I’ll take it. I’m pleased to report that traveling has definitely taken a turn for the easier somewhere along the way. T isn’t so freaked out about strange bathtubs and beds and he’s actually able to watch movies straight through, so the plane ride is easier. He’s definitely dysregulated, but it’s a manageable level and not one that makes me rue the day we bought the tickets. That’s progress.

I’m actually doing quite a bit of live storytelling on this tour, as opposed to just strictly reading from my novel. I told a story at the Soundtrack Series on Thursday night and it was a fantastic time. The lineup included Nat Cassidy, Julie Klausner, David Crabb, Bridget O’Neil and Andy Ross. Everyone told a story about a song and they were each hilarious and touching and amazing. My song was “Dancing in the Dark,” paying homage to my Jersey roots. Here’s a pic of David and me:

And tonight, I had the privilege of reading at Melville House in Brooklyn with two of my favorite authors, Nick Flynn and Melissa Febos. It was a true thrill. Thanks to everyone who came out.

Next stop, Hudson, where I get to see my closest, oldest girlfriend and throw my kid in the junior UFC octagon with her kids. Every time we see them, I spend about two hours crying on the way home because we can’t live closer to each other. But still, it’s worth it. I can’t wait.

Banned Books Week

I have rarely been quite so tickled as when I learned that my memoir, Some Girls: My Life in a Harem, had been banned. It seemed glamorous to me, placing me in the illustrious company of the likes of Hemingway and Fitzgerald. Some Girls has been banned in at lease two countries- Brunei and Dubai. I only know this because of the emails I’ve received from readers who live there and managed to get their hands on a copy anyway.

Reading those emails filled me with a sense of gratitude. I wrote my sometimes-scandalous book without a second thought because we live in a country that has freedom of the press. But perhaps that sense of gratitude is misplaced. I escape censorship because my book flies under the radar by dealing with such obviously taboo subjects as teenage prostitution. No one is suggesting that my memoir go on the shelf of a school library. But if the recent publication of the altered version of Huckleberry Finn is any indicator, censorship is still very much a relevant issue in this country, First Amendment or no.

This week is Banned Books Week. Here’s an excerpt of what the American Library Association website has to say about it.

Banned Books Week (BBW) is an annual event celebrating the freedom to read and the importance of the First Amendment. Held during the last week of September, Banned Books Week highlights the benefits of free and open access to information while drawing attention to the harms of censorship by spotlighting actual or attempted bannings of books across the United States.

Intellectual freedom—the freedom to access information and express ideas, even if the information and ideas might be considered unorthodox or unpopular—provides the foundation for Banned Books Week. BBW stresses the importance of ensuring the availability of unorthodox or unpopular viewpoints for all who wish to read and access them.

In celebration, I decided to revisit an old fave of mine from this list of the Banned and/or Challenged Books from the Radcliffe Publishing Course Top 100 Novels of the 20th Century.

Because so many of the challenges happen through the public school system, I chose an author who was deeply influential to me in high school. I was rather surprised to learn that Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five has been challenged as recently as 2007, because from my recollection, Slaughterhouse Five wasn’t exactly Naked Lunch or Story of the Eye.

I reread the book and STILL couldn’t figure out what was so controversial about it. So I looked it up. Slaughterhouse Five has been repeatedly challenged, banned and even burned for such crimes as irreverence (which is apparently inherently offensive), profanity and the depiction of sex.

Slaughterhouse Five is about the life of a man named Billy Pilgrim, whose defining experience is surviving the WW2 bombing of Dresden. The structure of the book is organized around the idea of time travel. The non-linear juxtaposition of moments creates a sense of absurdity and fatalism that form the book’s central themes.

As I watch my three-year-old son begin to sort through the complexities of what makes up a joke, I’m reminded of the essential place of humor in organizing the human experience. Vonnegut was perhaps my first real exposure to the use of satire in addressing complex existential quandries. Satire was an important tool for me in learning to think about otherwise unthinkable atrocities.

After 20-odd years, it was a pleasure to revisit Vonnegut. His unique voice was transformative for me as a young reader and has remained influential to me as a writer.

New Digs

Here’s a pic of D.J. Mendel, Juli Crockett and me from our Cattywampus rehearsals for the New Original Works Festival at REDCAT this weekend. It’s been a fast and furious week, shaping the show so that it makes sense in the new digs. It’s a big, gorgeous space and I’m excited to open the show there tonight. If you’re local, come see us!

Here’s an interview with our director Robert Cucuzza in the LA Stage Times and an article about the festival from last week’s LA Times.

Party People

Nothing like a little book release to make me completely nuts and insecure and self-doubting and depressed and generally kind of mean and bitchy (just ask my family). The cheery question I get asked most frequently lately is, “Are you excited that your book came out?”

Grateful, yes. Relieved, yes. Excited, not really. Not to sound sour, but it’s the truth. It’s a vulnerable and scary time.

But my spirits were lifted at the Book Soup launch event for Pretty. It was a treat. Sincere thanks to all of you who came out and celebrated with me! I really felt the love. I hope you had as good a time as I did.

Lisa Dee and Juli Crockett of the Evangenitals sang some tunes.

Mr. Shriner was actually in town this time!

With J Ryan Stradal and Stephen Elliott (looking awfully suspect).

Up to no good: Ernest Greene, Robert Cucuzza, Scott Shriner, Steve De Jarnatt and Brian Ray.

Who has a sexier signing line than this? Okay, Duff McKagan is signing next week and he probably will, but not by much…

With Ricky Mahler