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Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore
Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore is an extraordinary novelist, memoirist, and anthology editor whose powerful work elevates the transgressive among us. Her work has appeared in previous Arsenal anthologies, and we worked with her to bring Sarah Schulman to Seattle in 2016, but this is her first book published with us. Mattilda’s previous books have covered a broad range of subject matter, from the problem of queer assimilation (Why Are Faggots So Afraid of Faggots? and That’s Revolting) to sex workers writing about their clients (Tricks and Treats); she is outspoken in her anti-institutional views, such as those against gay marriage and gays in the military. Sketchtasy is similarly anti-assimilationist but looks to the past for inspiriation – specifically, Boston in 1995, a period when AIDS was still a looming specter among queers. The protagonist of Sketchtasy is Alexa, a 21-year-old queen who has moved to Boston from San Francisco, trying to elude past traumas and the virus that is killing queers, so she can pull her life together and go to school. Instead, she ends up spending her days earning money turning tricks and her nights reduced to frenzied, drug-fueled highs. Sketchtasy is a book about being trapped — trapped in a city that doesn’t allow any expressions of difference, trapped in a gay culture that mimics the worst aspects of straight culture, and trapped in a drug culture that offers no easy relief. Stylistically and thematically, Sketchtasy harkens back to the riotous counter-classics of the 1990s, like Close to the Knives by David Wojnarowicz, for the sense of urgency, sexuality in everyday experience, a search for intimacy, and the all-encompassing doom of the AIDS crisis. In a similar vein, Sketchtasy reminds us of the photographs of Nan Goldin and the novels of Kathy Acker. In the author’s own words: “I want to challenge narratives about addiction, narratives about gay culture, and narratives about the city as a place of promise. While the book takes place in 1995, I think all of these issues are just as relevant today — in fact, our cities are certainly more homogenized, and gay culture is arguably even more deadening. Popular depictions of the ‘90s are prevalent right now, but in such false and flattened ways. I want to portray a different ‘90s than that consumed so avidly in popular culture, with all of the nuance and contradictions intact — I want to challenge nostalgia with truth.” The author on her background: “Politically, I was formed in San Francisco in early-90s, in radical outsider queer cultures dedicated to creating our own definitions of love, intimacy, accountability, mutual care, and sustainability not predicated on the violence of the families and places of origin we were escaping. I first found community among direct action activists, anarchists, incest survivors, vegans, sex workers, queers, and other flamboyant creatures dedicated to challenging gay and straight normalcy and creating something else in the ruins of everyday brutality. but I still believe in the same values, and this is where all my work comes from.” Blurbs forthcoming from Jake Shears of Scissor Sisters; Sarah Schulman; Julie Buntin, author of the buzzy 2017 novel Marlena; Alexander Chee, author of The Queen of the Night Publicity handled by Alyson Sinclair, Alyson Sinclair PR.
Acerca de Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore
Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore is the gender-bending author of the highly praised novels, Pulling Taffy and So Many Ways to Sleep Badly, and the editor of four nonfiction anthologies, including Why Are Faggots So Afraid of Faggots?, Nobody Passes: Rejecting the Rules of Gender and Conformity and That’s Revolting! Queer Strategies for Resisting Assimilation. Sycamore writes regularly for a variety of publications, including Bitch, Utne Reader, AlterNet, Make/Shift, and Maximumrocknroll, and lives in Seattle, WA.
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