@

“Neither Here Nor There” | Rebecca Marino

Inside a moving hotel elevator, I’m painting pink strokes on the wall. It feels like I’m painting glue on thick fabric. I’m in a hurry because the first floor is fast approaching. Right before the door slides open, I bring the thin paintbrush down to my right side, trying to hide it from whoever is waiting to step in. I can’t see the person, but I know it’s a man. We stand in silence until he leaves. The doors close again, and again I bring the brush to the wall, this time retracing the strokes, trying to fix it before someone else arrives. This repeats.

Stag by Arv Miller In 1949, Marilyn Monroe, then an obscure starlet, posed for a beer ad at Tom Kelley‘s commercial photography studio in Hollywood. According to some accounts, a Chicago-based calendar manufacturer, John Baumgarth, saw the ad while visiting Los Angeles and inquired about the model: would she pose nude for a calendar? In other accounts, Tom Kelley recruited Monroe for the calendar job on the day he shot the beer ad, knowing that Baumgarth was shopping for nudes. Either way, nude photos could wreck a Hollywood career at the time, as Monroe was keenly aware, so she only accepted the job after being persuaded that nobody would recognize her. To further protect her anonymity, she asked Kelley to schedule the session for night, with no assistants save for his female business partner. Kelley agreed, and Monroe arrived at the studio at seven p.m. and posed for two hours on a red velvet theater curtain that covered the floor and complemented the color of her hair, then a reddish blonde. Twenty-four shots were taken, and Baumgarth chose one of them for the calendar he marketed as Golden Dreams, a name suggested by Monroe’s blondness, though it also inadvertently referenced the nighttime shoot.

The next morning, in
the kitchen, we eat

leftovers with tense
chopsticks; I drip

soy sauce (and of course
remember the first time

3543_browning_frankTo read Frank Browning’s latest book The Monk and the Skeptic: Dialogues on Sex, Faith, and Religion is to eavesdrop on series of confessionals, and to be party to the converse positions and erotic agreements of Browning and Brother Peter, a homosexual Dominican monk, a relationship that begins in kitsch surroundings that Jean Paul Gaultier might want to rip off. It is to enter a rich demimonde frocked in drag and incense, at times sensuous and melancholy, at others cavalier and threaded with paradox. The confessions leak from the ecclesiastical to the secular world, revealing the sexual wounds of the Catholic church, the often painful duality required of gay men within the institution. The relationship between Browning and Brother Peter is—in all senses—touching. The Monk and the Skeptic is a remarkable book, full of yearning and transcendence. I was fortunate to have the opportunity to correspond with Frank about his book and to have him elaborate further on some of the questions arising from it. Since then, Time magazine has named Pope Francis ‘Person of the Year,’ an accolade about which I suspect we would both remain skeptical.

bellocqsadeleCarriSkoczekTwenty years ago I published my first book with a small press, and it won an award my hometown newspaper described as “the prestigious Flannery O’Connor Award.” My father still thinks that’s the award name, though he says The Prestigious Flannery O’Connell Award. All writers hope that getting their first book published will change their lives. It does, variably. I got a teaching job, also firsthand insight that hardly anyone reads a small press book with a good award except writers and aspiring writers—especially an aspiring writer enrolled in your class and perhaps his mother. One day a student a few years younger than me told me his mother had read my book. I braced myself. I was in one of my grim starter marriages, and my grim father-in-law had weighed in. He’d skimmed my book and grimaced. “Trying too hard to be naughty.” He compared me unfavorably to Shakespeare, whom he couldn’t have read closely.  “Why sex?”

PHOTO-CRIS-MAZZA-CROPPEDWhen my graduate school mentor and longtime friend, Cris Mazza, first told me over dinner that she was writing a memoir about—among other things but pretty front-and-center—her lifelong inability to reach orgasm, my reaction can only be described as…well, pretty much begging her not to.  Despite some fairly personal short essays on TNB, I am, bluntly, chickenshit as a nonfiction writer: I have never attempted a book length memoir, and the mere thought of divulging any of the ugly, raw kinds of truths that would make any memoir worth reading fills me with enough terror that I might rather become the author of Harlequin Romances rather than “go there.”  My god, I told Cris, do you really want your new students in every workshop knowing these details about your physical being—do you really want to have to deal with all your male colleagues knowing this crap in faculty meetings?  I needed an extra glass of wine on Cris’ behalf, and when she later sent me an excerpt of the book, I believe I urged her all over again to rethink the endeavor…

Screen Shot 2013-11-15 at 2.12.29 PM

i.

This is not an instance of communication breakdown but an example of wounded pride. I am the type of vengeful, petty wraith who is at her most compelling when she’s scorned, a shiny new convert to the scorched earth policy. You think that the act of writing is an easy, thoughtless pastime, a hobby that does not require the fried mechanics of an exhausted, Möbius strip imagination and fraying patience. You think that the act of writing is an exercise in the ego’s masturbatory need for proof of life, the unquenchable hunger for outside validation. You think that the act of writing is a symptom of a space-bound dreamer, that the process of reading and comprehending literature in order to form a cultural dialogue is as fruitless as shouting in an empty, padded room.

You fail to realize that I am writing for my life.

michaell098300Michael Landweber’s debut novel, We, which will be released on September 1 by Seattle-based Coffeetown Press, has already gotten wonderful blurbs from writers such as Jessica Anya Blau (“a family story…wrapped in a suspenseful, gripping, and totally original sci-fi narrative”), Dave Housley (“a captivating, genre-bending psychological mystery”), and Jen Michalski (“a suspenseful and emotionally engaging novel”). We follow 40-year-old Ben Arnold as he regains consciousness following an accident, only to discover that he is inside his seven-year-old self—and his younger self, whom everyone calls Binky, is not happy about it. Ben would just as soon not be there either, until he realizes he is three days away from the worst day of his childhood—the day his sister Sara was raped, setting into motion the slow, painful unraveling of his family. Somehow, he has to figure out how to get Binky to save Sara.

Beth_Ann_BaumanBeth Ann Bauman writes about women and girls with humor, grace, insight, and unflinching honesty. Her three books mostly take place at the Jersey shore, where we meet a diverse cast of compelling female characters. Beth’s latest novel, Jersey Angel, is about 17-year-old Angel Cassonetti, who is so spot-on that it’s hard to believe she doesn’t really exist. Jersey Angel received high praise from the New York Times, Booklist, Publishers Weekly, and other publications. Here are six sex questions for the irrepressible Beth Ann Bauman….

ErikaRae_2010Erika Rae knows a lot more about the Bible than most people. She was a devoted and educated Evangelical Christian for all of her childhood, adolescence, and early college years. Today she is a devoted memoirist whose writing is frank, humorous, compassionate, and tolerant of all people. Like many smart women I know, Erika writes and thinks about sex, too. If you haven’t read Erika’s hilarious and insightful memoir, DEVANGELICAL, yet, check it out soon!

 Who is the sexiest person in the Bible?

Riding SoloOn the online w4m casual encounters section of Craigslist, real women write ambiguously desperate posts like: let’s grab a drink and then… or spend some time together… or wanting it now!  They have grainy camera-phone self portraits taken in their bathroom mirrors. My laptop’s battery heats my thighs as I wait for these lonely women to come home—from what I imagine are evenings of failed dates, leftovers, and season finales of the Biggest Loser—and hop online for a quickie.

1252027381796

You probably already know who Marion Winik is. She was a commentator on NPR’s All Things Considered for years. Her essays have appeared everywhere from The New York Times to The Sun to Ladies Home Journal, where she was, somewhat unbelievably, the advice columnist. Her first eight books have been featured on Oprah, The Today Show, Politically Incorrect and The New York Times Notable list. Her ninth, Highs in the Low Fifties, is a memoir of her dating life after her divorce from her second husband. Baltimoreans have been getting glimpses of these tales in her biweekly column Bohemian Rhapsody at BaltimoreFishbowl.com.

h-MARIE-CALLOWAY-960x540

In 2011, when she was 21, Marie Calloway posted a long piece on her Tumblr about a sexual encounter she had with an older male writer whom she met online.  The post immediately attracted attention, and it was republished on Muumuu House with the name of the man and the story changed to Adrien Brody. The link spread far and wide. The story and the author, often conflated into one subject, were discussed, derided, analyzed, and defended on many major cultural web sites (including The Nervous Breakdown) as well as on scores—maybe hundreds, maybe thousands—of blogs. In these conversations, Marie Calloway became a stand-in for many things—the ethics of writing about real people, the impact of writing personally about sex as a pretty young woman, the internet in general and its affect on Art and Literature. She’d sometimes pop up on comment boards and deflate or deflect some of the weight being placed on this one story.

Cold sore 2Yesterday, I woke up with a familiar sensation, or what, for me, is a familiar sensation: a tingle in my upper lip. A slight, hair tickle itch. Fizzy, like I’ve rubbed my mouth with the skin of a habanero pepper. I went to the bathroom and turned on the light, unconcerned about burning my eyes with the sharp, sudden brightness. In the mirror, I saw the faint irritation lining a section of my lip about a quarter-inch long, barely noticeable. From experience, I knew it would erupt in the next few hours. A cold sore.

Conundrum

By Aram Saroyan

Essay

When I was a junior or senior in high school at Trinity in New York, Paul Krassner published an interview with Norman Mailer in The Realist in which Mailer stated that he thought masturbation had the effect of muting or blunting or otherwise desensitizing one’s sexual compass, so to put it.  I thought this was interesting and provocative, although it fell short of exerting a strong influence on my own habit.  Still, I admired Mailer, and if I couldn’t emulate him I did read him with sincere interest, especially Advertisements for Myself, which contained his heralded sequence “The Time of Her Time,” comprising fifty pages about Sergius O’Shaugnessy’s efforts to give his Jewish girlfriend an orgasm.