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So Many Ways to Sleep Badly Paperback – September 1, 2008


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 246 pages
  • Publisher: City Lights Publishers (September 1, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0872864685
  • ISBN-13: 978-0872864689
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.7 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #678,563 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Novelist (Pulling Taffy) and nonfiction anthologist (Nobody Passes: Rejecting the Rules of Gender and Conformity) Sycamore is back with an ambitious but less-than-compelling satire of drug-fueled, gender-bending San Francisco subculture. The narrator, who may or may not be genetically female, fills days and many late nights with relentless sexual encounters and vivid ruminations concerning random sex, hustling, cocaine and other party drugs; occasionally, she takes time out for a rare healthy habit, vikram yoga, and to worry about her apartment's roach-and-rodent infestation. Obviously inspired by the stream-of-consciousness and day-in-the-life classics of Joyce, Woolf and Beckett, here the pointed commentary falls flat; the problem isn't San Francisco's eccentric denizens, but Sycamore's profane meanderings, too much of which isn't especially insightful or funny. The narrator takes far too long to move beyond the bitchy play-by-play, making sure that, by the time Sycamore introduces genuine stakes, readers will already feel too bored and browbeaten to care. (Oct.)
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Review

"...Sycamore's luscious prowess with prose--coupled with an easy gender fluidity--is evocative and provocative and literarily seductive." --Richard Labonte

"So Many Ways to Sleep Badly offers up the events of Sycamore's own life in a frantically paced stream of consciousness narrative. Her writing swings between poetic and horrifying as her ambiguously gendered central character lies awake in San Francisco's rundown Tenderloin district, disturbed by roaches and rats and the real or imagined pigeons in the ceiling of her apartment, before taking off to service a variety of seedy men in the city's most expensive hotels." --Cate Simpson, Extra!

"Once a toe is dipped into [Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore's] Burroughs-like stream-of-consciousness writing, it's difficult to turn your back on such a wet and wooly ride through the streets of our beloved SF. Sycamore's protagonist (herself, possibly?) lives in an apartment festering with roaches, hangs with some eccentric friends (including a hot BF/fuck buddy named Jeremy), and turns tricks for $150 an hour from a newspaper ad. The resulting carnal carnival is effortlessly provocative . . . . The good thing is that it surprisingly doesn't get tired, and if you are part of the SF gay scene, it will all become relative. Her protagonist's hustling adventures are humorous and have an authentic ring to them. . . . Sycamore and her aggressive material are much alike; there seems to be a lot more here than meets the eye." --Jim Piechota, Bay Area Reporter

" . . . high-speed, stream-of-consciousness romp that could easily have been subtitled 'looking for love in all the wrong places.' . . . What's more, in quips worthy of Stephen Colbert, he slams San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom, the Iraq War, and the queer rush to the altar celebrated by mainstream liberals." --Library Journal, February 15th, 2009 --Library Journal, February 15th, 2009

"This Lambda Literary Award finalist offers up a thrilling socio-politically transgressive, gender-bending queer novel about life in San Francisco. From bad sex to vegan restaurants to NPR and tweaking buddies, Sycamore's frenetic pace and unabashed solipsism is most refreshing." --Diane Anderson-Minshall, Curve Magazine

"Sycamore paints as bleak a picture of the world as she does illustrate its fleeting moments of beauty. It's a shame that more bookstores don't carry titles like these in their slowly rotting fiction departments." --Indie Street

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Kevin Killian HALL OF FAME on November 25, 2008
Format: Paperback
People sometimes ask me, who are the novelists of today that really matter? The truth is I like all sorts of books, and I throw around the five star rating pretty frequently, and yet "what matters" is a different breed of cat. So Many Ways to Sleep Badly isn't for everyone, but those of you who read it all the way through will have been through a life-changing experience. It is in Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore, and a few others like him, that the future of New Narrative lies.

As the title suggests, Sycamore brings the body into the story right upfront. His cranky, chatty, utopian narrator makes his money as a rent boy, and meanwhile pays the price of city living by calculating every atom of food that goes into his body and enduring endless sessions of strenuous yoga, and still chronic pain keeps him awake all night in his rented and rat-infested apartment in some Tenderloin tenement. Life is grim no matter what way you slice it, yet elements of heaven creep in sideways, like light through a Venetian blind. Friends see our hero through, a swirling cast of multiracial misfits and activists whose antics the speaker reports with the same naturalistic fascination he gives his food allergies.

Sycamore updates Armistead Maupin's Tales of the City "gay central consciousness + kooky friends" formula but he also inverts it, blows it up as it were, with refreshing results. While Maupin's finest moments confront his characters with the political issues shaping their lives, Sycamore approaches politics at a cellular level--the sociopolitical forms the language he has to work with, and at every turn he's reading and quoting from some appalling misuse of words.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Aaron Schwartz on October 14, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore is a very talented and sensitive thinker and writer. More than any other writer I have read, she truly allows the reader into her mind - no one has removed more barriers between the readership and the creator. It is more intimate than one's "Best Friend" usually is, in both the details of daily life (e.g. from household insects to sexual encounters) and in the most personal and private area of all: the ongoing processing of childhood traumas.

Some may find it striking that there is no clear structure/plot/development, certainly not in any conventional sense. I might be tempted to call this book more of a Diary than a Novel. However, by my even expressing this, the shortcoming is perhaps my own imposition rather than subjective truth about the material.

Very special, vivid expression - the most important quality I would cite is that she has altered the way I experience things. What is the point of reading at all, unless a book's "molecules" affect and alter your own?
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Grant Donnelly on August 24, 2008
Format: Paperback
I just finished reading 'so many ways to sleep badly' and it was a real treat... I felt so involved and touched be the narrator's voice and experience. this was a new writing style for me to experience- it is very stream of consciousness and i am used to more traditional, linear development. but i ended up enjoying this approach because i felt like it said so much more. i enjoyed reading how the narrator navigates intimacy in their life, and who suffers from horrible sleep, but still manages to face life with a beautiful approach.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Cyn E. Clarfield Esq on October 22, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
For some reason, I didn't like this one as much as Pulling Taffy. Not sure why...
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More About the Author

Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore is most recently the editor of Why Are Faggots so Afraid of Faggots?: Flaming Challenges to Masculinity, Objectification, and the Desire to Conform (AK Press 2012), and the author of So Many Ways to Sleep Badly (City Lights 2008). Mattilda is the editor of Nobody Passes: Rejecting the Rules of Gender and Conformity (Seal 2007) and an expanded second edition of That's Revolting! Queer Strategies for Resisting Assimilation (Soft Skull 2008). She's also the author of Pulling Taffy (Suspect Thoughts 2003), and the editor of Dangerous Families: Queer Writing on Surviving (Haworth 2004; now Routledge) and Tricks and Treats: Sex Workers Write About Their Clients (Haworth 2000; now Routledge).

Sycamore's first memoir, The End of San Francisco, will be published by City Lights in April 2013.

Mattilda's home page is mattildabernsteinsycamore.com, which includes a delicious blog.

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