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Swish: My Quest to Become the Gayest Person Ever and What Ended Up Happening Instead Paperback – June 16, 2009


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Broadway Books (June 16, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0767924312
  • ISBN-13: 978-0767924313
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 5.2 x 7.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,094,171 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Derfner (Gay Haiku) recounts his forays into indignity, knitting and unlikely friendships in this engaging if uneven memoir. Derfner's affectionate portraits of the men he met at a Christian homosexual conversion retreat and his account of his dueling desires—to accept them or shepherd them toward self-acceptance—provide welcome gravity in a book that flirts with more substantive issues of intimacy, identity and masculinity but never fully engages them. The book's conversational tone suffers from a heavy reliance on hyperbole, and the author's carefully cultivated campy persona feels tiresomely derivative and forced. And while Derfner's foibles—losing his aerial cheerleading position to more capable females, making only $5 in his first night as a go-do dancer—are amusing, his kiss-and-tell accounts of hookups and bad sex rarely rise above their own prurience. The most forceful ruminations arise gracefully from unlikely sources: memories of his musical theater education digress into a discussion encompassing concentration camp artwork, ancient Hebrew concepts of creation and the Columbia space shuttle explosion. Derfner's essays on his struggle to form meaningful relationships benefit more from his emotional intelligence than his wit. (May 13)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

“In a culture where we disguise vulnerability with physical perfection and material success, Derfner skewers heartache with Wildean wit . . . [Derfner is]the next Noël Coward.” —Out.com

“Searing.” —Washington Blade

“Derfner’s writing is perfect. . . . He’s your best friend. He’s your brother. He is you.” — EDGE Los Angeles

“Sometimes hilarious, sometimes poignant, always clever, and unpredictable.” —Philadelphia Gay News


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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
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See all 23 customer reviews
And that makes it a beautiful one.
Seth Joseph Weine
I also recommend reading it out loud to someone you love, or like a lot, or just to complete strangers as a random act of kindness.
Black Koffee Blues
The highest praise I can think of after reading this book; "I wish Joel Derfner was a personal friend of mine."
Timothy Mulder

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Timothy Mulder on June 28, 2008
Format: Kindle Edition
There are two basic types of reviews in this world, the;
'Oh my God, you should have seen/read the amazing characterization/acting/cinematography/special effects... you simply must go see/read this book/movie/play/production!' Yay!!!
Or... the;
'I have a rather large literary stick up my yahoo and am therefore qualified to relate all the technical achievements and defects of said book/movie/production... yadda, yadda, yadda.'
For myself...
In the WaHoo! Department... let me just say two things. I read the book cover to cover.... and I frequently had to hold a pillow over my face so that my out-of-control laughter would not wake anyone else in the house.
I am a gay man and I do live, to a certain degree, within the world that Joel Derfner describes. So I suppose that biases me a tad. But make no mistake, the humor is born, not from the triteness of the gay experience, but out of one man's incredibly resourceful coping mechanisms while living with multiple personality issues, like OCD, a pathological need to be accepted and fear of ever - under any circumstances - offending anyone... about anything. In other words... this is true courage in action.
Technically speaking... as a fellow author; all I could think after finishing each and every paragraph, was how I had to go back and rework my own writing. (ever damn word and sentence) My Derfner is a literary artisan who uses words with efficiency, precision and aplomb.
If all of that is a little too 'high brow' and you require a perspective a tad more mundane. Think of the character 'Jack' from TV's 'Will and Grace', only with a brain and something insightful to say.
The highest praise I can think of after reading this book; "I wish Joel Derfner was a personal friend of mine."
Go, Read... you won't be disappointed.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Heidi on December 18, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I adore this book. It has something for everyone - gay, straight, striped, whatever. I laughed, I related, I didn't want it to end. An all-around fabulous read!
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Black Koffee Blues on December 20, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Rarely do I find myself taking the time to review anything (5 attempts at a blog and not one lasted more than a month!) but how could I not! While on a residency trip for grad school, I went to a bookstore to browse for diversion in the form of light reading or fashion magazines. How could it be possible for the cover not to completely draw you in! I read it on the plane ride from Virginia home to California. I laughed until I cried and then went online to order ten more copies to give away. Swish for everyone! I also recommend reading it out loud to someone you love, or like a lot, or just to complete strangers as a random act of kindness.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Thomas Thomas on July 22, 2010
Format: Paperback
At first, I couldn't get over how snobbish and bitchy Joel's words were. I had this resounding voice in the back of my head that said, "Oh, brother, another stereotypical gay writer who hopes to appease the straight people by making fun of our culture" -but I couldn't help loving him with ever page and finding a little of myself hidden within. His book is truly the perfect balance of perversion and purpose: damned him for sparking my interest in knitting because my scarf is coming out hideous, and I'm thinking of trying out at one of the local clubs, and I've already starting searching for the next Exodus convention!
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14 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Johnathan D. Wilber on May 13, 2008
Format: Hardcover
This memoir is truly an occasion to be savored--complete with the after-good-book letdown and weeks-long depression. His bawdy, and extremely intelligent humor makes his essay collection downright delightful--so much so that I read the book with the jacket prominently displayed, just on top of my nose, while I rode the subway. And Nabokov and myself aside, I know no one with such a command for beautiful words that have unjustly fallen out of usage!

If the humor's not enough for you, Joel's book is bursting with profound insights that explore the vagaries of being a gay man today, the universal weirdness of relationships and dating, and the raw--and enlivening--terrain of being an artist. Joel is truly a literary soulmate, and SWISH is a book I will come back to and read for years to come.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Fiona Deans Halloran on September 18, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Is Swish funny? It's hilarious.

Is it about life as a gay man? Yup.

But that's really not the whole story. The heart of the book - for me - was about Joel's mother. His relationship with her, the way he tries to reconcile his love with the terrible things they experienced together (and that she said) broke my heart.

This is a very grown-up book. It's the kind of book where no one's really that great, much less perfect, but everyone receives a fair share of compassion from our gentle narrator.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Sometime Critic on May 11, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I heartily recommend Joel Derfner's "Swish." The campy title and subtitle belie the touching, sometimes devastating and always surprising revelations underneath. But it also is, as you may also have suspected, funny as hell and totally original in voice and point of view. A complete guide to being - or loving someone - gay in the 2000s. A great beach read and/or a great gift, too.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Pols on October 19, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Swish is an excellent book, well-written and moving. It is considerably darker than you might expect, given the title and the author's previous book--Derfner's life story includes a dying mother and struggles with mental illness. Nonetheless Swish is well-leavened with humor and packed with insight.
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