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Big Sex Little Death: A Memoir Hardcover – March 22, 2011
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"Susie Bright's real life is just as compellingmore compellingthan her sex life. And that's saying something." Dan Savage
"I have a very scary feeling Susie Bright is not making any of this up. Guns, drugs, threesomes, socialist factionalism, a stabbing . . . all before she got her G.E.D.?" Alison Bechdel, author of Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic
"Big Sex Little Death is subtle, hot, enthralling, raw and tenderI loved it. Susie Bright is a national treasure." Josh Marshall, Editor and Publisher, Talking Points Memo
"The best-named writer in America, Susie Bright has written a witty, wise, and enlightening memoir." Erica Jong
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Yes, and the mom thing. Her station as daughter and mom in this life continues to set her apart as a thinker and writer in the realm of sexual politics and publishing. Among sex talkers and writers aplenty these day she's one of a handful who have braved motherhood and lived to tell the sex part of the story openly.
I found her childhood account uncommon only in the severity with which she embraced it all, finding a way to survive with a heart childlike and open. Indeed, I was surprised to learn that it was her success with thin skin poetry that opened the first door for her in publishing. A great encouragement here for young writers. Yet the mom thing will always define Susie Bright for me. It's how she sees herself to this day. Having one, being one. She's a true traditional untraditionalist. We listen to her because she lives where we all have lived as sons and daughters. But she does it all never selling out her eroticism from youth to middle age.
Perhaps the funniest part of this hardbound book is its color: black and white. A little joke no doubt. If a world abides anywhere in the universe as black and white, it's no place where this woman lives. She's always been every ounce nuance, every bit color and question mark. Even when she pontificates away I read her as one open to ideas and a possible new way yet of looking at things.
But having a daughter remains the key kernel of madness in her art and life for me I think. Maybe because I've one too, near in age. Also, as politically incorrect as it might be in her field as sexpert and lesbian pioneer she does not hide that it was the positive masculine input of her father, Bill Bright, that remains an anchor for this literary storm we call Susie. Oh, and for heaven's sake, this out-there lesbian trail blazer woman has a long time serious male friend, Jon, an "all but married" life partner relationship no less. She never apologizes. She just loves.
However full and fantastic this tale of her youth, I still get that this erotic literary nut tree woman is never going to stray far from her Irish Catholic roots. It's an underground current that nourishes her writing and sex and commitment to motherhood. I'm sure she knows this. Again, there's a nun somewhere to be sent flowers for this.
What stood out for me in BSLD is how she kept reinventing herself; and how chance and circumstance played a big part. She never seemed to let bitterness whack her down for even a whole day. Raised by a whack job mom who tried to undue her, she loves. In family, in business, in the world of friends, she is betrayed. All these players bring Judas to her again and again yet she harbors no bitter seed, just that platonic Susannahism where wonder remains the beginning of all wisdom and philosophy. No doubt Big Sex Little Death is just Part One of the Susie wonder woman tale. This woman can sure tell a story. I await Part Two.
Susie Bright's memoir is now one of the books I keep handy on my shelf to pick up and peruse when I need inspiration. Why? Because Susie, like one of the people she writes about, is " . . . in favor of living."
Beyond that, I find it hard to focus my review because there is so MUCH in "Big Sex Little Death." I enjoy the way Susie admits to having had a tendency to apologize for everything, yet the book is written in an unapologetic tone.
Other thoughts I had while reading this book: I wish I had a mother like Susie. The part where the woman from Sacramento takes Susie up on the offer to be photographed for "On Our Backs" in her "best pantsuit or sweater set" gave me goose bumps. I hope someday she will write another memoir.