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Black Wave Paperback – September 13, 2016
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"Events, though outlandish, are narrated with total conviction, and powerfully express the intensity both of attaining sobriety and of the writing process." The New Yorker
"Gliding deftly through issues of addiction and recovery, erasure and assimilation, environmental devastation and mass delusion about our own pernicious tendencies, this is a genre- and reality-bending story of quiet triumph for the perennial screw-up and unabashed outsider. A biting, sagacious, and delightfully dark metaliterary novel about finding your way in a world on fire." Kirkus (starred review)
"It’s this rawness that makes Black Wave so disarming, a rollicking hallucinatory fantasy that’s as sobering as cold air. . . .It’s sentimental and reckless and not quite like anything I’ve read before. An apocalypse novel that makes you feel hopeful about the world: could anything be more timely?" The Guardian
"In Tea's skillfully loose, lusty prose, Michelle is both vulnerable and brash, blitzing through lovers and bags of heroin, terrified but also convinced of her own invincibility... [A]n important portrait of the late '90s." Publishers Weekly
"A philosophical meditation on the end times, complete with suicides, protests, magical dreams, and Matt Dillon.” Los Angeles Review of Books
The prose is fucking gorgeous, the characters are hilarious and upsetting and miserable, the world is heart-stopping in its strangeness and bleak crawl to the edge of the cliff, then its tumble over the edge.” Tor.com
"Out of a messy, scabrous delve into the personal, Tea has created something uncomfortably funny and bleakly gorgeous." New Statesman
"[L]yrical but blunt, capturing her narrator's duel hopelessness and genuine desire for a life full of love and promise. . . .this book exists in a new kind of literary ecosystemone that doesn't need to fit neatly into the structures of an older era." BUST
A love letter to literature’s lasting power and the ability of writing to save one’s future. . . . If the world is going to end, then Tea’s way out isn’t so bad.” SF Chronicle
"I was unable put to Black Wave down, suddenly afraid and unsure of what was out there beyond my reading. This bad fairytale-come-true is destabilizing and palpable, and it’s Michelle Tea’s most fearless book. It’s a radically honest, scary, and wonderful place that Michelle has spun. It shook me up." Eileen Myles, author of Chelsea Girls
"Scary, funny and genre-bendinga mind-blowing meta-poemBlack Wave is Michelle Tea's most ambitious, complex, and imaginative work so far. An investigation of addiction's apocalypse, it's somehow wonderfully strange, daring, and dirty and yet completely universal and true." Jill Soloway, creator of Transparent
Listen up: it’s the end of the world and Michelle Tea is the best writer to be with. She’s got the smarts and the laughs, the sharpness and the love, the grit and the skin and the ink she needs to see us through. I’m sticking with her until there’s nothing left.” Daniel Handler, author of We Are Pirates
I worship at the altar of this book. Somehow Michelle Tea has managed to write a hilarious, scorching, devastatingly observed novel about addiction, sex, identity, the 90s, apocalypse, and autobiography, while also gifting us with an indispensable meditation on what it means to write about those thingsindeed, on what it means to write at all. A keen portrait of a subculture, an instant classic in life-writing, a go-for-broke exemplar of queer feminist imagination, a contribution to crucial, ongoing conversations about whose lives matter, Black Wave is a rollicking triumph.” Maggie Nelson, author of The Argonauts
About the Author
Michelle was the recipient of an award from the Rona Jaffe Foundation, a GOLDIE in Literature from the San Francisco Bay Guardian, and selected Best Local Writer by both the Guardian and San Francisco Weekly.
Michelle writes for various print and web publications, including The Believer, n+1, Buzzfeed, and xoJane. She is the creator of Mutha Magazine, an online publication about real-life parenting.
In 1994 Michelle Tea created Sister Spit, an all-girl open mic that ran weekly for two years in San Francisco, earning a Best of the Bay Award from The San Francisco Bay Guardian. From 1997 1999 Sister Spit toured the United States, bringing an ever-changing roster of female writers and performance artists across the country, including poet Eileen Myles, New York Times Bestselling author Beth Lisick, and transgender author, musician and performance artist Lynn Breedlove. In 2003 Michelle founded RADAR Productions, a literary non-profit organization that oversees a multitude of queer-centric projects.
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Top customer reviews
This novel is like three books in one. Set in the Mission district of San Francisco, the first third of the novel reads like a juicy tell-all. When we first meet Michelle, she is a drug-addicted lesbian writer, a femme who wears lingerie as clothing and cheats on her devoted girlfriend, Andy. Michelle earns minimum wage working at a bookstore. She is so poor, she eats naked pasta with a blob of butter on it for a meal. She kills roaches with her bare hands. She finds her furniture on the street and lives in a dilapidated old house with eight roommates.
When she starts doing heroin, she feels her life is about to spiral out of control and decides she will move to Los Angeles and start a new life. She does, and that’s the second part of the book. This is where Michelle makes her growth journey. Although she does stop doing drugs, she doubles down on the drinking. She knows she has a problem but cannot stop doing it. So the first two-thirds of the book read more like a memoir. The last part of the book takes a mythical turn, offering a dystopian view of the future of our planet. It’s part fantasy, part dire warning.
When I’m done reading a book, I thumb through it to see how many pages I dog-eared or where I underlined any passages. The number of dog-eared pages tells me how good a book it was. This book had a lot of dog-eared pages, and they were spread throughout the book (not just in one or two sections). Meaning, there are many nuggets of pithy wisdom in these pages.
Example: “How did Michelle want to spend the next 12 months? She hated questions like that. She hated having to have a plan, ever. She knew that any plan she came up with would be a little pathetic. She’d rather keep it open, invite the randomness of the universe to toy with her. I’ll See Where Life Takes Me, she said airily.”
The only thing I didn’t get was, why was the book set in the 1990s? It seems like it would have been more believable had it been set in the future rather than the past since we know the world didn’t come to an end in the 1990s. There were a couple of time-period inconsistencies, too, such as Michelle’s surfing the internet and taking a picture with her phone’s camera. But these are trivialities.
Overall, I recommend this book as entertaining and timely, alternately touching and teaching the reader in subtle ways.