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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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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.
“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
Top customer reviews
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Along the way you'll learn about his parents, two transformative figures in civil rights law in the United States, his growing up as a gay Jew in the South, what it's like to go to "gay" summer camp, as well as possibly expected stories about casual sex in the city, though with a substantially unique perspective (who knew knitting could be allegorical?). The paperback is slightly modified from the original hardcover, and the title has been unfortunately and unnecessarily extended with "and what ended up happening instead," but it retains the simultaneously earnest and self-defensively self-deprecating prose and asides that make the tone match the facts.
There's a video attached to the product page (and, if not, you can search for his name and find it easily) where you can see and hear Joel for yourself; once you've got his voice and speaking style in your mind, you might find the tone of the book accurately matches your imagined narrator.
When I read the book I laughed, I cried, I gasped. All quite literally, and sometimes in public.
I honestly cannot think of someone who would not enjoy this book.
Not really a memoir or a novel, "Swish..." is more of a series of related essays on various topics and experiences. The first half of the book more than met my expectations, providing some hysterically funny memoirs of the author's time at a gay adult summer camp, working as a go-go boy, his hobby of knitting, joining a gay cheerleader club, and, of course, dating and sex. The tone changes noticeably after that, as if an inner voice told him to "get serious", and a chapter on working in musical theatre somehow becomes a treatise on the treatment of gay artists in concentration camps during the Holocaust, during which the mention of a painting of the moon results in a tangent into the crash of the space shuttle Columbia. Huh? I ended that chapter no longer laughing, and somewhat disoriented. The next section deals with the author's "undercover" attendance at a conference of Exodus, the Christian-based "ex-gay" movement, in which he eventually finds himself identifying with some of the members, which I found to be rather odd a revelation for a book about "the gayest person ever!"
Overall, the book is very well written, funny (first half) and occasionally touching (second half), but the lack of focus in his storytelling (and tangents into other subjects on which he had no new perspective justifying the detour) feels like carrying on a conversation with someone who has ADD. Not my cup of java, but others may like it better. I'll give it four stars out of five.
Most recent customer reviews
Although sometimes it was too detailed and sometimes I really thought: 'Joel,...Read more