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You Are Here: A Memoir of Arrival Paperback – January 7, 2004
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From Publishers Weekly
When 30-something novelist Gibson (Shelter) moves to New York from Virginia, he plans to establish himself as a writer, get a day job and enjoy life in the city he's considered "the sunken treasure I'd been diving for my whole life." Instead, as this enigmatic memoir chronicles, he finds a strangely quiet apartment share, struggles to secure a menial job and rarely touches his computer. He barely sees his roommate, John, "who was as pale and waxy and elongated as a candle," whom he meets through a gay roommate service. But one night, Gibson is "bolted awake" by the sound of John coughing: "It sounded like he was being clawed to death from the inside out." Most of the book-which, although it gives no specific time references, probably takes place within the past 10 years-focuses on Gibson's attempts to help the seriously ill John (he has lung cancer). Using sharp, often witty language, Gibson also expounds on his job at Telesessions, where he facilitates conference calls for doctors; his childhood in the homophobic South; and frequent phone conversations with his friend Jo Ann, who lives in upstate New York. Though Gibson's story has insightful elements, it bogs down occasionally, as when Gibson details his efforts to rescue an obese neighbor from his bathroom. Gibson eventually lands a position teaching writing and searches for a new place to live, relieved to move on, yet aware that sometimes "friends were family, and family were strangers, and you might find yourself helping someone... because you'd been yoked to them by accidents of commerce."
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.
The reality of living in New York is hardly the lifestyle viewed on Friends or Sex in the City. Case in point is Gibson, who shares his version of New York life in a funny and moving memoir about his move to the Big Apple. Once there, he is the typical starving artist--eking out an impoverished existence, struggling through a variety of meaningless jobs while trying to make it as a writer. Through a series of hilarious anecdotes, we learn about what it's like to set up a life in a new city--the gay roommate service, the search for employment, and the constant rationalization that this move was the right thing to do. His new roommate, John, has an unacknowledged illness and a strange past. Gibson's best friend and sole consolation (besides alcohol and tobacco) lives 200 miles away, but her phone conversations and occasional visits make his life a little more bearable. Gibson's witty stories will ring true to anyone who has struggled to make it in any new place, large or small. Michael Spinella
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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He casts the physical landscape of the city under the terms of a gay sensibility. For instance, he remarks: "Central Park is Martha, as in George and Martha, braying at you, `I do not bray.' It's too much of muchness." In this redefinition of the city he marks it as his own territory. It's also a clever way for the author to introduce his environment as a character itself. While the tone of the book remains that of a memoir, the people Gibson encounters are transformed into eccentric characters that stand alongside the colourful caricatures of Dickens' fictional world. In fact by the end he remarks that he feels a growing kinship to one of Dickens' greatest tragic females. This fictional cast to his life is borne out of a self-consciousness playfulness that comes through in his thought process, usually spurred on by morbid premonitions of doom. After hardly speaking to his new roommate he is on the phone to a close friend fearing that he's moved in with an axe murderer. Dramatic events are conceived in his mind and then the reality of the city asserts itself as stranger than anything this writer could have imagined.
Gibson describes the typical life of a writer, where little actual writing is accomplished, and a mass of experience is acquired. To make ends meet he tries different jobs and finds a room through a gay housing agency. These lead to hilarious encounters which highlight the absurdities of life like in the best writing of David Sedaris. However, much of the book is also concerned with the serious problems Gibson encounters such as depression, AIDS and isolation. He finds that having abandoned the threatening homophobic environment of his home in Virginia, the liberal big city does little to comfort this gay man. His first potential romantic encounter turns out to be a hustler looking for money and a place to crash for the night. A potential roommate with a large collection of extremely anatomically correct GI Joe figures proclaims that Gibson isn't a normal gay man. This lingering resentment of being outcast for not conforming to a certain image of a gay man haunts the memoir. It leads me to believe that Gibson has a much bigger fictional work ahead of him.
Nevertheless, YOU ARE HERE remains a funny, thoughtful account that many people will no doubt identify with for it's witty observations of cosmopolitan life.
I felt I had to know what was happening with John, and what was up with Alan, and what was going to happen to Wesley once the full dimensions of John's illness became obvious. It isn't that the plot is so strong, indeed, hardly anything happens, so don't come to this book looking for Clive Cussler style action. No, it is Gibson's wonderful insight into all the little crazy things we humans do, that make the book so compelling. I feel not so much as that after reading his book I know Wesley Gibson, but rather that through some magical gift of X-ray vision into the heart, he knows me.
I used to live in New York so I'm familiar with the rat race of trying to find somewhere decent to rent. And who hasn't lived through the misery of having someone die on you; even if you aren't in love with them, it still knocks you on your ass. With his love of language and his discernment and humility, Wesley Gibson brings all these things right to the surface, the place where the reader and writer extend hands and touch fingertips.
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This book is for everyone who wonders what it's like to live in New York trying to be a writer when there ain't no...Read more