Reader Meet Author: Personal Advice from Poet Adam Fitzgerald
Author: William Johnson
February 2, 2014
Do you have problems with your love life? Hate your job? Your social life lacking that certain zing? All questions can be answered through literature—or maybe at least by the people who create it. With that in mind, we here at The Lambda Literary Review have started our very own advice column called “Reader Meet Author.” Think of the column as sort of a “Dear Abby” for the LGBTQ literary set. You can send “Reader Meet Author” questions for publication to ReaderMeetAuthor@lambdaliterary.org.
Every month readers can submit questions to a chosen LGBTQ author about love, work, and life, and the author will answer them to the best of their ability.
This month’s column is handled by poet Adam Fitzgerald.
Fitzgerald is the author of The Late Parade, his debut collection of poetry from W. W. Norton’s historic Liveright imprint. A 2005 graduate of Boston College, in 2008 he received his Masters in Editorial Studies from Boston University’s Editorial Institute. In 2010, he received his MFA from Columbia University’s School of the Arts. His poems, essays and interviews have appeared in A Public Space, Boston Review, Conjunctions, Poetry, and elsewhere. He is the founding editor of the poetry journal Maggy and contributing editor for The American Reader.
I think my friend is addicted to Facebook. He posts something new on his page every five minutes. I mean every five minutes! If we are hanging out, he is glued to his smart phone, constantly changing and checking his status updates. I find it rude and hard to take when he can’t even be present and join an actual conversation because he is so immersed in a virtual one. Any tips to get him to step away, even momentarily, from the “book of faces”?
To quote the great Fran Lebowitz: “I have none of these machines which is what allows people to not be wherever they are, but since I don’t have them and I’m forced to be wherever I am all the time, it’s why I notice what other people are doing. Most people aren’t noticing where they are because they’re not really any place.” Even so, I plead guilty addicted as I am to my second-favorite appendage, my iPhone 5. That said, when you’re hanging out or at a dinner, having a conversation with a friend, etc.—be tyrannical. When you’re with me, you’re with me. Be loud and direct, steely and uncompromising. If the friend’s a good one, they’ll heed the rod.
I have a friend who I have known since I was in my twenties. She and I were college roommates. We came out together, partied together, and just had some great youthful hijinks. We are now in our thirties and our interests have changed, or mine have at least. She still wants to go out and party and talk about pop-culture related stuff that I no longer have interest in. When I bring up politics or social issues that concern me she basically ignores me and continues to talk about pop stars and other idle gossip. Just talking to her is draining, but she is always calling me to chat and hang out like old times. I don’t have the time between work and my girlfriend to spend on a non-fulfilling friendship. I don’t want to hurt her feelings, but how do you break up with an old friend? Is there a proper etiquette for this sort of thing?
Breaking Up Is Hard to Do
Dear Breaking Up,
When exiting a friendship, Life hath allotted two venerable, time-honored means: the Face-to-Face & the Ghost Out. The former is so 90s Real World—turgid, quite possibly operatic. The latter is our preferred, more brittle but not without its saving grace, corporate ‘phase out.’ I don’t think I need to instruct ye on how to perform the Ghost: it just means being less available over time until they get the hint. If you pick the former, I advise some ghosting as warm-up, and when/if you choose to have that fateful encounter, explain exactly why you’ve been so distant and dissatisfied. You don’t need to say it’s over, or use break-up language; that’s only asking for a shit storm. Put the ball in their court. Friendship is about more than the memory of rapport, it’s about listening to the noise of current time, its changes, both parties’ newest interests. If you feel like you have nothing more to say to this friend, or haven’t in a while, chances are you’ve already begun pulling away. Now it’s just about how surgically polite you want to be. It isn’t always cowardice to disappear, to just fade away—especially if your friend through their prattling self-absorption already did a long time ago.
I am reader of a lot of heavy and dark sexual writing and movies (kinky BSDM and lots of porn-related materials). Although I enjoy the work, I find it increasingly hard to separate these fantasies from my “real” life. I worry that my deep immersion into these kinds of fictions are disrupting my attempts at real psychical intimacy. Lately, the intimate physical acts I have attempted are not as satisfying as the work I have read or watched. Is there anything you recommend to read (or do) as a mental palate cleanser?
Fantasy vs. Reality
I once had a purportedly ‘straight’ friend who I gave Genet’s Thief Journal to read. Soon after, he started trying to turn tricks at The Cock and urinate in public, one time getting so drunk he ‘marked’ out a friend’s kitchen cabinet while we were all asleep. When I confronted him about his third-rate psychotic behavior, he claimed it was my fault for giving him Genet, since after all “his imagination is so susceptible” to whatever he was reading. The only censorship I trust, and advocate, is self-censorship. Which is to say, you have to honor the psychic configuration of what you ingest—if your fantasy life is causing you to shit on your waking life, your romantic or sexual encounters, because you’ve become too trained to a different kind of fantasy, then you have two approaches: embrace this new perverse self or simply modify your diet. I advocate neither absolutely, but rather that Grecian ideal of measure—some of both. Your reading list might be more de Sade lately, but it’s a common plague: spoon-fed the robotic, cosmetic fucking of Gay Porn. I’m something of an expert myself in this department. But to each Sean Cody episode, Temperance hath provided a reprieve. Ever see those outtake, behind the scenes videos? They’re usually quite revealing: how banal, clumsy and accidental even an artificial sexual encounter in a tackily-lit Ikea porn studio can be. Take it from me, our fantasy life needs balance and rigor as much as our waistlines. Black-and-white bare shoulders can be as riveting to watch as frat house bukkake. It’s not about being puritanical, but rather cosmopolitan—challenge the insularity and narrowness of your erotic habits and high-carb masturbatory intake. But also allow yourself to share your fantasy life with others. If you want to reenact Robert Mapplethorpe’s more balletic Polaroids, I promise you’ll find plenty of receptive bull whips and blindfolds in this city, or any other.