Mysterious Skin Archives
I had some extra time on my hands today, so I thought I'd do a little bit of poking around to find out if past BookBlog authors have been up to anything interesting recently. They're quite a busy bunch.
Steve Martin [Shopgirl] - The March 8th issue of The New Yorker includes script notes on Mel Gibson's The Passion from funnyman Steve Martin. LawGeek was kind enough to share some of it with all of us ("Possible title change: 'Lethal Passion.' Kinda works. The more I say it outloud, the more I like it.") since The New Yorker is kind of stingy with its online content. (link)
Gregory Maguire [Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister] - Damn, I missed it. This past Friday, Maguire was at the Columbus Circle Borders in New York City to sign copies of Wicked. However, the musical version continues to do well on Broadway, and you can buy $100 a pop tickets through its official web site. (link)
Chuck Palahniuk [Invisible Monsters] - On Tuesday, March 16th, Palahniuk will be live online with The Guardian. The author chat starts at 4:00 p.m. GMT, which is 11:00 a.m. EST. Questions posted include "[I]s it really a good way of meeting hot chicks?" and "There was a bit of graffiti on one of the bridges crossing over the 405 from 13th to 14th street. It read: Be boring. Be deathlike. Be Eva Lake. There was some other good graffiti around town, but I don't want to repeat it here. Have you any favorites?" If you, too, have an inane question for Chuck, get it in now. (link)
Jose Saramago [Blindness] - University of California television will be celebrating National Poetry Month by showing poetry-related programs Thursday and Friday nights throughout the month of April. On April 2nd, they will air From Memory to Fiction through History with Nobel Laureate Jose Saramago, a taping of a talk the author gave at UCLA. According to the UCTV site, you should be able to watch it on demand using RealPlayer, but I couldn't get it to work. Maybe you'll have more luck. (link)
J.K. Rowling [Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone] - Rowling's Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix has been shortlisted for The Butler & Tanner Book of the Year by the British Book Awards. Will she Bend It Like Beckham (Anyone else seen this flick?) and beat out the footballer's autobiography to the top prize? The winners are to be announced on April 7th. (link)
Haruki Murakami [Norwegian Wood] - This summer's Lincoln Center Festival is to include The Elephant Vanishes, a multimedia retelling of three stories by Murakami in Japanese with English supertitles. The performances by Tokyo's Setagaya Public Theatre will be shown from July 21st through July 25th, and tickets for multiple events go on sale beginning April 6th. (link)
Scott Heim [Mysterious Skin] - According to Heim's rarely updated blog, the movie version of Mysterious Skin, which stars the kid from 3rd Rock from the Sun, is nearly complete. Andy, who moderated the book and also runs realityblurred.com, should be pleased to know that Heim reports being "utterly consumed by reality TV again." Suggestion for Heim: permalinks. xxmarydell. (link)
John Kennedy Toole [A Confederacy of Dunces] - The movie version of our August 2002 selection continues to have trouble getting off the ground, but still stars Will Ferrell as Ignatius J. Reilly. I'm not exactly sure how I feel about Elf, but IMDB message board posters have come up with some interesting alternatives: Oliver Platt, John Goodman, and Philip Seymour Hoffman. (link)
As a variably-employed freelance writer, I'm in the habit of selling off everything that isn't necessary to my survival. So I put up Mysterious Skin for sale on Amazon. Guess who bought it?
Yes, that Scott Heim.
I asked him if he didn't already have enough copies -- and apologized for selling my copy. This was his reply:
Don't worry about it, Sarah -- I sell stuff on amazon as well! Mostly cds, though. And yes, I am the author. The time of "free copies" from my publisher was long ago... so now I try to snag up relatively cheapo copies of the paperback when I can, as sometimes I'll send out free books to people and etc etc.
Thanks for your email! I'm really happy you liked the book AND found it difficult... I guess it was difficult to write, too. If you are so inclined, write a tiny one-line review on the amazon site and say just that--"I liked it but it was difficult" or something--every little tiny bit helps and currently I'm trying hard to keep the book in print (so even the littlest review or anything similar actually helps out in the long run).
Hope you're having a great March so far...
(Note: He sent this in April.)
So if you felt passionate about it, leave a review on Amazon.
Well, well, well. If you check out this post and scroll down a bit, you'll notice that we received a comment from Scott Heim, the author of Mysterious Skin. Way cool.
I think everyone can agree that Andy's selection was a difficult one on multiple levels. In addition to being a book forcing us to do a lot of looking into a dark place, Mysterious Skin required openly discussing many things we're not used to talking about in normal conversation. By choosing subject matter as taboo as pedophilia, Andy had hoped to challenge both what we normally might pick to read and what role literature plays in expanding our view of realities beyond our own insular lives. I'd have to say he accomplished his goals with flying colors.
Thanks, Andy, for exposing us to a book that epitomizes the purpose of BookBlog.
How many read Mysterious Skin?
Just a quick survey -- how many of you finished Mysterious Skin? If you stopped reading it, why? How many of you never even started?
I did finish it, but it was a struggle -- not because the writing was bad, or because the story wasn't compelling, but because I wanted to look away.
Scott Heim's Mysterious Skin
This book is: well-constructed, flawlessly detailed, beautiful, fucked up, disturbing, heartwarming, graphic, honest. And that's why I selected it. It's not my favorite book ever; for example, while often striking, the writing is sometimes too obvious. But I think the book reveals a lot about both human nature and writing, and there's a lot to discuss.
After Mary read the book her first comments to me had to do with its fucked-upness, which is maybe a good place to start. There are graphic -- too graphic? -- descriptions of child abuse, which one of the characters tells us he's okay with, basically. For most of us, I think it's safe to say, these parts are understandably hard to read and disturbing.
Scott Heim, who wrote this book as his MFA thesis at Columbia, said of his writing, "I'm constantly questioning the things that intrigue, horrify, or disturb me. Things that make me flinch. ... I find a peculiar sublimeness, a beauty even, in horror and violence; while that might be construed as a hang-up, it's what sets me apart from other writers, and therefore it's what I want to put into my writing." Later he says, "I thought the material with the detailed sexual scene with the man and the boy was going too far. Then a mentor read it; her first comment was, 'This is what will piss people off. Now go even further with it.' So I did."
What was your reaction to those particular scenes, especially in the overall context of the story? Were they necessary? How did you react to these characters and their experiences?
Other things I'm anxious to hear your thoughts on:
- What do you think of the narrative structure, the alternating first-person narration? Because if the way the book is written, what exactly happened to Brian isn't a surprise to the reader. Would the book have worked better if we were kept in suspense until the end?
- Of the novel's audience, Scott Heim said, "My impression ... is that most of the readers were gay men. While it was great to have that 'avenue,' I really wanted it to cross over more. I didn't intend it as a 'gay' book." Is this book gay fiction because there are gay characters in it or because it was written by a gay man? I'm especially interested in knowing what the straight BookBlog members think; did this book work for you or not?
- Is this a moral book? An honest book? Both? Neither? What, if anything, does it illuminate about the human experience?
Wow. I'm sure I'm not the only one whose head was reeling during that great discussion of Revenge. Thanks to Kara for choosing such a meaty book. Thanks also go out to our newest member and Revenge expert Alex, a.k.a. Dark Past.
Moving on to future months, you can see by the tote board on the left that the upcoming moderators have chosen their books:
Andy has chosen Mysterious Skin by Scott Heim for this month. It's an emotional story of a young man's struggle to learn what happened to him during several hours of "lost" time from his childhood.
Kate's title for March is Shopgirl, Steve Martin's look at the life of a lonely woman who works behind the glove counter at Neiman Marcus.
Next, Mary Carmen's April selection is Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister by Gregory Maguire and illustrated by Bill Sanderson. This retelling of the Cinderella story is set in 17th-century Holland.
I hope everyone is looking forward to the upcoming discussions.
Anyone ready to take on May? (You knew I was going to ask!)