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Skinny Dipping Into Books

I like the rain. I want to have a spring bookworming rain party full out with wellies—but not those Hunter Boots; absolutely not—, with yummy airy things like puffed pastries, meringues, mini fluffy cheese cakes, mousse dessert, macaroon, biscuits, crepe, and Earl Grey tea, definitely Earl Grey tea.  and Tillandsia. We'd have lots of "air plants". Lots! And We'd read, but not anything structured. We'd bring books, trade books, read out-loud, pass books around between sentences and paragraphs. We'd leave with books we hadn't discovered.


I like books like I like my Jazz; euphoric, dangerous, occasionally a bit manic, sorrowful, bleak, raging, mood-incongruent, mournful, unforgivingly ragged, symbolic in a quiet way, warm apple pie for the soul. Give me a Plath style. Yōko Ogawa, M. Roach,

Criteria: Not rated on likability of characters. Not objective. I like Moxie Soda; chances are you don't.

time spent in that before bed reading slot:

5-until blurry eye 4-Later than I intended, but I still kept to my extended, extended reading time 3-I really should have been to bed an hour ago  2-customary 30 minutes. 1-book. side table. eyes closed.

How are common themes handled?

5-With an aesthetic that repurposes everyday themes into something fresh. Think of Hole Celebrity Skin covered by Cat Power  4-there is a comfortable air of familiarly.
3-Deja Vu 2. No deviation from its mates  1. Devastatingly trite, redundant, and stale.

Where would you keep it post-reading?

5-Next to my bed.  4-it's the center piece of my favorite bookshelf 3. On my other favorite bookshelf, but it's a bit dusty over their 2-Great cheap bookends 1-It never made it out of the box marked 'moving'.

Emotional response-

5- Where is my teddy bear? Emotional-hangover 4- If I wasn't so emotionally stunted I'd cry.
3. Did James Cameron co-wrote this? Artfully contrived. 
2- calculative emotional manipulation. This was literally written by James Cameron.1- I…feel…..nothing.

Mechanics (plot structure, voice, presentation, word choice, sentence structure, characters, writing style, pacing, and consistency):

5-Chanel 4-Prada 3-J-Crew 2-Gap 1-Old Navy

Currently reading

The Complete Stories
Flannery O'Connor
I am No One You Know
Joyce Carol Oates
Unclean Jobs for Women and Girls
Alissa Nutting, Alissa Nutting

Two Boys Kissing

Two Boys Kissing - David Levithan

As you may have noticed in other reviews, reviews for this book seem to gather a common theme. they seem to echo the wavering, neat but spread out structure of the book, while also maintaining a large amount of internal feelings which arose from reading it. In reality, the book did contain in its narrative of people who died of HIV a substantial portion of gut wrenching reflection, feedback, and guidance, so maybe these affect related reactions to the book are exactly what David wanted. As such my review lacks the traditional format, sequence, and function of a typical review. I don't think this can really follow those rigid rules; this book demands more. David, one of my most cherished authors, deserves more. You are going to question why i started with a time-line of the history of HIV. So why did I go on and on for over 45 minutes about a timeline? because it is so amazingly significant; a shadow of the past for people who didn't experience it, and a harsh memory for those who did. that, for some of us it escapes our minds is even more of a reason to launch into a history of the disease. I have a single friend with HIV, and according to those statistics, most likely a lot more who are unaware of their status.... This history is important, because it's part of our past, and it's certainly a part of our current lives and, as scary as it is, our future.






1980 first reported case. Also Gaëtan Dumas visits a nyc bath house and is later referred to as ground zero.


1981. CDC reports five men w PCP. Clusters of doctors report similar weakened immunity. In NY 41 men have Kaposi’s Sarcoma. 270 infected. 121 died.


1982: the year I was born. AIDS finally got its name. Reports of HIV in infants causes by transfusions are documented. San Fran creates a model emphasizing home and community care. First HIV clinic is founded in San Fran.


1985: blood tests become part of common use. Oh hi congress, starting to give a shit with your little 'allocation of funds'?... world contact begins. the splash grows bigger. And one of the biggest accomplishments in the scientific community: AIDS becomes secondary in the process, there is a virus that preceding it. Ryan White. If you are unfamiliar with this name, then this is exactly why I'm in a hangover fog and outlining the disease. He has contracted the disease. Not by sex. Not by going to a bathhouse. not by any other means but a blood transfusion. He begins to speak up. People begin to listen. I am 3.


1986: another important one; AZT begin being tested in a clinical setting. That quilt David talked about? well its created this year. you should go out and see it if you can.


1987: AZTs are approved. they cost 10,000 for a year supply. SO EXPENSIVE is this drug that it ranks as the highest ever created. You throw them up. they make you crap blood. Some say they are worse than the disease. 28,712 cases of AIDS reported to date 24,559 deaths 1989: 117,508 cases of AIDS reported to date 89,343 deaths


1990: Mr. White dies. A heterosexual. Congress enacts an act in his name. 160,969 cases of AIDS reported to date 120,453 deaths


1991: we reach 1 million infections. Magic announces he has HIV. 206,563 cases of AIDS reported to date 156,143 deaths


1992: the WHO steps in, officially having a 'conference about HIV". A Retrovirus was discovered. San Fransisco became a mecca of safety, of solitude, for those afflicted, those not yet contracting the disease, and the self doubting, confused partners: "why not me. why john... take me instead.... god... ME.. stop the suffering... i beg you....." and the even more tragic "make it quick". AZTs, now a bit more available, still expensive are combined into ANTIVIRALS (heard of them? they were a big thing... they were still in labs at this point). in a word of ten year old Jason, AIDS becomes the #1 killer of 25 to 44 year old men. The push for more focus, more monies occurs when young Ricky Ray, at 15 dies of AIDS. 254,147 cases of AIDS reported to date 194,476 deaths


1993: resistance to AZRs in some patients. 1996: First viral load test. nevirapine OKed by FDA. The first home HIV test is approved by the FDA. The U.N. estimates that 22.6 million people are infected with HIV and 6.4 million people have died of AIDS worldwide. U.S. YEAR-END STATISTICS 581,429 cases of AIDS reported to date 362,004 deaths 1997: AIDS deaths in the U.S. decline by 42%; the cocktail. I get tested. I'm scared. I haven't done anything sexual. 641,086 cases of AIDS reported to date 390,692 deaths


1998: first 3D image of HIV is captured 688,200 cases of AIDS reported to date 410,800 deaths


1999: Experts estimate that at least half of all new HIV infections in the U.S. (and worldwide) occur among young people under the age of 25. 733,374 cases of AIDS reported to date 429,825 deaths


2000: I reach the legal age of consent: we all know what that means. 774,467 cases of AIDS reported to date 448,060 deaths


2001: Jason has his first relationship. testing becomes very common. I am fine.... but fear abounds in the community. Some abandon their rational minds, stop using condoms; the idea "ill get it anyways". I react differently and have track marks on the inside of my right elbow every six months. If current trends remain unchanged, there will be more than 62 million people living with HIV/AIDS by 2005. U.S. YEAR-END STATISTICS 816,149 cases of AIDS reported to date 462,653 deaths


2009: this year.... in this year along 9,000 people between 13 and 24 contract the disease.


2010: Mondo from Project runway openly discusses, and publicly announces his status on Project runway. (I bow to you sir.... you are a remarkable human being, even if you are too humble to recognize it.) Monda's reveal I am tested: negative. Still scared...shitless. But i finally may have found myself in a relationship that reflects what Neil will soon learn:


"Neil has assumed that love was like a liquid pouring into a vessel, and that the longer you loved, the more full the vessel became, until it was entirely full. The truth is that over time, the vessel expands as well. You grow. Your life widens. And you can’t expect your partner’s love alone to fill you. There will always be space for other things. And that space isn't empty as much as it's filled by another element. Even though the liquid is easier to see, you have to lean to appreciate the air"....And with that brings safety.



Over 40,000 new HIV infections are reported in the U. S. each year 2013: You, you current college freshmen. You in 2013. YOU HAVE REACHED the age of consent! be careful with the decisions you make.


Since the beginning of the AIDS Epidemic in the U.S., more than 597,000 deaths have been reported. Currently, 1.1 million people are living with HIV/AIDS in the U.S.




now on to the actual book




as always with a simple book I'm a bit vague and insert my subjective insight so you won't be able to construct the book without first reading it

David presented an even toned, wonderful little book to straight people, allies, and the rest of the LBGTQ community; one that is raw, unforgiving, and certainly the widest, most significant achievement in YA history in this genre.

The plot is so simplistic. You have two teenagers at the center of the story, going beyond their physical and emotional boundaries to accomplish an act, a single kiss, testing the boundaries of friendship; the boundaries of the faith in friendship. Actually it's not simply a kiss, but a 32-hour marathon.

You have two young boys, at the budding of a relationship—do you remember this? oh goodness the ZING it brings—. It also brings uncertainty, not only partially for the existence and sustainability of the relationship. it also brings an open wound, one not that is not easily identifiable, one that is not easily understood, and one that is certainly NOT easy to reveal. I am talking about the insecurity that comes with revealing yourself to someone, that in all intensive purposes, is a complete and utter stranger.

You have the victim, but also the survivor. we each know this person. he is you. he is me. He is the person who fortified his resources, his love for life, and his future to stand against violence, the hatred that is NOT yours to carry on your back, and the love for life that acts of violence will never, never extinguish. The problem is you don't always exist beyond the torment. Will our friend?

You have the lost soul. Don't pretend you cant identify with this; because that's a lie. It all comes on too quickly in adolescence doesn't it? puberty. your first crush from afar as you glance at the guy with the handsome face and the even more attractive arse (maybe that's just me?); It comes with confusion in the locker room; confusion when you are alone in your bed, hormones chilling in a spark and luster on your skin; It comes with integrating the idea that you may or may not be loved, and the scary part is you may be part of this too; It comes when you realize, holding the hand of that girl you asked out—you will later find it was your last, frantic attempt to make yourself look, no be normal—feels only of sweaty palms that you want to escape, as quickly as possible; It may come with an even darker side. it may come with being teased, pushed into lockers, called a faggot—we all know this isn't the worse word you can call someone who is gay—, the loss of friends, the self harm, the drinking, the fights with family members who may or may not realize your sexual identity but you are raging against the world and everyone is in your funnel cloud. There are other things that can happen, and often do. they have been in the news lately; I don't need to name them, you already know. it comes with the chilling idea that you are different, a 1-10 do they say? How do you resolve this internal and external fight? Hell if i know.

you have the couple that represents the downward, but also upward arch of a relationship, and all that comes with that magical, but uncertain time. Isn't your first love so challenging, so anew, so brilliantly statically charged?

For us gays (at least myself), this novel presented something a bit more chilling. This was entirely too true for my 31 year old self. I cried more than I have ever cried; oh and did i resist it. I was all too familiar with each of the characters, having lived each in some way during my lifetime; I doubt I am the only one.

Perspectives, understanding, identification of this book varies widely. see it divided our population into three quadrants:

1. those who had to suffer, to not only endure a horribly debilitating, dreadfully painful disease, but also suffer the not yet healed bruises of stone wall and 8(ish) years later the assassination of Harvey Milk. Not only that, there was two concealed personal traumas (psychological) related to the illness; firstly, many where forced out of their quiet, covert lives as gays and into the harsh reality of hate, denial, bitterness, anger, and violence (most by others but much self-inflected); secondly, since the government and society turned their backs—because it was a disease of 'them', not 'us'—these individuals died still with the disease covered under a veil of shame, secrecy, and the unknown. Battle wounds not yet healed, a diagnosis that wouldn't crawl out until 1980s, and public and personal shame, these individuals, or many of them, died ever a worse death than the illness alone.

2: then you have my little space in this history. HIV was JUST in its infancy (Ken, i bow my head because of the horrible scarifies you had to make to get this disease more public. Strip away the public and person humiliation, and you are, to a huge extent someone to cherish in our community. Oh Dugas,'patient zero', I can not, will never understand, comprehend the perpetual nightmare this must have been. you are NOT a source you are a person; I bow my head to those inbetween too.)

It's almost like my generation endured some sort of unseen trauma that left us forever hyper-vigilant; always watchful. We are constantly on the surveillance, constantly worrying who we are sleeping with; Have you been tested? when? where? do you have proof? do you have one condom? two? five.... ten?. We are considerably more aware of the consequences of carelessness, as we saw the desolation, loss, and horror left in the wake of HIV. New drugs gives the illusion of survival, my younger counterparts, but in this survival is an act of betrayal. We know it. We get tested almost to a level of obsession.  

3. Currently sexually active individuals between 18 and 24; the highest afflicted population... still

you avoided it. you avoided the uncertainty of not knowing your status because the disease was in its infancy. the struggle of your elders (and they are truly that, David) spitting up blood, quivering with cold fever, begging for MORE morphine, losing comprehension, forgetting people, places things; the closest thing to a zombie you would ever had seen. See, I did too (I know someone with HIV, but he isn't secluded to a bed), which puts us all in a seemingly place of being 'unaware'; my close proximity to it, however brings me more to the edge of the sick. One key difference, when I was young I didn't have to wait until college to learn to pinch the tip of a condom or that it expires in 15 minutes, or yes, putting it in your bakc pocket is not advisable. No, on the tail of HIV, sex education was provided in full force; fear cloaked in the guise of sex education. I learned these things in 5th grade. Unfortunately you are missing three key pieces: 1. living among the living dead. 2. living among the fear. 3. the effects of an incredible rejection to appropriate, accurate sexual education.

I apologizing right now for not being your elder, for not teaching you these things as society again fails and continues to fail you you. I apologizing, that after 35 years since the death of Harvey Milk and 23 years after Ryan's death that I sat immobile, cowardly in my own self-preservation, pretending that someone, at 31 y/o wearing a 'some guys are gay, get over it shirt' can really make up for this blunder, this absence of responsibility, this inability to even lift up a finger tip in your direction. You have to understand, as the novel demonstrates, things were different back then. Society was not as accepting, particularly as HIV became a rampant spreading disease. We didn't even fathom holding hands in public unless in certain deceivingly 'safe' places. We were closely guarded in which friends we told in fear of rejection or worse. Gay marriage, even as a concept never crossed our minds. You have so much more freedom.

I am here now, which I guess is trivial and a frayed attempt at forgiveness, at redemption, wearing the shirts, getting into fist fights—or getting punched. I am not as tough as I look—in those shirts, getting into insanely intense conversations with parents, friends, strangers, defending myself and to a large extent you, donating to charities, starting sex education instructional classes in classes, but you know what, these are all in their own way still standing at a distance. I still fear holding hands with my partner, and this lack of bravery and self-identity is palpable and destructive.

It may seem unfair, but you are the role models of your generation and you will do true greatness in that role. I watch you in complete awe as you willingly put yourself in harms way—both socially, emotionally, and physically— with loud voices, even louder actions, with a complete disregard of the personal implications. YOU ARE THE HARRY'S AND CRAIG'S OF YOUR GENERATION! and boy do I envy you.

Be proud. be so, so proud.
You may have bought this book in secret. you may have put a cover on it so that no one will find it (David brought that up cause we all did it), you may have obtained it from a friend who is gay or an ally. Maybe you snatched it. Good for you, however you got it. This is the hardest place to be in your acceptance of self, isn't it? that loss of identity and the new one that is out of reach right now, waiting in the thickets of the future to be formed and reformed. This is the price of secrecy, of self preservation and this is in no way wrong of you.  it  will come. it came for some of us quickly, others it came 13 years after his (coughs) first experimentation, little pieces at a time. Others it still comes as they reach old age.

for those of you who can identify with the lost soul painfully and gruelingly outlined above, I repeat, we have ALL been there. You will find that you perceive others as having it easy. If you look to your friend's story, distorting your own story by superimposing theirs onto yours, recognize deep down that this is their story not yours, and also acknowledge the notion that this does not exempt them from inner demons—negative thoughts—or the more vile physical and verbal attacks they probably at some point were subject to. rather than push them away, labeling them as the lucky ones, rally at their side. they will offer their hand and their ears. you must trust me on this.

Evolving, my friend, it was and is all part of our story; of your story. A community that will protect you if you let us.... Even if it's someone like me, wearing the T-shirt that say "down with DOMA", "marriage is so gay" "some guys are gay thats ok" and even if I'm looking down, talking to a friend (or boyfriend), even if I have sun-glasses on. Stop me. I can tell you this has happened twice, and by teenagers (you never cease to amaze me) Even if that "love your shirt, dude" doesn't develop into a conversation (which I'm more than willing to have), you will recognize the fact you are not alone in this world. I guess in the end, we are each role models, for ourselves and others.

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"freedom is also about waht you will allow yourself to do"

"Adults can talk all they want about youth feeling invincible. Surely, some of us had that bravado. But there was also the dark inner voice telling us we were doomed. And then we were doomed. "

"Dreaming and loving and screwing. None of these are identities. Maybe when other people look at us, but not to ourselves. We are so much more complicated than that."

"This is what happens when you become very ill: Dancing stops being a reality and becomes a metaphor. More often than not, it is an unkind one. I am dancing as fast as I can. As if the disease is the fiddler who keeps playing faster and faster, and to lose step is to die. You try and try and try, until finally the fiddler wears you down."

"From a cold distance, we know that confusion is at the heart of this disgust. And into that heart is pumping a steady flow of hate and ignorance."