“When Everything Feels Like the Movies.”

There’s this funny thing that happens to me, and I think to other people also: if I’m more productive in one area of my life, other areas follow suit. It’s a pretty neat little trick, really. Related: I’ve been slamming out 1000 words per day or more (trying, madly, to finish a chapter draft by June 10th, and an article by June 30th), and, almost by accident, I’ve also been reading way more for research and for fun. IMG_1279.JPG(<— that's a picture of my copy of Raziel Reid's "When Everything Feels Like the Movies," next to my bookmark, which was legit my ticket to "The Book of Mormon." I may have been predisposed to loving this book.) Anyway: read. this. book.
Do it. Borrow it from your library, buy a copy (I got mine used, which probably means that all of the homophobic WAPSy types that participate in Canada Reads have finished with it, and are expunging it from their homes. Take note, and take advantage!), ask for it as a gift. I bet if you tell your mom that it was a Canada Reads book, she’ll buy it for you without asking any questions. No, really. (Also, if reading prudish negative reviews– eg: “it would be a good book if only there wasn’t so much *gay* in it– is cathartic for you, you should check out the 1star reviews on goodreads.com.)

You should also read this book because it’s well written, smart, and presents a perspective that doesn’t get a lot of air time in our current culture (the closest thing to it that I can think of it are the Patrick McCabe & Neil Jordan versions of Breakfast on Pluto.) But, while the main character, Jude, is really what makes this text shine, there approximately 1million reviews devoted to loving or hating on Jude, which is both besides the point, and also, I think, a very simplistic way to read this book. (Jude mentions several times in his narration that he prefers to be either loved or hated, rather than ignored, because love and hate are so intimately bound up in one another.) Instead, I want to focus on the way that this book really gets at the heart of small town life, and does an excellent job of making known the precarious nature of life for non-normative subjects in places where conservatism is hegemonically enforced, and outsiders are deemed suspicious. As I mentioned in my piece on Essex County, I grew up in a small, conservative, very repressive town.
Part of the pleasure of reading When Everything Feels Like the Movies was seeing something like a representation of that kind of setting and the boredom, ignorance, and hostility made possible by it. Jude’s town is made up of characters who throw themselves into the machine of the community– teachers, Brooke (the server at the truck stop), Angela’s father, who is absent from the narrative presumably because his work as a police officer keeps him busy (and allows him to directly monitor activities in the town)– and those who survive it, sometimes by virtue of escapist tactics– Angela and Jude (both of whom use drugs), Angela’s mother (who also uses drugs, though hers are prescribed), Ray (who appears to do nothing except drink alcohol and police the limits of masculinity in the home), and Jude’s mother (whose work, as a stripper, allows her access to the less-regulated, secretive night-life of the town: which everyone is aware of, but no one mentions in polite company). Readers don’t get a very good view of the lives of those that participate in community activities, partially because of the kind of garrisoning that can go in small towns, in which some people are allowed and/or able to participate, and others are not (consider that Jude’s flamboyant personality is likely the cause of his virtual exclusion in the school play- he goes from having a fairly major role to an incredibly minor one, and is basically thrust out of that communal space). The rest of the population is left with very little do, which this book highlights in a way that felt familiar and necessary at once. Notice that Jude and Angela barely do anything- a movie theatre is mentioned, but they never go (probably a combination of a lack of disposable income on Jude’s part and a lack of interesting films? Just speculation), and nothing else by way of entertainment is mentioned at all. Instead, they hang out at the diner, the mall, or wander around the town, often taking drugs, or filling their time with sex and/or masturbation.
Anyway, that’s my rant on small towns, and the way this book represents them. I also think that the book works really well on two levels- most obvious is the narrative that Jude pieces together for his reader (which is dramatic and exciting), and below that is a narrative that the reader must work to put together, but that likely better represents Jude’s lived reality. This is the darkest timeline- a world in which a young boy uses metaphors of stardom and film production to paper over a life filled with violence, very little adult supervision (or attention), and few spaces in which he can be free from people that actively hate him, and that go as far as to tell him to die. “When Everything Feels Like the Movies” is brilliant this way- the reader is let in to a story that feels like it will provide the pleasure of proving true each and every stereotype they’ve come to believe (or have at least heard), and walks away feeling haunted and very, very sad.

“When Everything Feels Like the Movies.”

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