The great queer poet Allen Ginsberg offered much advice for writing — and living — but the title of our new book column comes from one of his best: “Follow your inner moonlight; don’t hide the madness.” His life and work was an ongoing protest against a world that insists queer people be invisible, if not dead.
Memoirs have always been one of our greatest weapons against this and, if they’re by Augusten Burroughs, David Rakoff or David Sedaris, hilariously so. Joining this group of famously oversharing gay men is Mark Brennan Rosenberg, with a sequel to his memoir of addiction (and ongoing blog, The Single Life of a Manhattan Homo) entitled Eating My Feelings: Tales of Overeating, Underperforming and Coping with My Crazy Family.
It may be unfair to compare Rosenberg to Burroughs or Sedaris, however, when the campy, catty tone of his book feels more like sharing a table full of Cosmos with a gay Chelsea Handler (assuming that’s not redundant) as he tells you of how he once named a dildo Angela Channing: “I’ve found that plastic penises are more fun when you name them after characters on 1980s primetime soaps.” How big a smile that sentence raised for you is a pretty good barometer for how much you’ll enjoy Rosenberg’s book. As he helpfully warns in his introduction, if you aren’t gay or a girl who grew up in the 1990s, “you should probably stop reading this book right now.”
In his tales of booze, phone sex, chicken wings and laxatives, Rosenberg is relentlessly sassy. On a high-school date, he’s trapped in the back of a car with a girl screaming, “Go down on me!” and writes, “I felt like Tori Spelling in every Lifetime movie ever.” Sadly, there are just too many jokes the reader can see coming (especially in each essay’s little introduction, oddly explaining what “our beloved heroine” is about to do next), and the book ends up being a 200-plus-page riff on the old line, 'If you've nothing nice to say, come sit by me!' Rosenberg hates hippies, Italians, personal trainers, Chili’s and most gay men, but it’s clear that, more than anything, he hates his own body, and his book will resonate with anyone who’s ever worked to lose their “baby weight” while longing to eat that same weight in fried chicken and taco dip.
Is Rosenberg truly Oprah, as he claims? In an interview for Northern California’s Outword Magazine, Rosenberg was asked, “Do you remain foul mouthed and sassy?” and answered, “Fuck yea, I do. I have to be sassy in order to sell books to middle-aged mid-western housewives.” Ah, that explains it. Ginsberg insisted the best writing came from ignoring one’s audience, but he said nothing about actively despising it.
When Rosenberg jokes that “books are long and reading is very hard and God forbid you create a world within your own imagination when you could be watching Jersey Shore,” it’s a good dare to pick up his book and prove him wrong. Or perhaps find an even better book.