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What We're Reading: Alex Frank

Tired of reading the same recommended books from the usual sources? Just think of our weekly What We’re Reading column as your non-committal book club with The FADER and some of your favorite bands. For this installment, Alex Frank writes about some recent highlights.

Fire in the Belly: The Life and Times of David Wojnarowicz by Cynthia Carr: I have a feeling that when future scholars look back on the contemporary movement for gay rights, they'll admire David Wojnarowicz in the way that people venerate Langston Hughes or Zora Neale Hurston for their early, artistic contribution to African-American Civil Rights. Wojnarowicz is a myth to me. He died of AIDS-related complications in 1992, when I was only six years old. He's known primarily for his art, especially a 1987 video piece called A Fire In My Belly that was infamously derided by bigoted Republicans like Jesse Helms upon its release, and more recently, censored at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington. But he was also a writer and activist whose life has come to symbolize both the terribly oppressed side and the slowly unfurling liberation of modern gay life.

In college, I read his journals and travelogues with the same excitement that I can see people feeling in the 1950s when they first bought On The Road. Wojnarowicz put stars in my eyes, allowing me to imagine myself living as full a life as he had, one not limited by the fact that I'd probably never be able to get married or have kids or do many of the other things that signify a successful life in this country. For Wojnarowicz, success meant starting out young adulthood as a teenage prostitute, doing short stints as a farmer in the country, taking car trips around America and leading as creative a life in New York City as any kid could hope for. Complexity and independence are a virtue in his world, not fodder for a cautionary tale. Anyway, Cynthia Carr's book is an attempt to provide some much needed fact and detail to his oft-romanticized life, and she does it so successfully that the result only enhances the fantastical dimension of the Wojnarowicz story.

Chloe Jarren's La Cucaracha by Matthew Stadler: A super fun murder mystery put out by a tiny little publishing house Publication Studio in Portland that I found on the racks at the St. Marks Bookshop. Stadler is a great writer, and from his opening paragraph, which beautifully describes the city in Mexico in which the book takes place, I was hooked.

Bruce LaBruce's "Wondering..." column for VICE: Though obviously not as famous as Gore Vidal or Norman Mailer, Bruce LaBruce is, in my mind, the public intellectual that we very badly need in these fucked-up times, calling out the hypocrites, assholes, liars and criminals in politics and the art world alike. As things in America devolve, a punk like LaBruce only can only sound more and more prescient. He writes beautifully and forcefully; recent targets of his scorn include Apple, Andy Warhol worship, Republicans, Democrats, God, God's son Jesus Christ, asexuals, complacent gay people and all young people. His piece on the "Youth of Today," actually, is one of my favorite things he has written, partly because I'm young myself and felt pervertedly honored to be included on his prestigious list of things that suck. LaBruce is primarily known as a filmmaker, and his very awesome movie No Skin Off My Ass is screening this weekend at BAM, if you're in New York.

BritneySpearsGIFS.tumblr.com: Britney Spears is my favorite celebrity of all time, and has been since I was a kid, and this Tumblr captures perfectly how looking at her face is somehow simultaneously the happiest and saddest activity you can do on the entire internet.

The fall/winter issue of Fantastic Man magazine: Other than FADER, my very favorite magazine in the world. It's just beautiful.

What We're Reading: Alex Frank