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Posts Tagged ‘John Kennedy Toole’

Notes from a Bookshop: February, or the Folly of Love

February 12, 2013 | by


Sitting alone in my tiny bookshop on a cold February morning, I have the sensation that I’ve conjured a dream into reality. The light is crisp and blue through the door. A flight of red paper swallows—a Valentine homage to Chaucer’s poem “The Parliament of Fowls”—hangs from the ceiling, fluttering quietly from the heat whooshing out of the floor grate. The room is small, just shy of two hundred fifty square feet, and an old pickled farm table sits squarely in the middle. The top of the table is covered with books, and the shelves lining two of the room’s walls also contain a patchwork of brightly colored spines.

Valentine-themed woodblock prints handmade by my husband line the farm table and a grid of nature-inspired prints hold a wall. We live on an old dairy farm up in northeast Pennsylvania, and instead of cows in our three-bay English barn, we have two etching presses. Mark carves the images into blocks of clear pine, inks them up, and sends them through the press, cranking the smooth silver wheel like a captain on a ship. This is our store together, a kind of celebration of works on paper. We live on Moody Road, and so we call the shop Moody Road Studios.

An artist and a writer, respectively, my husband and I had both been teaching and working in the city for more than a decade, until a little over a year ago. The idea of running a bookshop never entered our consciousness while in New York, mostly because it never could have happened. Space and funding were impossibilities—as one might guess, a writer and an artist in business together don’t quite make for a crack commerce force. But here, on Main Street in the small town of Honesdale, everything clicked into place. Read More »


Department of Sex Ed

June 2, 2010 | by

Between the sheets with Ignatius Reilly.

The Confederacy of Dunces

Ignatius wasn’t gorgeous. But he was sexual.

My father gave me A Confederacy of Dunces when I was twenty-one. Like most people who have read this book, I fell hard for the protagonist, a waddling, unkempt mammoth toddler with “blue and yellow eyes” and crumbs in his mustache. Unlike most people who have read this book, however, my love for Ignatius involved wanting to be naked with him in my bed.

Until then, I’d always thought of myself as straight. I walked straight and I talked straight. I dated girls, I slept with girls, when I jacked off, I jacked off to girls. I had a girlfriend for ten years, and I loved her. I enjoyed each and every time we fucked. Boys never interested me. Not “cute boys,” anyway, not “handsome men.” The only members of my sex I ever noticed were the stockier set. The jovial ones. That was the word I could live with—jovial: both happy and like some god you might see in a fountain. Every time I passed one on the street I’d think something like, “If that guy was my friend I would probably hug him so much that people would start to wonder if we were gay.”

Reading Confederacy, well, it changed me. I was living in Rome at the time. I was often alone so I was often reading. I was being fascinated by a lot of books. My fascination with this book, however, and with the man in the middle of it. I read it erect. I reread it, erecter. Who in the fuck was this Ignatius? Who was this?

I lusted after this chubby mess of a man until I felt sick in the stomach over it.

One scene, near the beginning of the book, had an especially dizzying effect on me. (I’ve read it hundreds and hundreds of times.) It’s where we find Ignatius practicing a little "self-love" in his bed; an innocent, even saintly, wank to a happier time in his life. He had accessories nearby: a rubber glove, a piece of fabric from a silk umbrella, and a jar of Noxzema:

Ignatius manipulated and concentrated. At last a vision appeared, the familiar figure of the large devoted collie that had been his pet in high school...Ignatius’s eyes dilated, crossed, and closed, and he lay back among his four pillows, hoping that he had some Kleenex in his room.

This is the page where I went fag. The solitude and isolation, the very sadness of it all, didn’t turn me off—on the contrary, it was the hook. Sex scenes had always been filled with gorgeous people. Ignatius wasn’t gorgeous. But he was sexual. I think it must have been the first time, in literature or film or life, when it occurred to me these were two different things. It was loud and clear. I had been fooling myself. I wanted something else from the Ignatiuses of the world. Something if much more than hugs.

Giancarlo DiTrapano is the editor of New York Tyrant, a tri-quarterly literary magazine.