My most popular book, “Mad Man Knitting -or- The Waiter and the Fly,” was written quite a while ago, so it never really gets any recent reviews. Imagine my surprise to find that someone had left one about six weeks ago. I dashed right over to see what they had to say:
“Patrick’s writing is fine, and this seems on par with any other self-published text. But if you’re a fan of misogynist and transphobic tropes, this is the book for you!”
Of course I was disappointed, but I wasn’t sad. Oh, no. The first inclination is to have an argument with her, isn’t it? Defend myself….
But, she may not know much more about me. She may not even know about this blog. She may not know that I became homeless right after that book was written….that particular book being a big reason why. No one would hire me to work in a restaurant, fearing I might write another little tell-all about them. I was black balled from the service industry, ended up homeless, ended up in the woods….alone with a cat for company, a mailbox for communication, and a radio to break the voiceless isolation.
Perhaps she knows only who I am from the confines of what she read in that book.
By calling me a trope, she was basically calling me a stereotype. I would agree with her, I don’t like stereotypes in art either. However, the problem with calling a person a trope does some serious disservice to you and them.
When you see someone as a trope, you are limiting yourself to the margins of who they are, limiting your own knowledge about them based on the perimeters that you have boxed them in. There is nothing new to know about a trope, you get them, they’re just cardboard, run of the mill, cut outs of whatever stereotype you’re stylizing in your mind. Nothing new to see here. Typical.
I guess the trope she saw in me was a gay, white, Southern, Christian, conservative male…..and that was all she saw. I certainly will not deny being any of those things…..if those are the only terms you use when you catalogue the people you come across in life, those strange checkboxes of inclusion and dismissal. In that greedy need to identify people you’re only categorizing people as form, not substance.
Perhaps she doesn’t know the irony of the last line of that book, just before the epilogue, “It’s so good to be home,” and that within a few months of publishing that book, I would have no place to live….and wouldn’t for a long time. (Oh, the things I have learned about myself in that time, though! So many things she couldn’t know!!! Maybe I should put together a book of some of these blog posts that truly captures that journey from there to here….)
So, I cannot judge her for only knowing Gregory Patrick through the confines of the pages she read. I hope she’ll stumble across my blog and realize that images we have of people are often too restricted to the margins that we’ve placed on them, and not the other way around. Because after so many years of writing here, in this space, on this blog, about what happened to me after that book….she might pause and reconsider confining people to her own version of identity. For, if this is the manner in which she sees people, then perhaps that is the only way she has ever seen herself….always ready to identify with a group, too afraid of being alone with her own beautiful individuality.
After all, each new soul you meet is just another Universe waiting to be explored; and the first expanse of limitless love and possibilities you conquer has to be the one inside you. You will never know anything about anyone else, if you haven’t learned a few things about yourself first.
So, I left a comment on her review: “I appreciate you taking the time to read my book! Thank you!”
I could not be more sincere. She may not know me, but she read my book, dedicated time in her life getting to know me. For that, I am truly grateful. There aren’t a lot of people, let alone writers, who get that opportunity….
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