Darlings, I’m getting married! Yes, we’re all very excited. Now onto drag.
I shared with you some months ago how difficult it was to find any books with drag queen characters where they weren’t being carved up by serial killers. Well, I found a drag queen memoir! Which means the author survived all the serial killers, hooray!
I Am Not Myself These Days is not a great book, but it IS a better book than the serial killer mystery I gave up slogging through, so that’s saying…something. Each chapter reads like a cocktail party anecdote that always begins with “Hey, remember when I was a drag queen back in the ’90s?” And then the anecdote sort of trails off after a bunch of bad decisions have been outlined.
I was hoping that Kilmer-Purcell’s former drag persona, Aqua, would be useful to me in practical ways. (I have questions about how queens get booked and for how long and such!) But there aren’t a lot of insights into the world of drag here. There are more glimpses into the world of S&M hooking–our narrator dates an escort for a little under a year, you see, although since their relationship is the book, it seems longer.
I am not a memoirist, so it seems unfair to take shots. But this book is boring. It coasts on the keywords “drag queen” and “BDSM hooker boyfriend” like that’s enough to impress me. He paints Aqua as a passive character who floats from situation to situation much like the main character in that Irish movie I made you all slog through with me. Nothing is her fault or her decision. Things happen and that’s that.
The complete lack of self-awareness is pretty staggering, even for a club kid. Aqua retired from the drag scene in 2000 (Kilmer-Purcell envisions it as her suicide) and this book pubbed in 2006, but it doesn’t look like our narrator reflected on the meaning of his cocktail party stories at all in the interim. One example: while bemoaning the push and pull between his good-boy upbringing and current bad-girl lifestyle, Kilmer-Purcell recalls a time at his childhood summer camp when he was excluded from a group of boys who planned to hold a girl underwater and rip her clothes off. I was just too good to hang with them, he sighs, making no mention of any effort on his part to, I don’t know, stop this girl from being assaulted.
[sarcastic clapping & gold star]
“Everybody loved Aqua,” our narrator tells us in the epilogue outlining her demise. Comedic quick cuts to the half dozen or so beatings Aqua underwent during the course of the book at the hands of crazies, drug dealers, and her boyfriend. More flashes to the women in the book: the put-upon coworker who constantly must cover for him at his day job, his worried mother, dance club attendees whom Aqua ridicules or ignores. I wish I could say Kilmer-Purcell was being tongue-in-cheek but I don’t think he is.
So! I couldn’t recommend this book, but what can I recommend besides the QQ Nail Salon on 8th? Darlings, I really do need some better reading material. If you know of any that might come in handy, please tell me.