Paul Takes the Form of a Mortal Girl
This book makes my heart feel so full. I don’t know how else to describe this feeling. I love Paul, poor delicate flighty Paul, with his failed veganism and his mix tapes and his string of lovers and almost-lovers, his ACT UP t-shirts deployed strategically to pick up political gays for barroom blow jobs, his thrift store calculations, the queer zine he is perpetually planning to produce a second edition of. His earnest desire to be in love with all the people he’s not quite in love with.
I wish I could pull quotes from this book. The prose is so completely wonderful, every sentence delighted me, so it’s impossible to choose. Here’s a sentence I randomly opened the book to:
“Paul looked down at his burgundy cords, his black Runaways tee shirt (a church thrift shop score in Orleans—how jealous Jane would be) tight over his waffled long-john shirt, his Save the Whales! belt buckle with its fresco humpback."
“Jane got them through the gates of the festival, though Paul totally could’ve. He wasn’t that nervous. They accepted their work crew assignments, happy not to pay for the ticket, and secure in the knowledge (which Jane had gleaned from her one-night stand with a girl from Toronto) that the cool people at the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival were the workers."
“Diane was Combat Rock, she was a song building, she was—what was that? a fuzzbox—she was Albertine, a tiger’s paw, a marble faun in a pocket garden, a whiskey sour, a traffic light turning red at twilight. Did Paul love Diane for her looks? Yes. No. Okay, yes. But what did it mean to love her looks?”
The prose is like that. I kind of love it, although it felt like it took me a long time to get through this book. Partly that was the fact my brain has melted, possibly permanently, from prolonged exposure to two kindergarteners, and so instead of reading I’ve spent a lot of time just not thinking. But the prose is A Lot. In a good way: I feel like there is a queer history I never accessed before, the gay 90s, that I see now, and recognize in my bones as My People, and I know them because Lawlor describes them with such love and care and insight. The details matter.
This book made me feel like *I* matter. I teared up, like, a bunch, and there was one point where I had to put the book down because I was crying too hard to read. I almost never call a book ~an instant classic~. But I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if this book takes a strong place in the canon of queer lit. And honestly, spec fic as a genre should pay the fuck attention to it, too. There is magic in this book, not just glitter, and I’d love to be a part of a genre that was proud to claim this book as one of ours.
n.b. Mentions of death by AIDS; I got this book from my local public library, which purchased it because I requested it. Tell your library about cool books, y’all, it’s like buying it in that you support the author, but it’s free for you, and then also you get to feel smug for introducing other people to it. Win-win-win.