Neshama’s Choices for June 3

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Subculture Vulture by Moshe Kasher

This is another book that periodically made me crazy, but stuck with me. Kasher got sober at 15 and got deep into AA, got sucked into the rave scene in the Bay Area, grew up with deaf parents, thought he’d found his tribe at Burning Man, and has ended up as a stand-up comedian and screenwriter in LA. Whew! Each chapter goes wide and deep historically which sometimes felt like TMI. Huge subjects like Deaf culture and Judaism get quite a workout. Sometimes I applied the “too smart for his own good” rubric to Kasher, but I also learned a lot so it was worth it. His observations on the changing nature of comedy through the lens of woke perspectives really got me thinking.

Mona of the Manor by Armistead Maupin

It’s been years since I’ve thought of the denizens of Barbary Lane in SF, but many are still very much alive and kicking, as I discovered in this sequel to the series from the ‘70s. Now Mona, daughter of Anna Madrigal, is ensconced in a baronial hall in England, inherited from her husband Teddy who was Lord Roughton (pronounced rotten, I learned from the CD version) who died of AIDs in SF. It had been conceived of as a financial relationship, but Mona became fond of Teddy and is head over heels in love with the property and lifestyle. She and her adopted son make ends meet by inviting paying customers in. When a couple from the deep South arrives, the plot thickens because Ernie is beating up his wife Rhonda and something has to change. Themes of homophobia and transphobia come into play.  (You may remember Anna, still holding down the fort in SF, was Mona’s father before she became her mother). A spritely romp.

The Home For Unwed Husbands by Molly Giles

Kay’s rich, entitled father requests that she move into his manse in a tony Marin neighborhood while it’s for sale to make it more appealing to prospective buyers. He lives elsewhere. Her relationship with hunky, elusive Fenton who has fix-it skills isn’t progressing, but he’s hired to do some renovation. One by one the men in her life show up and move in: her ex, the father of her son Nicky; her fundamentalist brother whose wife has left him; an old boyfriend who’s an itinerant musician. And even Dad himself, who’s now sick. They all have needs—boy, do they have needs—and she’s run ragged trying to fill them until she finally, painfully, gets the absurdity of her codependency and breaks free. Giles does a fabulous job of laying out the many ways men can drive one crazy and humor runs high in this delightful novel.

While You Were Out by Meg Kissinger

In the ‘60s in suburbia, the Kissingers had eight kids (they were Catholic) and on the surface, everything looked really good. However, mom “treated” her postpartum depression with alcohol and had many stints in the bin. Larger-than-life dad, often away from home on “business”, had scary fits of anger. Lots of mental illness among the siblings, including two suicides. The author, a journalist, brings us deep into her family’s dysfunction and also casts her discerning eye on the failure of our mental health system. Luckily with lots of therapy and a good husband, Kissinger survived to tell the tale up close and broad-brush. Quite a feat.