I once wrote a “dirty” book called Showing Pink. "Some people write about sex using metaphors," a friend told me. "In Showing Pink, you use sex as a metaphor for everything else."
Showing Pink took me many years to write because it wasn’t just a “dirty” book, it was a literary coming-of-age novel about persona, and family, and exposure, and what it means to be naked, and self-perception, and death -- and because I was writing a bunch of other (nonfiction) books at the same time. And it wasn’t published, and it broke my heart. I put it away for years.
Now that I’m, oh, fifteen short stories, seven essays, seventeen poems, twenty-five columns, a number of nonfiction books and a novel (AVAILABLE!!! now querying!!!) and hundreds of blog entries later, I’m ready to wonder… should I give it another look, another try? It’s a good book… it got thiiiiissss close to major publication.
For years I said, “No, that’s over." And it true that I’m different now, no longer so interested in the explicit dark sexuality Showing Pink explores in such an explicit way. (Yes, it is explicit.) But just because it’s not the book I’d write today, just because I feel I’m a better writer now, doesn’t mean it’s not a good book, worthy of being read.
Should “drawer” books always stay in the drawer? Do we just bury the good ones, the old ones, because the market wasn’t right at the time, or because we weren’t? When do you revisit old work? Or do you?
Here’s the beginning of Showing Pink. Would you want to read more?
I stand in a phone booth jiggling quarters on the corner of College Avenue and Broadway in Oakland, a few blocks from my father's house. It's an old-fashioned booth — glass, the kind Superman used to transform himself from regular to fantastical, and that's what I'm doing too, transforming, dropping coins in the slot while clutching the classified section under my arm.
I've dressed sexy to make this call, my cold nipples pressing against the inside of my black leotard, hair wild, my leather jacket, and lipstick – Ruby Red – stolen from my stepmother Marianna's shelf in the medicine cabinet. Marianna saw me as I whizzed past her, camped out with her work on the living room floor. My father heard me and yelled from the kitchen, "Czirkas Paprikash for dinner tonight, Janine, about 7:30!"
"Okay, Max!" and I was out the door.
The booth is exposed here on the corner. Gusts of Northern California morning wind blow under the walls and chill my feet. A guy leans from a pick-up truck to yell, "hey, baby!" ; a homeless man with a shopping cart stops to check me out. A woman answers the phone, "Pussycat's Passion Parlor, may I help you? The newspaper falls, I fumble the extra coins in my hand and they drop in a shower on the ground. "Hi, can I speak to Tia?"
"I'm Tia. Are you calling about a job?" I seal my fate. "Yes," I look down at the circled ad on the newspaper at my feet:
Fun, friendly establishment with no customer contact.
Part-time and Full-time, ideal for students and homemakers.
No experience necessary. 18 yrs. & older. Tia 624-1683
"What's your name?"
"Anastasia." It's the first time I've said it out loud. It sounds incredible, and my life, like the coins in the phone, tumbles into place.