In our last Frothy episode, I sang the praises of Damon Suede's fabulous novel Hot Head which inspired me to get back into my own writing. At the risk of sounding like AC/DC, his book shook me all night long. I spent hours devouring as much as I could each night, not wanting to stop. I even spent most of a workday distracted by thinking about what might happen next as I got closer to finishing it. The feelings that the novel pulled out of me were like an unexpected emotional orgasm, all "Whoa, what's happening? This is AMAZING...I can't believe I FEEL all this!" So now, as I lay in the afterglow with a rush of nervous, jittery excitement, I'll attempt to put into words how the novel resonated with me.
For the last four years, it seemed as if a certain part of my emotional being had dimmed. When my last relationship ended in 2008, it was like an emergency alert system kicked in and shut down my capacity to feel anything deeper than flirtation. Even though Juliana Hatfield astutely sang "A heart that hurts is a heart that works," I couldn't handle putting so much of myself into chances that failed.
Enter Hot Head. Damon Suede's book was so engaging that it absorbed me into the world he created, while simultaneously bouncing me back to feelings I thought I had buried. There were plenty of special "moments" from my past I was afraid to embrace due to the "failure" of the circumstances around them. It takes a good writer to create characters so real that you connect and identify with slivers of your own life experience through their journeys.
In Hot Head, Griff agonizes over his love for best friend Dante, searching for any little "sign" that Dante might feel the same. Suede achingly conveys the intoxicating cocktail of hope, yearning and palpable tension searing through Griff's veins. Those moments made me recall my own experiences with a straight best friend during my University days. There were times when I'd look over at him and the tiny smile he returned would radiate with warmth. Some of his most subtle gestures made me feel so special, connected and close to him. So it was no surprise that I fell hard and fast, engulfed in the rush and panic of wondering if he might reciprocate my feelings. He helped me come out and there were more than a few surprises along the way. Unfortunately, our friendship turned into a flaming disaster that could have benefitted from Dante & Griff's firefighting skills. But Griff's struggles took me right back to the early days of my burgeoning sexuality, with the pure, intense and confusing moments of figuring out what it is to be in love with another man.
Another powerful moment in the book illustrates the ability that one kiss has to transcend the world around you. The imagery brought back echoes of late 2007 when my boyfriend at the time came with me to my workplace Christmas party, held at a Church in my neighbourhood. When the party was over and folks were leaving, we found ourselves stealing away to one end of the parking lot. With the faint murmur of co-workers chatting in the background, our lips met and we shared one passionate, lasting kiss with the snow under our feet, the Winter sky eerily still and the Church towering over us. In that one moment, it was he and I together in our own world on that cold December night, no matter who or what was around us. There's a certain chivalry in wanting to share an intimate, heartfelt moment so badly that you risk the looming threat of outsiders impeding or intruding on it. The novel expertly kicks this scenario up a few notches, with much higher stakes involved.
When my boyfriend and I (amicably) broke up in 2008, I almost felt like that was my "last chance for love." (That title alone already sounds like a juicy melodramatic novel...) All of my past regrets and hurts were hanging over me and I felt like I couldn't take wearing my heart on my sleeve anymore. If love were fast food, I would have probably stepped up to the counter and said "Hold the relationship, I'll just have the light crush instead...oh, and maybe a few sprinkles of lust on the side!" Years passed and I wondered if I had gotten too reserved, too cold to let myself get engrossed in anything reminiscent of the vulnerable, tantalizing stirs of romance that I once knew.
So when I read Hot Head, it was like an EMT (Tommy?) had put paddles on my chest and brought me "back" to feel things more intensely again. I hadn't been moved that way in a long time. One of the phrases in Suede's novel that rang out like a battle cry was "loving with an open heart." It's so easy to be jaded and lose sight of finding your "happy ending" because real life always gets in the way. Even in the compelling world of Hot Head, love isn't necessarily easy, but it is shown to be something worth fighting for.
Quite possibly, the most important thing I learned from Hot Head is that I should be less afraid to embrace, let alone trust my own "open heart." With the newfound exuberance the novel brought out of me, I feel more passionate about living and loving, even if romance isn't in my immediate future. With this renewed vigor pulsing through me, I engaged in a very nice chat with a sexy, swarthy gentleman at a Halloween party I recently attended. It felt like the gates of my heart were finally starting to swing open a bit more freely again and I wasn't spooked by it...
Once again, I encourage everybody to buy this AMAZING book. Check out Damon Suede's page for reviews and an excerpt as well as these links to buy it:
There's also another great interview with Damon talking about the origins of how his novel came to be. (Some spoilers in the interview, so read with caution!) Check out Jadette Page's blog for Damon's intriguing and fascinating behind the scenes details!
And if you're not all linked out, check out some of my older writings here and stay tuned for my new Frothy musings right here on this blog!