by MARK CORECE
In light of President Obama's "change" mantra, author Lamar Ariel follows suit by presenting his self-published book Ready To Male: A Collection of Letters. A book that is quite different from almost any book, let alone the LBGT sphere of literature. Ready To Male provides a look into the mind of this Chicago native's ( black gay male-identified ) experiences; experiences filled with relationship disappointment, self-pity, and enlightenment from it all. The book aims to provide the tools for gay men to look within themselves to actually make positive self-transformation
Windy City Times: How was your time in Chicago? You had two events, your book signing and a special event at the Prop House Night club.
Lamar Ariel: The events were really great, I had a great time. I had a chance to connect with my friends and family around my project and it was nice come home. The book reading was great it was the day of a snow storm so we had a little less of a turn out than expected but it was a really intimate and really engaged audience so that really made all of the difference. I was reading letters to a really active and engaged audience.
WCT: Your debut book is Ready To Male, How did you come up with the concept of the book and its interesting title?
LA: Ready To Male is, essentially, autobiographical-fiction; it has a collection of letters. The term Ready To Male is really just … .well I really wish their was more to the title. A friend of mine read an email I sent to him and in his response he said you really should [ mail ] one of the letters and he typed it and misspelled mail and he spelled it male. I thought about the idea of being ready and it was really one of those snap-through moments and I thought oh my God, Ready to Male. [ Laughs ] I wish the story was more interesting than that but that's really where the title of the book came from.
WCT: Well, it works well. Aside from the e-mail, can you talk about any other inspirations that you've had in the process of writing the book in compiling the letters?
LA: Of course, correspondence in general, cards, I've kept every card or letter I've received. I just love the idea of preserving an experience and preserving a thought on paper. It is very powerful and intimate. I feel like letters are a very cool and interesting way to relay a message that is voyeuristic but yet and still universal.
WCT: For Windy City Times readers, how is this book different from other books?
LA: The book is different from any other book because there is no book of letters by an African American male that is self-identified as gay. Also, we don't have a collection of letters that are also short stories and memoirs. People run away from the idea of memoir but I actually like it, if you use it in its proper context. The proper context of Ready to Male is that is also a memoir of and a memoir in progress because I 'm not dead I'm here doing this interview and these moments aren't all I have to say about life, they are just some of them. And these are my experiences.
WCT: How would you describe your writing?
LA: Oh God, it's uh …
WCT: I'd say you have a very distinctive style. I said to myself –while reading—I wonder why he italicized this or put it this way? How would you describe that process in your writing?
LA: My English teacher would probably hate it because well you know how Justin Timberlake brought sexy back? Well I brought the run-on sentence back [ Laughs ] . I love taking a sentence as far as it possibly goes. I have paragraphs that are sentences. I think my style is observational and lots of metaphors and also a combinations of poetry in real time as I call it. I use a lot of metaphors. Some of the letters themselves are metaphors and not actual retelling of events.
WCT: Ready to Male consists of six chapters. Talk about some of the chapters. Why the titles and what's in them?
LA: The first chapter It's Easy Because You're Beautiful is really my collection of letters that contains some of my letters about love and how I learned what love is. I talk about my best friend, who I begrudgingly call my "fag-hag", my mother, my father and my self. I also discuss things in my adolescence and my adulthood that set the framework for love.
WCT: In this chapter you talk about your best friend the "fag-hag" and eventually graduating from that to something more. What's that process all about? Does every gay man need one? [ Laughs ]
LA: Well, I was retelling some of our moments and it was really about four different women but I've written to one. They've all had varying degrees of influences in my life. I felt like I wanted to write something for them and pay homage to them and their roles in my life. So the only term that's fairly common is "fag-hag." I've been looking for a better way to describe it but I still haven't found it. In the letter I jokingly call her Grace and the experiences that we've had have certainly been amazing. And no I don't think every gay man needs a "fag-hag' in his life but he does need a good friend.
WCT: OK, so the other chapters …
LA: Chapter two Find Him Keep Him, Lose Him Weep Him is pretty self explanatory it's really about the cycle of getting over a relationship. letter about God I'm depressed, I just woke up we just broke up, and it ends. That's anger but still a resolution; you say it's ok I still have me now. I think my favorite chapter is Very Perceptive, Practically Psychic which is really my opportunity to give the reader a sense of my creativity and where my mind wonders. And the last letter is where Ready To Male II will pick up.
WCT: You've self-published your book—and you plan to self-publish future books like Ready To Male II—you have worked very hard on this project, right?
LA: Yes I [ Ready To Male ] is a labor of love, it's my first baby go buy it! It is something that gives and gives and gives. When I'm not out promoting the book—something I call my living room tour—I pick a page and I laugh because I'm reminded of where I was when I wrote that letter or I'm reminded of the people and experiences that laid the foundation for it. It's a good read and entertaining and you definitely wont be bored.