Melanie Abrams
Julius Addlesee
Shelley Aikens
A. Aimee
Jeanne Ainslie
Fredrica Alleyn
Rebecca Ambrose
Diane Anderson-Minshall
Laura Antoniou
Janine Ashbless
Lisette Ashton
Gavin Atlas
Danielle Austen
J. P. Beausejour
P.K. Belden
Tina Bell
Jove Belle
Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore
Ronica Black
Candace Blevins
Primula Bond
Lionel Bramble
A. J. Bray
Samantha Brook
Matt Brooks
Zetta Brown
James Buchanan
Louisa Burton
Angela Campion
Angela Caperton
Annabeth Carew
Julia Chambers
Dale Chase
M. Christian
Greta Christina
Valentina Cilescu
Rae Clark
NJ Cole
Christina Crooks
Julius Culdrose
Portia da Costa
Alan Daniels
Angraecus Daniels
Dena De Paulo
Vincent Diamond
Susan DiPlacido
Noelle Douglas-Brown
Hypnotic Dreams
Amanda Earl
Hank Edwards
Jeremy Edwards
Stephen Elliott
Madelynne Ellis
Justine Elyot
Aurelia T. Evans
Lucy Felthouse
Jesse Fox
I. G. Frederick
Simone Freier
Louis Friend
Polly Frost
William Gaius
Bob Genz
Shanna Germain
J. J. Giles
Lesley Gowan
K D Grace
K. D. Grace
Sacchi Green
Ernest Greene
Tamzin Hall
R. E. Hargrave
P. S. Haven
Trebor Healey
Vicki Hendricks
Scott Alexander Hess
Richard Higgins
Julie Hilden
E. M. Hillwood
Amber Hipple
William Holden
Senta Holland
David Holly
Michelle Houston
Debra Hyde
M. E. Hydra
Vina Jackson
Anneke Jacob
Maxim Jakubowski
Kay Jaybee
Ronan Jefferson
Amanda Jilling
SM Johnson
Raven Kaldera
J. P. Kansas
Kevin Killian
D. L. King
Catt Kingsgrave
Kate Kinsey
Geoffrey Knight
Varian Krylov
Vivienne LaFay
Teresa Lamai
Lisa Lane
Randall Lang
James Lear
Amber Lee
Nikko Lee
Tanith Lee
Annabeth Leong
James W. Lewis
Marilyn Jaye Lewis
Ashley Lister
Fiona Locke
Clare London
Scottie Lowe
Simon Lowrie
Catherine Lundoff
Michael T. Luongo
Jay Lygon
Helen E. H. Madden
Nancy Madore
Jodi Malpas
Jeff Mann
Alma Marceau
Sommer Marsden
Gwen Masters
Sean Meriwether
Bridget Midway
I. J. Miller
Madeline Moore
Lucy V. Morgan
Julia Morizawa
David C. Morrow
Walter Mosley
Peggy Munson
Zoe Myonas
Alicia Night Orchid
Craig Odanovich
Cassandra Park
Michael Perkins
Christopher Pierce
Lance Porter
Jack L. Pyke
Devyn Quinn
Cameron Quitain
R. V. Raiment
Shakir Rashaan
Jean Roberta
Paige Roberts
Sam Rosenthal
D. V. Sadero
C Sanchez-Garcia
Lisabet Sarai
R Paul Sardanas
R. Paul Sardanas
Elizabeth Schechter
Erica Scott
Kemble Scott
Mele Shaw
Simon Sheppard
Tom Simple
Talia Skye
Susan St. Aubin
Charlotte Stein
C. Stetson
Chancery Stone
Donna George Storey
Darcy Sweet
Rebecca Symmons
Mitzi Szereto
Cecilia Tan
Lily Temperley
Vinnie Tesla
Claire Thompson
Alexis Trevelyan
Alison Tyler
Gloria Vanderbilt
Vanessa Vaughn
Elissa Wald
Saskia Walker
Kimberly Warner-Cohen
Brian Whitney
Carrie Williams
Peter Wolkoff
T. Martin Woody
Beth Wylde
Daddy X
Lux Zakari
Fiona Zedde
So Many Ways to Sleep BadlySo Many Ways to Sleep Badly
By: Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore
City Lights Books
ISBN: 0872864685
September 2008

Reviewed By: Kathleen Bradean

When I first read this book, I assumed it was a memoir, but the interview with Mattilda that the publisher enclosed with my review copy states that it’s a novel. Hmm. It reads like a memoir and shuns the conventions of a novel, such as character development and a linear progression of an idea, but it’s experimental prose, so it’s going to be one of those love-it-or-hate-it books for many readers. I’ll admit right off that I’m not a huge fan of stream-of-consciousness writing. However, my standing rule is to judge a book by what it is, not what it isn’t. So what is So Many Ways to Sleep Badly?

On one hand, you could say it’s a trip to the other side of the tracks, unless you live on the brink of poverty in San Francisco, are an anti-assimilationist queer activist, an incest survivor, and suffer from a chronic illness that makes you so fragile that you can’t even sleep. These identities give Mattilda a far different perspective on San Francisco and queer culture than you’ll read in mainstream queer media. That jolt of fresh insight is a good reminder that even within a community, not everyone has the same agenda, ambitions, or beliefs.

Ah – but we review erotica at Erotica Revealed, so what does this book have to do with erotica? Mattilda is a whore. She doesn’t mince words about it, so I won’t either. She writes honestly about her tricks, and there are a lot of them.

“… because I’m a sucker for any ridiculous song about hookers. What’s the line? Something about giving up their bodies for a thousand other men. Rue says a thousand – I think I’m up around five thousand. And five of them were fun.”

Her tricks range from the pathetic: “My cellphone rings, this guy wants to know if I have a discount for married guys with kids.” “Another trick that wants to know if I have any diseases, he doesn’t want to bring anything home to his wife.”

To the absurd: “Andrew’s from Seattle, he gives me a ride home and tries to shake my hand goodbye. Sorry honey – you just sucked my cock – I think we can kiss.”

To the rare times he enjoys it: “This trick shows up and he’s so hot, preppy boy with a shaved head and lots of freckles – and he’s grinning at me. Right away, we’re making out and it’s totally sex, soft and hard and warm and connected.”

Beyond sex for pay, Mattilda also writes about cruising for sex on Craigslist, in the park, and at Power Exchange, even though she rarely finds what she’s looking for and often vows never to return.

“I go to the Power Exchange. I know what you’re thinking: why does she break her own rules - it’ll only lead to disaster, and it does honey, it does. I can’t even describe how boring and awful it is, but I’m a writer – that’s my job.”

That passage made me laugh, and reminded me of the e-mail conversation Mattilda and I had several years ago about sex at venues such as Nob Hill Theater and Power Exchange being a form of  performance art. If only it had that much creativity. She seems to seek temporary transcendence in sex. Occasionally, it happens. Usually, it doesn’t.

At the beginning of the novel, there’s hope for a relationship. Those very honest moments with Jeremy are the most erotic in the novel, probably because of the emotional vulnerability. The romantic in me wanted to see it work out, but this story is about real life, so of course it doesn’t end that way. Mattilda writes: “I thought this novel was turning into a love story, but now Jeremy’s fucking that up.” It isn’t what you’d think – Mattilda’s sex work isn’t what drives them apart. Mattilda wants someone to cuddle with. Jeremy doesn’t want to be bothered with a boyfriend because it’s too much work to put another person first.

The story loses energy and direction in the last couple chapters. Mattilda throws names around with no clear definition of who the characters are or their relation to her. There is no resolution. No one learns anything. Instead, everyone clings tighter to what they are when challenged. Revelations are on a small scale, and not life-changing. As a novel, So Many Ways to Sleep Badly doesn’t really work, but as a fictionalized memoir, it does. If you have even a little curiosity about life as a gay sex worker, this novel will fascinate you. Despite the experimental style of prose, I found it interesting and funny.