What I Did Wrong: A Novel

What I Did Wrong: A Novel The Long Awaited Second Novel By The Author Of The Irreversible Decline Of Eddie Socket In , John Weir S Debut Novel, The Irreversible Decline Of Eddie Socket, Was One Of The First Novels To Convey The Horror Of The AIDS Epidemic And Critics Quickly Recognized It As One Of The Truly Outstanding Works In That Genre Now, Weir Follows Up With Another Terrifically Moving And Often Disarmingly Funny Book About Loss, Survival, And Sexuality In The Post AIDS Era Returning To A Manhattan Haunted By The Memory Of All The Young Men Who Died In The Late S And Early S, What I Did Wrong Has At Its Heart A Protagonist For Whom That Loss Is Still All Too Palpable Tom, A Forty Two Year Old English Professor, Watched His Best Friend Die Years Earlier And Now Finds Himself Sliding Into Middle Age While Questioning Everything He Thought He Knew About His Gay Identity His Queens College Classes Are Filled With Borough Boys Displaying Their Own Bravado Along With Their Confused Masculinity As Tom Balances Their Friendship With The Occasional Displaced Erotic Overtones, He Finds An Unexpected Common Ground With These Proud Young Men And, Surprisingly, Claims His Place In The World And In History What I Did Wrong Is A Dazzling Work Juxtaposing Low Comedy And Heartfelt Tragedy With Astonishing Finesse, A Book Worthy Of John Weir S Return To Fiction That Will Be Warmly Welcomed By Critics And Readers Alike

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  • Hardcover
  • 272 pages
  • What I Did Wrong: A Novel
  • John Weir
  • English
  • 21 June 2017
  • 9780670034840

10 thoughts on “What I Did Wrong: A Novel

  1. says:

    DNF 53%

  2. says:

    _Eddie Socket_ was a once in a career book, in no small part because it appeared at a time when a fictional response to AIDS and a literary reflection on the lives of urban gay men living through what felt very much like a war was coalescing, and writers were still chafing under Andrew Holleran s pronouncement that no one will ever be able to write a novel about AIDS a dictate that he, himself, has repeatedly violated With _Eddie Socket_, John Weir expressed in print what none or few had managed it isn t a great book solely because of its Zeitgeist, but it can t be ignored that Weir said something perfect about an era and managed to do it that era was still going on That s no mean feat._What I Did Wrong_ doesn t have the impeccable timing of _Eddie Socket_, and it doesn t have the same sense of being an immediate, vital, and inevitable response to its age If it s a bit unfocused, and it is, perhaps it s solely because the times we live in are unfocused identity, desire, right, wrong, good, evil As the deconstructionists said and said and said and said , all of that was going to pass through the industrial grinder of the 1990s and come out on the other end looking or less unrecognizable And that s what _What I Did Wrong_ wants to forgive the word foreground the way things d evolved, the way surviving AIDS turned out to be simply what happened next for a lot of gay men of Weir s and my generation The gay community many of us thought we belonged to because of the activism and immediacy that attended AIDS or simply because of the respite that caring for sick and dying friends gave us from thinking about the larger implications of what was going on around us moved on my own 23 year old queer nephew finds all that AIDS stuff as distant as I find accounts of living through the blitz of London.And, in the meantime, gay changed as well, and one of the most fascinating things about _What I Did Wrong_ is the way Weir s characters are rummaging around in heterosexuality as much as they are in homosexuality, trying to figure out where or if the boundaries are or, to the point, when they are In fact, what Weir has to say, and very plainly, about masculinity and the nature of being male has truth in it than fifty articles in _Feminist Review._Anyone who s alive in America today, especially young people, knows that Weir got this detail exactly right We live a confusing reality in which every repressive, homophobic, closeted, retrograde, and funky response to queers and to being queer exists smack alongside levels of unprecedented openness, visibility, and cultural amalgamation and assimilation that were literally unforeseeable twenty years ago, in the long, lurid twilight of Reagan It s the queer decade it s the homophobe decade You can hardly watch an hour of prime time TV today without seeing happy hordes of well adjusted homos you can hardly watch an hour of news without learning that, somewhere in the world, queers are being fired, excommunicated, beat up, or executed We re the Pope s favorite target for damnation what s , we re big box office and, at the same time, no big deal.It s all very confusing and Weir manages to work that sense of disorientation into _What I Did Wrong_ not as an intellectual question, but as the highly pragmatic quandary of a man in his 40s who lives in a New York not to say an America that is barely recognizable.It s true _What I Did Wrong_ is a bit short on plot or, better said, it s got the kind of postmodern plot that regards plot and comments on it You re either OK with that or you aren t that is, you re either satisfied with following Tom through his often present tense descriptions of the new, post AIDS world, or you re looking for someone to tell you an entirely made up story There s less story here, in that sense, than there is a semi autobiographical account of what happened whether it s literally autobiographical, I couldn t say, but it is written that way it s Tom s autobiography But that doesn t mean the novel doesn t take you for a ride And it s true John Weir is sometimes too arch for his own good in the novel for sure, but also in his responses to critics online at .com, for example though he can t entirely be blamed the downside of s citizen reviews is that people who couldn t write a grocery list post hateful and or stupid and or ignorant drivel, and at a certain point in life you feel like you ve stood quietly by and let enough stupidity go unchallenged In short, _What I Did Wrong_ is a book for people who get it If you don t know what Weir is talking about or you just don t care, look elsewhere If survival, in all permutations of the world, is as troubling business to you as it ought to be, _What I Did Wrong_ for all its gritty urban ambiance and its millennial, I m so over it sarcasm is an exploration of being, an existential question mark, a riff on a cultural memory that too few of us still bear.

  3. says:

    Well I am unsure whether Tom actually did anything wrong I am not a great fan of literary fiction More often than not such writing leaves me with ambiguity and questions The main question being what did I just read I am not sure what I have just read in this story We have a main character called Tom who is gay Tom has had a few boyfriends the most memorable of whom was Zack who died after a difficult struggle with Aids This relationship wasn t smooth and delightful but troubling and critical and six years later Tom still lives with the voice of Zack in his life.But Tom doesn t only live with voices, he lives with memories Memories of growing up gay and being hounded and bullied at school, but still finding his way through school accepting the bullying as something that happens Tom lives with the memories of his first steady relationship with a closeted older man called Mark who owned every aspect of Tom s life except when Tom found his place through writing.And Tom has had other friendhips such as Richie, a childhood friend who pops into his life now and again Different voices and memories have shaped Tom and now in his forties he is shaped by the younger men who he teaches in college and he has a relationship with one of them, Justin.And that s about it We are taken through a rather rambling dialogue about things Tom did in the past and things he is doing now We relive his difficult time at school, his difficult time as Zack dies from Aids and his friendships as he kind of passes through life The story shows the impact and horror of dying from Aids without being horrifying Zack s illness and death are portrayed in a matter of fact way and so is Tom s time at school He sees the bullying and ridicule from both teachers and students in a very matter of fact way, almost as if it is happening to someone else.But after reading this all I could think of was and so We never really got to understand how all these relationships and events shaped the man that Tom now is Instead I was left wondering what it is that I just read But it isn t all bad because that question leads us to freedom We may or may not understand what the author is trying to convey but we have the freedom to say what the story means to us.For me this story is about memories and experiences of the past It is about how these memories become echoes and voices and sounds in our present So Tom continues to hear Zack s voice in his present and he continues to reflect on his experiences of school even though he is now in his forties Memories can be good or bad or neutral Sometimes those voices from the past can speak in the present in a way that is hurtful or healing Sometimes the voices and memories take a different shape and leave the authenticity of the past to become something new in the present This is a story about living with memories good, bad, painful, traumatic and then one day waking up to find that the memory has changed and is really a different voice in the present And of course we continue to live with those memories old and new We continue to be shaped and influenced by the past and the present.So in some way I have answered my question and I know what the story is about for me but I cant say it was a pleasurable read It was truly a perplexing one.

  4. says:

    Well, I loved it Geworfenheit on a stick and deliciously so But I d be the first to admit that if a reader isn t fond of pondering the nature of one s being in the world through a holocaust or a post modern wasteland, it might not be an easy to get out of What I Did Wrong what s there to be got It s not laid out there on a platter the reader has to participate in the process.I felt rewarded The dog biscuit rewards loveable characters, fantasy situations are not in play That was kind of a relief to me How nice to be in a place I ll never inhabit among characters I ll never know and find that they and I share some common ground.Along the way there are some painfully funny vignettes, snippets of cin ma v rit , and quite a few interesting observations about what it is to be human in a completely bizarre world.

  5. says:

    Within three chapters I found it necessary to add Complete This Book to my list of chores For what it s worth, it was placed between Clean Out The Fridge and Scrub The Shower I found the story telling disjointed not artfully so and peppered with inconsistencies But it was the tone suffused with thinly veiled bitterness and self loathing that did me in.

  6. says:

    Skip this book and read his The Irreversible Decline of Eddie Socket

  7. says:

    Find this and my other reviews at feel a bit strange writing a review of John Weir s What I Did Wrong, as he writes extensively about being a professor at Queens College, which is where I met him when I sat in his class for the first time Coming to the novel as both a character and a reader was an interesting experience, though certainly this is a book that would have stayed with me for a long time even if I hadn t known the author.A memory years ago, shortly after the publication of What I Did Wrong, some friends and I went to a reading at the LGBT Community Center in New York We met with our professor, who was looking rather scandalously disheveled for someone about to make a professional appearance Yet he d arrived prepared he brandished his razor and shaving cream as concrete proof of his preparedness We all shuffled together into the multi stall unisex bathroom and kept him company as he shaved and brushed down his shirt for errant wrinkles and crumbs, patted down his hair, then asked if he looked presentable enough.You ll do, we said, nodding and grinning in amusement at the whole experience the inversion of the roles of teacher and student, adult and youth Although we only were in each others lives for a brief time, a semester or two, I can t think of him without thinking of that openness of spirit that welcomed us backstage into the writer s life Is that what an author is Someone who brings along his new friends to watch him shave two minutes before going on stage to read heart wrenchingly vivid sections of his new novel So when Weir writes in What I Did Wrong that his narrator Tom is trying to be the first nice American man and describes his deep love for his students, I had a difficult time separating professor Tom from the professor I knew.John Weir is a very nice man indeed That s only one reason why you should read his books.On the surface, What I Did Wrong follows Tom through one manic night He meets up with his childhood friend Richie, who is planning on cheating on his long term girlfriend with a woman that he met online that calls herself Afrodytea Tom is thrown into memories one might even argue that he lives in memory than the present and we quickly learn that he is absorbed by the death of his friend Zack, who died of AIDS five years prior to the action of the novel Zack, intensely acerbic and angry, turns into Tom s alter ego, forcing him to answer difficult questions about his feelings for his student Justin Innocenzio, who turns to Tom as a mentor in his budding passion for writing poetry That s the plot, but the plot is the least of the novel Nose to the ground, squat on its haunches, Riche s car is blister red, bright with sleek aluminum strips, swollen here and there in its tapering length with triumphant attachments, swiveling mirrors, trim antennae, delicate bumpers, and terraced with glass that reflects and multiplies in its windshields and side windows every passing jazz juiced hipster crossing Avenue A against the gun metal blue of the cloud clotted sky.Weir is really brilliant in his imagery and his character writing, with descriptions that take your breath away in their depth and beauty Even when he describes the end of Zack s life, when Zack is emaciated and out of control of his body and Tom is horrified by the physical reality of the indignities of the dying, his love for his friends shine through We spend the novel watching Tom watch his friends, and the predominant emotion is always love She s sitting on the bar stool near the door, twisting her slender Audrey Hepburn neck to see what s playing above her on the TV screen Her pale arms are naked to the shoulder, bent at the elbows and balancing her face, her hands together palm to palm beside her cheek, the first two fingers of her right hand stretching out to hold a cigarette Its smoke turns colors as it moves through overlapping shafts of bar light and TV light and rings her black hair like a corona.Half meditation on American masculinity and half meditation on what it is to love your best friend, your student, the city that you live in, your dying friend What I Did Wrong is full of food for thought Tom frequently asks what it means to be a man attracted to men, to be both the desirer and the object of desire, while mourning the devastation that the AIDS epidemic of the late 80s brought to his community and indulging in no small amount of survivor guilt At the same time, he puts American masculinity under the knife, using his identity as a gay man in his iteration, this is somewhere between male and female to critique it Because how much does a man have in his life You can t invent the wheel That s been done Prometheus took care of fire And women are better at everything else plans and provisions, legal precedents, corporate accounts, Foreplay Women connect Men are selfish dreamers, in the john with their Walkmans spinning Radiohead and counting all the geniuses they can t become Homer, Plato, Jesus, Gandhi, Lester Young, Malcolm X, Frank Purdue.And yet, while the novel s famous phrase is that America is a place where everyone has a bad relationship with a man, Weir s critique of masculinity is as nuanced as his character portraits it is observation, beautifully described, and an attempt to understand And through it all is the love that binds his characters together Yes, zoom Kerouac says, and we re on the Belt Parkway A belt is a fist in the arm, a shot of booze, a part of your car We cross the border into Brooklyn, where the ground is flat and sandy near Starrett City and the highway changes names from Shore Parkway to Leif Ericson Drive The Verazanno Narros Bridge glides into place like a zipper joining oiled waves, and Manhattan is behind it There it is, Richie says, there it motherfucking is The end of What I Did Wrong came too soon for me I wanted to keep reading the lush language that brought my city and its characters so clearly to life There s a reason why artists congregate here Weir is certainly one of them.

  8. says:

    I had high hopes for this book when I got it at the library I too experienced first hand the same things the main character did in the novel friends dying, facing middle age, questioning my life Sadly the story just didn t grab me, I found myself not caring about any of the characters or their troubles I reached a point where what kept me reading the book was finding passages where the narrator names the streets and neighborhoods as he passes through them The bike ride to the Bronx, and the various car trips in Queens come to mind I think the author got them right Now that I ve finished it my first reaction is disappointment I give it two stars it was okay Just.

  9. says:

    A bit of a cheat, as I started it in 2017 in a flu daze, then put it down halfway through, with a need for fantastical words and worlds Back to it, this book should be readily in print A melancholy humorous ode to an era of gay survivors in the early 2000 s, the amazing and quirky bonds between gay and straight male friends, and a love letter to NY writers and teachers There s a class consciousness rare in a queer novel Also I finished it on Memorial Day weekend, setting of the book.

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