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Black Wave

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"Wild, wickedly funny, and refreshingly relevant."Elle "Raucous . . . [and] unapologetically raw."New York Times It's 1999 in San Francisco, and as shockwaves of gentrification sweep through Michelle's formerly scruffy neighborhood, money troubles, drug-fueled mishaps, and a string of disastrous affairs send her into a tailspin. Desperate to save herself, Michelle sets out "Wild, wickedly funny, and refreshingly relevant."—Elle "Raucous . . . [and] unapologetically raw."—New York Times It's 1999 in San Francisco, and as shockwaves of gentrification sweep through Michelle's formerly scruffy neighborhood, money troubles, drug-fueled mishaps, and a string of disastrous affairs send her into a tailspin. Desperate to save herself, Michelle sets out to seek a fresh start in Los Angeles. Meanwhile, climate-related disruptions and a string of extinctions are the background noise of impending doom. One day, Michelle wakes up to an official announcement: the world will be ending in exactly one year. Daily life in Los Angeles quickly becomes intensely surreal. Humans begin to collectively dream of the lives and loves they would have had, if not for the end of the world, and the lines between fantasy and reality become increasingly blurred. As the planet nears its expiration date, Michelle holes up in an abandoned bookstore and calmly begins to write—convinced she's finally stumbled upon the elusive "universal story"—a novel about a struggling writer facing the end of the world. Funny, gritty, improbable, and endearing, Black Wave muses on the hallucinatory confusions of addiction, the hope and despair of a barely published writer, notions of destiny, and the porous boundaries between memoir and fiction. Michelle Tea has published four memoirs, including the award-winning Valencia; the novel Rose of No Man's Land; and the poetry collection The Beautiful. Her latest book How to Grow Up: A Memoir, was recently published by Plume.


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"Wild, wickedly funny, and refreshingly relevant."Elle "Raucous . . . [and] unapologetically raw."New York Times It's 1999 in San Francisco, and as shockwaves of gentrification sweep through Michelle's formerly scruffy neighborhood, money troubles, drug-fueled mishaps, and a string of disastrous affairs send her into a tailspin. Desperate to save herself, Michelle sets out "Wild, wickedly funny, and refreshingly relevant."—Elle "Raucous . . . [and] unapologetically raw."—New York Times It's 1999 in San Francisco, and as shockwaves of gentrification sweep through Michelle's formerly scruffy neighborhood, money troubles, drug-fueled mishaps, and a string of disastrous affairs send her into a tailspin. Desperate to save herself, Michelle sets out to seek a fresh start in Los Angeles. Meanwhile, climate-related disruptions and a string of extinctions are the background noise of impending doom. One day, Michelle wakes up to an official announcement: the world will be ending in exactly one year. Daily life in Los Angeles quickly becomes intensely surreal. Humans begin to collectively dream of the lives and loves they would have had, if not for the end of the world, and the lines between fantasy and reality become increasingly blurred. As the planet nears its expiration date, Michelle holes up in an abandoned bookstore and calmly begins to write—convinced she's finally stumbled upon the elusive "universal story"—a novel about a struggling writer facing the end of the world. Funny, gritty, improbable, and endearing, Black Wave muses on the hallucinatory confusions of addiction, the hope and despair of a barely published writer, notions of destiny, and the porous boundaries between memoir and fiction. Michelle Tea has published four memoirs, including the award-winning Valencia; the novel Rose of No Man's Land; and the poetry collection The Beautiful. Her latest book How to Grow Up: A Memoir, was recently published by Plume.

30 review for Black Wave

  1. 4 out of 5

    Jenny (Reading Envy)

    Wow, this book! It starts in San Francisco in the 1990s, focused on drug culture and queer culture. Originally I wasn't going to read this book because I have no reference point for drug culture and it always feels so foreign to read about it. But I started seeing some discussion of it and decided to give it a try. One chapter in, I was impressed by the vivid language but still not convinced.. then I got to the first sentence of chapter 2 and I was hooked. "That afternoon Michelle woke up on her Wow, this book! It starts in San Francisco in the 1990s, focused on drug culture and queer culture. Originally I wasn't going to read this book because I have no reference point for drug culture and it always feels so foreign to read about it. But I started seeing some discussion of it and decided to give it a try. One chapter in, I was impressed by the vivid language but still not convinced.. then I got to the first sentence of chapter 2 and I was hooked. "That afternoon Michelle woke up on her futon craving a salt bagel and an Odwalla, the inside of her mouth an apocalypse, same as always."I didn't really notice the tiny hints of apocalypse throughout that section and I think I computed them as metaphor or drug trips but not reality. Then it shifts to a different tone and focus when the character moves to Los Angeles. First there is this meta-writer section where she discusses why a lesbian character is "fringe" but a white male going through the same experience would be "serious literary fiction." (So true.) While I didn't care as much about this diversion, I can see how it served as a bridge between the two sections and to help explain all the abrupt changes and disruptions. I laughed out loud a few times in this novel and I think as dark as it was, that takes some skill. The cockroaches, the Scientologists, and this one scene with her brother where they are bathing in the scent of IN-n-Out burger, like a "trash-facial." I loved the use of language. And the way it ends, where the world ends, with psychic dreams of alternate future selves and the question of what would you do, would you keep working, etc.... it really took me on a journey, an experience I haven't had with a novel in a long while.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Sean Barrs The Ultra Vegan

    -A review copy was sent to me from Disclaimer Magazine in association with And Other Stories. The original review was posted here. The Review: In this wanton riot of individuality, we hear the story of a struggling author who works in a book shop by day and experiments with hard drugs for artistic inspiration by night. Michelle Tea writes in a fast edgy style that reflects the nature of her character; it is chatty, modern and slightly eccentric. The protagonist, also named Michelle, lives a life -A review copy was sent to me from Disclaimer Magazine in association with And Other Stories. The original review was posted here. The Review: In this wanton riot of individuality, we hear the story of a struggling author who works in a book shop by day and experiments with hard drugs for artistic inspiration by night. Michelle Tea writes in a fast edgy style that reflects the nature of her character; it is chatty, modern and slightly eccentric. The protagonist, also named Michelle, lives a life with no stop lights. She works. She parties. She writes. She works. She parties. She writes. The cycle continues until Michelle gets a particularly strong dose of recreational drugs and burns out, alienating those that love her most and attracting the attention of friends that are clearly no good for her. In the vein of Jeanette Winterson, the style is post-modern and very self-reflexive in nature. The book clearly alludes to the author, though how much so is never clearly established or definitively defined. The writing is undeniably honest, holding very little back. There is a strong sense of Freedom of expression, freedom of self “Being cast out of society early on made you see civilization for the farce it was, a theater of cruelty you were free to drop out of. Instead of playing along you became a fuckup. It was a political statement and a survival skill.” Redemptive themes are also within the narrative. Michelle is trying to find herself within the concrete jungle of today. She explores her own sexuality and engages in spare of the moment fantasies, again, at the expense of long standing relationships. She does not let anything restrict her or hold her back, but instead wishes to experience, to touch, taste and to feel what life has to offer all to the supposed betterment of her fiction. She wears no labels and is simply herself in a world that wishes for conformity. Identity labels do not bother her. After originally appearing to be a lesbian, she engages in another random sexual encounter and reveals her pansexual nature. Although this is set in the 90s, this book is a product of a modern queer feminist imagination. Such a character blends well to the modern times, a world that is becoming more accepting of gender identities and finally beginning to understand them. Michelle is well aware of the effects of her drug use and she wishes to quit and start a new life in Los Angeles before her lifestyle destroys her. Towards the end of the first half she gets her wish and seemingly escapes the life she has been living. But when she arrives she gets a similar job and adapts a similar routine albeit one that is a little slower. Why would she do this? It is human nature, the familiar asserts itself and her dreams for a new self are questionable. The thing is, Michelle addresses these contradictions within her writing and recognises the limitations of her own experience. She’s only human after all. The idea of settling down is misleading, moving location and starting again will not necessarily solve all of our problems: one needs to look deeper for solutions, if they really do want them. A new start? “Don’t you ever fucking write about me! Andy hollered, and was gone.” The second half of the novel pulls into question the truthfulness of the first. The writing feels experimental and it’s very hard to ascertain what is real and what fantasy is. Michelle admits to editing out a major lover out of the narrative for the purpose of confidentiality; thus, it feels fragmented and blurred. What we read is not the story as it happened, but a censored version to protect the real people involved. I should imagine names have been changed, but in part I think this accentuates the drug use. So in a way the book manages to carry this forward regardless of the inconsistencies. Once such a thing becomes such a large part of someone’s life, lines are bound to be blurred and experiences confused. And the book really reflects this, stylistically and structurally. An end of the world type narrative is eventually revealed to show how unfulfilled sexual fantasies can hang over us. It appears out of nowhere and brings the story to a swift close; though reading back key sections shows how the drug usage was filled with apocalyptic imagery. Michelle also has some rather ironic (yet true) comments to make on authorship and genre writing. She refers to her character as “fringe” rather than “out there” whereas a book about a white male going through the same experience would be considered literary fiction because it would be more daring. The bitterness in the words is palpable and such a truism stands with one of the main motifs of the book: it doesn’t matter what you are: as long as you are yourself. This would be a great book for a reader who loves long drawn out character studies, books that are introspective and revealing about the nature of self and sexuality in a claustrophobic world. The drug culture setting may be off putting to some, but it is a part of human existence and Michelle tea relays her personal experiences with it here. It’s a very honest book, brave and unflinching in the face of a world that will likely judge.

  3. 4 out of 5

    lark benobi

    Reading this novel is like leaping from rock to rock across a rushing river when you're not sure there is any way to get all the way across or if instead you're just going to tumble in and get carried downstream. Fearless, propulsive motion. Liquid language that tumults forward. A collapse between writer, narrator, and reader that feels physical and actual, not metafictional and theoretical. It left me breathless and exhilarated.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Elaine

    Wow. I don't know what just happened - this book contains so many things I normally hate (extensive descriptions of drug use, long dream sequences, a hipper than thou setting, a self-consciously post-modern approach to narrative )- and yet I loved it, couldn't put it down and hovered on the brink of 5 stars before settling on 4.5. Kudos Ms. Tea. I thought Black Wave was going to be this year's How Should A Person Be or Ban en Banlieue, each of which took the memoir-novel-feminist-pomo-hipster Wow. I don't know what just happened - this book contains so many things I normally hate (extensive descriptions of drug use, long dream sequences, a hipper than thou setting, a self-consciously post-modern approach to narrative )- and yet I loved it, couldn't put it down and hovered on the brink of 5 stars before settling on 4.5. Kudos Ms. Tea. I thought Black Wave was going to be this year's How Should A Person Be or Ban en Banlieue, each of which took the memoir-novel-feminist-pomo-hipster slot in prior Tournaments of Books and each of which I hated with my whole un-hip feminist heart, and, yet, much to my surprise, here I am sad Black Wave lost in the first round to The Underground Railroad (a book which disappointed me terribly, perhaps because, unlike Black Wave, my expectations were very high indeed). How did Black Wave overcome my prejudices and worm its way into my heart? Well, I love a well-depicted dystopic crumbling of civilization just as much as I hate self-consciously arch navelgazing on the writing process, so Black Wave had that going for it. Even in the more apparently straightforward San Francisco part of the book, Tea is gently weaving futuristic scenes of environmental collapse into her otherwise realistic depiction of queer culture in the Mission in San Francisco in 1999. And then, in the 2nd "LA" half of the book, she really goes for it, inventively, thoughtfully and humorously taking us through the end of the world. But it's not just because Tea does a good bleak near-future that I liked this book. I really enjoyed the doubling back between older and younger selves, the tenderness about mothers and daughters, the frank wondering about love, and above all, the bracing honesty of Tea's voice - a voice that is never afraid to call out its own pretensions and contradictions (thereby muting my general hostility to things that are overly hip), and to own up to its own fragility.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Amanda

    This is one of the stranger books I have read it won't be for everyone but I absolutely loved it.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Matthew

    Funny, ultra-imaginative and completely unique. A crazy mash-up of autobiography, meta-fiction, sci-fi, existentialism, memoir, 90's nostalgia, and apocalyptic fiction. This was my first Michelle Tea book, and I loved it!

  7. 4 out of 5

    Megan

    I'm blown away by this book, which is a new kind of autofiction/anti-memoir/whatever/yes. Black Wave is simultaneously vintage Michelle Tea and something wholly new, even futurist. Its a retelling of Michelle Tea's past as, or through, fiction (fiction)and as a painful history that has to die. The sardonic flippancy of her earlier memoirs is here, but theres an edge to it, self-loathing creeping through in the use of a detached, ironized third person point of view. Its a sobriety narrative, its I'm blown away by this book, which is a new kind of autofiction/anti-memoir/whatever/yes. Black Wave is simultaneously vintage Michelle Tea and something wholly new, even futurist. It’s a retelling of Michelle Tea's past as, or through, fiction (“fiction”)—and as a painful history that has to die. The sardonic flippancy of her earlier memoirs is here, but there’s an edge to it, self-loathing creeping through in the use of a detached, ironized third person point of view. It’s a sobriety narrative, it’s a post-adult queer coming-of-age narrative, it’s an apocalypse scenario, it’s a complex inquiry into the ethics of writing about others, it’s a hard, steely-eyed confrontation with the self. The apocalyptic dimensions are arch, casting an anxious but winking death sheen that functions in multiple ways. The coming apocalypse is the doom ushered in by 9/11 and global terrorism; it’s the death of the 90s queer/dyke SF scene at the hands of gentrification and neoliberalism; it’s the end of Michelle’s alcoholic, stuck self. The world as we know it is ending, Tea proposes—has already ended (the book takes place in the past), and Michelle, Tea’s autofictional avatar, has to watch it go. Only then can she dream the future, only then can she wake up and try to step into it. So many layers here! So much to say!

  8. 5 out of 5

    Michelle

    This is one of those books that I would have never picked up if left to my own devices. Silly Me! Even when Black Wave came up as a Buddy Read for my Newest Literary Fiction group, I shunned it. Goodreads reviews got posted and still I dallied. What propelled me to actually get off my rump and get this book was its inclusion on the Tournament of Books shortlist. Black Wave is an apocalyptic novel written in two parts: The first part is set in San Franciscos Queer sub-culture. It highlights the This is one of those books that I would have never picked up if left to my own devices. Silly Me! Even when Black Wave came up as a Buddy Read for my Newest Literary Fiction group, I shunned it. Goodreads reviews got posted and still I dallied. What propelled me to actually get off my rump and get this book was its inclusion on the Tournament of Books shortlist. Black Wave is an apocalyptic novel written in two parts: The first part is set in San Francisco’s Queer sub-culture. It highlights the main character Michelle’s addiction, rejection of mainstream society and despair. It is dark, at times difficult to read. The sense of dread fills you as you see Michelle fall deeper into the abyss of hard core drugs like crack and heroine. But this is an apocalyptic novel, yes? Aren’t despair and dread prerequisite ingredients? However, this isn’t your typical novel. There is no dystopian society here, instead a queer woman writer coming to grips with her self-loathing and doubt. “Penny would never be pathetic, she would always be daring and deep, her addiction a middle finger held up to proper society. Right? Right?” “Writing was the antijob, the fuck you to all jobs, her claim on her autonomy, what kept her feral and free.” “Belief in perfection was a delusion that spawned mental illness.” As the narrator moves onto the second part of the book, Los Angeles, she adopts a new life. Employing metafiction as a device Michelle decides to rewrite her own story. She struggles with maintaining her sobriety. At the same time she is unsure of how to honestly tell her story and have it be accepted by mainstream society. “She would have to teach herself how to be universal.” -- “Page after page she built a straight, male, middle-class Michelle who did not drink and did not do drugs.” “Maybe Michelle could actually keep the ideas that obsessed her – injustice, struggle, gender, feminism – but put them onto a man, thereby making them universal! Women have been trying to make feminism universal forever but had anyone ever thought of this? She would be such a hero! . . . All anyone would have to do is look at her, Michelle, the author, and her ulterior motives would become clear. The book would be deemed suspect, have an intention other than literary, be branded propaganda. For such a novel to succeed a man would have to write it.” Although I struggled in the beginning (not being one for the whole drug scene), at the end it all crystallized for me. Michelle comes to recognize that in true recovery we have to accept our mistakes. Writing became cathartic, an integral part of healing -- a redemptive process. “Time could not be wasted and everything had happened perfectly to deliver her to this moment.” “Michelle’s story, stanched for so long, came quickly and clearly, page after page it came, the story of Michelle and her tiny life made big, her blunders and foolishness made human, sometimes noble, her struggles redeemed, momentarily, and her love.”

  9. 5 out of 5

    Paul Fulcher

    One girl was doing an art project in which she documented herself urinating on every SUV she encountered. Hmmm.... I took out a subscription to support the wonderful press And Other Stories, publishers of such great books as the BTBA winning Signs Preceding the End of the World, the Goldsmith's shortlisted Martin John, Swimming Home and The Folly. One issue with this model is that one doesn't have any discretion over the books included, and the first book, with my name printed in the back with the One girl was doing an art project in which she documented herself urinating on every SUV she encountered. Hmmm.... I took out a subscription to support the wonderful press And Other Stories, publishers of such great books as the BTBA winning Signs Preceding the End of the World, the Goldsmith's shortlisted Martin John, Swimming Home and The Folly. One issue with this model is that one doesn't have any discretion over the books included, and the first book, with my name printed in the back with the many other sponsors, was Michelle Tea's Black Wave, an author previously unknown to me. I have to say my heart sank on page 1 when the first-person narrator, also called Michelle, praised her favourite bar "the Albion's other notable feature, Fernando, a man who wore a mullet and a leather vest and carried a brown paper bag, the sort a mother will pack her child's lunch in. It contained cocaine heavily cut with baby laxative." (seriously?) before ending the chapter happy that she has "checked 'smoke crack cocaine' off her to-do list." The first half of the novel, set in the Mission in San Francisco in the late 90s, has a conventional (arguably too conventional) literary style but a less well-trodden subject matter as Michelle ploughs here way through the Queercore scene in a flurry of poetry, music, drugs, disastrous relationships and sex: lots of sex, part of “a tribe bound not by ethnicity but by other things—desire, art, sex, poverty, politics.” My favourite sections were the brief parts on Michelle's LA-based brother Kyle, PA to a casting director who doesn't smoke but still has a supply of ashtrays to hand: "He was an assistant to one of the most powerful casting directors in Hollywood, a famously psychotic bitch. It was Kyle's dream job, he felt like Joan Crawford's personal assistant. When his boss hurled an ashtray in his general direction, he let it smash upon the wall, raised a waxed eyebrow, and make a brilliant deadpan comment." Now I must admit while I enjoyed the story on a page-turning level, I was struggling to have any empathy in the characters themselves, me being a British, heterosexual, middle-class, middle-aged ,white, abstemious man. And it didn't seem the author even wanted me to have that empathy. The casual use of drugs, even crack and heroin, I found particularly troublesome. But in a very clever touch, Michelle Tea takes advantage of the narrator moving to L.A. to reboot the story and provide a jolting meta-fictional twist. Our narrator Michelle (not to necessarily be confused with the author) decides to intervene in and comment on her own story, observing that there is only so much "deviation" (her words) society is prepared to take. She challenging points directly to readers like me: The reader was having a hard enough time trying to relate to a black person or a gay person without then having to relate to a crackhead, observing that a story about a drug- and sex-addicted white upper-middle class male heterosexual banker wouldn't cause the reader such issues - the multiple-Oscar nominated film Wolf of Wall Street rather makes her point. So she decides to rewrite the story of the character Michelle to make it more "universal." "Back at the computer, Michelle strove to universalise herself [...] Page after page she built a straight, male, middle-class Michelle who did not drink or do drugs. Oh wait - could she do that now? As a straight, male, middle-class man could she now shoot literary heroin and go on a literary crack bender. It depended, she suspected, on where straight, middle-class Michelle worked and how many dependants depended on him." Thus far, thus good. Unfortunately from this highlight, the novel seemed to rather lost its way. The narrator Michelle declares she doesn't know how to end the fictional Michelle's story so will instead bring the world to an end, indeed, when we are back in the main story (with Michelle much as she was and not 'universalised') it is announced that the world (or at least the human race) has just one year left due to the accumulation of environmental degradation, such as tsunamis massing in the ocean. This makes no more sense in the book than it does in my review (tsunamis travel at hundreds of mph, so how they can take a year to have effect?). The story also brings in pseudo-real actors from LA, notably Matt Dillon, as characters and overall becomes rather unfocused. So 4 stars for challenging by assumptions and prejudices but 2 for the story itself - 2.5 overall but I will round up to 3.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Kevin

    Black Wave is possibly the most fearless and daring book of Michelle's career. Its a novel with clear autobiographical roots but with a twist of apocalypse and reinvention. As always, Teas prose is visceral and close-up, burrowing under your skin. But it also drifts back, getting a wider view of the full story as the books hero, also named Michelle, leaves behind the bittersweet good times of her San Francisco identity (shout-out to The Chameleon poetry bar) and moves to Los Angeles (shout-out Black Wave is possibly the most fearless and daring book of Michelle's career. It’s a novel with clear autobiographical roots but with a twist of apocalypse and reinvention. As always, Tea’s prose is visceral and close-up, burrowing under your skin. But it also drifts back, getting a wider view of the full story as the book’s hero, also named Michelle, leaves behind the bittersweet good times of her San Francisco identity (shout-out to The Chameleon poetry bar) and moves to Los Angeles (shout-out to Matt Dillon!) in search for a clearer vision, a sober truth, and a deeper love. It’s almost painfully ironic that this book is coming out now, with darkness looming in our future as we all redefine and reinforce our sense of love, art, and togetherness. Black Wave is another awesome book from one of our most important writers and literary citizens.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Joachim Stoop

    4,5 What to say, what to say? Imagine a Jackson Pollock painting. You love or hate it. That's one thing. Secondly, nobody can do a better job at painting a Jackson Pollock-like painting than Jackson Pollock. I had the same thing with Black wave. This book -feral, messed-up, extreme as it is- could not have been written any better than it was by Michelle Tea. Her ink is splattering, her voice so present and personal, her metaphors wild yet hitting your harder and softer spots. From the first to the 4,5 What to say, what to say? Imagine a Jackson Pollock painting. You love or hate it. That's one thing. Secondly, nobody can do a better job at painting a Jackson Pollock-like painting than Jackson Pollock. I had the same thing with Black wave. This book -feral, messed-up, extreme as it is- could not have been written any better than it was by Michelle Tea. Her ink is splattering, her voice so present and personal, her metaphors wild yet hitting your harder and softer spots. From the first to the last word the writing is just incredibly solid and confident. OMG, did she know what she was doing ... 100 %! Which sometimes made me blind for the enormous imagination and poetric skills needed for the description of the protoganist life and world (Lesbian scene in San Francisco,...) and the telling of the story. The firmness kind of outbalanced the wildness. My reading experience was even weirder than the book itself: each and every time I reopened my ebook I forgot that the POV was not in the first but third person.... that close I felt to the narrator of the story. Each time I had to get into it and thoughts of 'pfft, same same but different'were soon replaced with a 'wow, back on the rollercoaster!' The strenghth and originality of the language reminded me of Rachel Kushner's The flamethrowers, the drug theme and the dark humor of Problems by Jade Sharma. But it's actually stupid to compare this with anything else. Picasso is no Pollock either. I would totally understand somebody giving it 1 star. No offense! But for me, this was an amazing ride. btw. It's probably too late, but do not read the summary of this book on Goodreads. Contains far too much spoilers!

  12. 5 out of 5

    da AL

    Fictionalized diary story-telling deconstructed wide open in the very best way! Loved this & author did a great job reading.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Deborah

    For most of my reading life, I have consciously avoided feminist and LGBTQ literature, finding the former too strident for my taste and the latter too foreign to my life experience to relate to. That I drew most of my TBR list from the New York Times Book Review did nothing to counter this tendency. Since joining the Goodreads community and, more specifically, such groups as Newest Literary Fiction and The Tournament of Books, however, I have begun to expand my readerly horizons and have fallen For most of my reading life, I have consciously avoided feminist and LGBTQ literature, finding the former too strident for my taste and the latter too foreign to my life experience to relate to. That I drew most of my TBR list from the New York Times Book Review did nothing to counter this tendency. Since joining the Goodreads community and, more specifically, such groups as Newest Literary Fiction and The Tournament of Books, however, I have begun to expand my readerly horizons and have fallen in love with authors I formerly would have rejected out of hand. One such author is Michelle Tea, whose description as the author of works "explor[ing] queer culture, feminism, race, class, [and] prostitution" would once have prompted me to run for the hills, but her novel Black Wave is quite likely to be my favorite book of 2017. It was the apocalyptic setting which led me to pick up Black Wave, but it was the distinctive voice which held me and the deep humanity which has stayed with me. There are not many books in which THE END OF THE WORLD is forced to take a back seat, but that is what Tea has achieved. Here is her heroine (also named Michelle), ruminating on the difficulties autobiographical writers face in live conversation:Like when you're telling an anecdote and someone interjects - Yeah, you already told us that story. Oh, no - you are repeating yourself, you cannot stop talking, you are so checked out you cannot remember what you have said to whom, you are so self-involved. To hear a person say Yeah, I read that in your book is this shame times twenty. You so cannot stop talking that you actually wrote down your talk and then expected others to read it, and not even that will exorcize your narratives, you will in fact continue to talk and talk, expecting us to pretend we don't know the story, which you have performed into actual microphones in public places. Guess what, Michelle? We know your mother is a chain-smoking lesbian psych nurse.Black Wave wasn't perfect. The transition between the first part, set in San Francisco, and the second part, set in Los Angeles, was confusing (although that may be a realistic depiction of what it's actually like to move from San Francisco to Los Angeles), and some of the meta-fictional high jinks felt like Tea was showing off her cleverness, rather than adding a truly new layer to the narrative. These minor missteps were more than outweighed by such lovely inventions as the dreaming soulmates finding each other on a worldwide Match.com. The Michelle of Black Wave is exactly the kind of person I want to be with when we shut off the lights for the last time. This review was based on a free ARC provided by the publisher.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Alvin

    Along with Tea's usual whip-smart social analysis and sly humor, Black Wave delivers a goodly dose of something I can only call Wisdom. As a bonus, readers are treated to lushly complex (and sometimes baroquely hallucinatory) prose and plot. This will definitely join the canon of Great Queer Literature and be read for decades, perhaps centuries, to come.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Dc

    part memoir, part writing process tell-all, part sci-fi, part political/social commentary, part gender study, part love song to life, messy life full fucking genius. part memoir, part writing process tell-all, part sci-fi, part political/social commentary, part gender study, part love song to life, messy life — full fucking genius.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Lydia

    Ohh boy. A lot of people that I follow and whos tastes cross over with mine read and LOVED this. I dont like dystopia at all, so theres that. Also, this was a book that I was reading for a queer book club. And queer or no, every first book club book Ive ever read Ive absolutely despised. I dont like to make any judgements based on authors or on characters themselves, but I feel like I am compelled to in this case. I found the character to be: pedantic, pathetic, biased, co-dependent, Ohh boy. A lot of people that I follow and who’s tastes cross over with mine read and LOVED this. I don’t like dystopia at all, so there’s that. Also, this was a book that I was reading for a queer book club. And queer or no, every first book club book I’ve ever read I’ve absolutely despised. I don’t like to make any judgements based on authors or on characters themselves, but I feel like I am compelled to in this case. I found the character to be: pedantic, pathetic, biased, co-dependent, hypocritical and bizarre. I found that there was so much defensiveness, hypocrisy and avoidance that the character herself, Michelle, was hard to stomach. I know that the whole point of her character was that she was supposed to be raw and real and unflinching, refusing to look away from even the unpleasant parts of herself. She did remind me of myself a few times, which was alarming and often well-crafted. Her biases were supposed to remind us of our own, as readers, and so as we approved or disapproved of her biases, we would approve or disapprove of our own. But I just found those parts of the book so repetitive and exhausting. Also, her biases felt tired, overworked and white as all hell. There were many times in the book where she would refer to people on the street as ‘crackheads’ which, I think, just didn’t feel very compassionate. And then she would go on to write about her and her friends obtaining drugs, but they weren’t crackheads because crackheads did a, b and c things and she did a, b, and D things. I would’ve liked it so much more if it were satire. But it wasn’t. I feel like it could’ve been hilarious as satire. Fresh, alive and biting. I wanted it to be more like Carrie Fisher’s work, which, in a lot of ways, is similar. Carrie struggled with substance abuse and many of her books are fictionalised memoirs, much like Michelle’s. In fact, while reading, I found myself wishing Carrie or anyone else had wrote this book. I wanted wit and dry humour and mischief and instead I got a 30-year-old woman’s angst, cheating antics and bullshit. It was narcissistic, pretentious and awful to get through. I enjoyed the pieces about the gentrification of San Francisco, but then the author would say something about how The Protagonist was an Addict but not really an Addict because if she was an Addict then she would be in the Gutter and not just working in a bookstore like she was now. I understand that it was a commentary on addiction and how we make excuses for and avoid truths, especially if it allows us to keep using substances, but I wasn’t cheering for her at all. I liked the meta pieces about Michelle, who, in the book, was a writer, writing about writing and writing about the end of the world, as Michelle, the actual author was doing. That seems to be a lot of people’s least favourite parts but it’s where I felt her point was the strongest. It was where the author was really able to make points like this would be an award-winning novel if a cis white heterosexual male wrote it, but it wasn’t going to be written by someone who was any of those things, and so then it wouldn’t go anywhere. That was compelling. Even the parts involving the queer community I really struggled with. I feel like I enjoyed those parts as well, but there were just little pieces that I kept running into and thinking about, and each time I thought about them it would pull me out of my reading experience. There were also lots of scenes where the author or the character’s biases would just trip up over queer culture, almost. In one scene, she’s met someone she’s really attracted to. She is not sure of the person’s gender, and doesn’t want to know. The person then admits to having a husband. Then they both say “Oh no!” because they’ve discovered the person’s gender. Like, no they haven’t! This is San Francisco in the 90’s!! One of the most gay-friendly cities in the world. Lots of people referred to their partners as husbands, wives or spouses with or without a marriage certificate so I just don’t understand how the character Michelle could be so heteronormative in that scene. There was another scene where Michelle says she’s not allowed to have sex with men because she’s not as butch, and that if she had sex with men it would just be “heterosexual and slutty”. There were also lots of references to the character of Michelle kissing underaged characters, beginning relationships with underaged or teenaged characters. I believe one character is 19, and another is 13. Which is just like, wtf? What? I don’t … There’s one scene towards the end of the book where a character walks in to Michelle’s workplace with an entire file on her, having predicted her entire life. Michelle is confused. She asked the person how old they are. They say 13. They kiss Michelle. Michelle then pushes them away and says “You are 13.” They reply with “I am and I’m also not. I’m really mature” or something. Then, later, they kiss again. … what? I’m confused. Why did this have to be in the book? Why was this book written at all? I felt that way about most of the passages in the book. See: “One girl was doing an art project in which she documented herself urinating on every SUV she encountered.” I don’t want to read about any more bloodied tampons, forgotten, or smashed cockroaches, or the wafting scents of hamburgers. I am done. I still want to read one of her non-fiction books (about Modern Tarot). This felt like reading someone’s diary. I shouldn’t read that.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Sian Lile-Pastore

    I've loved reading Michelle Tea since the early 2000s.... I've written in review here before about how I felt that she was a kindred spirit. I love how she writes, what she writes about - the books, the drinking, astrology and tarot (she has a new tarot book coming out soon!). But then I haven't felt so connected to her young adult books and had mixed feelings about her memoir. So. I went into this with trepidation. It starts kinda regular Michelle Tea - it's San Francisco in 1999 - drugs, I've loved reading Michelle Tea since the early 2000s.... I've written in review here before about how I felt that she was a kindred spirit. I love how she writes, what she writes about - the books, the drinking, astrology and tarot (she has a new tarot book coming out soon!). But then I haven't felt so connected to her young adult books and had mixed feelings about her memoir. So. I went into this with trepidation. It starts kinda regular Michelle Tea - it's San Francisco in 1999 - drugs, drinking, girls, relationships, poetry etc etc. This time though i found it quite interesting as her other books were set and written in the 90s and this as looking back at that period - so it had a slight kind of removed quality to it, and the fact that it's told in third person furthers that remove. It took me a little while to get into the swing of it - but there's some great writing and stuff. Then half way through she moves to Los Angeles and she also steps out of the story and tells us about writing the book and how her ex wouldn't let her write about her so she had to change it all. She does this later on when she talks about her recovery from alcoholism which I thought was really interesting too. I really enjoyed the second half and loved how she was playing with storytelling. Thought the ending was beautiful too. It's also the end of the world. This is memoir- fiction but I kinda hope the bit about Matt Dillon is true.

  18. 4 out of 5

    camilla

    Well this was interesting. I love Michelle Tea. I've seen her perform or read like 4 times. I've got signed copies of Rent Girl and Chelsea Whistle and Rose of No Man's Land as well as a huge signed photograph of her running with a popsicle hanging in my living room. But despite all the rave reviews her newest title is getting, I had a lot of trouble getting into Blackwave. It honestly started out just like all her memoirs and most of her fiction, obviously about her life even when its thinly Well this was interesting. I love Michelle Tea. I've seen her perform or read like 4 times. I've got signed copies of Rent Girl and Chelsea Whistle and Rose of No Man's Land as well as a huge signed photograph of her running with a popsicle hanging in my living room. But despite all the rave reviews her newest title is getting, I had a lot of trouble getting into Blackwave. It honestly started out just like all her memoirs and most of her fiction, obviously about her life even when its thinly veiled as fiction. Even the main character here is named Michelle. I mean come on! I want to know that she can make up something so far off from her life that it doesn't even read like a Michelle Tea book. Anyway, towards the end Black Wave finally gets different and good. I was more interested in the end of the world stuff than allllll the San Fran stuff. Once the character Michelle gets to LA the end of the world kicks up and Tea starts pulling out some brilliant writing. The dream loves? So weird and cool and wonderful. The writer with the same name as the author, having written one memoir, trying to write fiction that's not just thinly veiled memoir, while readers are in fact reading the exact same thing? Brilliant. Matt Dillon's involvement? Awesome. This book starts off slow but blooms into a grimy, dark, beautiful, lucid tale of the end of the world.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Nadine

    4.5 stars. I don't think I'd ever have stumbled onto this book without the Tournament of Books 2017. Thanks ToB! While there were bits and pieces that didn't totally add up for me (like Michelle suddenly going quantum on a couple of relationships once she got to LA) 95% of it hit me just right, including the memoir-ish approach, author Michelle's gentle, affectionate irony toward the trainwreck that is character Michelle and most of her friends, the meta-ness of the sections in LA, and her 4.5 stars. I don't think I'd ever have stumbled onto this book without the Tournament of Books 2017. Thanks ToB! While there were bits and pieces that didn't totally add up for me (like Michelle suddenly going quantum on a couple of relationships once she got to LA) 95% of it hit me just right, including the memoir-ish approach, author Michelle's gentle, affectionate irony toward the trainwreck that is character Michelle and most of her friends, the meta-ness of the sections in LA, and her depiction of the end of the world. I could add more instances, but I don't want to spoil the many treats new readers will have in store. Some readers have described this book as meta-fiction, or alternative in some way, which makes it sound like a chore to read, but it's not - I'd describe it as charming and fun.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Jan

    Sex, drugs, Matt Dillon, and the end of the world. I'm going to be thinking about this one for a while, trying to understand how Michelle Tea made me care so tenderly for such an effed-up character.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Ocean

    this was the perfect book to read in dystopian 2016 where it feels like all the good people are dying to spare them the coming environmental apocalypse and you're kinda nostalgic about your misspent queer youth but also keenly aware of how horrible it was. i kept grabbing markers from my bed and floor to underline quotes that were so great i needed to remember them. this book made me feel very "seen" in a weird way. i read a lot and most books require a certain amount of adjusting to relate to this was the perfect book to read in dystopian 2016 where it feels like all the good people are dying to spare them the coming environmental apocalypse and you're kinda nostalgic about your misspent queer youth but also keenly aware of how horrible it was. i kept grabbing markers from my bed and floor to underline quotes that were so great i needed to remember them. this book made me feel very "seen" in a weird way. i read a lot and most books require a certain amount of adjusting to relate to them--none with this book. even the fantasy part. i can see it happening, i can feel it happening. i just wish the american edition had as cool a cover as the british edition! (google it.)

  22. 4 out of 5

    Sassafras Lowrey

    By far one of the best books I've read this year and I hesitate to say this but, perhaps Michelle Tea's finest work. Really stellar book, hard, brutal, heartbreaking, infatuating, brilliant. I read this book in just a couple of days on subways, bathtubs, and when I was supposed to be writing. Scary and queer, I really can't recommend it enough.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Roberto

    I love Michelle Tea, she is one of the greats. This felt like an exploration of her earlier novel/memoirs from a new perspective, where she is now i guess, and it is raw and beautiful and funny.

  24. 4 out of 5

    D. H.

    A fictional memoir in which the author makes herself a character, similar to Paul Theroux's My Other Life, but with elements that cast every event in the story in doubt. (view spoiler)[ ie characters talking to one another about the fact that they're characters or the narrator outright stating midway through they novel she was going to make the world end in order to give the novel a good place to close. (hide spoiler)] As a result, there are no factual truths, only emotional ones. The author A fictional memoir in which the author makes herself a character, similar to Paul Theroux's My Other Life, but with elements that cast every event in the story in doubt. (view spoiler)[ ie characters talking to one another about the fact that they're characters or the narrator outright stating midway through they novel she was going to make the world end in order to give the novel a good place to close. (hide spoiler)] As a result, there are no factual truths, only emotional ones. The author dropped the norm of putting dialogue in quotes, instead denoting non-narrator characters' speech in italics and the narrator's speech like a title with the first letter of each word capitalized. It works fine, and doesn't interrupted the narrative flow (though I would say the same for quotation marks). (view spoiler)[I found myself highlighting much more than usual, so I've decided to share my highlights and why I think I highlighted them. "New Englanders were more bitter and resentful than people of other regions. They couldn't fake it like a Southerner, couldn't make it passive-aggressive like a Californian." This is an interesting observation, as is this about being a tattooed person: "People reached out and stroked Michelle's arms in ways they would never touch another stranger. The bounds of common courtesy and basic privacy were breached daily." Which is how I would describe my life as an American living in Japan. (There you go! Universal!) "[Girl poets] hadn't zeroed in on a social ill and gone to battle, they had turned their vision inward and taken the audience on a murky journey. Michelle guessed they'd all write devastating memoirs in about five years." A nice description of Michelle's journey in the novel. "Like many butches, Ziggy dealt with her feminine hips by weighing them down with a lot of junk." The novel was filled with insights into lesbian culture. That was a tame one. "She liked to imagine who her friends could have become in if they hadn't been saddled with a low-grade PTSD from being queer, if they hadn't been forced into the underground away from the world and it's opportunities." "She smoked a ton of pot and was paranoid, as well as suffering the stress of having been black and female and queer her whole life." "So much sexual acting out, like the whole community had been sexually abused and had agreed to purge the trauma by having lots of violent public sex." "Queers stuck to their bubbles for a reason, the outside world was hostile." Taken together, I think these form the central thesis of the novel. "No new driver's licenses. Not enough gas, you know." "Outside the windows was a patch of barren soil." "She remembered when carrots were more plentiful, how they would be gratis in a little glass cup on the tables." "The walls of the sushi restaurant were marked with broad Xs over the fish that had gone extinct." Then there are all these hints that the world is falling apart, but because Michelle and her friends are removed from society they hardly notice and do nothing. Perhaps one of them could've saved the world if they'd had equal opportunity. (An insight that kind of reminds me of The Autobiography of Malcolm X. The black wave of vomit stirring inside her commanded she pause in the middle of the sidewalk to lean against a street sign. The black wave is self-loathing associate with the alcoholism Michelle suffers. Overcoming the alcoholism and succumbing to the wave is her last step in overcoming all her drug use, ending the world, and being reborn into something new. (hide spoiler)] Despite being non-traditional storytelling, it's easy to read, but it's difficult for me to feel much when the feelings we're presented with are cloaked in doubt. Still, the emotional truths presented are thought-provoking and memorable.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Anouk

    This book is so, so clever. Its sharp, its darkly funny, and unapologetically queer as hell. Its the ultimate cleanse after spending way too much time around straights. So, so good. This book is so, so clever. It’s sharp, it’s darkly funny, and unapologetically queer as hell. It’s the ultimate cleanse after spending way too much time around straights. So, so good.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Laura

    Long and weird, dreamy and different from anything else I've read. There are so many things that shouldn't have worked (the mix of memoir and ~sci-fi, the way that the main character's dialogue Capitalized Every Word while everyone else spoke in italics, the 4th wall breaking and layers of meta fiction, the "everyone has a soulmate" cheesiness), but somehow she balanced perfectly between self-importance and self-deprecation in a way that was extremely charming. Probably a 4 or 4.5 stars for me, Long and weird, dreamy and different from anything else I've read. There are so many things that shouldn't have worked (the mix of memoir and ~sci-fi, the way that the main character's dialogue Capitalized Every Word while everyone else spoke in italics, the 4th wall breaking and layers of meta fiction, the "everyone has a soulmate" cheesiness), but somehow she balanced perfectly between self-importance and self-deprecation in a way that was extremely charming. Probably a 4 or 4.5 stars for me, but bumped up because I can tell I'll be thinking about it for a long time.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Sarah Schulman

    For those of us who adore Michelle Tea, this is a new step in her effort to grapple with her past and with the question of genre. Sobriety and writing are depicted as processes of consciousness, and she continues to record the former life of The Mission, now so truly far away from the period depicted in this book. I am a loyal fan and will continue to follow her aesthetic and personal journeys - whether memoir or fiction or both.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Bryn Lerud

    Michelle Tea had me when she wrote about lesbians doing drugs in end of the world San Francisco, but then she added the voice of the author choosing what variation of the story to tell and then facing the end of the world in a bookstore in Los Angeles. I loved this book.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Mari

    This was a creepy, hilarious, and thoroughly original book that I sipped slowly at first, but devoured ravenously at the end. It left me feeling haunted and charmed. Highly recommended.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Madeline Henry

    I feel really bad about not liking this book, but it was just a clusterfuck.

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