So Many Ways to Sleep Badly
Gay Marriage: Progression or Digression?
Aug 5, 2010
"A federal judge ruled yesterday that California's same sex marriage ban - known as Proposition 8 - was unconstitutional. Gay marriage opponents have pledged to appeal the case and it is widely expected to end up before the Supreme Court. Bishop Yvette Flunder of Refuge Ministries in San Francisco, and Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore, author of 'That's Revolting! Queer Strategies for Resisting Assimilation,' offer their perspectives on the ruling and how it may affect the gay community."
Tell Me More, National Public Radio
Q&A with Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore
Sep 2, 2010
"Indefatigable queer activist and gender bender Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore is the award-winning author of Pulling Taffy and the acclaimed editor of several edgy anthologies, including 'Nobody Passes: Rejecting the Rules of Gender and Conformity' and 'Tricks and Treats: Sex Workers Write About Their Clients.' Her latest book—the brilliantly sexy 'So Many Ways to Sleep Badly'—is about sex and sex work, friendship and danger and loving among the ruins of an assimilated, 'post-gay' San Francisco."
Julia Bloch, Curve Magazine
Wild Wild Left Radio #78 GLBT Mindbend - An Interview with Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore
Aug 27, 2010
"Mattilda was recently interviewed on NPR and Pacifica where she talked about the malevolence of the mainstream gay marriage/military/ordination-to-the-priesthood movement, resisting the violence of assimilation, gender fascism, gay hyperconsumerism, sex work, myopic liberals, defiant ways of loving, the failure of the 'gay liberation movement', US imperialism, creating oppositional culture, challenging all hierarchies (including anarchist hierarchies), incest, and more!"
Diane G., Wild Left Radio #78 GLBT Mindbend
Pride Day Special
Jun 27, 2010
"Hear the voices of radical queers examing what a radical Queer movement would look at as well as the voices of radical LGBT activists. From Old Lesbians Organizing for Change to the voices of Queer scholars and activists providing a critique of the mainstream 'Gay Agenda.' We will provide a progressive Queer critique of the mainstream gay movement and look at what radical LGBT activists are saying and doing." With an interview from Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore an hour into the broadcast.
A 'Queer' Argument Against Marriage
Jun 10, 2010
"Marriage equality has become a central pillar of the modern gay rights movement. Five states and the District of Columbia offer same sex marriages and a case involving California's ban on gay marriage is expected to end up in the Supreme Court. But despite recent advances, not all gay people are so eager to ring the wedding bells. Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore, self-described queer activist and author of 'That's Revolting: Queer Strategies for Resisting Assimilation,' says gay people should stop fighting to uphold what she considers to be the failed institution of marriage."
Michel Martin, NPR
"Sycamore paints as bleak a picture of the world as she does illustrate its fleeting moments of beauty. It's a shame that more bookstores don’t carry titles like these in their slowly rotting fiction departments." — Indie Street
The Best LGBT Books of 2009: 56 Writers Select their Favorites
Dec 2, 2009
"Gary Indiana (The Shanghai Gesture): Essentialist fiction writers disgust me. I like the novel So Many Ways To Sleep Badly by Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore."
Gary Indiana, Band of Thebes
Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore reads from So Many Ways to Sleep Badly
Jan 27, 2009
Listen to a recording of Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore's reading at Moe's Books.
"This Lambda Literary Award finalist offers up a thrilling socio-politically transgressive, gender-bending queer novel about life in San Francisco. From bad sex to vegan restaurants to NPR and tweaking buddies, Sycamore's frenetic pace and unabashed solipsism is most refreshing."
"Sycamore's second novel (his first, 2003’s Pulling Taffy, was nominated for a Lambda Award) is a high-speed, stream-of-consciousness romp that could easily have been subtitled 'looking for love in all the wrong places.' In 27 chapters, a flamboyantly queer sex worker named Tyler, aka Mattilda to his friends and anarcho-feminist comrades, takes readers into a world where well-heeled men rent ritzy penthouse suites while others grapple with AIDS, cockroach- and rat-infested apartments, depression, incest, and, of course, insomnia. By turns raunchy and tender, Sycamore’s wryly neurotic text is often funny, and his optimism that a better world is possible makes the book compelling. Subtly political, he posits friendship, camaraderie, and activism as ways to defy the morass of Republicrat rule. What’s more, in quips worthy of Stephen Colbert, he slams San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom, the Iraq War, and the queer rush to the altar celebrated by mainstream liberals. Sexually explicit, the book is recommended for adult fiction collections."
"Getting lost is one of the pleasures that awaits the reader of So Many Ways to Sleep Badly, the exuberant first novel by San Francisco writer Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore. Start with an impending sexual act between a first-person narrator and a man whose teeth are chattering and then—whoosh!—without transition, the narrator is describing how the carpet smells in yoga class. But getting lost is only fun when you don't stay lost, and So Many Ways to Sleep Badly is a book that teaches us how to read it. . . . The alchemy of this novel uses that mental splitting to illustrate for readers how one subject can be male and female, named and anonymous, inside and outside. . . . [B]ecause the author rejects causality, readers longing for a story have to look elsewhere. By the end of the book, nothing much has changed for Mattilda. She still sleeps badly and still kind of likes being a whore, though she’s not sure why. Maybe it’s the sex? Maybe it’s San Francisco: 'The best thing about my 4 a.m. walk down Polk Street is the Latina trannygirls on Post, singing songs in Spanish, practicing dance moves, and hugging each other in the rain.' Is that somebody leaving their heart in San Francisco?"
50 Visionaries Who Are Changing Your World
Oct 27, 2008
"More than Marriage
Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore, queer activist
We've heard just two sides of the gay-marriage debate—conservative talk-radio homophobes versus attractive same-sex couples—because the voices of queer people who are against marriage are consistently drowned out. This perspective is most raucously and frequently espoused by Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore, an outspoken critic of what she calls 'gay assimilationists' who cast marriage—with its '1950s model of white-picket-fence 'we’re just like you’ normalcy'—as the GLBT issue."
". . .Sycamore's sensibility [is] quick, playful, disarming, literary, hip, deadly serious, and decidedly provocative. . . . a near-surrealistic montage of contemporary queer life in San Francisco and, really, all of American culture. . . . It's tempting to see Sycamore as a queer Samuel Beckett crossed with Woody Allen — both of them chart the pointlessness of making sense in a senseless world, though Allen has better jokes then Beckett. And though Sycamore does resonate with both, his world view here is more dire. . . . So Many Ways to Sleep Badly's stream-of-consciousness plot works — it's Ulysses, but on too much crystal and a hard prick up its ass and set in San Francisco not Dublin — but it makes us work as well. Sycamore is not an immediately accessible writer (although he's compulsively readable) but the intellectual and emotional work here is well worth it."
"Sycamore. . . picks up Ginsberg's torch with this blazing autobiographical work. In this book, he struggles with the stunning economic gap between the Bay Area’s haves and have-nots, as well as the seductive yet depersonalizing impact of the Internet on gay life and the scourge of drugs upon those who have difficulty coping with either of these forces. Sycamore doesn’t whine. He transforms his troubles into a stream of sexy, funny, fluorescent prose that sashays a fine line between surrealism and self-indulgence. . . "
Queer roots at McGill
Oct 30, 2008
"San Francisco scribe Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore draws on a deep well of queer activism. 'I feel a strong connection to the '80s experimental radical queer writers like David Wojnarowicz,' says Sycamore.
'When I first read his writing, right after he died, I sensed in his work my feeling of a bit of hope in the world of loss, and also my rage at the world. There’s also a connection in my activism to both fringe ’70s gay liberation and Act Up, which was the formation of my queer politics and of being able to talk about race and class and gender as one unit.'"
"To read So Many Ways to Sleep Badly is to be plunged, five senses searing, into the frenetic, poetic prose universe of Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore's unique design. No doubt, to share this world is both a privilege and a punishment, faced as we are with the blow-by-blow accounts of the highs and lows of the human body and psyche. The crippling emotional pain of a past tainted by incest is never far from the tremulous outer edges of Sycamore's mind as she spars daily with fibromyalgia and turns tricks for rent money. 'Heavy' does not begin to cover it. And yet the book is sprinkled with welcome moments of levity that balloon unexpectedly, and shrink just as quickly. Like the most restless of sleepless nights, this book is rife with visions and manic streams of consciousness, the narrative a pulsing throb of a heartbeat on the ever-thinner line between awake and asleep, dream and nightmare."
"The novel of a tortured, wits-ended, endlessly chattering tranny hooker in San Francisco has all the unreliable, but undeniable energy of a line of coke that curls into a vicious circle. The narrator (also called Mattilda, hinting at a Proustian reality transformed into fiction) takes us on a hallucinatory tour through a night world in a city that, like our heroine, never sleeps, never stops fucking, never stops kvetching. Her loves—sea lions, sex (free or paid for), painful yoga, her equally ditzy cutting edge friends, crazy costumes— runs together here with her hates—bad veggie food, chronic aches and rashes, lousy sex that's still better than being alone. The narration is brilliantly brought off, part Kafka, part Last Exit to Brooklyn, surreal, hilariously sharp and deeply despairing. If she seems to have not a whore's heart of gold, but a head stuffed with self-hating, hopeless romanticism, it's still been a fascinating ride through one of hell's livelier circles—even when it comes to feel like the same Groundhog Day that never ends."
—Harry Eugene Baldwin
The Shorty Q&A With Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore
Jan 26, 2009
"Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore started out as Matt Bernstein before becoming an author and an activist. She was one of the early organizers of Gay Shame, which, among other things, takes a stance against marriage in all forms. She is the author of the novel Pulling Taffy, as well as the editor of four nonfiction anthologies. Her latest novel So Many Ways to Sleep Badly is a stream-of-consciousness roll through the underbelly of San Francisco, one that tourists and many residents never see: tweakers, tricks, pimps, and johns roam the streets till dawn then show up the next day for yoga, go shopping (or occasionally shoplift) at Whole Foods, and hang out with the sea lions."
Sona Avakian, The Rumpus
Book Marks Top 10s of 2008
Dec 15, 2008
"Sycamore's fabulously flamboyant (and totally untraditional) novel charts the insouciant life of a politically spirited, sexually tempestuous under-30 San Francisco gender-queer activist—and sometime hustler— with bitchy wit, careful attention to hairstyle, and a lush prowess with prose."
"Bitch contributor Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore . . . set out to create a novel that evades linear compositions. In So Many Ways to Sleep Badly, she accomplishes that. . . The novel is already a seemingly endless series of vignettes, brief watercolors blending together tales of a life of sexual pleasure, emotional pain, romantic hope, and social humor as narrated by a gender-transcending queer sex worker living in San Francisco's Tenderloin. . . The narrator's gender fluidity is a realistic portrait that is rarely seen in mainstream media's portrayals of queer communities, and the life of a smart, funny, social, gender-transcendent sex worker and her daily world of small glories and tribulations is equally absent in the media's fisheye lens. This poetic novel is best read as an encyclopedia of clever amusements—open up to any given page and there will be a sarcastic crack, juicy sex scene, or moment of transcendence."
"[So Many Ways to Sleep Badly] is a book about a queer person and her queer friends all of whom inhabit the margins of the gay community. It is about the ways they attempt to care for themselves and each other, as well as the ways that they fail to do so. It is about the way they find a bewildering mix of rejection, disappointment, and occasional affirmation in the larger gay community.
It is about the constant possibilities the world holds for the narrator: situations that may lead to genuine human connections or maybe just desolation. It is about balancing the vulnerability involved in staying open to these connections with the need to take care of one's self. All of this is depicted in language that is sometimes expansive and sometimes condensed down to a bareness that resembles poetry with occasional glimpses at a fierce wit. . . ."
"So Many Ways To Sleep Badly is a memoir (Autobio? Loveletter? Suicide note?) to the sub-gay scene in San Francisco over a period of three years from 2001, when America went on the 'offensive'. When I say 'sub-gay' I'm lumping in several non-Will And Grace style homo categories, such as subversive queer punks that protest the homogeneity of Gay Pride Parades, stinky closeted Craigslist trolls, gender flipping transsexuals and sex trade workers with fibromyalgia.
Our hero(ine), our star, our beauty queen, the gender/race-fucking Mattilda, weaves a typical year in her(his) life through a barrage of stream of consciousness style writing that is so resonate, so vivid and yet at moments very ethereal, that there is no question that the cock (s)he is sucking does smell like disappointment and unfulfillable desire. SMWtSB is written with a delicate hand that within a sentence, will backhand you into a miserable sex hookup. So those with a weak constitution/morals system should be prepared to be appalled at her/his behaviour. Those who are more freer with their sensibilities will find a good laugh per page (and may identify with some situations)."
Queer reading list, fall 2008
Oct 9, 2008
"Several gay fiction-writers are returning to print this season. Mattilda Sycamore Bernstein is back with the novel So Many Ways to Sleep Badly. . . "
Gregg Shapiro, Bay Area Reporter Online
No Shame On You
Oct 6, 2008
"Gay Pride still probably scares the white off rice in some places, so just imagine what effect Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore has on people. Sycamore is so deep in a left-wing analysis of lawless sexuality that Gay Shame probably doesn't always live up to this local author's standards. In a new novel (the second, after Pulling Taffy), people fuck "with such conviction and attention to detail!" raves Robert Glück. So Many Ways to Sleep Badly is published by City Lights, the same bunch of crazies who put out Allen Ginsberg's Howl."
Hiya Swanhuyser, SF Weekly
Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore: So Many Ways to Sleep Badly
Sep 26, 2008
"Imagine the scene: you're taking part in a huge Pride march, an occasion where LGBT people can take to the streets, wave their rainbow flags, and celebrate being out and proud - a glorious gathering of gayness. Only, all of a sudden, the march is confronted with a roadblock made out of sofas and what appears to be a seven foot tall can of Budweiser that invites you inside it with the slogan 'Vomit Out Budweiser Pride and the Selling of Queer Identities.' Yes, you've just stumbled across Gay Shame, and if you can't make it to the Budweiser vomitorium then there are handy Gay Shame vomit bags being given out. . . One of the notable people behind Gay Shame's creation is Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore. She's an author, editor, activist, sex worker, and gender radical extraordinaire, who describes herself as 'an insomniac with dreams.'"
Alma Cork, The Skinny
An Excerpt from "So Many Ways to Sleep Badly"
Sep 5, 2008
"Editor's note: If you've never experienced Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore, you’re missing out on a remarkable San Francisco storyteller. Her live performances are exciting, edge-of-your-seat grit about The City. She makes it seem like some effortless random stream of consciousness, but don’t be fooled – this is a genuine, thoughtful rollercoaster of joy and pain, provocation and hilarity. Mattilda’s newest book So Many Ways to Sleep Badly is published by San Francisco ’s City Lights Publishers, the same legendary press that brought us the Beats. Here’s an excerpt from the new book.
Asked on the BBC how she feels about the sniper who shot and killed three people in the D.C. area, a Virginia woman says: I don’t think he has any regard for human life! Benjamin says make sure you quote me—but honey, you already asked me to change your name! "
Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore, SoMa Literary Review
Bay Area Reporter
"Once a toe is dipped into [Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore's] Burroughs-like stream-of-consciousness writing, it's difficult to turn your back on such a wet and wooly ride through the streets of our beloved SF. Sycamore's protagonist (herself, possibly?) lives in an apartment festering with roaches, hangs with some eccentric friends (including a hot BF/fuck buddy named Jeremy), and turns tricks for $150 an hour from a newspaper ad. The resulting carnal carnival is effortlessly provocative . . . . The good thing is that it surprisingly doesn't get tired, and if you are part of the SF gay scene, it will all become relative. Her protagonist's hustling adventures are humorous and have an authentic ring to them. . . . Sycamore and her aggressive material are much alike; there seems to be a lot more here than meets the eye."
Interview with Matt Bernstein Sycamore, Gay Activist and Author of So Many Ways To Sleep Badly
Aug 28, 2008
"Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore is the author of So Many Ways to Sleep Badly published in September 2008 by City Lights I recently got a chance to talk to Mattilda about the new book.
Mattilda: So Many Ways to Sleep Badly is definitely portraying a queer world that doesn't fit into the smiling gay 'we're just like you' mentality — things like anonymous sex and sex work and gender transgression and political instigation are just givens to the narrator and the other characters, and I wanted to portray this world on its own terms, without explication or justification or some kind of simplified reversal where bad is good and good is bad — instead everything gets a bit messed up, including language and narrative and plot and voice and structure."
Carole McDonnell, BlogCritics Magazine
"The unnamed narrator of this fabulously flamboyant novel turns tricks for money and, on client-free occasions, cruises adult movie theaters or the Internet for blowjobs, in search of a human connection as much as for sexual release. He frets about rats in the ceiling and roaches on the walls, obsesses over how his hair looks before leaving the apartment, and camps it up for queer street protests – with makeup a must. He's carrying on a troubled romance with a beautiful boyfriend, and coping with chronic pain rooted most probably in childhood abuse. Such is the life of an under-30 gender-queer activist in San Francisco, the city that quite gloriously never really grows up. Sycamore—whose spirited real-life blog echoes many of the book's witty, bitchy, and philosophically trenchant moments—captures the committed insouciance of his tale's quirky characters with a refreshingly non-traditional prose style. There isn't much narrative linearity here—nothing really resembling a beginning, a middle, or an end—but Sycamore's luscious prowess with prose—coupled with an easy gender fluidity—is evocative and provocative and literarily seductive."
Fall books preview
Aug 31, 2008
...Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore's novel, So Many Ways to Sleep Badly (City Lights)...
Oscar Villalon, San Francisco Chronicle
"When I read the first chapter of the newest novel by San Francisco poster child for surviving-and-thriving gender/queer punks everywhere, I felt like I was being yelled at by an excited, manic friend who was pacing around a roach-infested kitchen, occasionally breaking into a runway walk while wearing hot pants made of burnt rainbow flags.
By the third chapter, the narrator was curled up next to me, near fetal, talking through a panic attack, going from non sequitur to non sequitur. Wanna hear a funny anecdote from yoga class? A cocksucking-in-the-park story interrupted by a brief blip of illness-related neurosis? A funny trick? A bit of crush-on-new-boy? Here's an incest flashback, an allergic reaction and finally, perhaps, a vegan snack. All without a paragraph switch.
The narrator speaks conversationally, with no thought to the conventions of description, plot or character development. People are named in a paragraph, yet we don’t know what they look like, what they’re about; we only see who they are in relation to the narrator.
While the book often appears to be so loose it’s in danger of losing us in the noise, it’s also deceptively layered, building story over story. Pulling off such a joyous and raw cacophony requires a skilled hand.
So Many Ways To Sleep Badly is an original, visceral reading experience. I give it extra points for including a sex-worker theme that avoids all the overdone stereotypes.
Though it certainly lacks your typical story arc, I recommend opening your mind to it. The rapid-fire, honest glimpse into the post-gay ruins of San Francisco will likely break even the toughest punk heart."
The L Magazine
"Sycamore's second novel. . . is a high-speed, stream-of consciousness romp that could easily have been subtitled 'Looking for love in all the wrong places'. . . By turns raunchy and tender, Sycamore is often wryly neurotic and allows an undercurrent of longing to pervade his text. . . Sycamore’s frenetic pacing and jarring prose — indeed, his optimism that a better world is possible — makes the book a compelling read. Subtly political, it posits friendship, camaraderie and activism as ways to defy the morass of Republicrat rule. What’s more, in quips worthy of Jon Stewart, Sycamore slams NAFTA, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom and the Iraq War. So Many Ways to Sleep Badly is sometimes shocking and sometimes sweet, a perfect antidote to the election year posturing of folks we can only assume sleep as soundly as babes."
—Eleanor J. Bader
"Mattilda is a San Francisco institution. . . Hers is a world where respectability is never thought about, where shopping often means shoplifting and gender is a personal choice, not a life sentence. . . . .A sex worker by trade, Mattilda has a disorder of some sort that forces her to sleep erratically. The novel is written in a style similar to her sleep patterns. . . . .Sometimes Mattilda's writing is like a slide projector on rapid automatic. She flips from one moment to another, while still maintaining a running narrative. . . So Many Ways is an engaging self examination. . . it's refreshing to know that some of us are still living truly outlaw queer lives at a time when Will and Grace has made us boring to the core."
"So Many Ways to Sleep Badly, the second novel by radical queer activist and outrageously snappy dresser Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore . . . offers up the events of Sycamore's own life in a frantically paced stream of consciousness narrative. Her writing swings between poetic and horrifying as her ambiguously gendered central character lies awake in San Francisco's rundown Tenderloin district, disturbed by roaches and rats and the real or imagined pigeons in the ceiling of her apartment, before taking off to service a variety of seedy men in the city's most expensive hotels . . . . Through the central characters' sexual adventures and fluctuating gender pronouns we glimpse what it means to be radical and queer through clashes between police and activists, yoga and stories the sex industry."
Fall Arts Preview with Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore
Aug 27, 2007
"SFBG: What are your plans for this fall?
MATTILDA BERNSTEIN SYCAMORE: I'm going on a crazy cross-country book tour, starting with the book launch Oct. 8 at City Lights — check my Web site (www.mattildabernsteinsycamore.com) for details."
SF Bay Guardian
"The second novel from Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore, published by City Lights, is a challenging, messy account of a life in San Francisco, written in an unflinching (and at times raunchy) stream of consciousness that recalls William Burroughs. . . it's a good read for those interested in exploring the underbelly of our rapidly gentrifying town through the eyes of our gender-bending queer hero(ine)."
Reasons NOT to Participate in Your Own 'Cultural Erasure'
Aug 17, 2008
"[Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore] explained, 'The whole fight over gay marriage, to me, is really an example of a fundamental shift of resources in the wrong direction.'
'So, where we have the people with the most access to power deciding what everyone else needs, and saying the most ridiculous kind of rhetoric like 'oh, well now we're finally full citizens' - meaning for the richest white gays and lesbians with nice stock portfolios. If that is their main concern then sure, gay marriage, might be this last thing they need, this tax break. But that whole rhetoric around who belongs, the whole thing about citizenship, it’s like…did you happen to notice that one of the biggest issues going on in the U.S. right now is about undocumented people being forced out based on their citizenship status? While at the same time these people are like, we’ve solved these issues,' Mattilda continued."
Tye Anderson, OutinAsheville.com
"...a gender-bending novel...unearths subjects still relatively untouched in popular culture... you're not going to be reading anything similar elsewhere."
Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore on Swedish TV!
Aug 4, 2008
Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore discusses queer activism on Swedish TV.
Ulf Mattmar, SVT
Better Know a Contributor: Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore
Jul 13, 2008
"Speaking of books, tell us more about your new book That's Revolting. What inspired you to write the book?
That's Revolting is a radical queer intervention in the culture wars. As the gay establishment prioritizes the attainment of straight privilege over all else, it drains queer identity of any meaning, relevance, or cultural value. So I've gotten desperate, okay?
. . .
And that's not all -- City Lights is publishing my new novel in October -- it's called So Many Ways to Sleep Badly, and it's more than a little bit autobiographical."
The Bilerico Project
Down with legitimacy: Want to define love, commitment, family, and sexual merrymaking on your own terms? Honey, that's so last century
Jun 25, 2008
"Now that the California Supreme Court has struck down the ban on same-sex marriage, everywhere we hear of couples who've been together 10, 20, or 30 years (or six months) rushing to tie the knot and proclaim: 'finally ... it's ... legitimate!' It's hard to imagine a more wholehearted rejection of queer struggles to create defiant ways of living and loving, lusting for and caring for one another — methods not dependent on inclusion in the dominant institutions of straight privilege."
Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore, SF Bay Guardian