I Am Not Myself These Days
By Josh Kilmer-Purcell.
Harper Perennial, $13.95.
Aquadisiac is a blond, seven-foot-tall drag queen sporting goldfish-bowl boobs (with real goldfish) and a penchant for creating vodka-fueled chaos. She’s the winner, for the sixth week running, of the Amateur Drag Queen contest at Lucky Cheng’s in New York City—an unrivaled feat. Miss Aqua is the alter ego of Josh Kilmer-Purcell, a lowly advertising peon by day whose new memoir provides just a thin slice of his double life in the late ’90s.
The book begins when Kilmer-Purcell meets Jack, a high-paid hooker and S&M dom for hire. It seems like a perfect match because, despite his profession, Jack is grounded and stable, while Kilmer-Purcell is flighty, broke and always on the verge of ruin. He moves into Jack’s penthouse and they surround themselves with a tribe of marginalized souls who become family.
Jack’s crack problem quickly makes Kilmer-Purcell seem like a dilettante substance abuser, despite the vodka fog in which he lives. Graphically depicted crack-filled sex parties are interspersed with touching scenes between the lovers, like when Jack traces i love you more than heaven on Kilmer-Purcell’s back as they snuggle in bed watching Blue’s Clues. As Jack’s inevitable downward spiral into drugs consumes the second part of the book, Kilmer-Purcell does the familiar“…but I love him, but he’s bad, but I love him…” cha-cha that the partners of addicts often find themselves dancing.
The juxtaposition of the rich love affair and the flash-bang world of hookers, S&M and New York nightlife serves Kilmer-Purcell well throughout the book. It’s easy to see the appeal of a boyfriend whose life is as complicated and tawdry as his own, and it’s obvious why he and Jack are so comfortable with one another, far past the point when many would have cut and run.
Kilmer-Purcell’s witty offhand style and the hilarious anecdotes of drag-queen life keep this ultimately predictable memoir moving. Obviously creative nonfiction, with perfectly remembered conversations and embellished details, this doomed modern love story revels in its own gaudy beauty.—Beth Dugan