Our guest blogger today is Nicole T. Cunha. Nicole (they/she) is a librarian, traveler, and avid bookworm. You can find them on Twitter at NicoleTCunha, discussing disability rights, libraries, and anything they feel like fangeeking over.
I Felt A Funeral in My Brain by Will Walton
Push, June 2018
Reviewed from hardcover, library binding
Plot Summary: As summer starts, Avery Fowell and his mother are delivering cakes and BOOM. The car crash sets in motion a narrative of a young man’s coming to terms with the good news and bad news. Avery Fowell writes poetry so he can understand all that is going on in his life. Moving from past to present, we follow transitions between Avery’s inner and outer dialogue through changes in tense and form. Stream of consciousness and poetic form intertwine as the protagonist processes multigenerational alcohol addiction, self- and family parenting, loss of a grandparent, personal injury, and feelings for his best friend.
Queer Rep: Avery and Luca have known each other since they were 7, thrown together by their moms’ alcohol addiction. Developing attraction between two best friends is a common theme in literature and life. If you spend a lot of time with someone, feelings may arise, whether that be in the form of emotional, spiritual or physical attraction. That said, I found the boys’ attraction to each other forced, or at least that readers were largely left in the dark when Avery attempted to process his potential feelings for Luca.
Though Walton lays out explicit discussion of Avery and Luca’s pact to have sex if they both ace Biology, implying their feelings for one another, Avery’s writing proposes an underlying queerness within the narrative of the novel: “Poetry is queer, really, just by nature” (111). Queerness in itself has multiple meanings, whether defined as homosexual attraction, or something simply out of the ordinary. Taking the numerous definitions into account, Walton’s novel is indeed a queer one. It took me some time to digest the novel’s interrelated topics, and during that rumination I realized queerness could also mean to confuse a person, or be eccentric and rare. Walton’s novel is just that–confusing for the reader at first, just as juggling family matters and one’s own queerness is confusing for Avery. We are learning about the intricacies of life at the same time he is.
Funeral’s structure is both a highlight and demerit–Avery’s feelings for Luca are pushed around without definitive closure until the end. I got a will they/won’t they vibe from the reminders sprinkled throughout the text. Family matters are front and center for most of the narrative, and only after Pal’s death does Luca come back into the picture. This sort of bookending of physical intimacy demonstrates that Avery’s queer identity is no more or less important to him than his role as a son, grandson, and perhaps even poet.
Final Word: Do I think this book is a candidate for Stonewall? Most likely not. Do I think it portrays the intersectionality of queerness, humanity and creativity well? Absolutely. Definite points for off-handed comments about white saviors and why communities of color are misrepresented in literature. No glamorizing addiction and recovery here! It may not be for everyone (such as readers like me, who are not partial to stream of consciousness), but still an enjoyable read.