Several years ago, cultural critic Daniel Harris published A Memoir of No One in Particular, a supposedly satirical attack on memoir mania in which the author managed to outstrip all those other self-portraitists by being more obsessive and unstintingly focused on the minutaie of his own behavior. But apparently Harris felt he hadn’t gone far enough, because now he returns with
Diary of a Drag Queen, a discomfiting journal of his descent into midlife crisis and depression via drag.
Harris admits there’s a sizable element of masochism in all this. No matter how many wigs he buys or makeup tricks he masters, he makes an ungainly woman. The cruel denizens of his favorite transsexual chat room mock his photos, and his dates sometimes flee at the door. Harris is interested in screwing straight guys, and the portraits of the men who parade through his door are the meat of the book, literally and figuratively. He finds poorly employed black men particularly drawn to his ugly she-male persona, and he is touched by the sentimentality of some of the blue-collar men who come courting, like the Sicilian construction worker who compliments Harris on his “figger.” His experimentation with the world of feminine accoutrements yields alternately entertaining and irritating commentary. “I know, far better than most, how hard it is to be a woman,” he writes, as if womanhood could be boiled down to beauty products. Still, he’s an acute observer of the human condition (his own, at least), and the pages of this diary are littered with enough intelligence and humor to make it worth taking a dip in Harris’s bath of self-pity and loathing.