Academics

I Liked You Better Before I Knew You So Well

James Allen Hall (English)

Cleveland State University Poetry Center (2017)

 

“Growing up queer in Florida in the 1980s, James Allen Hall’s life has taken him to places that high culture rarely treads. Losing their once-thriving family business in the pre-crash 2000s, his broke and unstable parents move into a two-bedroom student apartment shared previously with just his brother. His mother routinely attempts or threatens suicide, his father is depressed. In these essays, Hall lives alongside, and empathically lives through, his family’s meth addiction, mental illnesses, and incarcerations, and considers his own penchants for less than happy, equal sex with an agility, depth, and lightness that is blissfully inconclusive. I LIKED YOU BETTER BEFORE I KNEW YOU SO WELL is a tragic, funny, graceful book.” —Chris Kraus

“The essays collected in I LIKED YOU BETTER BEFORE I KNEW YOU SO WELL are indeed harrowing—but more powerfully, they reveal a sensibility driven to make something beautiful and worthy of the raw and the rough. Hall’s work lays bare all manner of vulnerability, not to confess or shock, but to reckon into language the nearly unsayable. And who exactly is at the center of this drive toward the light? A witness, an unrelenting seeker, a survivor, someone who’s earned the right to judge but who withholds that too-easy gesture in favor of a clearer sight and the hard won belief that while we are bound together by so many complex tethers, including cruelty, we are especially linked by compassion, a force abundantly evident in this moving collection.” —Lia Purpura

“‘What I am should be extinguished,’ writes James Allen Hall about his queerness, which despite a journey through youth troubled with violence and homophobia, manages to exist and persist. Yet the personal essays in I LIKED YOU BETTER BEFORE I KNEW YOU SO WELL are more than expressions of pain, they are testaments to perseverance shaped by the acceptance of a flawed self, love for a complicated family and an unflappable wit. Thank you, James, for this extraordinary book so full of honest and compelling moments that will resonate with the aching heart inside each of us.”—Rigoberto González

 



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