Arrived late to the reading/performance by author Jill Soloway and her sister, Faith, at the Cambridge YMCA theater space Thursday night, but not too late to see the Soloway sisters sing and banter, not too late to hear Jill Soloway read from her collection of essays, Tiny Ladies in Shiny Pants. Afterward, I introduced myself to the Soloways. Faith’s exact words methinks were these: "Oh my, an actual man showed up!" Yet another reminder that for much of my life, I’ve either felt like (or sometimes even sought out an identity as) the other. Conservative guy at the liberal college paper. Liberal guy at the conservative daily paper. Poor guy at the rich man’s party. Rich guy in the poor man’s town. White guy in the majority-minorty party. Actual man at the all-female party, surrounded by feminists, lesbians, feminist lesbians, feminists and their whipped men. The more I thought about it, the more I wondered if I actually enjoy being "the other" more than being around people like me. Hmmmm. OK. That’s enough self-reflection for one post.
Here was my interview with Jill beforehand…
You wouldn’t peg me as the kind of guy who’d read a collection of 21st-century-feminist essays, but then again, why are you trying to peg me? You don’t know me. And you probably don’t know Jill Soloway. Tonight is your chance to correct at least one of those situations. Soloway comes to Cambridge tonight to read from her first book, Tiny Ladies in Shiny Pants.
I talked to Jill earlier this week.
A reader at Jill Soloway’s first book tour stop in New York City asked the author a simple question: "Do you hate men?”
Short answer: No.
But Soloway, whose first collection of essays is called Tiny Ladies in Shiny Pants, does refer to the man she lives with as either her husfriend or partner, not her husband ("We do feel married,” she said). And she would like to create an all-female haven, which she’d call Feather Crest.
"I’m totally ready to start a new land,” she said. "I feel like it’s a geographical representation of a burka. If we all hide in a land where men cannot have access to us, then we can make our own rules. No more Brazilian waxes!”
Then she walks past a Manhattan intersection to see that someone called the Naked Cowgirl has taken up residence.
"This is not good,” Soloway said.
Her essays blend personal memoir and professional experience to explore broader themes in feminism, touching on everything from the porno-ization of America to the Lolita complex, comparing her own sexual past to that of Monica Lewinsky and Chandra Levy, casting new light on the likes of Kobe Bryant and lesbianism.
It’s sexual, yes.
"But it’s not dirty,” Soloway said. "It’s political. It’s about making the object the subject.”
And it’s also something she has become used to doing through the "Sit ‘N’ Spin” comedy shows she hosts monthly in Los Angeles. On other stops of her book tour, comedians such as Sarah Silverman and Amy Poehler join Soloway onstage, as do actresses from Six Feet Under.
Soloway began writing episodes during the HBO show’s second season and had become a co-executive producer by the series finale this summer.
Soloway got her big break in show business in the early 1990s when she and her older sister, Faith, produced "The Real Live Brady Bunch” in Chicago, faithfully re-enacting episodes of the classic TV sitcom. Faith Soloway now lives in the Hub and will join her sister at tonight’s Cambridge reading.
"We’d like to think we’re the newfangled Smothers Brothers. The Soloway Sisters,” Jill Soloway said. "So we’ll have some sisterly banter.”
They’ll also have readings by Lisa Carver and Merle Perkins, who appeared in a fifth-season episode of Six Feet Under, "The Rainbow of Her Reasons,” as well as in local Faith Soloway productions including "Jesus Has Two Mommies.”
Jill Soloway also will show some bizarre press footage from when they launched the national tour of "The Real Brady Bunch” here in Boston.
"We were deadly serious,” she said. "It was as if they asked us to talk about the Holocaust. Except it was the Brady Bunch.”
The Center for New Words presents Jill Soloway and her book, Tiny Ladies in Shiny Pants, tonight at 8 at the Cambridge Family YMCA, 820 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge. Call 617-876-5310.
Related: Jill Soloway’s home page
Related: Boston Herald interview