Bad Sex in Kentucky
New memoir searches for identity within sex, love, and guilt
BY: KRISTINA ROSEN
When asked to give us a two sentence elevator pitch for his new memoir, Bad Sex in Kentucky, without missing a beat, Kevin Lane Dearinger answers, “Oh, c’mon now, who doesn’t want to read about bad sex?” He adds with a laugh, “So two words: Bad. Sex.”
Before you make any assumptions, let us explain. It’s not what you think. His memoir isn’t about inept, anatomical intimacy, but instead the guilt that’s associated with intimacy and growing up.
Growing up gay and Catholic in the state of Kentucky, Dearinger found that everything related to sex had something bad attached to it; from the lies and misrepresentations to the guilt and secrecy. Bad Sex in Kentucky is ultimately about place, family, and heritage while the ideas of love, sex, and guilt guide the book.
This book is absolutely his memoir, but Dearinger adds in his typical witty tone, “But I don’t always try to tell my story through bad sex.”
As far as what to expect, there isn’t a straight linear narrative to the memoir. It’s organized by layers; starting with the theme of time and place, including his two hometowns of Lexington and Versailles. Those two chapters are followed by stories of his family from great grandparents to parents to cousins. The book moves onto education, and into a section about race, which is a big part of growing up in Kentucky during the mid-twentieth century. One chapter is called “Gay in Kentucky” while another discusses the first time he really fell in love, the great love of his life. Between all the misfires, from seeking grace under pressure to finding survival at a price, Dearinger reveals it all with the unique sense of humor in which he possesses.
“I really hope the book is funny. If it’s not funny, I have failed.”
Prior to his memoir, Dearinger wrote three other published books including topics about Shakespeare performance in Lexington, theatre history, and a Kentuckian who had a brief stint as a famous actress in New York.
Dearinger was once told that if a person is southern, obscure, and played Shakespeare, he’s probably going to write about it. He agreed, it’s what he does. But with his newest book he claims he wrote about the most obscure person he knows: himself.
“Katharine Hepburn once said, ‘Cold sober, I find myself absolutely fascinating.’” Dearinger continues, “Cold sober, although I don’t ever drink, I find myself absolutely ridiculous.”
Dearinger’s brother, who is his hero and inspiration, uncovered information about their great grandmother that was shocking, yet somehow made all the pieces fit. These revelations about his great grandmother became the reason he wrote this book.
“Here is this lady who I have a big portrait of hanging in my bedroom. We always thought she was this very grand lady in this grand house with this grand life…then to find out she had affairs and this whole other scandalous life.”
His parents are also the heroes of the book. Dearinger grew up in a loving family with parents who were complicated yet loved each other regardless of their complications. He writes about his family and the speculation of their private lives while bringing attention to himself and his early experiences in Catholic school and coming out.
“What I hope people and my family know is that what I have written is written from a great love of the people I write about.”
He adds, “But I also hope younger people, particularly young LGBTQ people, get a sense of history. I am a great survivor, I’ve been through hard things, but we all have. I am not special, but I get up and keep moving. I hope people recognize that sometimes that is what life is about. You get up and you keep moving.”
As a writer, educator, and actor, all of which are in reverse chronological order, Dearinger sees a connection between these roles. Being in the classroom was a kind of performance, likewise, being an actor was a lot of learning.
While he enjoyed a professional acting career that took him to Broadway, Dearinger makes sure to point out that he was no star, but simply a working actor. After he retired from performance and from his second career as an educator in New York, he returned to Kentucky to live and write. Dearinger has never been a part-time anything, and as of now, he is a full time writer.
His biggest surprise with finishing his memoir is the number of people who have called to ask if they’re in it. He laughs, “You really want to know if you’re in a book called Bad Sex in Kentucky?”
Bad Sex in Kentucky was published under Rabbit House Press, which is owned by actress and author Erin Chandler who recently released a new collection of essays.
On Sunday, November 24, join Rabbit House Press for a book release event in celebration of Bad Sex in Kentucky from 2 pm to 5 pm at Erin Chandler’s home.
EDIT: Bad Sex in Kentucky is available here
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