Paul Festa

areas of interest and expertise


My Salon and Nerve essays about sex have been anthologized in Nerve: The First Ten Years and in three editions of the Best Sex Writing anthology (2005, 2006 and 2008). These include news and personal essays about the true costs of male circumcision, the libido-wilting effects of antidepressants, the corrosive consequences of starfucking, and the experience of auditioning for John Cameron Mitchell's recent movie Shortbus.

My novel-in-progress tells the story of three men who plant a 900-plant medical marijuana garden in California. Over the last four years, research for this project has brought me to work on and observe several medical farms, interview state and county law enforcement officials, and read widely on drug decriminalization, psychoactive and prescription drugs, and drug policy and history. I have excellent sources in all these areas.

Before I became a writer, I studied violin at Juilliard. My first pieces for Salon, back in 1996, were about classical music, including music reviews, essays, tributes, news analyses and an email debate. My first film, Apparition of the Eternal Church, is about people's explosive reactions to the music of Olivier Messiaen. My book OH MY GOD: Messiaen in the Ear of the Unbeliever is a fully illustrated adaptation of that film with an extensive director's commentary that includes essays about the film, cast, and Messiaen's music from the 1920s through the 1960s.

In addition to being a political-news junkie and a political volunteer (including canvassing Columbus suburbs in the 2004 presidential election and volunteering in New Hampshire in 2008), I have written for the Daily Beast about the passage of Proposition 8 in California; and for Salon about foreign politics in reviewing biographies of Indira Gandhi and Benito Mussolini; and about municipal politics with this story about a San Francisco mayoral race. Following Calvin Trillin, I have also dabbled in political doggerel.

Between 2003 and 2006, I made the experimental documentary Apparition of the Eternal Church, which the Chicago Sun-Times called "Stunning...Perhaps the finest film ever made on how people experience music, and one of the best-crafted and moving documentaries in a very long time." The film has screened throughout the US and Europe and won numerous awards. I also made a biographical documentary about the late San Francisco journalist George Dusheck, and was credited for my featured extra turns in John Cameron Mitchell's 2006 movie Shortbus.

I'm a student and aspiring writer of literary fiction. Recent favorites include Wayne Koestenbaum's Moira Orfei in Aigues-Mortes, Jane Bowles' Two Serious Ladies, Andrew Holleran's The Line of Beauty, and the novels of Michael Chabon.

Paul Festa's writing