It is not uncommon to encounter an event in Edinburgh during which topics of love, sexuality and desire are explored and challenged. However, amongst the sea of events in which the politics of sexuality and desire take centre stage, Lighthouse Bookshop’s celebration of Michael Amherst’s Go the Way Your Blood Beats was quietly yet triumphantly relevant.
Lighthouse Bookshop is best known as Edinburgh’s resident one-stop-shop for radical books. However, the various events hosted within the intimate, book-lined walls are arguably the best thing about the shop. In alignment with LGBT+ History month, Lighthouse invited writer Michael Amherst to discuss his new book Go the Way Your Blood Beats – the book’s title, taken from a James Baldwin quote, suggests the prominent ideas of the book. Amherst’s project critiques understanding sexuality and desire from a recalcitrant angle, one that denies the bifurcation of identity through violent insistence on labels or societal norms projected onto queer people.
The event began with Amherst reading several fragments from his book. He effortlessly combined academic traditions of research and evidence with a gritty and honest depiction of bisexuality from personal and referential recollections. Within the opening 10 minutes of the reading, Amherst managed to express the playful nuance of his particular style.
Initially, he made several tendentious claims against labels and judgements of sexuality, stating, “all presumptions about sexuality are acts of violence”. These claims, however, were supported by his research in psychoanalysis as well as a multitude of references to other readings, and did not adopt a polemic and prescribing tone; Amherst did not suggest a clear path in revolutionising thoughts on sexuality. Rather, they presented the voice of a committed writing dilettante who was ultimately aiming towards self-discovery. Amherst did not suggest that his beliefs were a universal truth. Instead, he encouraged his reader to enter on a heuristic journey towards questioning and denying boundaries and categories of sexual experience.
After a brief reading from his book, the ‘talk’ session began, during which Amherst discussed everything from his writing process to his opinions on faith and sexuality. The intimate setting of the bookstore encouraged a replication of the atmosphere of truth and authenticity that weave rampantly through Amherst’s book.
The event gave a brief introduction to the topics of the book and gave a taster of the style, form and of course, the content. Excited, every single attendee walked out with a copy of the book, anxious to delve into the poetic and prosaic masterpiece of Go the Way Your Blood Beats.
‘Go the Way Your Blood Beats: Michael Amherst on Truth, Bisexuality and Desire’ took place at Lighthouse Bookshop on Thursday 22 February 2018.
Image: Juliet Tolley.