Will and Grace (Book II) By Ian L.C. Swordy, 190 pgs.

Election Night 2008: Leatherface plays Chattanooga for the second time (they got too drunk to play the first time they came through), and Frankie Stubbs announces from stage that America had just elected a Black man as President. Lots of friends were in town for the show, and it was a night of heavy celebration and endless hugs. Early the next morning, a New York friend who was staying on my couch got the news. Her friend Jamie from the band Bent Outta Shape had passed away. I didn’t know Jamie, but it immediately became clear that his passing was an immeasurable loss for a lot of my friends, especially those from New York. As time went on, Jamie’s massive impact on their scene in New York would be confirmed by everyone I talked to who was a part of it.

In the autobiographical Will andGrace (Book II), author Ian L.C. Swordy embraces Jamie as a central character in his upbringing and in his personal development from his childhood as a skate rat, to a political punk rocker, to a player in the art scene. Jamie isn’t the only central character, but he shows up here at least as much as anyone else. They had gotten into DIY punk and political activism together. Later, they became bandmates, playing together in Bent Outta Shape, which Swordy cites as the prime motivator for his move from Long Island to the Big Apple.

Will and Grace begins with a present-day return to New York City and a hell of a long walk around Manhattan with an old friend (Ian from Japanther/Howardian). The conversation and the familiar places send the narrator’s mind spinning into a time-machine-360-kickflip, and the story begins, reaching all the way back to Swordy’s Long Island childhood. From his earliest social experiences, through his teenage years, and into adulthood, Swordy recounts defining moments: philosophical revelations, soaring victories, and crushing defeats. Swordy documents his struggles to find his place in friend groups, sports, music, Yale, politics, dance, the art world, and sobriety.

In a way, Will and Grace is a blur of youthful drama and chaos: parties, shows, trashed promises of success, friendships, drugs, and death. At the same time, the author’s ceaseless introspection gives it a sense of meaning. Somehow, it is always understood that he is on a search for a better world, or some kind of righteous justice, or maybe just an answer to the question: How do you transform the world?

Swordy doesn’t pull punches here—specifically those thrown in his own direction. He mercilessly dissects his own actions and motivations trying to figure out where he went wrong, even when he didn’t go wrong at all. He holds himself responsible for the deaths of his friends. He holds his radicalism responsible for the division in the world. Yeah, it’s pretty dark stuff, but it’s a great read—quick and easy, and more than worth the time. Must be tough being so hard on one’s self, but there are at least two things the author should be proud of: a young life lived to the fullest, and a book perfectly executed. –Buddha (Self-released, ianlcswordy.com)