without the world's understanding
“An excellent collection! Filled with pathos, rage, and dare I say it, even a touch of charm at times, these stories linger long after the final sentence.”
—John Weagly, award-winning author of Dancing in the Knee-Deep Midnight and
The Undertow of Small Town Dreams
“In 'This is Enough,' Westerfield dares to step inside the mind of Johnny, a boy trapped in a world of abuse and cruelty. The way he portrays him holding onto his human core is childlike, believable and inspiring. The stories explore darkness, but also offer enduring glimmers of compassion, hope, and kindness. It is a unique, surprising, and satisfying bundle.”
—Allen Silver, author of Man of Use: A Sensitive West Texas Boy Finds Purpose and Fulfillment
in Erotic Service
“Westerfield’s characters live in the gray spaces that have become so difficult to talk about in our absolutist culture. Each is drawn with brave complexity and weary resiliency. They speak with hard-won insight of lives both fabulous and fraught with contradictions and lead us to better understanding of our own imperfect humanity.”
—Jeff Rufus Byrd, Performance Artist
“Thomas Westerfield’s closely-observed characters surprise, unsettle, provoke, entertain
—Gerard Cabrera, author of Homo Novus
The thirteen stories of Goes On, Without the World's Understanding are challenging and unique, even controversial, as they go far beyond the expected, reductive tropes usual to writing about sexuality, race, art, abuse, love, trauma, and intergenerational relationships.
The stories take surprising turns as characters are forced to confront long-silent secrets and "wrong" thoughts and feelings they have kept unknown, sometimes even to themselves. Some of the characters find acceptance, even peace, within the many contradictory and often warring elements of their hearts; some do not. But all the stories ultimately embrace an almost ruthless compassion for everyone's humanity, no matter how much the reader may initially wish to maintain their distance from them.
The stories, in the order they appear, are:
“Thoughts," where a teenage boy comes to define himself in the midst of his parents’ murder-suicide.
“Surviving,” details the unraveling of Dr. Miriam Birnbaum's Tuesday Evening Therapy Group for Adult Male Survivors of Childhood and Adolescent Incest and Sexual Abuse as observed by one of the group members.
"Mr. Sissy in Sin City” follows a retired man in his sixties who experiences both fatherly and flirtatious feelings for a young man celebrating his twenty-first birthday alone at a late-night casino in Las Vegas.
"The Barbies in the Closet" explores the terrors of an eight-year-old boy of what he fears the Barbie dolls he plays with during the day will do to him in the dark of night.
"Today's Agenda” finds an elderly gay White male professor playing a dangerous game of academic politics with his one-time protegee, a younger Black lesbian, over proposed policy changes regarding contest requirements in their Theater Department .
"American Horror Story" is the experience of a devoted fan of the television series forced to confront the horror found in real life.
"This is Enough" is the first-person narrative of a young man, kidnapped into a sex trafficking ring and now free, as he reveals his experience and why he will never return home to the parents and life he once knew there.
"Obituaries" unravels a story of the past becoming overwhelmingly present when an older man reads of the death of his long-ago high school bully and discovers their mutual connection with the boy he first loved.
“Andrew” tells of a middle-aged poet, house-sitting for wealthy clients, who comes to realize he has fallen in love with a student working his way through college as an escort.
"The Boy in the Audience" tells the story of a closeted teenager in a small Kentucky town in 1971 who experiences gay life for the first time through the movie, The Boys in the Band.
"Ideal Lover Wanted" is a precisely detailed list of desire with a last-line caveat.
"The Last Great Aria of a Magnificent Faggot" finds a controversial ninety-six-year-old gay cult poet and novelist who proclaims himself A Magnificent Faggot confronting a seven-decades-younger queer interviewer over what is and is not appropriate for art to address.
"His Father,” the final story of the collection returns to the main protagonist of "Surviving" as he spends a quiet Sunday evening with the father who once sexually abused him.
Goes On, Without the World's Understanding may be purchased directly through amazon.com and rattlinggoodyarns.com.
Monasteries is a play about a former novitiate, now diagnosed with AIDS, seeking hospice from the monastery that expelled him several years earlier for a sexual scandal. It was presented at Southern Illinois University Carbondale in the summer of 1987. The script was revised in 1988 as part of my thesis for a Master of Fine Arts degree in Theatre with a special concentration in playwriting.
Bill Kincaid, the director of the production, quoted two lines from the play in Facebook posts earlier this Spring of 2023. He noted how the lines had stayed with him all these years as reflections of forgiveness, love, and an image of God. To my surprise, actors from the production and audience members who read Bill's thoughts responded with posts of their own.
A couple of people asked if there was a copy of the play online. So, attached is a pdf of the 1988 revised play script. With the exception of the cover sheet and a handful of corrections for spelling and grammatical errors, and a couple of confusing, clunky lines that especially stood out, this is essentially the exact script included in my bound thesis. It is important to me that the play remain as it was for the audience then. Nothing has been updated to make it in any way more acceptable and palatable for our current culture’s sensibilities. This version of Monasteries is of its time, honestly revealing the writer I was at age thirty-three and the artist I was striving to be. It explores themes of being a gay man wrestling with spirituality, the acceptance of death, and the expression of soul in sex—themes urgently important to me at the time. And which still possess me.
About the authoR
Thomas Westerfield is the author of Goes On, Without the World’s Understanding, published by Rattling Good Yarns Press.
An earlier version of the book was longlisted as one of twenty unpublished manuscripts considered for the 2019 Dzanc Books Short Story Collection Contest.
A former Catholic seminarian and Southern gay activist originally from Kentucky, he won second prize in the 1987 Julie Harris-Beverly Hills Theatre Guild Playwriting Award for Monasteries. This play was presented by Southern Illinois University at Carbondale in 1987, as was his play Catharsis in 1988. Catharsis also received a production at the Playwrights Center in Chicago that same year. These and others of his plays received staged readings by theater companies in New York City, Los Angeles, St. Louis, and San Francisco throughout the 1980s and 1990s.
In 1988 he was recognized as one of the “25 Unsung Heroes of the Gay Community” by The Advocate magazine.
After a long detour into the corporate world and surviving a near-death experience in 2011, Mr. Westerfield returned to writing. His short story “Mr. Sissy in Sin City” appeared as a finalist in Saints + Sinners: New Fiction from the Festival 2016, an anthology published by Bold Strokes Books. He repeated this feat in 2017 with the story “Obituaries.” Another story, "Surviving," was selected as a finalist for the 2019 New Millennium Writing Awards for Fiction. His play “Items on Today’s Agenda” was a Top Ten finalist in the 2017 Tennessee Williams New Orleans Literary Festival’s One-Act Play Contest.
Mr. Westerfield currently resides in San Francisco where he freelances as a writing consultant while working on his novel That Goddamned Red Rose. He is also a certified Laughter Yoga Leader who has conducted Laughter groups for corporate and social service employees, dialysis patients, and seniors living with dementia.