Wild Life 

Having already scored onstage and onscreen, Alan Cumming tries his hand at writing fiction.

Tony Award-winning actor Alan Cumming is on the set of the X-Men sequel these days, being awakened at 2 a.m. to spend hours with the makeup artist and then most of the rest of the day in a harness. But he's also promoting his first novel, Tommy's Tale.

Hitting bookstores this week, it's a slice of life -- a wild twentysomething London life -- whose titular hero drinks a lot of water, downs a lot of Ecstasy, and laughs like hell at the term "making love," though he shags both guys and gals at home, in nightclubs' disabled toilet stalls, anywhere at all. ("Me, I'm a rimming-on-the-first-date sort of boy," Tommy tells us.) All this aside, he wants a child, though how, when, and with whom, he's not quite sure. Yet the way Cumming writes, wreathing real truths in gutbusting humor, you want Tommy to get what he wants.

"We've all been victims of the conventional family structure," the author tells the Express. "It doesn't always work, yet people get criticized for not having families. Now with the whole gay-adoption thing and the whole Rosie O'Donnell thing," new paradigms are taking shape. "You find your own family. What works, works."

Choosing a bisexual protagonist was a bold and highly unusual move, but a natural one.

"In a way, it forces the reader to think about it. People are so threatened by bisexuality. They think either that you haven't made up your mind yet or, as Tommy says, that it means you'll fuck absolutely anyone, especially them."

He's acted, directed, and written screenplays. Starting a novel was something else entirely. "I had a story I wanted to tell. I quite liked the process of going away on my own -- it's kind of romantic." And compared to the crowded realms of stage and screen, a novel "was something I could always turn to that was mine, all mine, and not done by committee."

Cumming is scheduled to read from Tommy's Tale at Diesel in Oakland on October 5.

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