Hearing It

My name is Alexander Cheves. My nickname is Beastly. I write about sex. I wrote a book.

Have a question? Email askbeastly@gmail.com or go here.

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I’m half-deaf. I am between two worlds — hearing and silence — and my experiences in both are rendered more difficult by this fact.

Other hard-of-hearing folks share my struggle. It is doubly hard for us to focus on what others are saying, and our focus drops every time we have to ask someone to please repeat themselves. When I’m tired, I’m gone. Out like a light. Disconnected.

I think this is why I write. Words on a page have always been my easier communication method.

My half-deafness means that my ability to be fully present has always functioned at half-strength. This disconnect is where my writing starts. In the detachment, first sentences form. Virginia Woolf is said to have thought of first sentences, complete and unchanged, before ever putting pen to paper.

When it’s time to actually sit down and write, I start talking out loud. That’s all writing is to me. Just talking. I talk to the empty room and simply transcribe.

All writing is storytelling, and the most natural way humans tell stories is by talking. We sit at bars and tell friends what happened that one time. We sit around bonfires and tell ghost stories. We do this without thinking about it. We’re just talking, just doing what people do. Writing should not be viewed as an elevated version of that. Writing is just the transcription of speech.

Once upon a time, traveling bards roamed across Europe telling stories to illiterate villages. Those stories were told over and over and became our great fairy tales and epics. Before those bards, an ape on two feet formed language — and, if some theories are to be believed, consciousness with it — by telling stories. As far as we can tell, humans are the only animals to fictionalize and historicize our experiences. We are the only storytellers we know of in the universe.

When I write, I don’t stop talking. I have to write in privacy because I must be an odd sight: a grown man mumbling to himself in front of a computer for hours on end. This is my process, and I doubt it’s uncommon. I imagine many writers do this. It is strange to me that my method of writing so necessitates the ability to hear — a diminishing feature of my life.

My hearing loss is degenerative. Someday I will be fully deaf, and what I fear most about that day is not the loss of music or dancing, but the loss of my ability to write.

My great teacher in college, the novelist Jonathan Rabb, told me many times in his classes that writing is about training the ear (in my case, only the one). You can hear grammatical errors you’d miss visually, and you can hear, to borrow his phrase, when the text is “singing” — when you’ve hit that magical vein and know it’s working.

When he said “ear,” I don’t think he meant the physical ear, but some kind of mysterious inner one. Still, I’ve taken his advice literally. I edit my work by reading it aloud, over and over, to myself. Writing a book made me go hoarse because I talked so much. In those weeks under deadline, I discovered my breaks were when I needed to rest my voice — my physical one, my actual throat.

The book is now on shelves. You can buy it everywhere books are sold. If your local bookstore does not have My Love Is a Beast: Confessions, please ask them to order it, and understand that there is a global paper supply chain issue happening now thanks to COVID-19, so you might wait a bit longer for it. This thing I mumbled to myself can now be held in your hands.

The book tour is mostly wrapped, with only two more official readings left — a virtual one hosted by Literati Bookstore in Ann Arbor on November 3rd, and an in-person one at Nasty Pig’s new headquarters in New York City on November 5th, though this latter one is sold out. These are not the last readings I’ll do, but these are the last ones we officially have on our tour schedule.

I love reading the book aloud. Doing so feels natural because the book started its life that way. Being half-deaf, I can’t hear the crowd, the shuffling in the seats, the sounds of boredom or discomfort, and that’s probably a good thing. I can only hear my own voice, ringing back to me at half-volume.

I am so proud of this book. The words feel perfect in my mouth.

Love, Beastly


  1. Dear Alex,

    first off, congratulations!
    Just want to say how happy for and proud of you I am, to see this latest work you’ve been striving so hard for come to fruition*

    A friend recommended your blog to me a couple of years ago, and I have never been more grateful.

    It is honest, kind, helpful, inspiring and most enlightening to read your varied and well researched posts.

    I was ecstatic to hear that you were working on a book when you first mentioned it in a past column.

    As such, I can’t wait to get a copy. Unfortunately, I was a bit surprised to find out that shipping to my location will cost almost as much as the book itself.
    Was trying a friend’s address in Europe and the fees were similar..

    Was wondering if there would be any plans to possibly release an e-book version of this work?
    As much as I enjoy holding and feeling a hard copy; I think an electronic version would definitely help and reach more people across the globe.

    It could also potentially be safer to own and read for certain audiences where it’s simply not safe to own hard copies of such material.

    I just realised that due to our antiquated and discriminatory laws here:
    It most probably won’t see the light of day in a local bookstore either…

    All my best,
    Appreciative fanboy from Singapore


    1. Thank you for your support and readership over the years. The book is available on Amazon, which ships globally and should not have as high of shipping costs as buying directly from the publisher (the link I have posted most often). I am sad to report that there probably will not be an e-book, at least not anytime soon. E-books are only profitable for very successful books published by large publishers; indie presses do not make much money from them, and worse, they can undercut sales made from regular books. That said, we will release an audiobook at some point this year, and I will be reading it myself. I will post updates about that on all my social channels as it comes to fruition, so keep following, and again, thank you for reading.


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