or ning finally tries to make sense.
so there was this book, see? and i think self-awareness finally kicked in.
but first let me tell you this: last year, larry asked me the question, “What book changed you?” And this was in the middle of me leaving teaching, perhaps studying for comprehensive exams and finally writing for a living. And for all my nerdiness, for all my english teacher-ness, i couldn’t give an answer that felt right. I did my thesis on neil gaiman, that should have done it. but no, not really. so i was left without an answer.
this, of course, bothered me. here i am, claiming to be someone who writes—and who definitely reads more—and not one book.
(conclusion to such self-indulgent musings: I am probably meant to be next kuya germs. i think i can pick out who will do well, can recognize that something else runs through their veins but will never do the same—such crap one comes up with when one refuses to do the work required to actually create.)
so really, when i say that i’ve found the book. then there it is.
It’s Chris Abani’s The Virgin of Flames.
I am in love with Chris Abani’s nonfiction persona, his TED talks always make me choke up somehow. he is the one whose mother said,(paraphrased) “you can steel yourself from any evil, but a random act of kindness from a stranger will always unstitch you.”
and who could tell a story set in jail that went from a group of hardened criminals sitting around a boy and a comic book, learning how to read by reading,” take that spidey” out loud in unison to mourning said boy with comic book because he died,bled out after his penis was tacked to a chair.
and then end with poems. beautifully recited poetry.
so him. i was already in love with his nonfiction albeit public self.
which is why reading his thick, honeyed delicious poetic prose felt like taking too much of a good thing. and i was ready to dismiss it. until i fell into his character.
Black (of mixed descent, Salvadorean and Nigerian) is a muralist in East LA.
who is obsessed with the virgin of guadalupe
obsessed also with his muse, Sweet Girl, who just so happens to be the local transvestite stripper.
has issues with both parents (father was a hardcore scientist but when he died he received a letter that told him otherwise and revealed more about Black than Black expected, mother went cuckoo crazy after being widowed and drilled Catholicism into him .I was surprised that kneeling on seeds was not solely pinoy melodrama. then mother dies of AIDS, i think.)
and wonders if he himself is gay.
Mix that in with pages of meandering through a dirty city, sex of course, a tattoo artist who reads you by hanging herself via metal rings attached to her back while she marks you, a Rwandan butcher who lived through it, being haunted by angel Gabriel, and a neighborhood in a frenzy of anticipation for the apparitions of the virgin of guadalupe.
You can just imagine how this story turns out. Actually I don’t think I could. And that’s why after reading it, after being so into it. I turned cold.
The book broke my heart. I got so involved with Black and his quest of finding himself, of questioning his body that when he reached authenticity and he went up in flames, i shut down. refused it
Like I said in my earlier entry, (and daryll did mention lacan) it seems that finally getting what we want means something else dying.
i don’t think i like desire and death being so close together. nor love and violence. but that is what is written—as my hair falls in curls, my breast carry heavy—on my body.
so i have found my book.