I’ve been switching between two books the past few days, which is rather odd for me. Usually if I have to veer off the path from one book to a different one, I don’t return to the original book in question. I veer off because one text is a waste of my time or I’m not enjoying it at all and life is too short.
However, the two books I’m hopping between are difficult to digest for different, yet unexpectedly similar, reasons.
It all started with Last Exit To Brooklyn. I know, I know–this shit is notorious. The obscenity trials in the UK and the ban in Italy. The short story about the gang rape. The general break-through from the book that propelled Selby into notoriety and opened the lane for Requiem for a Dream. I knew all of this going into the experience but I didn’t expect the book to cause me to feel… Rotten, down to my fucking core.
Meaning, “The Queen Is Dead.” Georgette’s filthy degradation she endures for the sake of what she wants to be love. Yes, “Tralala,” and the line of 40 to 50 men and the way that within a single page so many boundaries are crossed and you think you might just vomit on the final paragraphs.
Yesterday after finishing Tralala I literally felt like a demon had settled in my chest. I’m not saying a demon like some religious bullshit entity, but I could feel all of the ugliness and hatred and fuck-it-all energy that is exhumed from reading Last Exit To Brooklyn. I was crabby to my boyfriend, I kept thinking of Vinnie and Georgette and the final line of “Not… Shit” and Tralala’s teeth breaking apart in her mouth. It was utterly haunting and I could literally feel the book rotting me, scaring me, making me want to lash out because this slice of pure ugly was captured and I don’t like to think that people can be so ugly and the only way to protect yourself is being ugly back. I don’t like to think that anyone is capable of looking at a ruined Tralala driving by in a car and laugh and feel that at least they’re okay. I don’t want to think about any of those realities but I must because it’s been written. Therefore, it’s true somewhere to someone in the world.
So I switch to A Hope More Powerful Than The Sea to cool off from Last Exit to Brooklyn. I’d been putting this book off because after watching so much violence in the past month, it’s difficult to really talk about refugees and asylum with a clear head. However, this book is absolutely fantastic. I didn’t know much about what brought about the Syrian civil war and through the life of young Doaa, the reader is walked through what she experienced growing up as a girl in her conservative town and wanting her own life as a woman and suddenly when people begin to demand change they are punished to the most dire of consequences.
I know how the end of this story goes–we’re all watching it unfold on TV. But it’s different tracing back where all of the current violence in Syria stemmed from. It brings humility, empathy, and frankly, it brings a shitty (enter Tralala) sense of thankfulness. I don’t actively think about how lucky I am as a woman in America. In fact, I’m much more apt to criticize the status of women in the United States. We’re not perfect, but I don’t have to worry about not looking at men when I walk by them because they could abduct me or hurt me. I don’t have to turn fifteen and begin thinking about getting married. I don’t live in a country where religious ideology is so ingrained that if I give birth to a girl, my family will shame me over and over until I have a boy. I don’t live in a country where I have absolutely no say in when I get pregnant.
I feel mildly like a shit saying all of this, but that’s the thing about these books right now–I’m being propelled way out to different hemispheres when I pull out of the writing and look around the street, the bench, and it’s all new. When I begin walking I’m cognizant of the breeze and the shade and the trees and where people are in location to me. The books are opening my eyes to darkness and do indeed remind me that some people are just pure fucking evil.
I guess that is the scariest infiltration of all.