Monday, June 15, 2009

Empty empty waiting

No thoughts come tonight. Just the droning night noises of the city. And the quiet snoring of a body exhausted from midnight sex. Doubt. One almost always is in doubt. Doubt follows you as if it was your own shadow. A shadow that doesn't need light. It shadows you even in the dark, like now, when everyone has turned off everything except the porch light. A warming, I guess, or a repellent, against ill doers, come ye not here. A modern day version of sheep blood. (I don't know why people leave their porch light on during nighttime, when everyone is asleep, certainly the people inside their lighted-porch houses are. If they wanted to leave the light on so they can see in the dark, who's going for a walk when they're sleeping? Except maybe sleepwalkers. If they wanted to discourage burglars, it can't be a very persuasive method. )

Today is a true rambling. I had wanted to write about a book, two books actually, "Snakes and Earrings" by Hitomi Kanehara and "Book of Night Women" by Marlon James.
Both are about violence and so are also themselves violent. Both are extremely disturbing, the disturbance from the latter helps one to contextualize (and by so doing contain) the violence of the former.

One, the former, is violent with etiquette. I say with etiquette because while its violence is seemingly sense-less (violence for the joy of it, the act of it, where the demarcation between it and love, between pain and pleasure, sense (reason sense, smelling sense, feeling sense) and sense-less, quaver and disappear, where each act of violence leads to a disappearing of a demarcation, it is nevertheless Limited to a group of individuals. Limited to certain causes, be it personal, psychological, social, or unexplainable. Limited and contained. Contained in the underground world of Tokyo. Contained (mainly)in the bodies of the narrator, nineteen year old Lui and her two love interests: Ama, her also underage boyfriend, and his tatooing friend, Shiba-san, who later becomes Lui's man. Contained also perhaps because we are given a narrator that's so soft (soft body, soft skin, soft voice), gentle, even if freaky in her masochism and disturbing in her ability to accept and deny everything that's (normally) morally right and wrong at the same time. Contained also because the violence our characters inflict on themselves and each other don't really hurt anybody (just the drunken thugging gangster, whose death we could accept because he asked for it) until we find out that Ama has died from such a violent and sadistic death--cuts all over the chest, hair ripped off his scalp, nails ripped off his fingers, an incense stick stuck up his penis. And we aren't really disturbed until the very end, when we realize, just as our narrator does, that the torturer and murderer is Shiba-san, Ama's friend and whom we have developed a bit of an infatuation for because he's so mature and worldly even if freaky and sadistic. And what's most disturbing is not the nature of the death, or the fact that Ama was alive throughout the torture, or even that Shiba-san is the killer. What's most disturbing and incomprehensible is that our narrator, whom we've grown to accept even if we don't understand her, continues to live with and even cover up for Shiba-san. How can anyone inflict such savage pain on another being, let alone find pleasure in doing it?! What's more, how can anyone live with it as if it's a normal part of life? But, after we get over our disturbance, we can deal with it, because while we don't understand it, we can continue to live our lives in our healthy and logical and understandable world. After all, these people belong to a subclass of society, the outcast, the misfits. Moreover, contextualized within human history, one can say violence here may actually be gracious. (I remember the same disturbance when I read Ryu Murakami's 69, a few years back, and have managed to, thankfully, forget why it was so disturbing to read).

This is how this next book helps me to swallow the last book:

"The Book of Night Women" is a re-telling of the history of the Atlas Uprising in slavery Jamaica. It tells the lives of the slaves and masters of Montpelier Estate, through the eyes of a Creole slave, Lilith. We are told the familiar stories we read about slavery, the savagery, the inhumanity, the violence, but all are amplified a thousand times in this book. It is as if the author wants to make sure that the reader understands, sees, and FEELS, this savage history, a history that he learned and had to unlearn. The book is filled with violence, is spilled over with violence. Every page is a rape. Every page is a decapitation, a whipping, a scream, endless soundless screams, a torture, a hanging, a burning, every page, every page. Death and dying are everywhere. Every word is pain, every sentence contained so much rage it blinds. And there's no way out, no way out, because the whole world is enslaved. You become enslaved in that world, trapped in that world, the more you read the more you're trapped and saturated in its cruelty. You get sick from seeing so much pain and feeling its aftermath, pain so deep its tentacles have reached you through the passage of time and space. You become nauseated and you have to break away, put the book down, get away from it, to compose yourself, to regain yourself and seek comfort in your reality. Then, when you're ready, maybe even unthinkingly, you pick the book up again and take another plunge into its sea of blood and burnt human flesh. But, the book does give you some hope. Lilith has hope to the very end, and life does continue even if it is enslaved by death. But this hope, even for you, is hard earned. The book doesn't let you come away free. Even for you, so far away and so removed from its world. It is as if the book is saying, "Look here you, you fortunate, ungrateful ass, look!" And you have to look, to see the ultimate expression of evil, to see the flesh of slaves involved or not involved in the uprising torn inside steel cages, hanging from tree branches like perverted fruits. You smell their flesh burning as they die a slow death from a small fire. You hear their screams get smaller and smaller until screams become whimpers and then no more. It seethes with violence, infectious in its violence, diseased by its violence, outraged by its violence.

In "Snakes and earrings," the story is a world isolated, which gives the feeling that its violence is also isolated. In the latter, we are immersed in it, violence is not even appropriate a word anymore, crueler words must be used, like monstrosity, inhumane, evil.

For those books that can give you not only headaches but nightmares and depression, I heartily recommend.

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