Friday, May 4, 2007

Suspended in darkness.

Tonight I wanted to talk about one of the stories from Jesus' Son that Matt gave us to read in class that I've now re-read a few more times.

I think it's really difficult, sometimes, to come up with something right on the spot, without mulling over and re-reading it. Especially when you're listening to someone read outloud. I often find that when I'm reading along with someone reading outloud, I'm more focused on listening to each word as it's coming up as opposed to processing what's being read. So in class, while I had vague ideas of the stories, I don't think I really formulated my thoughts until now. But having read them through again, I can say that the two stories he chose are some of my favorites from the collection as well. Such good choices.

I was going to say some words on "Car Crash While Hitchhiking" but I decided against it. I'd rather focus my attention on "Dirty Wedding", which I had a hard time formulating thoughts about during class - thanks to the fact that I was high on painkillers - but now I've read three more times and LOVE.

I'm going to be completely aimless in my discussion of this, but I just wanted to get some thoughts down.

Wow, what an unconventional story about abortion. Completely heartbreaking in its strangeness. The aimless lost feeling the narrator gives, the confusion of how we're supposed to feel. So on spot.

He has no clue how to deal with this. No clue. He obviously has an overwhelming amount of thoughts and feelings that he just does not even know how to begin to process. He's scared for Michelle, for the baby. He's scared of what they're doing, and he deals with it in such a callous way because he just has no other idea of how to deal with it. And then he walks out and says "I felt the cancelled life dreaming after me." How incredibly sad and spooky. I love how later something so unrelated, he's talking about dumpsters but then says:

Think of being curled up and floating in a darkness. Even if you could think, even if you had an imagination, would you ever imagine its opposite, this miraculous world the Asian Taoists call the "Ten Thousand Things"? And if the darkness just got darker? And then you were dead? What would you care? How would you even know the difference?

Interestingly enough, it's like he's completely empathizing with the baby in a way. Curled up and floating in a darkness. Like a baby. Or like a lost person living in the real world. When you're lost, when you don't know the world, when you've never seen it or can't touch it or can't feel it, then if you die, is there a difference? It seems to me he's trying to make sense of this. For the justification or lack thereof of the baby's life, and his own aimlessness.

The other thing I really love about the story is his relationship with Michelle. How early on he says he made up all these screwed up lies but nothing would make her repent or love him the way she did before she knew him. And then later he says, "...she wanted to hurt me as only a child can be hurt by its mother." Those are some strong words. The implications behind this kind of love. It's a push and pull of love, a reminder of how twisted and fickle love is sometimes. How strong it is, how much we desire from each other. The dysfunction. And yet he's the only one who would love her.

And it's like all of this. The twisted love he has for this girl that ends up dead -- and the fact that they go through this abortion together, but not. He is living his own separateness, following strange men on trains, trying to make sense of all of this but really aimlessly going, feeling like there's something lingering of the life that was just ended. Ghostly. And he's wondering about life. Whether we're not just people floating in the darkness too, without knowledge of where fate lies for us. Just going about it. Would we know the difference? Are we babies suspended in nothingness?

Hmm. This made a lot more sense in my head while I was reading it than when I tried to write about it. So ignore me.

All I wanted to say is I love this story. It makes sense to me in a way I can't really articulate whatsoever.

Because I promised a wrap-up of this collection (and so I can move on), I guess my thoughts on it are this:

Not all the stories make sense to me, nor do I always know what I'm supposed to get out of all of them. Sometimes phrases sound pretty but I don't know what they mean, it's so abstract to me. But as a collection, I love it. I love how we watch the narrator progress and evolve, this flawed being with all his troubles making his way through life, trying to get better but not really, and all his little episodes. His fight with life, but not really a fight, but I guess his dance through life, and eventually where he ends up at the end, better off than where he was before. I love the rawness it depicts, the voice, of simultaneously a young lost soul and that of the slightly older man looking back and trying to make sense of things. The apparent aimlessness of even the thoughts sometimes and how they interconnect. And with a touch of dreaminess yet a strange detachment. Little experiences, and trying to make meaning of it, and somehow it all amounts to a life slowly changed.

I really liked it. It grew on me. Even if I didn't always understand.

Lastly, random funny anecdote about this. I was reading it in Starbucks one day, and this guy with a Hispanic accent, middle-aged, asked me if this was a story about God or some other religious work. I said, um, no, not exactly... He then went on to tell me he had gone to seminary, and he had read many religious texts, so he was curious when he saw it because that was something he definitely had never heard of before. I laughed.

I have some thoughts about the title, but they're not formulated at all. So. They'll have to stay inside for now.

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