Monday, September 11, 2006

celebratory book blogging

Huzzah! Am gainfully employed as of next week, in an ice cream/coffe shop. It's a high school job, but the hours are right and the pay's decent. Unless I hear back from Snooty Spa and Resort, in which case I'll be kissing ass at the front desk, because that one offers health insurance.

So I thought I was justified in picking up Adam Bede at the library sale table (the sale table here is TO DIE FOR. I better develop some self-discipline right quick). And Phyllis Rose's Parallel Lives: Five Victorian Marriages. I'm also trying to convince myself that I do not need a third copy of Portrait of a Lady, even if it is a Norton edition with footnotes (mmm, footnotes) and critical essays in the back, and it's only three dollars. No. I will be good. I'll blog about Michelle Tea's Valencia instead, which I finished last night.

Tea had me from the very first page:
This was no mere crush, this was something huge, feelings taking the form of a hot, wet gas that filled the bar and I had to move through it with my drink, wading through the fog of my heart.

Oh yes, I thought, currently floundering through my own emotional fogginess, and I felt that recognition and relief when someone articulates so precisely your own experiences. Lynnee Breedlove calls Tea "the Mission's poet laureate," and she is a poet, Valencia is more like a manic prose poem than a novel, spoken-word-performance on speed, it begs to be read aloud. You get a parallel high off her words as her characters trip out on ecstasy. I'm a sucker for a good metaphor, and Tea has that rare talent of originality.
We sat outside on the front stoop, a great place to sit, maybe the best in the city. You were connected to the absolute hub of 16th Street, but you sat in a dark corridor, apart, quieter, like 16th Street was this incredible secret and my street was the moment before you told it.
I described the plot to Winter as "fucked up people fucking," which it is; because it's not so much about action as experience, what it's like to be high, or drunk, or hungover, in love, in lust, heartbroken, just plain broke, working shit jobs and dancing and hooking and being lonely on Greyhound buses to Tuscon. It's the queer girl underground in San Francisco's Mission district in the early 90s, riot grrrls and anarchist bike messengers and I find it both seductive and disturbing. I've had a taste of that no-tomorrow hedonism in Paris, minus the drugs thank you, and it's addictive. When you've got nothing you've got nothing to lose and everything is possible and nothing matters and nothing's mundane, you're either blissed out or crashing down. I can't help wanting more of that, just a taste of that experience in San Francisco, because it does make you feel rebellious and revolutionary, even if you're really not. And mostly you're not, you're fucked up girls who hurt themselves and others, in abusive relationships, on drugs, on the street, and it's not romantic, and Tea doesn't hide the dirt and desperation of life on the edge like that. Shades of Henry Miller and Jack Kerouac. Some of it's kind of gross, and much of it is so sad. The dykes in Valencia have a tragic beauty to them, and there aren't really any happy endings, though there are some lovely moments. There's tons of humor too, thank god, witty and cynical and absurd. "My heart was broken", she states at one point, "I couldn't be held responsible for my fashion." And later:
I just get a bad feeling off her, Petra said, shaking her head. I hated when people pulled this psychic shit on me. Like, we're all suposed to honor each other's intution and Different Ways of Knowing, but don't come at me with esoteric warnings about someone I have a crush on.
I actually stopped a quarter of the way through, flipped back to the beginning and started over, so I could underline these classic one-liners she just tosses off: "In the corner store we pulled fat bottles of water from the shelves. No one thinks it's weird that we have to buy clean water, and that's how I know we're going to hell. "
So I guess the moral of the story is that Valencia is a place I'd like to visit, but I wouldn't want to live there. I'll probably be reading it again and again, and agonizing over how I can't afford to buy the rest of Tea's work. Yet!


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