Love and scandal are the best sweeteners of tea. —Henry Fielding

08 July 2007

Close to the Knives

I'm reading David Román's book Acts of Intervention, which is basically a history book about AIDS plays, or more technically performances that were spawned out of AIDS activism and AIDS culture. Román is thorough and his study is exhaustive (or seems to be) but the book is a little, um, depressing. I have, of course, been consuming a steady diet of plays that deal with homosexuality, AIDS and violence, so perhaps I am feeling a little tired of all of this pain.

At any rate, my deal with myself is that I'll read a good twenty or thirty pages of theoretical writing and then I'll read something more "fun". By fun, of course, I really just mean a different kind of work. So when I take books to the coffee shop, I take a theory book and then at least one or two books of plays, so I have something fun to read in addition to the theory.

Today, I finished a chapter in the Román and then picked up David Wojnarowicz's Close to the Knives: a Memoir of Disintegration. I read about this book in Robert McRuer's book about what he calls the "Queer Renaissance" and I was intrigued. But Close to the Knives is great fun! It's sexy and rough and violent. And it's composed like poetry, in short spurts. Some of the sequences are miniscule, lasting the length of a hook-up in an abandoned attic, but they gleam with life. I read about sixty pages in one sitting and then I came home and read another twenty-five.

One of the great things about the book (and why it's still technically "work" for me to read it) is its marriage of violence and desire. For instance:
The paper stated that only people who are heterosexual or married or who have families can expect these constitutional rights. There were no editorials. Nothing. Just flat cold type in the morning paper informing of this. In most areas of the u.s.a. it is possible to murder a man and when one is brought to trial one has only to say that the victim was a queer and that he tried to touch you and the courts will set you free. When I read the newspaper article I felt something stirring in my hands; I felt a sensation like seeing oneself from miles above the earth or like looking at one's reflection in a mirror through the wrong end of a telescope. Realizing that I have nothing left to lose in my actions I let my hands become weapons, my teeth become weapons, every bone and muscle and fiber and ounce of blood become weapons, and I feel prepared for the rest of my life.
In my dreams I crawl across freshly clipped front lawns, past statues and dogs and cars containing your guardians. I enter your houses through the smallest cracks in the bricks that keep you feeling comfortable and safe. I cross your living rooms and go up your staircases and into your bedrooms where you lie sleeping. [. . .] I will wake you up and welcome you to your bad dream.
Powerful stuff, huh? (Or maybe it's just me.) It's a memoir and it's a fluid thing; violence isn't his only topic, but he's articulating a queer rage that I find exciting and moving.