The Convalescent ate my Pessimism

I’ll be honest, sometimes I have the mind of an insect. A bright neon sign has been known to attract my gaze for whole minutes and make me forget my present reality. So when I was simply strolling around without an aim in the local bookstore, selecting The Convalescent by Jessica Anthony had no other motive except the attraction to its beauty; and it is a good-looking book.

The cover had an edge unfamiliar to me, everything detailed to the finish of the side pages with engravings on the cover and the details so elaborate I couldn’t resist removing it and unfolding the sides to fully absorb the image in its entirety. A man is beautifully sprawled across the surface with his face hidden, with only nerve endings shredded to ribbons exposing the stories, loves, elements surrounding his life, or any life.

Upon the first page I fell for the hero, Rovar, his self-deprecating comments, comic and endearing in their honesty. They encapsulate the life he has been granted since birth, the life of misfortune sadly fated to him by his ancestors. There’s no doubt that he is indeed pathetic, but I continue to wonder as I read on, the rollercoaster of chapters telling his story first, the history of his ancestors second; There has to be love coming his way, some stroke of good fortune.

“…Other people are always busy doing big and important things like running for president or voting for president, or thinking about running for president.  I sell meat out of a bus...”

He is kind, he is generous, he is more than he is and yet all he can do is shrug. Accept his supposed fate as a diseased dwarf living and selling meat off of a bus.

“I am the last remaining descendant of a line of the worst sort of losers on the planet.”

When I grabbed this book off the shelf of new bestsellers I hesitated before making the purchase. This book was a collector’s item.

To add the proverbial boot, Katherine Dunn’s recommendation sold me. The author of a book detailing the life of a circus family forever won my heart with the tender tale-telling of her wonderfully twisted novel Geek Love .

That’s all we’re given. A couple of recommendations, a beautiful painting, and a butterfly etched curiously into the cover.

For me, it was an abundant lot and I hope that readers who haven’t picked it up yet will consider doing so now. The underdog rarely gets his or her due, and that is exactly why this book is so important. In every environment there is ugliness, what Ms. Anthony reminds us is within each facet darkly colored with downfalls and tribulations there is beauty. Sometimes somewhat fragmented, but still visible to those who know that in life there is more than just a point.

We are always doing more than living.

By the way, this book made me listen to Radiohead incessantly. When I was in college, I found that Thom Yorke’s voice made me cry more than smile. There’s another bit of ugliness and beauty in that too.

*Amazon’s selling Ms. Anthony’s book at a pretty good price. Brilliance and great writing is just a click (or two) away


Miller and Manu

When I read Tropic of Cancer  it was a moment of literary awakening. I’d never heard of an author cursing so much in their writing, ranting on the ugly beauty of New York, or the many seedy districts of Paris. It was the summer of my 21st year and the book in its audacity left me walking the balmy summer nights with it’s pages splayed open upon my hands, occassionally looking up to avoid walking into traffic. There’s a reason why it was banned in the 40’s.

I ask of life, is a bunch of books, a bunch of dreams, and a bunch of cunt.”

You know when a song plays suddenly from your random mp3 shuffle, and something about the beat, the melody, or the ever flowing rhythm sends you dancing in your seat and channeling a memory, a promise, a loving thought. . . A good song makes you start to plan things. It motivates you, and the best ones motivate you to tell the people you love exactly how you feel.

Music is empowerment.

It shuts our minds off, and clicks on the phonetic funny bone. Meaning, sometimes listening to music that moves me can be painful. Sometimes I make the effort to avoid songs that remind of me anything at all. Clean slate songs. A playlist of nothingness. But the pleasure that pain ends with in sweeping you gloriously through the agony into ecstacy, that is why I do it.

I think some music has influenced me to travel, while books and their gentle lulling have kept me company as I chartered unfamiliar territories.

            I was preparing for a summer semester in Italy when I read Henry Miller’s Tropic of Cancer. When I arrived and began to attend university, I discovered Manu Chao.  

Here was a radical speaking up to three languages in one song; jubilant, agressive and free. Perfect compliment to Miller’s seemingly disjointed rants. In truth there was a purpose to all of the chaos, and that is what Manu Chao is like. This album was the first I listened to by him, and at this point I have many more. As it is part of my personal story, I can’t help but to recommend you listen to this first.

My theory is that a good song can be distracting. It paralyzes the body and sends the imagination exploring. It’s when you get control over the music that you absorb the literature, and the story strengthens.

The story is your life.


To buy a copy of  Proxima Estación: Esperanza the album, click the link; Amazon gives quite a few affordable sources.  

To buy a copy of Henry Miller’s, Tropic of Cancer check this copy out. You could even read a few pages before purchasing to get a full grasp for the book. I hope you like it or recommend it to someone who might.