there is a noble tradition in memoir writing, a tradition that is basically never violated, and that tradition is that you have to leave the reader withere is a noble tradition in memoir writing, a tradition that is basically never violated, and that tradition is that you have to leave the reader with something that is not abject misery. however much travail and pain you go through, there must be something at the end that is good and solid and a glimmer of hope.
Butterfly Boy does follow the tradition but only just. this book starts off with serious pain and traces a life trajectory of pain. what makes it not a painful book to read is that it's fucking beautiful. i mean, it's gorgeous.
pain marks the narrator's personal story of queerness, and the slow reveal that masochism was built into his queerness from the start. the extraordinary scenes in which the narrator describes his first sexual experiences with older men are both brutal and tender. he needs to be owned, and fucked, and abandoned. he doesn't tell us why (he doesn't tell us many whys) but his life has been hard and poor and fraught with abandonment, and sometimes being owned and fucked is the best love one can get.
there is tremendous longing here, for a mother, for a father, for a lover, for a country, for financial security, for a culture, for belonging. chicano literature at its finest. repeated border crossings with families spread all over the place. crushing poverty. exploitative labor. rough family loving. cerveza. absent fathers who still love but whose love one doesn't know how to digest. silent but present grandmothers. gonzález doesn't sugarcoat one damn thing. he's always running, and you ache at this running because it's not even remotely good.
the mariposa is both the chicano queer and the restless butterfly, doomed to early death. it keeps on being reborn, but each new birth just lands it in the same miserable patch of dusty desert land.
i really enjoyed all of this book, then it lost me at the end.* nothing special happens at the end that should lose me, but i felt suddenly disconnecti really enjoyed all of this book, then it lost me at the end.* nothing special happens at the end that should lose me, but i felt suddenly disconnected from the book, i don't know why. maybe my mood or the weather or the phases of the moon. i don't know. but here's the thing about time: that now, as i'm writing this review, what is most present to me are not the pages and pages i enjoyed but the end i didn't.
this book is centrally about time. these observation are ironically pertinent to the marrow of this book.
but this i can say: i don't want horses in my books, but i really liked that there was a horse here called Mattone, and the name Mattone was so funny to me (it means "brick" in italian).
franscescho's story is beautiful and franschescho him/herself is beautiful.
all of the italian is pretty much perfect except for the accents, which are treated as if they were irrelevant, which they are not (they change the pronunciation). this is not a small feat.
all the characters fall in love. this is a very good thing. this book is about loving and touching.
i am not sure i cared a whole lot for anyone, but reading was fun, except at the end, as i said. i wish george's mother hadn't died. i am furious that george's mother died. this is not a spoiler.
i can't imagine anyone not liking this book, because it's so alive and fun and crazy. it's also deep in some deep way that eluded me a bit because i'm deep in a different way. i hope that won't count against me.
* (ETA) not having read any reviews, i had no idea that each individual book can have george's or franchescho's story first, randomly!
i love this book so much. thank you thank you thank you.
this may well be the most beautiful coming-of-age novel i've ever read. it's so non-clichéi love this book so much. thank you thank you thank you.
this may well be the most beautiful coming-of-age novel i've ever read. it's so non-clichéd and, you know, the author, just like the protagonist, is a poet, so basically every page is a poem.
the most astounding feature of this slender book is the treatment of sex. adolescent queer desire; straight puppy sex that is not exactly puppy-esque; the secret sex of not-very-sexual middle-aged same-sex lovers; the sex that inevitably passes between a mother and a child, a father and a(n older) child; rape (yah); and then some more mature same-sex attraction. it's all done so intelligently and so daringly, and even when it feels transgressive and icky it's still intelligent, delicate and smart.
love is sex is desire is love is tenderness is dedication is freedom is sex is desire is love. love can be entrapping or it can be safe. you have to pick your love carefully. if you can. (heartbreak.)
this is a book written by a feminist author who has no desire to traumatize her reader, but means to enrich her at every turn with the power of beauty, feeling, strength, and language.
if you are feeling like the world is a heavy place, this may be the book for you. ...more
i need to say, first off, that poetry in english is really hard for me. i can do poetry in italian, but poetry in english, tough, man.
but a friend of mine agreed to read this with me, and the experience was intense. because saeed jones is nothing if not intense.
i'm writing this before reading any review at all, because i'm sure other people's reviews will intimidate me and push me to silence. here goes.
throat. the speaker's throat is all over the text. throats are oh so vulnerable. so easily punched in, smashed, stuffed. but they are also oh so powerful, the source of our voice, the receptacles of so many pleasures -- gustatory, sexual.
father. this is a long anguished dirge to a father who could have been but wasn't. and then was taken. before things could be set to right. i miss you dad. i hate you dad. i miss you dad. come back dad. look what a good boy i am now. look: i have published a book of poems. i am famous, dad. will you like me now?
invisible mother. barely there. where are women when abusive men massacre their kids? all too often they are being massacred themselves.
pain. dang. pain pain pain. you are so young saeed, and life has already given you so much bitterness.
gender fluctuation and prostitution and drugs: stop living so dangerously, saeed.
race. bitter fruit. katrina. the exxon valdez oil spill. james bird jr.. slavery. swamps. briar patches. running running running from the dogs.
fantastic animals, long dry grass, fire, water -- objects/sites of delight, objects/sites of agony and fear.
this is what i got. so many lines worth copying, but other have done it so go read their review. gorgeous language and this: simple, even common feelings/experiences described with astoundingly powerful one-liners. ...more