I Want to Live in Pedro Juan’s World

Okay, I tried. I cycled down to my local library on Blackstock Road and took out a copy of Martin Amis’ Dead Babies (I’d hoped for a copy of London Fields, but there was none). The story starts on page 13, and part one is entitled Friday. This does not bode well. I got up to page 17 and couldn’t take any more. I felt defiled. There was so much contempt for the body, so much showing off to the reader (whatever that is), and so little love. And the voice, the writer, whatever you want to call it was trying to get me to collude in his loathing and self-loathing and smugness and Benny-Hillesque approach to sexuality. Which can be fine, if only he’d admit that that’s what he’s doing. I’m going to stop now. I feel dirty just talking about the book. So let me tell you about Pedro Juan Gutierrez’s Tropical Animal (the book that I’m reading now) – a book full of love and sex and delicious insights about people and existence and writing. Things like: “You have to be willing to flay yourself. You strip off your skin until you’re raw meat, and then throw yourself headlong into the novel until you hit the bottom of the precipice. Smashing yourself, skinning yourself, and breaking your bones against the rocks. It’s the only way. He who doesn’t dare to do it this way is better off leaving his paper and pencils on the table and dedicating himself to selling tomatoes or real estate.” Fuck, yeah. Gutierrez loves the body and loves people and loves the messiness of being alive. After reading his first book Dirty Havana Trilogy, I needed a break of a couple of years before getting into Tropical Animal; they’re not hugely different, but they are both beautiful and sexy and queer as anything. It’s as if the heat of Cuba makes sexuality more fluid and turns the body’s smells into aphrodisiac potions. That’s the world I want to live in.
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