Monday, February 15, 2016

"About a Kid and a Woman" by M. Téllez (bka Eighteen)

There are any number of particularities I could, even desperately want to, discuss. The ongoing tension and balance between so-called "standard" and "non-standard" Englishes (Chrome wants to tell me that "Englishes" is not a word), not simply reveling in alternate ways to say the same thing but insisting on the fact that these different ways say different things, an unstated insistence that how they do it where they from matters. The portrayal of people who have been changed by the coming and sort-of going of civilization: these people aren't just living in the woods, they're living in woods that very recently were a city; their home is not only a home but bears living resonances and traces of what it used to be, a church; and their lives cannot be a "return to nature" any more than, as Stanisław Lem points out, a robot's could be ("Why, it would mean turning into deposits of iron ore!" Lem writes, in one of his criticism's very rare good moments). The emotional honesty of the love story, and its intricate interweaving with the situation the characters are in, culminating in that astonishing final paragraph. Much more.

But though this all plays in to the wonder that is this story, to talk about it all in the ways I as yet know how to risks too much suggesting that what is to be praised is the writer's mastery over their material, their artful arrangement of the elements into an attractively moving whole. And although the mastery on display is considerable, what really amazes me here is not mastery-over but vulnerability-to: much like its narrator every element in this story is in a precarious state, close to collapse or self-contradiction or suppression in the face of hegemonic certainties, always in danger of becoming disastrously unbalanced, always under threats both internal and external, intellectual and physical. But it does what it must: it remains aware, it balances, it finds strength — eventually — not in aggression and certainty but in openness (albeit an openness that knows it cannot be open to everything, that some things must be rejected, that it will often be difficult to figure out which things these are). And when it collapses — and collapse it does, collapse it must — it does so with a trust that does not cancel but coexists with, or incorporates, mistrust.

As must be apparent, I am not equal to the task of describing what it does: which is to be profoundly political while at the same time allowing itself merely to be: which is to be not the juxtaposition or the integration of opposites but the refusal of this kind of binary categorization in the first place, while at the same time presenting the struggle, the difficult and dangerous work, that this turn to a new kind of openness demands of those already damaged, already in pain, led by boundless knowledge to hopeful fear, fearful hope.

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