A Day's Reading
Today I decided that I was going to finish The Painted Bird
(by Jerzy Kosinski), no matter what. This book, a novel about an unnamed boy struggling to survive during the second World War, is perhaps the most difficult thing I've ever read. The professor warned us about this book, saying that we should probably watch a fun, mindless movie after reading this, and telling stories about how while reading it herself she'd had to put it down and walk away on more than one occasion. Considering that this is in a course on Holocaust literature, this was no idle warning.
This novel is, in a word, brutal. Not in the writing itself; if anything, the narrative flows easily, quickly, like a very cold stream. Rather the story itself … I don't even know what to say. I've read some rough things, but this one tops them all. Murder, rape, incest, bestiality, torture, abuse, vivisection--on and on, all described in quite some detail with a child's unique detachment. During the three-hour break between classes, I was determined to read this book and read it all, just so that I don't have it hanging over me anymore. I did it, too. But as a result I was mentally in a very strange, very dark, very unsettled place.
A fun movie would have been a good idea, but not an option. Instead I settled for watching a few Friends repeats while I ate my dinner, then settling down with my knitted blanket in my chair and reading a zine called "I Was a Teenaged Mormon."
This zine is something that I borrowed from another professor of mine, who brought it to class as an example. It's small, densely packed, and totally absorbing. It's just one woman's story about her experiences growing up in the LDS church and the events that led to her decision to leave it, and it's totally fascinating. I'd recommend it to a friend, but I really have no idea where you can find a copy or if you can find a copy or how much it costs or even the author's full name (her first name is Caitlin). But I'm now officially on the lookout for other cool and quirky zines, with the hope that they'll be even half as well written and interesting as this one was. (And hey, LCRW has never led me astray, right?)