100% life from concentrate
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“Most people carry that pain around inside them their whole lives, until they kill the pain by other means, or until it kills them. But you, my friends, you found another way: a way to use the pain. To burn it as fuel, for light and warmth. You have learned to break the world that has tried to break you.”
a.) “we learn
as a child
to feel the wind
and exist in consciousness,
b.) “we learn
as a child
to feel the wind
and exist in consciousness
remembering our lost moments”
c.) something else…
Books won’t stay banned. They won’t burn. Ideas won’t go to jail. In the long run of history, the censor and the inquisitor have always lost. The only sure weapon against bad ideas is better ideas. —Alfred Whitney Griswald
kate of jubilant antics created some great mug shots inspired by banned books week. featured are the protagonists from their eyes were watching god, the catcher in the rye, the scarlet letter, looking for alaska and the harry potter series.
check out her art below (order the prints here). you’ll also find a list of banned classics after the jump:
i know the saying. don’t judge a book by its cover. got it. still, it’s okay to be enamored by a book’s poster, right? the one above hooked me when i saw it on thesmithian. the title is interesting enough but each listed step made the story behind it even more intriguing (particularly loved the poetry in #9 & #10). after getting my hands on some of the novel, i quickly saw that my infatuation wasn’t misplaced.
One cold, dewy morning, you are huddled, shivering, on the packed earth under your mother’s cot. Your anguish is the anguish of a boy whose chocolate has been thrown away, whose remote controls are out of batteries, whose scooter is busted, whose new sneakers have been stolen. This is all the more remarkable since, wealth-obsessed though you will come to be, you’ve never in your life seen any of these things.
The whites of your eyes are yellow, a consequence of spiking bilirubin levels in your blood. The virus afflicting you is called hepatitis E. Its typical mode of transmission is fecal-oral. Yum. It kills only about one in fifty, so you’re likely to recover. But right now you feel like you’re going to die.
Your mother has encountered this condition many times, or conditions like it, anyway. So maybe she doesn’t think you’re going to die. Then again, maybe she fears it. Everyone is going to die, and, when a mother sees in a third-born child like you pain that makes you whimper under her cot, maybe she feels your death push forward a few decades, take off its dark, dusty head scarf, and settle with open-haired familiarity and a lascivious smile into this, the single mud-walled room she shares with all her surviving offspring.
What she says is “Don’t leave us here.”
She is addressing your father, who has heard this request before. That does not make him completely unsusceptible to it, however. He is a man of voracious sexual appetite, and he often thinks, while he is away, of your mother’s heavy breasts and ample thighs, and he still longs to thrust himself inside her nightly rather than on his three or four visits per year. He also enjoys her unusually rude sense of humor, and sometimes her companionship as well. And although he is not given to displays of affection toward his young, he would like to watch you and your siblings grow. His own father derived considerable pleasure from the daily progress of crops in the fields, and in this, at least insofar as agriculture is analogous to the development of children, the two men are similar.
He says, “I can’t afford to bring you to the city.”
“We could stay with you in the quarters.”
“I share my room with the driver. He’s a masturbating, chain-smoking, flatulent sisterfucker. There are no families in the quarters.”
“You earn ten thousand now. You’re not a poor man.”
“In the city, ten thousand makes you a poor man.”
He gets up and walks outside. Your eyes follow him, his leather sandals unslung at the rear, their straps flapping free, his chapped heels callused, crustacean-like. He steps into the open-air courtyard situated at the center of your extended family’s compound. He is unlikely to linger there in contemplation of the single, shade-giving tree, comforting in summer, but now, in spring, still tough and scraggly. Possibly he exits the compound and makes his way to the ridge behind which he prefers to defecate, squatting low and squeezing forcefully to expel the contents of his colon. Possibly he is alone, or possibly he is not.
The people of your village relieve themselves downstream of where they wash their clothes, a place, in turn, downstream of where they drink. Farther upstream, the village before yours does the same. Farther still, where the water emerges from the hills as a sometimes gushing brook, it is partly employed in the industrial processes of an old, rusting, and subscale textile plant, and partly used as drainage for the foul-smelling gray effluent that results.
Your father is a cook, but, despite being reasonably good at his job, he is not a man obsessed with the freshness or quality of his ingredients. Cooking for him is a craft of spice and oil. His food burns the tongue and clogs the arteries. When he looks around him in the countryside, he does not see prickly leaves and hairy little berries for an effervescent salad, tan stalks of wheat for a heavenly balloon of stone-ground, stovetop-baked flatbread. He sees, instead, units of backbreaking toil. He sees hours and days and weeks and years. He sees the labor by which a farmer exchanges his allocation of time in this world for an allocation of time in this world. Here, in the heady bouquet of nature’s pantry, your father sniffs mortality.
Most of the men of the village who now work in the city return for the wheat harvest. But it is still too early in the year for that. Your father is here on leave. Nonetheless, he likely accompanies his brothers to spend his morning cutting grass and clover for fodder. He will squat, again, but this time sickle in hand, and his movements of gather-cut-release-waddle will be repeated over and over and over as the sun retraces its own incremental path in the sky.
Beside him, a single dirt road passes through the fields. Should the landlord or his sons drive by in their S.U.V., your father and his brothers will bring their hands to their foreheads, bend low, and avert their eyes. Meeting the gaze of a landlord has been a risky business in these parts for centuries, perhaps since the beginning of history. Recently, some men have begun to do it. But they have beards and earn their keep in the seminaries. They walk tall, with chests out. Your father is not one of them. In fact, he dislikes them almost as much as he does the landlords, and for the same reasons. They strike him as domineering and lazy.
Lying on your side with one ear on the packed earth, from your worm’s-height perspective you watch your mother follow your father into the courtyard. She feeds the water buffalo tethered there, tossing fodder that was cut yesterday and mixed with straw into a wooden trough, and milks the animal as it eats, jets of liquid smacking into her tin pail. When she is done, the children of the compound, your siblings and cousins, lead the buffalo, its calf, and the goats out to forage. You hear the swishing of the peeled branches the children hold, and then they are gone.
Your aunts leave the compound next, bearing clay pots on their heads for water and carrying clothes and soap for cleaning. These are social tasks. Your mother’s responsibility is solitary. This is not a coincidence. She squats as your father is likely squatting, a handleless broom in her hand instead of a sickle, her sweep-sweep-waddle approximating his movements. Squatting is energy-efficient and better for the back. But, after hours and days and weeks and years, its mild discomfort echoes in the mind like muffled screams from a subterranean torture chamber. The pain can be borne endlessly, provided it is never acknowledged.
Your mother cleans the courtyard under the gaze of her mother-in-law. The old woman sits in shadow, the edge of her shawl held in her mouth to conceal not her attributes of temptation but, rather, her lack of teeth, and looks on in unquenchable disapproval. Your mother is regarded in the compound as vain and arrogant and headstrong, and these accusations have bite, for they are all true. Your grandmother tells your mother she has missed a spot. Because she is toothless and holds the cloth between her lips, when she speaks it sounds like she is spitting.
Your mother and grandmother play a waiting game. The older woman waits for the younger woman to age; the younger woman waits for the older woman to die. It is a game both will inevitably win. In the meantime, your grandmother flaunts her authority whenever she can, and your mother flaunts her physical strength. The other women of the compound would be frightened of your mother were it not for the reassuring existence of the men. In an all-female society your mother would likely rise to be queen, a bloody staff in her hand and crushed skulls beneath her feet. Here the best she has been able to manage is, for the most part, to be spared severe provocation. Even this, cut off as she is from her own village, is no small victory.
Unsaid between your mother and your father is that on ten thousand a month he could, just barely, afford to bring her and his children to the city. It would be tight but not impossible. At the moment he is able to send most of his salary back to the village, where it is split between your mother and the rest of the clan. If she and you children were to move in with him, the flow of his money to this place would slow to a trickle, swelling like the water in the gully only in the two festival months when he could perhaps expect a bonus.
You watch your mother slice up a lengthy white radish and boil it over an open fire. The sun has banished the dew and, unwell as you are, you no longer feel cold. You feel weak, though, and with the pain in your gut it is as if a parasite were eating you alive from within. So you do not resist as your mother lifts your head off the earth and ladles her elixir into your mouth. It smells like a burp, like the gases from a man’s belly. It makes your gorge rise. But you have nothing inside that you can vomit, and you swallow it without incident.
As you lie motionless afterward, a jaundiced village boy, radish juice dribbling from the corner of your lips and forming a small patch of mud on the ground, it must seem that getting filthy rich is beyond your reach. But have faith. You are not as powerless as you appear. Your moment is about to come.