Sunday, November 8, 2009
Valencia by Michelle Tea
I forgot I had asked for Michelle Tea books for Christmas when I got Valencia on my birthday this year, but it was a welcome surprise. I had checked out Rose of No Man's Land from the library after seeing her read from it at Homo A-Go-Go (or was it Ladyfest) and loved it but had never owned a copy of that or any of her other books. I feel like I've given them away as presents myself...so after I had a big party to celebrate my 40th, my boyfriend and I drove around Hood's Canal and went camping...for the next few days I read on the beach until dark and then continued to read by the fire and then in the tent with the flashlight. There's a funny picture of me reading this one by the fire with the headlamp on, which is why I even remember all this.
Also it's relevant because it's a funny book to read on your 40th birthday on a camping trip with your boyfriend in the woods. I guess I wished I had read it when I was 20, because I totally would have loved it then. I still thought it was pretty great. The kinetic energy of her writing, the speed of her thoughts, her stream of consciousness sentence structures, the rambling nature of her days, the way she is searching and experimenting and discovering so much about herself and the world and needing with urgency to leave a record of it...all this reminds me of youth and of living like a young person. I guess some people never get to the point where they experience that degree of being alive and open to whatever you feel compelled to do regardless of the consequence--to live on desire alone, from one sexual encounter to the next, falling in and out of love without the kind of hesitation you develop as you get older...or should I say should develop. I guess I won't turn it into a judgement....just that when I was reading this I was glad to be reminded of what it's like to be young but also glad not to be young anymore, sitting there in the borrowed camping chairs, sleeping in a tent, cooking on the camp stove, hanging out with my grown up boyfriend. It felt alright. It was nice. I was happy to be alive, I was happy to be under the stars...I was happy to be in a serious committed long term monogamous relationship with someone I can communicate with and not back in the late 80's/early 90's all confused and at war with the world. I was happy to be me and not any of the characters in the book...this is not to say they aren't likable--I did like them. My younger self would have been thrilled to have found this book. It would have meant everything to me in 1989. But I think reading it made me even happier to be 40, if that makes sense.
So yeah...it's a good book, highly recommend it! She's a great storyteller, really good at description and has interesting observations about the world, but what I think she really really excels at is creating an energetic, expressive text that can't be easily digested or contained. She simply must be read. Most of you have probably already read all of her books but I had somehow missed this one. I guess it's a memoir/novel hybrid, right? Not sure.