Posts Tagged ‘identity’



September 8, 2009

That was my reaction to more than several parts in this book. A book that is constantly shocking and disturbing and dark and kind of hysterical. I’m not going to give these excerpts much of an introduction…but it had me wide-eyed, re-reading passages and realizing – yes, it’s THAT vulgar and graphic. It had me literally rolling on the carpet and laughing, reading the sentence again and laughing some more. It had me feel deep sorrow for this guy, the main character named Victor. My brother told me not to read this book, and I can see why, but…it’s good to read something like this every once in a while. Gritty, disgusting, somewhat depressing,  yet alluring all the same. Oh, one last thing you should know, Victor is a sexaholic, stuck on his 4th step, writing all of his sins having to do with his addiction in a notebook, the worst parts of his life. That doesn’t play a big role in the excerpts I chose, but in the book…it takes up about 1/3 of the plot. The bolding was my doing. If you don’t feel like reading these lengthy excerpts, at least read the bolded parts. Please.

Excerpt #35:
If you’re going to read this, don’t bother.
After a couple pages, you won’t want to be here. So forget it. Go away. Get out while you’re still in one piece.
Save yourself.
There has to be something better on television. Or since you have so much time on your hands, maybe you could take a night course. Become a doctor. You could make something out of yourself. Treat yourself to a dinner out. Color your hair.
You’re not getting any younger.
What happens here is first going to piss you off. After that it just gets worse and worse.
What you’re getting here is a stupid story about a stupid little boy. A stupid true life story about nobody you’d ever want to meet. Picture this little spaz being about waist high with a handful of blond hair, combed and parted on one side. Picture the icky little shit smiling in old school photos with some of his baby teeth missing and his first adult teeth coming in crooked. Picture him wearing a stupid sweater striped blue and yellow, a birthday sweater that used to be his favorite. Even that young, picture him biting his dickhead fingernails. His favorite shoes are Keds. His favorite food, fucking corn dogs.
Imagine some dweeby little boy wearing no seat belt and riding in a stolen school bus with his mommy after dinner. Only there’s a police car parked at their motel so the Mommy just blows on past at sixty or seventy miles an hour.
This is about a stupid little weasel who, for sure, used to be about the stupidest little rat fink crybaby twerp that ever lived. (1-2)

Excerpt #36:
The monitor shows me one old woman after another. Then for ten seconds, there’s Paige pushing my mom in a wheelchair down another corridor. Dr. Paige Marshall. And I dial around until I hear my mom’s voice.
“Yes,” she says, “I fought against everything, but more and more I worry that I was never for anything.” 
The monitor shows the garden, old women hunched over walkers. Mired in gravel.
“Oh, I can criticize and complain and judge everything, but what does that get me?” my mom keeps saying in voice-over as the monitor cycles to show other rooms.
The monitor shows the dining room, empty.
The monitor shows the garden. More old people.
This could be some very depressing website. Death Cam.
Some kind of black-and-white documentary.
“Griping isn’t the same as creating something,” my mom’s voice-over says. “Rebelling isn’t rebuilding. Ridiculing isn’t replacing…” And the voice in the speaker fades out.
The monitor shows the dayroom, the woman facedown in her puzzle.
And I dial-switch from number to number, searching. On number five, her voice is back. “We’ve taken the world apart,” she says, “but we have no idea what to do with the pieces…” And her voice is gone, again.
The monitor shows one empty corridor after another stretching into darkness.
On number seven, the voice comes back: “My generation, all of our making fun of things isn’t making the world any better,” she says. “We’ve spent so much time judging what other people created that we’ve created very, very little of our own.”
Out of the speaker, her voice says, “I used rebellion as a way to hide out. We use criticism as a fake participation.”
The voice-over says, “It only looks as if we’ve accomplished something.”
The voice-over says, “I’ve never contributed anything worthwhile to the world.”
And for ten seconds, the monitor shows my mom and Paige in the corridor just outside the crafts room.
Out of the speaker, scratchy and far away, Paige’s voice says, “What about your son?”
My nose pressed to the monitor, I’m so close.
And now the monitor shows me with my ear pressed to the speaker, one hand shaking something, fast, inside my pant leg.
In voice-over, Paige says, “What about Victor?”
And for serious, I am so ready to trigger.
And my mom’s voice says, “Victor? No doubt Victor has his own way of escaping.” (111-112)
Excerpt #36:
The Mommy, she used to tell him she was sorry. People had been working for so many years to make the world a safe, organized place. Nobody realized how boring it would become. With the whole world property-lined and speed-limited and zoned and taxed and regulated, with everyone tested and registered and addressed and recorded. Nobody had left much room for adventure, except maybe the kind you could buy. On a roller coaster. At a movie. Still, it would always be that kind of faux excitement. You know the dinosaurs aren’t going to eat the kids. The test audiences have outvoted any chance of even a major faux disaster. And because there’s no possibility of real disaster, real risk, we’re left with no chance for real salvation. Real elation. Real excitement. Joy. Discovery. Invention.
The laws that keep us safe, these same laws condemn us to boredom.
Without access to true chaos, we’ll never have true peace. 
Unless everything can get worse, it won’t get any better.
This is all stuff the Mommy used to tell him.
She used to say, “The only frontier you have left is the world of intangibles. Everything else is sewn up too tight.” 
Caged inside too many laws.
By intangibles, she meant the Internet, movies, music, stories, art, rumors, computer programs, anything that isn’t real. Virtual realities. Make-believe stuff. The culture.
The unreal is more powerful than the real.
Because nothing is as perfect as you can imagine it.
Because it’s only intangible ideas, concepts, beliefs, fantasies that last. Stone crumbles. Wood rots. People, well, they die. 
But things as fragile as a thought, a dream, a legend, they can go on and on.

If you can change the way people think, she said. The way they see themselves. The way they see the world. If you do that, you can change the way people live their lives. And that’s the only lasting thing you can create. 
Besides, at some point, the Mommy  used to say, your memories, your stories and adventures, will be the only things you’ll have left. 
At her last trial, before this last time she went to jail, the Mommy had sat up next to the judge and said, “My goal is to be an engine of excitement in people’s lives.”
She’d stared into the stupid little boy’s eyes and said, “My purpose is to give people glorious stories to tell.”
Before the guards took her into the back wearing handcuffs, she’d shouted, “Convicting me would be redundant. Our bureaucracy and our laws have turned the world into a clean, safe  work camp.
She shouted, “We are raising a generation of slaves.”
And it was back to prison for Ida Mancini.
“Incorrigible” isn’t the right word, but it’s the first word that comes to mind. 
The unidentified woman, the whole who ran down the aisle during the ballet, she was screaming, “We are teaching our children to be helpless.”
Running down the aisle and out a fire exit, she’d yelled, “We’re so structured and micromanaged, this isn’t a world anymore, it’s a damn cruise ship.” (159-161)

Excerpt #37:
So Saturday means visiting my mom.
In the lobby of St. Anthony’s, talking to the front desk girl, I tell her I’m Victor Mancini and I’m here to see my mom, Ida Mancini.
I say, “Unless, I mean, unless she’s dead.”
The front desk girl gives me that look, the one where you tuck your chin down and look at the person you feel so, so sorry for. You tilt your face down so your eyes have to look up at the person. That look of submission. Lift your eyebrows into your hairline as you look up. It’s that look of infinite pity. Squash your mouth down into a frowny face, and you’ll know the exact way the front desk girl is looking at me.
And she says, “Of course your mother is still with us.”
And I say, “Don’t take this the wrong way, but I kind of wish she wasn’t.”
Her face forgets for a second how sorry she is, and her lips pull back to show her teeth. The way to make most women break eye contact is to run your tongue around your lips. The ones who don’t look away, for serious, bingo.
Just go back, she tells me. Mrs. Mancini is still on the first floor. 
It’s Miss Mancini, I tell her. My mom’s not married, unless you count me in that creepy Oedipal way. 
I ask if Paige Marshall is here.
“Of course she is,” the front desk girl says, now with her face turned a little away from me, looking at me out of the corner of her eye. The look of distrust. 
Beyond the security doors, all the crazy old Irmas and Lavernes, the Violets and Olives start their slow migration of walkers and wheelchairs coming my way. All the chronic undressers. All the dumped grannies and squirrels with their pockets full of chewed food, the ones who forget how to swallow, their lungs full of food and drink. 
All of them, smiling at me. Beaming. They’re all wearing those plastic bracelets that keep the doors locked, but they still look better than I feel. 

In the dayroom, the smell of roses and lemons and pine. The loud little world begging for attention from inside the television. The shattered jigsaw puzzles. Nobody’s moved my mom up to the third floor yet, the death floor, and in her room Paige Marshall’s sitting in a tweed recliner, reading her clipboard with her glasses on, and when she sees me says, “Look at you.” She says, “Your mother isn’t the only one who could use a stomach tube.”
I say I got her message.
My mom is. She’s just in bed. She’s just asleep is all, her stomach just a bloated little mound under the covers. Her bones are the only thing left in her arms and hands. Her head sunk in her pillow, she squeezes her eyes shut. The corners of her jaw swell as her teeth clench for a moment, and she brings her whole face together to swallow.  
Her eyes fall open, and she stretches her green-gray fingers at me, in a creepy underwater way, a slow-motion swimming stroke, trembling the way light does at the bottom of a swimming pool, when you’re little and staying overnight in some motel just off some highway. The plastic bracelet hangs around her wrist, and she says, “Fred.”
She swallows again, her whole face bunching with the effort and says, “Fred Hastings.” Her eyes roll to one side and she smiles at Paige. “Tammy,” she says “Fred and Tammy Hastings.”
Her old defense attorney and his wife.
All my notes for being Fred Hastings are at home. If I drive a Ford or a Dodge, I can’t remember. How many kids I’m supposed to have. What color did we finally paint the dining room. I can’t remember a single detail about how I’m supposed to live my life.
Paige is still sitting in the recliner, I step close to her and put a hand on her lab coat shoulder and say, “How are you feeling, Mrs. Mancini?”
Her terrible green-gray hand comes up level and rocks from side to side, the universal sign language for so-so. With her eyes closed, she smiles and says, “I was hoping you’d be Victor.”
Paige shrugs my hand off her shoulder.
“And I say, “I thought you liked me better.”
I say, “Nobody likes Victor very much.” (224-226)

-Choke, by Chuck Palahniuk