Llosa & Rio

The last perfect moment I had was a month ago. It was a Sunday. I was taking a shower at a friend’s house and I told myself, ‘This is a perfect moment. You will come back to this again and again.’ I had just finished sending a piece to my editor. The piece that had been sitting on my chest and laughing at me for over a month. In the bathroom that day, as I smiled into my own realization, I felt a burden lifting off. I looked at the brown tiles and wondered if I’d ever felt this light before.

S was screaming at me and B’s fortress of quietude had joined her, making its noisy fist on the bathroom door. They were both waiting. We were going to get breakfast at Mother Clucker’s. And then B and I were going to go to Blossom’s and then to Glen’s. I looked around and found a bottle of Tresemme shampoo. I thought about the long day ahead and couldn’t stop smiling.

I haven’t been able to write. It has been over a fortnight. I am reading a lot more than I used to but I am too exhausted to retain the tingling feeling of having read something nice. My copy of Nalini Jones’ ‘What You Call Winter’ came yesterday and I haven’t even opened it fully.

The most relieving moment, however, happened a week ago.

For a long time I was convinced that writing = talent and that without talent, hard work is bullshit. Mario Vargas Llosa’s ‘Letters to a Young Novelist’ had been sitting on my shelf for 2 years. Desperate to find a way out of the dry -writing spell, I read it and felt happier than I have in months.

I think that only those who come to literature as they might to religion, prepared to dedicate their time, energy, and efforts to their vocation, have what it takes to really become writers and transcend themselves in their works. The mysterious thing we call talent, or genius, does not spring to life full-fledged – at least not in novelists, although it may sometimes in poets or musicians. Instead it becomes apparent at the end of many long years of discipline and perseverance. There are no novel-writing prodigies. All the greatest, most revered novelists were first apprentice writers whose budding talent required early application and conviction. The example of those writers who, unlike Rimbaud, a brilliant poet even as an adolescent, were required to cultivate their talent gives heart to the beginner, don’t you think?

I feel stupidly delighted even as I am typing this. But there’s hope, even if there’s no talent. And for now, that’s more than enough. I went to bed a satisfied woman that night.

I have been watching women killing it at the Rio Olympics. I have been watching them and feeling great pangs of jealousy. The dedication, the hard work, the paying off of the hard work – all of it. I imagine the 4:00 am alarm clocks that woke them, the route they took to run to their practice, the sleep they hungrily looked forward to at the end of every day and I am filled with a deep sense of longing for that kind of madness. I want to wake up at 4, wear a track suit, drink an energy drink and sit down to write. After a long day at work, I want to pack my bags and take off to ‘practice’. I want to come back home and collapse and wake up again the next day to do it all over again.

When Vargas Llosa gave me orgasms.

                                       Some sections from ‘The notebooks of Don Rigoberto’ that gave me multiple orgasms.

“And ever since she was a girl, Dona Lucrecia had felt a fascination for standing on the edge of the cliff and looking down into the abyss, for keeping her balance on the railing at the side of the bridge”

So Rigoberto is going nutty after Lucrecia left so he has this whole different routine where he wakes up really early in the morning to read his old notes and books by his favourite authors. He is doing some such thing one morning and begins to miss Lucrecia terribly after reading this bit of Neruda.

“And to see you urinate, in the dark, at the back of the house, as if you were pouring out a slender, tremulous, silvery, obstinate stream of honey, I would give up, many times over, this choir of shades I possess and the clang of useless swords that echoes in my soul…” – Widower’s Tango, Neruda

“Without transition he caught a glimpse of Lucrecia sitting on the toilet, and listened to the merry splash of her pee in the bottom of the bowl that received it with tinkling gratitude”

If I ever go into coma or am dying or anything, just read these words to me and I shall come flying back to life, full of love and libido.

“Lucrecia also shat, and this, rather than degrading her, enhanced her in his eyes and nostrils”

I had often wondered if good literature includes descriptions of bodily functions – nose digging, bowel movements, passing urine, inserting buds into the ear, scratching body parts which shouldn’t even be acknowledged in public et al. And after Llosa I have happily arrived at the conclusion that that kind of literature is probably the only kind that I enjoy reading the most. I also felt really happy at the thought of marrying him, having his babies and having him write about all my bodily functions.

I had the best time reading the whole nose cleansing procedure in “In praise of the stepmother”

“The magnificent Lucrecia understood everything. Nothing in the tangled labyrinth of human desires shocked her”

And now for the section that taught me what words do and how they become stories. Big, I know but as I was reading this bit, I started to register some words that were used and noticed that if I removed them, the whole damn section would suck. I noticed adjectives and the words that follow the adjectives.  Here –

“The novel is constructed with deceptive simplicity, beneath which a dramatic context is depicted: the merciless struggle between reality and desire, those sisters who are bitter enemies separated by impassable distances except in the miraculous recesses of the human spirit”

I have no idea what shit is being talked about here. All I know is this passage taught me something. And something really valuable. In some sense, more than teaching me how to write, this passage taught me how to read words. I looked at all the adjectives and suddenly all writing seemed to make a whole different kind of sense to me.

“Pornography strips eroticism of its artistic content, favours the organic over the spiritual and mental, as if the central protagonists of desire and pleasure were phalluses and vulvas and these organs not mere servants to the phantoms that govern our souls, and segregates physical love from the rest of human experience”

Wait for it.

Pornographer, while for you the only thing that counts when you make love is the same thing that counts for a dog, a monkey, or a horse- that is, to ejaculate – Lucrecia and I, go on, envy us, also make love when we are having breakfast, dressing, talking with friends, and contemplating the clouds or the sea”

I rest my fucking case.

Rigoberto has been the most complicated reading experience for me. After a point I got so impatient with the complexity of the book and my own cluelessness over what to read and how, I entered panic attack mode and had many restless nights. I cried because I wasn’t able to finish the book. I cried because I was a slow and pathetic reader. I cried because I wasn’t able to figure out if I hated Fonchito with every fibre of my being or if I wanted to hump him senseless for being a child sex bomb. Having said that and perhaps because of all that, Rigoberto will always be my most treasured reading experience.

I would like to go back to the book again very soon and this time around, if I cry it will be because I have fallen hopelessly in love with Llosa.