And yes…I really mean it! This week’s assigned readings were really something. I can’t find the exact adjective to describe it, but all I can say is…wow! I have a lot to say about both of them, so let’s start with Queerskins. The title gave me an obvious introduction, that the story would most likely be about someone who was different in sexual preferences than what the usual expected norm was. It is divided in three parts: a novel, a love story and ark. It opened up with beautiful western classical music, which is something I haven’t heard in a very long time. One of the recordings were sounds filled with bird chirps, and it seemed like it was related to one of the lines that Sebastian had written in his diary entry, “Even after the details disappeared, I could still invoke a flutter of feeling like birds’ wings beating in my chest.” Did he want us to hear those birds, chirping as they were beating their wings in his chest? Maybe, because after all, e-lit, I have come to learn, is created in a purposeful way, for the reader to have no choice but to be in the story. The mothers’ recordings really added an emotional touch to it. I could feel that she was in a dilemma: on one side, her wifely duties towards her husband Ed, who saw Sebastian as a disgrace, restricted her emotionally from openly expressing her maternal instincts.
She understood both their views, both their perspectives but at the same time, trying to stay neutral seemed to be hurting her only more and more, especially when she had to bury her son. It was interesting how the journal entries were dated from the latest to oldest in each chapter, when usually a story is ordered in the opposite way. Besides being gay, Sebastian was never accepted by his father since they couldn’t have more children as a result of his birth. It represented the times. Other families had six or seven children, and they found it difficult to accept that no more were coming after Sebastian. Alex also joined in, Sebastian’s boyfriend. He criticized his boyfriend’s mother’s behavior and felt that sending religious images to Sebastian was a way of reminding him that he was committing a sin based on their beliefs. The author added in a video of a news report discussing the need of getting rid of homosexuals, which puts an emphasis that it wasn’t a family issue, it was also a political and social debate at the time.
The need to add sexual details hadn’t been forgotten, and let me tell you, I found them quite explicit. You can disagree, you can agree, it really doesn’t matter to me, but it was a little uncomfortable for me to read, I have to say. But I know that Sebastian had to discuss how he had similar feelings for both men and women, and it was deemed necessary to focus on that in his journal entries. Instead, adding those details made his entries seem more personal, more “on-the-spot” writing down, compared to something edited and proofread. So although personally, I was a little red in the face while reading, the details added to the point of the text. There were also clashing ideas between the mother and her husband. Ed thought Sebastian ruining their name, while she thought he was a good man. There was a whole diary entry on wasps coming in his room, and how he felt guilty that they had to die. His mother discussed how he would never even hurt a fly, and that he would help them escape by putting them in a tissue. To put both perspectives together, they believed that he was deep down a good guy but his choices had filled them with shame.
A Love Story was an interactive experience, which I found very interesting. The reader can sit in the car and ride along with Mary-Ellen (the mother) and Ed (the father) while rummaging through a cardboard box of Sebastian’s photos and learning about his story.
High Muck A Muck was based on history, giving an ethnic view into what the Chinese experience was when they came to Canada, which honestly I never heard about. I only knew about them migrating to California during the gold rush, but had no idea that they migrated to Canada as well. Its title includes “Playing Chinese” which seemed to give me a strange feeling, since it made me feel like I am playing someone else, almost acting and taking up a role of a culture not experienced. It used a body with a representation of a map, including some states of Canada. The first location “Everywhere and Nowhere” starts at the nape of the neck, the beginning, but also the first step into the unknown. I clicked “Canada”, where it said “Full of ancestors, who won’t remember you.” It was ironic, because usually descendants wouldn’t remember their ancestors, but for ancestors to not remember the ones who haven’t come yet? Pretty interesting. “A lot of small sticks, broken from a long, stick. Promises.” All I have to say is, beautiful. The flow, the meaning, everything. Just beautiful. I clicked “Everywhere and Nowhere” and it led to me a video; a video of zooming in to an old Chinese man’s eye (with creepy music in the back) and zooming out of a Chinese infant’s eye. The full circle of life. And the way the human gets polluted through the years. We start off fresh, eyes bright and wide, curious to explore the world and people around us. But once that happens, we don’t always have the best experiences in life. And with age, wisdom, maturity and experience, the skin starts wrinkling and the eyes start closing. They become small and tired with life’s hurdles, just like the video showed.
It was such an experience reading these two texts, and like I said, it left me saying nothing else but “Wow!” And here, let me leave you with this, a line that stuck with me, a line that made me understand that “So uncontained, to not have to worry about the edges of things – what is that but the definition of joy?”