Victor LaValle

I guess I’ve been busy, huh? Sometimes all this grad school reading and writing becomes overwhelming, and other times I just don’t have diddly to blog about—or that I want to blog about at least. Fortunately, while completing some of the assistantship tasks required of me by my two assigned professors (one more month left–but I’m not trippin’), I came across an interesting personal essay by Victor LaValle. I’m almost certain I’ve talked about his book The Ecstatic on this site before, but this evening I finally purchased it. It will definitely be added to the summer reading stack (which is getting a bit ridiculous). In the meantime, while reading his essay and even examining the photo, I couldn’t help but believe that LaValle was joking. Like, is he really serious? See the excerpt below to see what I’m talking about. Also, please note that what I’ve posted is not where the essay actually begins.

“Big Time”
He was overweight for years, and his sex life consisted of dates with the desperate. Then one day he lost it.

My room did have a phone. A copy of the Village Voice sat on my bed. I flipped through the back pages, looking at the naked girls posed in the phone sex ads (there hadn’t yet been the boom in “bodywork” ads). Beside these I found another number, half a page high. The ad read: meet real live women in your area who are horny and dying to meet you.

It worked.

I met some.

They were not prostitutes.

The women on the line lived in the Bronx or Brooklyn. Not all the women who ever called, but all the women I ever met.
The first time, I took a Shortline bus down to Manhattan from Ithaca, then a train back up to the South Bronx. I weaved through a cracked lobby door, then climbed to the second floor to meet a woman in her thirties who, based on two phone conversations, had assured me that if I wanted, she’d have my baby. I was up for the offer. Not the result of procreation, but the act that can result in it.

At her door I was aware of that eye that every man gets used to, the eye of a woman’s appraisal. In this case, the once-over was done quickly and expertly, like a jeweler’s, though willing to accept a great many more flaws.

She wasn’t pretty, but she looked better than me. We sat on her couch in the living room of her two-room apartment. We talked, but she sat far back, like an interviewer. Which she was. I lost my charm in front of her and she decided against a night of passion. She stood, went to her bedroom, unlocked the door and let out her son. He was about six and happy to play card games with his mother and me. Eventually I cobbled together enough indignation to leave. “I’m going,” I said. She was on the phone. She said, “Yeah.”

The next time I came down to New York City, I made sure to ask first, “Are we going to fuck?”

The woman said, “If you eat my pussy first.”

I went to her apartment, also in the Bronx. She called herself Big Time. She was a grandmother and she was thirty-nine. (Read full essay. . .)

As one can imagine, I look forward to reading LaValle’s book. What’s up with the crazy cover art though? I can’t wait to find out.

Anthony James weighs 315 pounds, is possibly schizophrenic, and he’s just been kicked out of college. He’s rescued by his mother, sister, and grandmother, but they may not be altogether sane themselves. Living in the basement of their home in Queens, New York, Anthony is armed with nothing but wicked sarcasm and a few well-cut suits. He intends to make horror movies but takes the jobs he can handle, cleaning homes and factories, and keeps crossing paths with a Japanese political prisoner, a mysterious loan shark named Ishkabibble, and packs of feral dogs. When his invincible 13-year old sister enters yet another beauty pageant—this one for virgins—the combustible Jameses pile into their car and head South for the competition. Will Anthony’s family stick together or explode? With electrifying prose, LaValle ushers us into four troubled but very funny lives. (Read an excerpt . . . )

Happy reading, ya’ll.

Advertisements

10 thoughts on “Victor LaValle

  1. Trenee, where is the essay from?

    I enjoyed the “Slapboxing with Jesus” collection of stories more than I did “The Ecstatic,” but in both instances, I thoroughly enjoyed LaValle’s writing.

    Like

  2. Hmm, I’ve been intending to read LaValle’s work for some time now. You just pushed me one step closer. If only I’d read this before I shelled out sixty plus at the bookstore the other day (smile) . . . Well, I guess there’s always the library.

    Like

  3. Deesha, yeah I’m kind of skipping over Slapboxing. I’ll get back to it eventually.

    Lori, $60+ at the bookstore?! You sound like me. I can’t go a week without visiting a bookstore and walking around (like things have changed since my last visit). The library isn’t the same–I need to own my books!

    Zakiya, if you do check it out, let me know what you think!

    Like

  4. Well I finished reading Lavalle’s book during the weekend. I think one of the reviewers of the book put it best when he said that Ecstatic was filled with self-depricating wit and comic desperation. I think Anthony’s character was both conscious and oblivious to his plight. That oxymoronic element was kind of interesting to watch unfold. I definitly enjoyed the dialouge. Anthony’s first person was an inside look into his mental disease that manifested it self in many ways. LaValle lost me in a couple of chapters. Anthonoy’s obesity which seemed a major set back for him faded by the end of the book. I don’t know if he stopped eating or if LaValle forgot about his appetite. haha

    I def laughed out loud more than a few times while reading the book.

    Like

  5. Thanks for posting this. I read his first book but wasn’t blown away by it so I didn’t take much notice of this one. I might have to get this one at the library.

    Like

  6. Zakiya – But would you recommend the book? Was it worth the read?

    Brigitte – I haven’t read anything by LaValle so I’m walking into this with an open mind . . . don’t ruin it! 😉

    Like

  7. Okay, so I got this from the library a week ago and returned it unfinished. I just couldn’t get into his writing. The characters were pretty weak and I got tired of getting lost in that narrative when after I lost interest in the story. I recall having the same problem with SwJ even though I did manage to finish that one.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s