I don’t know about you, but it seems like ambulances having been following me a lot lately. I can’t tell if it’s a commentary on my overall appearance of decline or because they figured out I’ve been giving them Elle Macpherson’s social security number whenever they tried to bill me for my rides to the nuthouse.
It’s not that I’m actually crazy. It’s just my living situation is a little — how do I put it? Screwy. First you’ve got the fact that I’m living in a tent. Then you have Edgar, my tentmate. Edgar seems like a totally nice, totally sincere little fellow. When you first meet him you think: Now here’s a real stand-up guy.
But then, slowly, you begin to realize that things go missing from the tent every time you leave. And then, slowly, you begin to realize that Edgar isn’t just stealing those things, he’s eating them. And not just your food, but your books, your change, belt buckles, old pictures, even the electric cord to the hair dryer I use as a rocks glass. Everything.
Sometimes when Edgar eats something of particular value to me, I give serious thought to just cutting off his head and tossing it into the first open window I find on Beacon Hill. Or maybe running over him in the middle of the night with my shopping cart after I’ve sharpened the wheels and glued on shards of glass. Thankfully there’s Virginie Despentes to talk me down.
Despentes is a French writer famous for her controversial novel Baise-Moi (“Rape Me”), a violent, confrontational piece about two loner-women who embark on a road trip during which payback for a brutal rape is brought upon society at large in the form of random violence. There’s a lot of heads exploding and people being brutally robbed and afternoon drunks in hotel rooms — misbehavior has a cathartic effect for me. The book isn’t bad either.
That said, if you’ve only got enough time for one radical manifesto about sex, gender and French society, I’m more apt to recommend another Despentes book, King Kong Theory. A collection of essays, Theory mixes equal parts liberation ethos and personal autobiography, including recollections of a rape Despentes herself survived, her experiences as a sex worker, and the public hullabaloo over Baise-Moi and the subsequent film of it she directed.
Theory rocks. Where Baise-Moi can feel forced, Theory is easy, almost spontaneous. Where Baise-Moi sometimes appears jumbled and foggy, Theory is clear and concise. In it Despentes provides a fascinating interpretation of the movie for which the book is named, delivers plenty of anti-establishment gems (“Often, things are exactly the opposite of what we have been told, which is why we are told them so repeatedly and ferociously”), and rages against gender roles in a rare, authentic way:
“Being insecure — now that’s femininity,” she writes. “Unassuming. A good listener. Not too intellectually impressive. Just cultured enough to understand what some asshole has to say.”
This asshole says Edgar better watch what he eats.
Bill Benson is the former manager of Galaxy Bowling Lanes in Decatur, Illinois. He likes to read.