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Day 6 | pp. 130-153 (through “I’ve never met another crocodile before.”)

July 13, 2021 by Paul Lisicky

In the letter to Shui Ling, it’s startling to hear “you and my family were the only ones who loved me” when this family is rarely on the page. Is that the unspoken story, the one too hard to tell? Their inability to welcome a queer daughter/sibling?

That letter draws a sharp, unsettling contrast between Shui Ling, for whom “being in love with a woman is natural,” and Lazi whose desires turn her into a monster, making her grotesque, wounding her self-worth and exposing her.

On a single page, Derek Jarman, Jean Genet, Hemingway, and Faulkner make appearances. Artistic forebears, and almost too much variety to process all at once. We sense Lazi’s allegiance is with Jarman and Genet, whose marks are all over her work.

Can’t you just picture Meng Sheng and Nothing’s performance in a David Lynch-ish film? Lazi’s response to this moment of rare strange beauty is to throw up in the “ladies’ room,” explaining that her mind and body are out of sync.

Maybe it’s just that she’s been awakened to dark feelings by the performance: “As long as there’s a woman for me to love, I’ll know I’m headed somewhere!” Which might sound corny coming out of another mouth, but not from irreverent Lazi. Not here.

One of the loveliest strategies of this book is its movement toward uplift when it feels like life is stacked against this narrator. “Courage swept over me, and I embraced him.” And here that courage appears to be a matter of Lazi rallying her agency.

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