Another of Alex Dodd’s irresistible little Insta notes, republished with her permission.
Never underestimate the suggestive power of literature…
On Saturday evening I started reading the first tale in the 150th celebration issue of @granta_magazine which I bought at @kalkbaybooks in its beautiful new home on Main Road in the heart of Kalk Bay.
The first story in the edition is a strangely erotic tale of gothic horror in which a young girl is taken in by a Diamanda Gallas-like diva, called Maxa, who performs blood-curdling rituals of violent self-harm before an adulatory crowd of baying adorers at Le Théâtre du Grand-Guignol in Paris.
At once horrified and transfixed, I delved deeper and deeper into the tale as the dusk turned to darkness.
Then I started to feel hungry, so I got up to pour some red wine and make some supper. With snow on the mountains all around us, I decided on a rich and spicy nachos-type dish, replacing corn chips with potatoes.
But as I began fervently slicing the potatoes, I almost cut off the tip of one of my fingers! I was bleeding profusely, but even worse, I felt enraged at myself for doing myself such harm.
Cursing as I ran my bleeding finger under the icy water, I suddenly made the connection to Maxa — the hectic diva at the centre of Carmen Maria Machado’s strange tale.
Not only had I hurt myself and drawn blood, I was also vocalising my rage with notable volume.
It was by no means the first time I have come under literature’s strange spell, nor will it be the last.
Rightwingers try to use art’s affective power as a justification for censorship. Personally, I find it extraordinary that art’s powers of representation and ideation can have such direct, tangible effects on our embodied experience of life itself.
I haven’t yet finished reading The Lost Performance of the High Priestess of the Temple of Horror, but when I do, I shall do so with greater consciousness of its power. Meanwhile, my finger is healing up nicely. Note the Elastoplast — second finger from left.
[Ed’s note: I hope you will update us, Alex]