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You got me at ‘erotic tale of gothic horror’

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]

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