Reviewed by Jack Messenger
Water Our bodies
by Jeffrey Perso
Black Rose Writing
Paperback: 152 pages, ISBN-13: 978-1684331994
Satire thrives in determined occasions and is usually the final refuge of a determined author. If that is the case, Jeffrey Perso, the writer of Water Our bodies, is as completed as he’s maybe determined. If satire may be broadly outlined as that which mocks human vice or folly via derision, irony or wit, then Water Our bodies is satire par excellence. Its targets are particularly American, but its attain is actually international, for stupidity and wilful ignorance care little for nationwide boundaries.
The narrator of Water Our bodies has returned to his ‘muddy midwestern city sunk into the carp-rank banks of the Higher Mississippi River Basin.’ ‘Physician John Voltaire, Professor of Biology and Freshwater Science on the College of Illinois-Chicago,’ seems to have arrived in his residence city of ‘L’ within the nick of time. The great residents of L have each purpose to heed the normal warning to worry demise by water, as so lots of them are drowning in weird accidents and merciless assaults by unknown assailants. As well as:
Individuals of L have been all the time drowning: drowning in debt, drowning in sorrow and tears, drowning in obedience, conformity, and consumerism. They have been going beneath, unable to succeed in the floor; shackled, sunk, on their method down.
John has returned to assist type issues out between his sister Lara and his brother Cristo, to allow them to determine what to do about promoting the previous household home.
It was the primary time I had been again in L since my mother and father’ double suicide, one profitable, one solely partially so, mom moldering within the moist earth seven years now, father, mind broken and soul lifeless, locked contained in the insane asylum.
We’d like pursue the plot of Water Our bodies no farther; suffice to say, issues will not be all the time what they appear on this water world of more and more turbulent relationships and muddy considering. Water Our bodies surfs its metaphor and rides the wave: humanity is drowning within the rising waters of foolishness and entrenched ideologies, a lot of which is managed and channelled by vested pursuits and governing elites targeted solely on their very own greed.
In impressed parallels with the modern second, civic efforts comply with the identical previous outworn insurance policies that led to the difficulty within the first place. Thus, the plague of drownings
required lifeguard and CPR coaching for all residents of L, the development of concrete partitions, picket barricades, and electrical fences, twenty-five ft excessive, alongside each east and west river banks … Additionally, the likelihood exists for the creation of volunteer citizen patrols.
Fears surrounding an imaginary serial killer have to be assuaged with but extra killing machines:
That’s why everybody ought to arm themselves, he stated. The state had simply handed “open carry” legal guidelines, and “everybody ought to get themselves to the native Okay-Mart or gun store as quickly as attainable. Don’t name the police,” he stated. “Don’t name 911. By the point they arrive it might be too late.”
At Liquor, Weapons, and Ammo, a retailer whose identify speaks for itself, the proprietor is promoting weapons as if he actually does suspect there’s no tomorrow:
“You’ll want to get right here early,” the shop proprietor informed us. “They’re barely out of the field earlier than they’re gone.”
“That makes me really feel safer already,” I stated.
But the city is beneath siege on a number of fronts. Respiratory illness, suicide and alcoholism are the most important causes of demise; the air is polluted and smoking is rampant; as for alcohol, ‘It’s right here that L reaches its zenith. For right here may be discovered not solely extra bars per capita than in some other metropolis within the nation, but in addition extra bars per sq. foot.’
Satire has its personal specific undercurrents of ethical outrage. Whereas the tone of Water Our bodies is dryly amusing, its anger sometimes floats to the floor. As an example, at a seemingly harmless and characteristically tedious Sunday church picnic, an overweight boy is mercilessly bullied and tortured by a gaggle of youngsters beneath the benignly detached gaze of the adults. John concludes:
Sure, I needed to admit, Evangelicals make one of the best bullies. Particularly the Lutherans. The Lutherans and the Baptists. And the Catholics. The Catholics as a result of there are such a lot of of them, like an invading military. Onward Christian troopers.
This harrowing episode is ‘simply one other storybook second for the reminiscence machine, only one extra web page safe within the holy vacation scrapbook, sacred pages memorializing the on a regular basis, commonplace lives of the great individuals of L.’ As Cristo declares, ‘You study so much a few nation and its tradition by learning what’s thrown away, what has misplaced its worth. And by what’s forbidden, what’s feared.’ Thus, ‘These drownings are clearly the work of a satanic cult.’
That’s why [Lara] had determined to purchase a gun. One thing ladylike, however not only a trend accent. One that would do actual injury. A pistol, a revolver, snub nostril, perhaps a Magnum or Deringer. She wasn’t positive. She needed me to go alongside to assist select.
Typically it’s onerous to know whether or not to snort or to weep. Maybe that’s the level of chapter 33’s description of scandalized residents’ righteous disgust at a show of confiscated intercourse toys, a disgust which quickly turns to fascination and libidinous want. Surprisingly, race and sophistication not often increase their heads in Water Our bodies, though we study that
Hmongs jumped into the river and commenced to swim out into the center of the black, extensive, nonetheless flood-swollen swift channel, whereas the laughing, shouting fraternity brothers heaved heavy rocks picked up from the shore towards them.
This charming interlude is later mirrored by the veiled racism of remarks comparable to ‘again to the jungle’ as regards to a gaggle of trespassing youngsters – African American youngsters, one presumes. ‘And so, life goes on, similar to it’s, even in L. The solar and moon rise and set; and rise and set once more. Earth wobbles on its axis.’
Amid all this menace from in and out, ‘If the selection is between safety and civil liberties, I select safety. Don’t you?’ writes the improbably named Webb Civit, MD, whose false binaries replicate the appalling requirements of US political debate generally.
Chapter 32 of Water Our bodies is probably the guts of the novel. Is there something as unhappy and true as this reflection:
“I simply learn someplace,” Cristo recalled, “or heard someplace, that the Vietnamese don’t name the Vietnam Struggle the Vietnam Warfare – they name it ‘The American Conflict.’ After which I assumed, I knew, I understood that if that is the case, then the Korean Warfare is The American Struggle, the Nicaraguan Warfare is The American Conflict, the El Salvador Warfare is The American Struggle, the Gulf Conflict is The American Struggle, the Kosovo Warfare is The American Struggle, the Iraq Conflict, Half I and Half II, is The American Warfare, Half I and Half II, the Afghanistan Conflict is the American Warfare, the Conflict on Terror is the American Warfare. The Conflict on Crime, the Warfare on Medicine, the Warfare on Poverty, all of the wars I keep in mind and all of the wars I can’t keep in mind or identify—they’re all The American Warfare.”
The Earth rebels in Water Our bodies simply as it’s rebelling in actuality, ‘rejecting all it [has] swallowed.’ ‘The land simply can’t take it anymore … it’s in revolt.’ ‘The great, industrious, meat- and milk-loving individuals of L have been virtually actually drowning in shit.’ And all it has for political management is the dunce generally known as Mayor Rockton:
Some thought him “targeted” and “disciplined,” that he “stayed on message.” However the fact was that Roscoe Rockton was truly fairly uninteresting, witless, unimaginative, ignorant, and dense. As soon as locked into an ideology he had no have to problem assumptions; every thing was already defined, every part was recognized, every part made sense.
Remind you of anybody?
Water Our bodies’ serpentine digressions into obvious backwaters will confuse readers in search of simple narrative by which plenty of issues occur. Cristo’s ruminations usually are not for the faint of coronary heart, and his Dostoyevskian wanderings together with his brother by means of the L that’s Hell will curiosity solely these for whom the journey, and never the vacation spot, is what counts. It’s straightforward to foresee a serious plot decision however, thank goodness, that issues not one jot. One may additionally suspect that elements of the novel have been initially conceived individually, particularly a prolonged city council assembly the place the novel sags a bit of earlier than recovering.
Regardless of. As soon as in an extended whereas, a author appears to have been listening in on one’s personal ideas and quietly following one round for the previous a number of years. There are few dangerous causes for liking a novel, however there are many tenuous ones, and I shall danger enumerating them in my very own case: I, too, have tripped and fallen on a badly lit road in a US metropolis (and fractured a finger), mendacity within the gutter till somebody discovered me; I, too, have written about an Oldsmobile; I, too, have envisaged dying in these phrases: ‘I might put the pocket book and bottle apart and settle again, shut my eyes, and fall right into a contented hypothermal sleep, by no means to wake, however solely to decompose within the pretty woods.’ I really feel surveilled.
Till just lately, our previous pal determined occasions was wont to walk hand in hand with the companionable qualifier corresponding to our personal. No extra. The jig is up. Breathe deeply and you’ll detect the pleasant aroma of burning flesh. Our shortlived Anthropocene is keeling over for lack of oxygen, tipping humanity into the Gehenna of historical past, a fatuous grin on its complacent face. Ah nicely, it was fairly dangerous whereas it lasted. ‘Weialala leia’ certainly.
Water Our bodies is a bleakly pleasurable wade by means of the vice and folly that have gotten us into our catastrophic predicament. Its humour and wit are dry and acerbic; it meanders this manner and that, revealing the illogicality and the primitivism, the superstition and the hate brandished by those that search to expel, to exclude, to neutralize the demons whom they consider want to devour them. However Water Our bodies by no means strays from the central level that we solely have ourselves responsible for what we’ve product of our world. Women and gents, it’s we ourselves who’re the demons, and our identify is Legion, for we’re many.
Concerning the reviewer: Jack Messenger is a author and reviewer based mostly in Nottingham, UK. Discover out extra about him at jackmessengerwriter.com
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