'I Should Read Lizard-Novellas' by Caren Beilin

I am sitting on a log in the sun-to-come sun of March, at the end of a short park by my place. I can see the skyline (Philadelphia) and a few men are spotted about and walking by. My nerves are on the fritz, from men. I like this sun, it’s from a time I remember living in Seattle, in the straining sun at the end of a summer. I wanted to be (sitting outside of a cupcake café) a hyper-desirable colander for all of it to strain right into. I did not think as poorly about men at that time. But now I live in the paranoid regime of hating men – when I say “man” I am speaking of him in his domination against conventional woman, as a universal historical subject, artifact, and as a living fossil.

Something happens in the park. A man comes up and says, “I thought, from over there, you were a man.” I read the man trying to figure out what’s wrong with him, economically, and mentally. I think I look struck, reading him like this so spiritedly. He says to me: “Please don’t curse me out,” and ambles off. Now I’m so spiritually reading the park, for any more men. The approaching gender. The veterans who live in their house half a block there. The man on the bench with his dogs, howling with them lovingly. “I thought you were a man” – past tense, thought, because I did flip in the mind into woman, then I was come up to. My eyes are loping everywhere scouring glimpses of any other women, some witnesses. I read any place like that, like a woman but I’m not a woman.

I read how I’m being read, at a bar called Writer’s Block—Henry Millers out at tilts on some of the tables, these terrible, terrible coasters. Overblown. Overwritten. Sexus coaster, and other tomes: My Struggle coaster. Infinite Jest like a horrible dais for a cocktail. The manager of this place says, as I sit there alone waiting for someone (a man), “Seriously you seem like a nice girl; sit down.” What will it mean for me, to be read Girl spontaneously everywhere like this? What a mess. And nice? You experience this – language a prick on experience. A little prick on what you were, and now it’s just gone.

I feel like a lizard. I have felt like one. I want to transition to my lizard-genitality, through clothing. I eye a marigold sheath and a violet vinyl hood. But I would also want the procedures. To get the scale hormone and start living. Coldblood infusions and start living as myself, with a more honest, more obvious, more exclusive and more sexual interest in the desert. At last, but where is the science??

I wasn’t trained in school to read for meaning, because of postmodernism. But all I do is speculate threats. I read men all day. Paranoid reader, a necessitated woman. I need to read men. A man walks with aimlessness too close to my writing log in the park, with his little dog, and I read him defensively, seepingly. I seethe into his whole face. I plunge in his brain and bite him there badly. I’m sad. Is he approaching or walking? Which? I need to know if I need to go and I read to know if this park works. Can I work in a park? I need to read for meaning and ready myself for an actual plot.

A man follows behind on a bike. A book (a lot of the time) is like a man on a slow behind me bike. I have to watch out for the slow behind way it’s all going, the bike in relation and distinction from the moon! Like the Belgian writer Jean-Phillipe Toussaint, who pushes women off of the stage of international literature, and forces them to be waitresses, songstresses, students, strippers, and avid readers in a world of male professors, administrators, and literary writers, in his novella Self-Portrait Abroad.

You have to read what’s wheeling behind you in the putrid eggplant anti-light of any time on earth, it’s the reading I’ve done most. All through school, and now. But I come across a little gasp. A lizard-novella, written in the desert. There is no park. Unica Zürn’s The Trumpets of Jericho, Ananda Devi’s Eve Out of Her Ruins. Desperate. A gasp. A novella, no villa at all. Unluxurious anti-time, no home on earth. A ferocious and brief tactic. Short knife. Clarice Lispector. Stream of Life. Steven Dunn, his Potted Meat – to say it – quick – before the manager commands. Sit down. You’re nice. I thought you were a man, but you are not. It has to be so quick, a wristness, to write before you’re read. Then it’s over.

Marguerite Duras’ The Lover.


This is the third in a four-part series called 'How Should A person Read?', edited by Khalid Warsame and published in The Lifted Brow #34. You can read part one and part two here and here.
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Caren Belin is the author of the forthcoming nonfiction SPAIN a novel The University of Pennsylvania, and a collection of short fiction American, Guests, or Us.