I once met Francesca Lia Block at a reading in Berkeley. It was two summers ago. She was there to read selections from her book, “Guarding the Moon: A Mother’s First Year” (Francesca Lia Block). There is a luminous quality to the woman, something not contained in her thin body or ample breasts or raven hair or in the eyes that bejeweled her angular face. The small beige top she wore belied the numinous gift for words she didn’t seem so much to possess as to become.
I thanked her for Weetzie Bat and for all the rest of Weetzie’s stories. When she fielded questions from the group, I asked her how she managed to make the writing feel punctuated and staccato while also sounding like the most satisfying run-on sentence you ever heard. She laughed and cocked her head to the side. She seemed to enjoy my own phrasing and told me she’d written the book in her head while walking back and forth from classes to her home. She suggested the cadence perhaps came from the walking.
I was introduced to the entire Weetzie Bat set of books by a stripper in Chicago. He was a lean and gorgeous and little man, blond and beautiful, older than I was by a few years. He was given to wearing primary-colored t-shirts that were old and shrunken a bit, showing off more upper arm than otherwise. He was easy to talk to, very easy to listen to—except when he’d raise an arm up and I’d catch a maddening glimpse of hard and smooth torso as a result of the too-short shirt (to this day, a sliver of torso will drive me to distraction).
I wasn’t merely introduced to the books by him. The next time I’d seen him—perhaps a month later—he handed me a small brown paper bag from a bookshop on Broadway St in Boystown: the first two of the Weetzie Bat books! “A gift,” he said, “Someone bought me a set, so I’m just doing the same.” “But!” he added, “Save them. Don’t read them right away.”
“Well, when can I?” I asked, not sure what the hell he was saying.
“Save them for when you need them. You only get to read them for the first time once, so make them count.”
My year-long stint in Chicagoland back in 1992-3 was not a pleasant one, for the most part. I didn’t fit in Naperville, or Chicago, or any of the flatlands of the Midwest, so I had no sense of home, no sense of my own center. San Francisco had already been the object of my affection and half-way through my year-long
sentence stint in Chicago, after six months of sowing wild oats (and other seed!) I had consummated things with San Francisco and began the machinations to shack up with her. But in those moments of loneliness and emotional aphasia I turned to the two very slim volumes of technically young-adult fiction and dug in. Eighty-some pages and less than an hour later, the first book had its narcotic effect: yes, every Dirk deserves his Duck, houses can be pink and made of gingerbread, and My Secret Agent Lover Man waits for me!
I was transformed.
The world can be candy-colored and made of spun sugar and gumdrops and faux fur. Orange tennis shoes go with anything and pink is perfect!
So goes it with what must be the seventh or eighth Weetzie Bat book, called <br/> “Necklace of Kisses” (Francesca Lia Block). From the book:
Sometimes you fall, spinning through space, grasping for the things that keep you on this earth. Sometimes you catch them. They can be the hands of the people you love. They can be your pets—pups with funny names, cats with ferocious old souls. The thing that keeps you here can be your art. It can be things you have collected and invested with a certain sense of meaning. A flowered, buckled treasure chest of secrets. Shoes that make you taller and, therefore, closer to the heavens. A suit that belonged to your fairy godmother. A dress that makes you feel a little like the Goddess herself.
I say, Believe in magic and it will believe in you. Believe in yourself, and the world of the possible is yours.
It never occurred to me until this new book that Weetzie is about my age. She’s turned forty and is missing so much in her life. Her Secret Agent Lover Man is just Max now and Witch Baby (Niña Bruja!) goes by Lily and attends Cal. With a supposed midlife course correction, all is not a fancy and a folly:
Sometimes you keep falling; you don’t catch anything.
Weetzie captures so much from those around her, perhaps only because she empties herself with every new acquisition and thus makes room. She shares that sense of abundance that I also possess: give of your gifts and abilities because there will always be a restorative. Give of yourself because others give you so much already. Never mind that they are able, in part, to give to you because of what you’ve given to them over the years:
Sometimes you fall, spinning through space, grasping for the things that keep you here. Sometimes you catch them. Sometimes you don’t.
Sometimes they catch you.
As you all who read me here know or have figured out, life has been fraught with cost for me—and for LOML—in various and sundry-and-not-sunny ways, for a time. These have been perilous times for my sense of abundance; no restorative had made itself known.
Until this weekend, on a trip downtown to Stacys’ Bookstore in an attempt to retrieve a long-forgotten gift certificate when I was surprised by signed first-editions of Necklace of Kisses on the New Fiction table.
I read it cover-to-cover in my 90 minutes of Caltrain travel today. I’m feeling restored!
And loquacious. (though he may say ‘prolix’.