by Amina Cain
Dorothy, a publishing project, 2013
144 pages / $12.20 buy from Dorothy, a publishing project
1. I am ashamed of what I think about book reviews.
2. “I’m […] ashamed of what I think about literature—I can only open up to a few people in this way.” So says the narrator of “The Beak of a Bird,” the fourth short story in Amina Cain’s Creature (Dorothy, 2013). For now, I am hovering 40,000 feet above the Earth.
3. My thoughts about texts exist as emotional impressions, and what interests me most as a reader is ambience and affect—words as molecules of emotion, states of agitation, decorative illuminations, background noise. Readerly impressions in my bones are intimate like pages; they are, as in Creature, “the place where [my] life unfolds.” I want to recite my Creature to you, but instead draw inward toward the place where my body’s median axis, its midline, is askew.
4. Preoccupied with atmosphere and feeling as I am, I am ashamed of what I think (or don’t think) about literature, and so I choose not to write about books. But Amina Cain’s Creature is different: Amina Cain’s Creature resides out of harm’s way, although it exists in savage and erotic twilight. “I expressed myself through the violent putting away of a pan.” “Myself, alone, in my bed, is a story.” “Write about the arm when the whole body is being abused.” “We watch something violent on my laptop. It will help me wear this dress.” In this darkness, I read and write and think-along, and feel involved in every sentence. This involvement is key to my wanting to recite my Creature. Involved in it, I am pleased to feel ashamed of what I think.
5. Creature begs to be watched. Passing over one’s horizon of attention, the book is a meditative practice, which is not to say Creature is necessarily a meditation, for a person does not read Creature so much as she suspends it in space. 40,000 feet above the Earth, she observes its sentences, lines of thought that move across the mind, and breathes them in and out. There are momentary pauses of deep calm. It is likely the mind wanders. And as Creature unravels, the body sheds itself.
6. I am ashamed of my physiological responses to literature. See Exhibit A, which I am sorry to describe. In this disgraceful scene, I am hovering 40,000 feet above the Earth reading Creature’s “Attached to a Self.” I am attempting momentary pauses of deep calm. In the midst of this exercise, I cross a passage wherein Cain refers to a Benedictine monk: “The word is supposed to send a person into great silence,” she writes. “Just a little bit of reading is enough.” I suspend the statement in space, let it resonate. My eyes trace the sentence and tear.
7. Am I crying because of the story, someone asks, or because of the space?
8. Am I crying because of the space, I wonder, because this is the space where my life unfolds?
9. And is it really me if I’m not there?
10. To answer these questions for you, let me describe where Creature rests in my body—deep within my thoracic spine, in the middle of my vertebrae alongside photo booth-sized images of unrequited knives. I am conscious of it as I watch my body read. Its language moves and settles. This process of watching—as opposed to thinking—may seem enigmatic. It is. Continue reading “25 Points: Creature”