Friday, September 4, 2009

Book Review: Emanuel Xavier's Christ Like

In early fall 2007, I received a phone call from legendary poet, and my friend, Bao Phi asking me if I would be interested in performing at the October Equilibrium show. I would be opening for a dynamic queer spoken word artist from New York by the name of Emanuel Xavier. Now, if Bao Phi asked me to walk on water for him while carrying a vat of bubbling acid, I would try my best to do it. He has been an immense supporter of my poetry. Also, the Equilibrium series at the Loft Literary Center is the “it” place for spoken word artists in the Twin Cities. The series celebrates the best of the best of local and national spoken word artists of color, the crowd is always live, and it is my poetic home.

I, of course, said yes to Bao’s request. Though I had not met Emanuel Xavier, I knew who he was. I knew him from his poetry, and we both had selections in the anthology Queer Codex: Chile Love. We have an ex-boyfriend in common (shout out to Joe Jimenez of Corpus Christi). I also knew him from the movie “Ski Trip,” where he played a water-downed version of the character Mikey X in his novel, reviewed here, Christ Like. I also knew him from the brutal gay bashing he survived, and I, like many of my community, were pissed off and saddened by the attack.

Emanuel came to town with his best friend and manager, Leo Toro, and we quickly became friends. We went out that night, toured the underbelly of the Minneapolis club scene, and got a little wasted. Since that time, I have been honored to perform with Emanuel, to have been featured in his anthology Mariposas, and to call him a friend y comadre.

Last weekend, I saw Emanuel and Leo for the first time in about a year. They came through my birthday party, and Emanuel gave me, as a gift, a copy of his newly re-released novel: Christ Like.

I finished the book about ten minutes ago, and I decided to review it for you, my readers, here at My Feet Only Walk Forward.

A Review of Emanuel Xavier's Christ Like

As a club kid wannabe that remembers the flash bulb end of Limelight, aka The Sanctuary in Emanuel Xavier’s novel, the opening salvo of Christ Like grabbed me by the throat and dragged me into a ride into the Hell mouth of my own twisted personal history.

From the gate, the sex, drugs, rape, brutality, and vibrancy of this novel lets the reader know that the writer isn’t taking any prisoners. The semi-autobiographical nature of the story adds an extra punch to the groin and leaves you feeling ripped open and exposed to the early morning Sunday sunlight after a night of drugged out partying. Been there, done that, relived it all with this novel.

There are times when the novel comes up for air and the writing becomes rapid fire and surface level. It is clear that the story could use the help of an editor with a keen eye that would give the author a chance to dig deeper in some places, leave some places on the cutting room floor, and give the novel more space to breath and the story to develop.

But the truth is that I finished this book in record time, consumed it in large mouthfuls, and sometimes forgot to swallow before shoving the next bit in. The hard core reality presented and the conscious honoring of the sweet and ugly truth of being queer, homeless, fierce, powerful, terrified, abused, alone, loved, ashamed, and celebrated all at the same time, communicated a stark and beautiful reality. The realness and beauty of it excused the sometimes poor editing and skin-deep storytelling, and left this reader wanting to know what happens next to Mikey X.

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