Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Book Review: The Water Cure

You can never know when some passage will take your breath away.  The passage that I am talking about comes from the The Water Cure by Percival Everett. The book review portion of the post would talk about the plot -- a man whose child has been murdered takes revenge upon the person he thinks is responsible, or the allegory, an alleged child abuser is tortured by the father of a victim as an allegory for Guantanamo -- or the emotional depth, a man tries to come to grips with the loss of his child and marriage and the retribution on a possible perpetrator.

But none of that matters to me.  I was gobsmacked with this next description.  It occurs just after some sections that talk about torture and the possibility of killing intruders.  The main character has a quirk where he does not eat in restaurants but rather takes his own food and pays for dishes that he orders but holds all the food.  Remember when you are reading this that he has a man in his basement that he is torturing.   Warning: Graphic Scenes of wanton butchery.
"We slice, cut, rive, cleave, rend, split, tear open the entire body from the anus to the chin. Find a fold of skin on the belly and grab it between your thumb and forefinger, roll it between your fingers, then carefully puncture, pop, pierce the skin. Avoid perforating the gut. Then simply, plainly, easily, honestly slit the body all the way up to the throat and down to the tailbone. When you find the sternum and the pelvis, just, merely, simply (always simply) cut down to the bone with your knife.  When you come to the testicles, don't cut them off. Simply, plainly, easily, honestly, cut the skin between the testicles and leave one testicle attached to either side. Then carve, divide, chiv, cleave, slice down through the hams to separate, divide, dissociate the buttocks from each other. Once you've apportioned, parted the hams, take your sharp knife and score out the anus. Now you've got him slit from stem to stern. Once this has been accomplished, achieved, realized, locate your meat saw.  Cleave through the sternum until the rib cage is open. Then saw through the pelvic bone. Do not perforate the bladder. If you cut it, you'll spray urine over some of the best meat on the hindquarters. Keep the saw blade parallel to the bone and cut carefully. Take up the knife again.  Cut the windpipe just under the chin and grab hold. Separate the smooth muscle tissue holding the entrails from the carcass. Slice this tissue while you pull on the windpipe; the entire gutpile will come easily free, will roll out. Be certain to completely remove the colon and the bladder , which can sometimes hang up on the pelvic bone. This is a source of bacteria and also heat, so it's very important to remove all the entrails.  The elk is field-dressed."
That just blew me away.  I have seen the butchering process and for the first half, I was sure that he was butchering a pig. I was thinking of the connection between humans being called long pigs and members of the porcine persuasion.

Also, the description was lyrical and evocative.  I winced and shrank at least once.  When reading this section, I also began to understand the pull of the pornographic torture movies that are out now.  If you traced the rise of these movies, I would guess that it may be a response to American involvement in torture.  Is it a justification or a way of providing a valid revulsion without turning that revulsion against oneself?  So, a way of outering our disgust so that we do not turn that disgust on ourselves.

Might be a bit heavy for book review on a food blog but the description of the elk superimposed against the idea of field dressing (field of war and field as in hunting field) just struck me as not dehumanizing an animal but rather reanimalizing or naturalizing the human.  This juxtaposition still resonates and I am left with a more visceral response to torture and a return to the reverence of animal life.  This by no means that I am into vegetarianism but rather reconnect with our animal nature and feel the proper remorse when eating ribs.

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