After 5 pages at most, I concluded that the author's female, like the narrator. I was right. I was also convinced it's a 1st novel. Again I was right.
Haven't finished the whole thing yet, but I'd like to write anyway, why I'm reading this novel with difficulty. No, not my intellectual flaws. This apparently has to do with my sensibilities.
Here's why: the narrator and protagonist of the book is Ursa Corregidora, a young black woman in America. Her great-grandmother, known as Great Gram, is raped and forced into prostitution by the Portuguese slaveholder and whoremonger Corregidora, an arsehole. Great Gram has a daughter, i.e. Ursa's grandmother, who is raped and also turned into a prostitute by that arsehole, i.e. her own father. Corregidora fathers both Ursa's grandmother and mother. Great Gram and the grandmother later escape. Growing up, Ursa hears these stories over and over and over again, consumed with hatred of Corregidora and charged with the responsibility of "making generations", to bear witness to the abuse embodied in the family name when all evidence has been destroyed. This mission cannot be carried out because, on the 1st pages of the novel, Ursa has a fight with her husband Mutt, an abusive arsehole, while she's pregnant, and has her womb removed. So her boss Tadpole, who has loved her for a long time, takes care of her and protects her from the arsehole husband and helps her divorce Mutt, and he's so nice and kind and gentle and considerate and patient and lovely and everything, you see, but a while after they're married, finding Ursa depressed and unable to get sexual pleasure, Tadpole suddenly turns into an arsehole and 1 day Ursa comes home to find him in bed with a 15-year-old girl. Not only so, he insults her, humiliates her, says shit to her. The man previously full of love and understanding is now full of shit. So Ursa works at a new place and the boss is almost an arsehole too, who 1 time tries to be "friendly" to her. I forgot, Ursa has a friend named Cat, who works for a white couple, and the white man is an arsehole, who probably abuses Cat sexually though it's not spelt out. Oh and when Ursa's staying at Cat's house during her recovery, there's a 14-year-old girl named Jeffy that talks shit to Ursa and later touches her breasts. Another arsehole. No, it doesn't stop there. The main character keeps having nightmares and hearing Great Gram's voice in her head and recalling over and over again those horrific stories of Corregidora, the narrative moves back and forth between the main story and the memories of Corregidora and sometimes Ursa's own memories, so it turns out that there are 2 other arseholes in her past, 1 is a boy in the neighbourhood that plays doctor and touches her down there, the other is a man who also touches her. No, it doesn't stop here either. At some point in the novel Ursa wants to know about her own father and therefore goes to meet her mother to ask questions. The man, Martin, at the beginning only watches Ursa's mother at a distance, and when finally approaching her, speaks softly and patiently when she's unfriendly to him, and looks hurt when she rebuffs him, but it turns out that he's not a nice, shy man as he seems, but also an arsehole. Violent too.
In short, life is all evil and everything is negative and things always go wrong and all men are arseholes.
Why am I writing in this coarse, nasty language? To let you know what to expect in case you want to read Corregidora, that's why.
"Yeah, they told me what happened. But you ain't got nothing to worry about, though. You still got a hole, ain't you? Long as a woman got a hole, she can fuck. Let me get up in your hole, baby."I can't help wondering if Gayl Jones thinks that putting all of these negative, tragic, painful things into her novel makes it an important book and a good book.
Update on 18/4:
Don't think "It can't get worse" when reading Corregidora. It can, and it does.
Perhaps some day I'll write a serious critique of this book, but right now I have to put down my fragmented, disorganised subjective thoughts: Ursa's mother describes a scene which shows Martin as a more contemptible arsehole than I thought (as though his violence is not bad enough) and Ursa's grandmother as a kind of arsehole herself (though, considering the incest, rape and prostitution, she's a victim and therefore to be pitied). The next chapter begins with a girl's suicide- because of some man, people say. Ursa's barely 10 then. Afterwards she talks about her close friend May Alice, and goes on to describe their friendship and May Alice's talk about sex and the female body (about the "hole", etc). It becomes clear that the girl's suicide is not only an indicator of that period in Ursa's life, when she starts to wonder about her own body and the world around her, but there's a connection to May Alice, whose bf Harold is, you guessed it, an arsehole. A selfish, deceitful, irresponsible arsehole, who impregnates May Alice when she's just 15.
That's how this book is. All the men are arseholes. Some women are arseholes too, but they're easier to sympathise with because they've been abused or whatever by the brutes.