For today’s installment of the challenge I must write about a book I love. Already Quest for a Kelpie, The Hotel New Hampshire, Thirteen Reasons Why, Northern Lights and Memory and Dream are jumping up and down screaming “Me…pick ME…pay attention to ME” as if they were tantrum throwing toddlers unaware at being moments away from being sent to the naughty corner.
For a change, I’m choosing to share with you a book that has come and gone from my life four times. A novel that I love, cherish and adore beyond measure, from a writer that very few people have ever heard of, let alone read. A book called Thongs.
Before I say anything else it needs to be made abundantly clear that Thongs is not the history of wedgie giving underwear, nor is it – for any Aussie readers amongst you – a frothy rom-com concerning the love life of a shoe salesperson.
Thongs is the most intellectual, lyrical and spiritual book about sadomasochism that will ever be written. In a slight 192 pages Alexander Trocchi, a writer who is criminally underappreciated, delivers a story staggering in its originality, imagination and explicitness.
“On a cold morning in February 1922, some Gypsies moving across country between Madrid and Escorial came upon the naked body of a woman. In this fact alone there is nothing remarkable. Spain, perhaps more than any other country in the world, is the land of passion and of death. And in Spain death is cheap, from that glittering death in the bull ring to the quick thrust of the stiletto in a narrow street in a Barcelona slum. No, this death would have called for no further comment had it not been for one striking fact. The naked woman had been crucified.
I first came across this book in Leakeys, a second-hand bookstore, shortly after arriving in Inverness in 1999. Having never heard of Trocchi before I purchased it on the strength of the cover (above) not knowing anything about what beauty lay before me. I read it in one session whilst sitting in the middle of Craig Phadrig forest on a particularly lazy afternoon. Upon closing the book I was speechless; in awe at the power of his words and the devastating story he weaved.
Between late 1999 and mid 2000, I lost this book. I do not know where it went or what happened to it. Whilst perusing the second-hand bookshops of Toronto I found it again and purchased it in a heartbeat. The second time I read Thongs was on a train between Toronto and Niagara Falls and, upon arriving back at the hostel, I realised I’d inadvertently left it on the train. For the second time in my life I had misplaced a copy of this great book.
Thus the Gypsies saw her first from a long way off, stuck like a scarecrow against the pale horizon, and as there was in that arid part of the country no crop to be protected, they approached to find out what it was.
In 2005, I was doing a tour of the secondhand bookstores of Melbourne in a quest to locate a copy of Young Adam (another Trocchi classic) after recently having watched the film adaptation at the Melbourne International Film Festival. In a nondescript bookstore in Prahran I located a copy; and sitting next to it, a dishevelled edition of a much-loved book from my past. The third time I read Thongs was – once again – in one session. After leaving the bookstore I cycled down to St Kilda and sat on the beach for a few hours to polish it off. Nearly six years after first reading it, Trocchi’s words still retained their enormous power over me and I cycled home in silence.
After misplacing two copies of this book I guarded this copy with my life. Knowing my girlfriend at the time would have casually discarded it into the trash (she’d done it before with other books I’d bought) I hid it where I hid my second journal (because I knew she always read my ‘main’ journal). After breaking up, Thongs took pride of place in my ‘these books fucking rock’ section of my writing desk slash bookshelf. Unfortunately, following the breakdown in 2007, I lost it along with 99% of my books during the necessary sell-off of my possessions.
The body was covered with thin red lacerations as though before death the woman had been whipped mercilessly with fine rods. Across the belly on a fine silver chain was slung a small metal plate which bore the inscription: Carmencita de las Lunas, por amor.
And then, once again, the book came back into my possession. After hooking up with Sammi in Glasgow (2008) she took me to a second-hand bookstore she used to visit with her Grandmother and, upon witnessing my simultaneous (very noisy) orgasm when I spotted it, purchased it for me as a present. After reading her choice passages whilst sitting in a park not long after, I read Thongs for the fourth time on a train between Glasgow and Fort William the following day. And again on a train(s) between Luton airport and Guildford a few days later. Each time I read it my entire being became overwhelmed by the sheer brilliance of this masterwork.
As far as I know this fourth copy is sitting in a box in my parent’s attic waiting for the day I am no longer cycling through homeless and mental health crises so we can be reunited. But given the ‘luck’ I’ve had retaining a copy through my life, I wouldn’t be surprised if I found out it had been stolen by Arrietty and her kin.
Even if it has been lost, I’m positive this book will boomerang back into my life one day for we have a literary connection that will never be severed.
Other posts I’ve written about books I love:
- My Life in Books
- Booker Award: My top five books of all time!
- Twenty of the Best: Roald Dahl, Champion of the World
- Twenty of the Best: George Mackay Brown, A Poet’s Magic
- Twenty of the Best: Charles De Lint, Writer of my Heart