Swimming in the Barnyard
...A Review of Emily Carter's "Glory Goes and Gets Some"
by John Farris
The peripatetic 'Glory' of the title story of this volume of cyclical stories is Gloria Bronsky, a young HIV positive woman who has contracted this condition through intravenous drug use. Signaling that she is in over her head from the start, Gloria poignantly describes herself in magnificently metaphorical language in the opening story as someone who is "honked" at, "barked" at, "squealed" at and "hissed" at while heading east on Houston Street. This terminology raising the specter of animals -- albeit land animals -- an image of the sea she is awash in is nonetheless suggested by passages like "stoplights gleaming in the black air like costume jewelry from a sunken Spanish galleon," a galleon that is"gleaming from the bottom of the sea." A colon after what is obviously a mouthful qualifies the night on Houston as being "like a black tropical shipwreck ocean, fathoms deep and full of trinkets." Ensuing stories inform us that she is the rebellious child of professional parents who, kicked out of the elite schools she has been privileged to attend, makes her way from the confines of the Upper West Side of Manhattan to the bottom-feeding but Bohemian Lower East Side where it is suggested that she just might have been infected by someone named Amilio she is drawn to because being half Puerto Rican,"he therefore must have had access to drugs." What follows is a freefall across cultural boundaries in a deliberate exploration of taboos that at one point has Glory -- the little JAP -- being rear-ended (buttfucked) by a local Arab grocer for cop money, though aside from these not-so-subtle references, Glory appears to blame no one but herself for her predicament, having herself put herself there. If this is a fiction it is one comparable to Darius James' Negrophobia, in which an errant teeny bopping blonde is hideously demeaned by being thrown into a cultural checkerboard. That being said, this is obviously not a fiction as a much fictionalized memoir (names being changed to protect the guilty) -- the author herself being an Upper West Sider who has been thrown into her own unpleasant cultural mix. Still, the narratives are poetic rather than prurient chronicling Gloria's journey from the Lower East Side to a Minnesota she observes is"Nordic" and refers to as"the land of 10,000 rehabilitation centers," where with a painfully philosophical bent, she attempts a reconstruction of her life. Cultural trepanning aside, these narratives are served up with a wit as dry as powder. In the end, it might be said that Gloria gets what she has gone after, and it might be"comeuppance" -- that is, metaphorically -- in a nautical sense.