Cosas Que Leo #32: BASTARD OUT OF CAROLINA, Dorothy Allison

bastard Allison

«In August the Revival tent went about half a mile from Aunt Ruth’s house on the other side of white horse road. Some evenings while Travis and Ruth sat and talked quietly, I would walk up there on my own to sit outside and listen. The preacher was a shouter. He’d rave and threaten, and it didn’t seem he was ever going to get to the invocation. I sat in the dark, trying not to think about anything, specially not about Daddy Glen or Mama or how much of an exile I was beginning to feel. I kept thinking I saw my Uncle Earle in the men who stood near the highway sharing a bottle in a paper sack, black-headed men with blasted, rough-hewn faces. Was it hatred or sorrow that made them look like that, their necks so stiff and their eyes so cold?

Did I look like that?

Would I look like that when I grew up?

I remembered Aunt Alma putting her big hands over my ears and turning my face to catch the light, saying, “Just as well you smart; you an’t never gonna be a beauty”.

At least I wasn’t as ugly as Cousin Mary-May, I had told Reese, and been immediately ashamed. Mary-May was the most famous ugly woman in Greenville County, with a wide, flat face, a bent nose, tiny eyes, almost no hair, and just three teeth left in her mouth. Still, he was good-natured and always volunteered to be the witch in the Salvation Army’s Halloween Horror House. Her face hadn’t made her soul ugly. If I kept worrying about not being a beauty, I’d probably ruin myself. Mama was always saying people could see your soul in your face, could see your hatefulness and lack of charity. With all the hatefulness I was trying to hide, it was a wonder I wasn’t uglier than a toad in mud season.

The singing started. I leaned forward on the balls of my feet and hugged my knees, humming. Revivals are funny. People get pretty enthusiastic, but they sometimes forget just which hymn it is they’re singing. I grinned at the sound of mumbled unintelligible song, watching the mean near the road punch each other lightly and curse in a friendly fashion.

You bastard.

You son of a bitch.

The preacher said something I didn’t understand. There was a moment of silence, and then a pure tenor voice rose up into the night sky. The spit soured in my mouth. They had a real singer in there, a real gospel choir.

Swing low, sweet chariot… coming for to carry me home… swing low, sweet chariot… coming for to carry me home.

The night seemed to wrap all around me like a blanket. MY insides felt as if they had melted, and I could taste the wind in my mouth. The sweet gospel music poured through me in a piercing young boy’s voice, and made all my nastiness, all my jealousy and hatred, swell in my heart. I remembered Aunt Ruth’s fingers fluttering birdlike in front of her face, Uncle Earle’s flushed cheeks and lank black hair as they’d cried together on the porch, Mama’s pinched, worried face and Daddy Glen’s cold, angry eyes. The world was too big for me, the music too strong. I knew, I knew I was the most disgusting person on earth. I didn’t deserve to live another day. I started hiccuping and crying.

“I’m sorry. Jesus, I’m sorry.”

How could I live with myself? How could God stand me? Was this why Jesus wouldn’t speak to my heart? The music washed over me… Softly and tenderly, Jesus is calling. The music was a river trying to wash me clean. I sobbed and dug my heels into the dirt, drunk on grief and that pure, pure voice soaring above the choir. Aunt Alma’s swore all gospel singers were drunks, but right then it didn’t matter to me. If it was whiskey backstage or tongue-kissing in the dressing-room, whatever it took to make that juice was necessary, was fine. I wiped my eyes and swore out loud. Get that boy another bottle, I wanted to yell. Find that girl a hardheaded husband. But goddam, keep them singing that music. Lord, make me drunk on that music.

I rocked back and forth, grinding my heels into the red dirt, my fists into my stomach, crooning into the dark night and the reflected glow from the tent. I cried until I was dry, and then I laughed. I put my head back and laughed until my voice was hoarse and the damp fog came to cover the lights from the revival. If Aunt Ruth had come out to me then, I would have apologized for everything, for living and not loving her enough to save her from the cancer that was eating her alive. I didn’t know. For something, surely, I would have had something to apologize for, for being young and healthy and sitting there full of music. That was what gospel was meant to do -make you hate and love yourself at the same time, make you ashamed and glorified. It worked on me. It absolutely worked on me.”

Bastard out of Carolina


Penguin, 1992 (publicado en España con el título de Bastarda, Alfaguara, 2000)

320 págs.

**** Este es uno de los mejores libros que he leído en toda mi vida. Pasa de inmediato al Top 20 absoluto. No se lo puedo recomendar lo suficiente. Dedicaré el resto de mi existencia a que se reedite en nuestro país.

Cosas Que Leo #19: THE LITTLE NUGGET, P.G. Wodehouse

Little Nugget Wodehouse

“And presently the cab would roll away down the long drive, and my work would begin, and with it the soul-discipline to which I alluded.

‘Taking duty’ makes certain definite calls upon a man. He has to answer questions; break up fights; stop big boys bullying small boys; prevent small boys bullying smaller boys; check stone-throwing, going-on-the-wet-grass, worrying-the-cook, teasing-the-dog, making-too-much-noise, and, in particular, discourage all forms of hara-kiri such as tree-climbing, waterspout-scaling, leaning-too-far-out-the-window, sliding-down-the-banisters, pencil-swallowing, and ink-drinking-because-somebody-dared-me-to.

At intervals throughout the day there are further feats to perform. Carving the joint, helping the pudding, playing football, reading prayers, teaching, herding stragglers in for meals, and going round the dormitories to see that the lights are out, are a few of them.

I wanted to oblige Cynthia, if I could, but there were moments during the first day or so when I wondered how on earth I was going to snatch the necessary time to combine kidnapping with my other duties. Of all the learned professions it seemed to me that that of the kidnapper most urgently demanded certain intervals for leisured thought, in which schemes and plots might be matured.

Schools vary. Sanstead house belonged to the more difficult class, Mr. Abney’s constant flittings did much to add to the burdens of his assistants, and his peculiar reverence for the aristocracy did even more. His endeavor to make Sanstead House a place where the delicately nurtured scions of the governing class might feel as little as possible the temporary loss of titled mothers led him into a benevolent tolerance which would have unsettled angels.

Success or failure for an assistant-master is, I consider, very much a matter of luck. My colleague, Glossop, had most of the qualities that make for success, but no luck. properly backed by Mr Abney, he might have kept order. As it was, his classroom was a beargarden, and, when he took duty, chaos reigns.

I, on the other hand, had luck. For some reason the boys agreed to accept me. Quite early in my sojourn I enjoyed that sweetest triumph of the assistant-master’s life. the spectacle of one boy smacking another boy’s head because the latter persisted in making a noise after I had told him to stop. I doubt if a man can experience so keenly in any other way that thrill which comes from the knowledge that the populace is his friend. political orators must have the same sort of feeling when the audience clamours for the ejection of a heckler, but it cannot be so keen. One is so helpless with boys, unless they decide that they like one.

It was a week from the beginning of the term before I made my acquaintance of the Little Nugget.»

The Little Nugget


Penguin Books, 1959 (publicado por primera vez en Methuen, 1913)

208 Págs.

Cosas Que Leo #14: THE PRIME OF MISS JEAN BRODIE, Muriel Spark


“Miss Mackay laid another scheme and the scheme undid her. There was a highly competitive house system in the Senior School, whose four houses were named Holyrood, Melrose, Argyll and Biggar. Miss Mackay saw to it that the Brodie girls were as far as possible placed in different houses. Jenny was put in Holyrood, Sandy with Mary MacGregor in Melrose, Monica and Eunice went into Argyll and Rose Stanley into Biggar. They were therefore obliged to compete with each other in every walk of life within the school and on the wind-swept hockey fields which lay like the graves of the martyrs exposed to the weather in an outer suburb. It was the team spirit, they were told, that counted now, every house must go all out for the Shield and turn up on Saturday mornings to yell encouragement to the house. Inter-house friendships must not suffer, of course, but the team spirit…

This phrase was enough for the Brodie set who, after two years at Miss Brodie’s, had been well directed as to its meaning.

“Phrases like “the team spirit” are always employed to cut across individualism, love and personal loyalties”, she had said. “Ideas like “the team spirit”, she said, “ought not to be enjoined on the female sex, especially if they are of that dedicated nature whose virtues from time immemorial have been utterly opposed to the concept. Florence Nightingale knew nothing of the team spirit, her mission was to save life regardless of the team to which it belonged. Cleopatra knew nothing of the team spirit if you read your Shakespeare. Take Helen of Troy. And the Queen of England, it is true she attends international sport, but she has to, it is all empty show, she is concerned only with the King’s health and antiques. Where would the team spirit have got Sybil Thorndike? She is the great actress and the rest of the cast have got the team spirit. Pavlova…”

The prime of Miss Jean Brodie


Penguin Books, 1965 (publicado originalmente en el Reino Unido por MacMillan, 1961. La editorial Pre-Textos la publicó en España como La plenitud de la señorita Brodie, 2006)

128 págs.