|Gathering swell of fertile bud|
catches whisper of Memento Mori:
Remember (you have to) die,
and hastens to loose unripe seed
In McBride's book, the thematic structure portrays a female narrator (she remains unnamed throughout the book) who, in the words of O'Toole, "cannot build a self because the foundations of her childhood have been undermined by sexual exploitation. The central event is the rape of the narrator as a needy, rebellious thirteen-year-old by the uncle who takes advantage of her as-yet indistinct desires. It is an event she is compelled to repeat again and again in crude encounters with strangers and with the uncle who abused her."
It seems there is a lot of subjective psychology used in the review, and the book, to see the girl's actions as self-punishment ("horrible can be a good act of contrition"), but let's go on to the grammatical construction that is so unique to McBride. In a passage quoted in the review, the girl tests any power she may have over the uncle by forcing him to replay the original rape:
So he hits til I fall over. Crushing under. Hits again. He hits til something's click and the blood begins to run. Jesus he says. I feel sick. But I'm rush with feeling. Wide and. He thinks he's bad when he fucks me now. And so he is. I'm better though. In fact I am almost best.
The cognitive and grammatical form certainly elicit anguish, despair, and revulsion in the reader, but aside from questions about how reliable a state of mind might exist in the narrator, can such form sustain a memorable reading experience over some 227 pages? Evidently it did for O'Toole. "McBride is not playing with form, she is playing with what has yet to be fully formed: language caught in its moment of transition between thought and articulation...The brilliance of the book is that this linguistic strategy exactly parallels the struggle of the narrator, who is also trying to come into being."
I shall read the book through mostly because I'd like to better assess the overall effect of McBride's writing strategy, but I would not be pleased to find to the end an unrelieved construction of the victim mentality. Some captivating literature has included works of protagonist as victim, though they seem to show more hope and energy of the protagonist, if not some native intelligence, in trying to find a personal salvation or epiphany.