September 2006

Kimberly Wine

fiction

The Evil Queen: A Pornolexicology by Benjamin Perez

Literature has been the salvation of the damned. -- John Cheever

Benjamin Perez’s beautiful blasphemy, The Evil Queen: A Pornolexicology, begins as an epic illumination of psycho-sexual transgression and ends as a meditation on the concept of salvation. In between, this dark reflection on transgression and salvation is alternately a poetic treatise on the power of language to define social reality and an inspiring examination of Blakean awe and Nietzschean horror. Perez’s use of language is achingly beautiful and at the same time disgustingly vile; his willingness to delve deeply into the heart of transgression would undoubtedly shock even Julia Kristeva. His raw examination of the truly abject is almost as disturbing as his ability to wrestle his reader’s sensibility into accepting the notion that this horrifying abjection is part of what makes us human. This work is resolutely not for the faint of heart.

At the beginning of this non-linear story, our narrator, the Dwarf, sneaks into the Evil Queen’s garden and eats her tomatoes; she catches him once and castrates him. He goes back again a second time and she enslaves him. The ideal reader must recognize this as allegory: the doctrine of the church, which stipulates that the body is wicked, forces one into a body that is dwarfed by religious concepts of sublimation. Culturally speaking, the individual is emasculated and enslaved by desires that exist outside of personal control. Desire, particularly sexual desire, exists as something that one cannot choose and cannot control because the church does not allow physical desire to be understood as an acceptable aspect of humanity. To break free of this cycle of repression, the Dwarf must consume the Evil Queen in order to reclaim that part of himself he (and by extension, we) once denied. Further, when Perez offers his readers an emasculated dwarf narrator who is in the service of the Evil Queen, his narrative not only questions Western assumptions with regard to gender roles, but also raises far-reaching questions about agency and responsibility.

Filled with images of the pleasures of the flesh set against conceptual notions of salvation and the religious sublimation of physical desire, The Evil Queen is at times overly self-indulgent and excessively graphic, but the point is clear: the body is the self and the self is the body. Perez’s work directly opposes religious tenets that deny the body in favor of the salvation of the soul. In the case of the Dwarf, he’s earning the only kind of salvation that is truly attainable in Perez’s assessment: by absorbing that which the Evil Queen represents (abjection, desire, the will to power) he ultimately becomes a more fully realized human being.

Throughout The Evil Queen, Perez deliberately analyzes the social repercussions of a religious doctrine that characterizes sexuality as wicked and the body as a source of corruption. His emphasis is on the importance of unlearning such doctrine and accepting the humanity of our own “evil.” Perez’s explication of obscenity unabashedly reminds us that we live every day in these bodies that sweat, produce mucus, defecate, bleed, hunger, eat flesh, fuck, and ultimately die. Perez contends that true salvation is attained once we finally accept that these “obscene” bodies are not evil. Further, if she can struggle through it, the careful reader will find within The Evil Queen a truly magnificent idea: that the body is alive and beautiful even in its most abject state.

The Evil Queen: A Pornolexicology by Benjamin Perez
Spuyten Duyvil
ISBN: 1881471985
248 Pages