My Latest Literary Crush or Notes on Reading Bhanu Kapil

Bhanu Kapil's The Vertical Interrogation of Strangers

Bhanu Kapil’s The Vertical Interrogation of Strangers

I discovered Bhanu Kapil in January this year, by chance, when reading a Laura Mullen interview in which she discussed experimental poetry and hybrid forms of literature (it is an excellent interview, by the by). I Googled Kapil and found extracts of her work on (these are the exact links: here and here) and let’s just say – it was love at first read.

The vivid sumptuousness of Kapil’s language, the unconventional daring of both content and style dazzled my senses, left me dizzy for more. I went and purchased all of her books, and I’ve been slowly working my way through them – very slowly, in fact, because these are the kinds of books that you simultaneously want to devour and never finish; the kinds of books in which each sentence could be unpacked for hours or days and still be powerfully rewarding.

Recently I stumbled upon notes I had written while reading Bhanu’s first novel, The Vertical Interrogation of Strangers (Kelsey Street Press, 2001), and I thought that I would share them here.

Notes on Reading The Vertical Interrogation of Strangers

The Vertical Interrogation of Strangers is: an exploration – or more, a presentation of loss in the way a painting is a presentation, an offering of (visual) clues to which the viewer/reader may ascribe meaning.

It is an uttering of goodbye to: her lover/husband/father of her son; but also to herself, many of her old faces, memories, past emotional lives.

It is a farewell to convention.

It is a beginning – a new way of writing, and a new way of being.

It is an acceptance of hybridity, non-conformity. An acceptance that not everything is linear or makes sense; an acceptance that, in fact, most things never are or do.

It is: a way of painting with words.

It is suffused with pain – physical, visceral – like a butterfly clawing out of its cocoon.

It is both a birth, and a death. A shedding of old skin, and a waking up.

It is suffused with longing, desire, love, lust. It is a crying out for all of these things.

It is an attempt to claim a past and make it whole even while accepting that history can never be whole, it will always be partial – partially remembered, partially forgotten, partially recreated.

It is an attempt by the author to birth herself: her new identity as woman/writer/mother.

It is about sex.

It is about innocence.

It is about betrayal.

It is an experience of the senses. You can almost taste it. The taste you can almost touch is: salty. Like seawater, like tears.

It is an account of an itinerant wanderer wandering and coming back full circle to: herself.

It is a love letter: to her lover, to the reader, to herself.

It is an offering: to her lover, to the reader, to herself.

It is an invitation: to enter: a cave.