Author: Peter Sotos
Type of Book: Sotos-esque
Why Do I Consider This Book Odd: Because Peter Sotos is the sort of writer whose prose is so indescribable that I have to call it Sotos-esque.
Availability: Published in 2013 by Nine Banded Books, you can get a copy here:
You can also get a copy directly from Nine Banded Books.
Comments: I finished reading this book at 3:00 in the morning and didn’t really sleep that night. I read it in one sitting and though it only took a few hours to read, when I was finished I felt hollowed out. Sick. Queasy. Not unlike how it feels when you crash after a speed bender. Jittery and empty yet all too aware that sleep is not coming. Parts of this book were like being flayed. I think anyone who was ever victimized finds Sotos a daunting read, but of all the books he has written that I have read thus far, this one was the most upsetting to me. And the reason I was so upset was because that which is wrong in this book is often wrong in me.
Of course we all know that I read upsetting books because I like being upset (or sickened or awakened or whatever happens to me when I read really difficult content). But even within that paradigm I take a beating when I read Sotos. Without engaging in too much self-analysis, I can only assume that at the end it was a beating I needed or truly wanted in some way. This is why I read Sotos. Because on some level we have similar thoughts – a book like this could only be devastating to a person who has already been down this road. To the unaffected reader, it might just come off as vulgarity or pointless obscenity. Despite being trained to analyze literature in an academic manner, I prefer to react in an emotional manner to the books I read. I don’t really care about the schools of thought and the tradition of transgression that many attempt to apply to Sotos’ work. When I read him I care only about my reaction, how he pokes at my own obsessions, how he knows so much more than anyone else about the will to harm and the will to survive harm.
I don’t know how this fact had not jumped out at me before, but in every book, keeping in mind every little bit of genuine autobiographical data he gives, Peter Sotos is playing different roles and channeling different people. He is exploring humanity by speculating about the worst things that go through the minds of the worst people. Because he is taking on the roles of other people, Sotos, in a very real sense, is engaging in psychodrama. And that is why I am so wrung out at the end of each book he writes. His psychodrama speaks to my own worries, neuroses, experiences and fears.
This is purely incidental. Peter Sotos is not writing for you or for me. Never forget that. Any meaning you take from Sotos’ words may have nothing to do with his intentions as he wrote the book. He’s not trying to relate to us. His psychodramas are his own. They are so deeply personal and unintended for purgation of others that it’s very interesting to me the extreme reactions his writing creates, especially in those who find themselves angry at what they consider Sotos’ wickedness.
That having been said, no matter how incidental any connection I have to this book may be, this book was a great emotional purge for me. Even in the extremity of another person’s psychodrama I found little pieces of my own experiences, most of them unpleasant. Clearly something in me is perverse enough to enjoy being poked psychically. It’s a useful pain, I think.