Weekend Reading

Recollections of books carried back and forth on the elevated train -- in a long-term, though belated, attempt to learn something about the world.

Wednesday, January 03, 2018

J.J. Maze : Walk until Sunrise

Gustav Dore,  from  Dante's Inferno (detail)

This is the story of a fifteen year old girl who ran  away from her single mother. And she's way too smart, spirited, and athletic to be called ordinary.  She had no money, no plans, no friends, and no destination. Soon she was walking the strip in Las Vegas - with all the dreadful consequences that one might imagine.  It's not that she wanted to become a prostitute - but she was thrilled about becoming a sexually attractive woman --just like her mother whose life followed the sexual ettraction that men felt when they looked at her.

It's also a story about race in America.  The mom was German/Irish; the birth father (whom we never meet) was African American.  So JJ moves fluidly between both worlds - as well as among Hispanics whom she resembles.  As she tells it, most of crazy people she meets are white --  most of the depraved  are black -- and most of the kind and noble are Mexican.  If this is racial stereotyping, it's also probably how one bi-racial girl experienced  life on the streets of America.

Most of  all, this is the story of a spiritual journey.  J.J comes close to death many times - but whether someone miraculously saves her or she has to dive out a car window to escape a madman, the universe always seems to find a way for her to survive  and ultimately become an artist and teacher. The  sharpness of the detail in her recollections is amazing - though many of the characters appear wacky and exaggerated enough to belong in fantasy fiction.

Those, like myself, who are familiar with the author as a  passionate and soulful singer/songwriter, will probably be fascinated by the circumstances of her first creative endeavors. Having abandoned any hope of escaping her mother by moving out to the streets, JJ ensconces herself in her bedroom.  And that's  when sexy, romantic pop songs  begin to effortlessly flow from her fingers.

As a young woman desperately trying to  survive her teenage years, it's not surprising that JJ is not much concerned with her mother except as an adversary.  But mom wrote songs and appears to have been growing up as well. She stops bringing home men, can hold multiple jobs, and tries to be a responsible, if clueless, parent.  I wish we'd seen more of her story.

The final paragraph suggests that a sequel will follow -- but the best sequel, for those unfamiliar with Ms. Maze's  music, is to listen to it.

With all of the drama,  wackiness, sex, and violence -- this book  is difficult to stop reading - except during those passages that describe events that may be too horrible to be tolerated.  Not for the faint of heart or squeamish/.


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