By Abigail Hummer
I couldn’t gauge what I was in store for when I received Birth of Eros in the mail. Its cover pictures a 1950s-esque woman in a bathing suit sitting atop a red car, a car that is sitting on an exaggerated cigar whose smoking tail mushrooms into a nuclear cloud. The woman is reaching out to the right side of the cover with a damsel-like posture, appearing to be longing for a masculine arm sprouting from the right edge, ready to catch her hand.
I saw great narrative nuance in this cover art, including symbols pointing towards the role hyper-femininity and hyper-masculinity play in the destruction of healthy relationships. Some of the said relationships that would be affected include ones within ourselves, our perspective of what is and is not beautiful, and most notably the morals around sex and desire.
Our main character, Lucy, is describing what she experienced when she was delivered at birth. This scene describes how her birth was a victorious moment in her life, yet somehow, the only thing her beautiful-teen-idol-destroyed-via-accidental-child mother could see was how “ugly” Lucy was. Because this happens so early in the novel, it sets the stage for how Lucy will view her surroundings throughout her life—constantly analyzing the lack of depth and compassion within society.
“My first song a little uhmp before I screamed, Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaah! Not out of fear or pain but triumph. Victory! For falling’s flying if there’s something/someone to catch you. And what I could see! What I saw! Everyone singing together a pretty sigh as they huddled around and over me. //Except the mother. The beautiful mother. Peering over her bedside. Gawking at me in infatuated awe, I thought. I hoped. Before knowing hope.
Light of her life?
But she said, “Oh god, she’s so ugly!”
And I hear the disappointment. Saw the grief. No, the anger. In her song.
I loved her anyway” (p. 17).
In this moment, Lucy is not only left with a skewed perception of where she stands in her mother’s eyes, but now in society. A parent’s (or in this instance, a mother’s) opinion is one of the most important values in a young child’s mind; this sets the high bar for Lucy at an unreachable level, which creates tension between her actual self and her perception of herself. We see Lucy experiencing another memory of herself as a child driving a wedge between her parents, her beautiful mother wanting nothing to do with her based on her looks:
“And it wasn’t that she wouldn’t love me but that she couldn’t.
I can’t I can’t I can’t! she screamed at the father offering me like a protoplasmic libation to his forever goddess.
Just try, Baby!
I’ll kill myself!
Please, I love you!
I watched the pretty lights wet when them scatter in ashen clutter around their ankles and I fell dead silent, corpse still, closing my eyes and disappearing into the teeming darkness behind my lids so I would not be the wedge of their cleaving”
Eventually the father’s arms grew tired of holding me out and the mother’s eyes grew tired of crying: I’m sorry” (p. 74).
Birth of Eros left me speechless in some moments and laughing at its absurdity in others. Lucy doesn’t stray away from using graphic language to cater to a reserved audience, she will tell it as it is—and colorfully. There is nothing pristine and serene about life, love, sex, hate, pain, birth, death, and so on and so forth. Birth of Eros leans into this brutally honest narrative of the beauty that lies within being raw, and ugly, and chaotic.