『There was no one I wanted to share my thoughts with. There was nothing I could do to lessen the pain, no source that I could pinpoint. Secrectly, though, I did sort of enjoy being a fucked-up mess. Apart from that, I didn’t have a whole lot going on.』
I don’t recall how I stumbled upon Notes of a Crocodile, but I have to say that this reality bending book out of Taiwan that was written in 1994, somehow found every single one of my vulnerabilities and laid them out before me.
Qui Miaojin (as translated beautifully by Bonnie Huie) complies a novel in fragments collection from a journal-like format of a story. These fragments follow our queer narrator, nameless but for the nickname Lazi in certain fragments, as she struggles with friendships, relationships, and meaning in a life of romantic suffering and existential dread. It is a story of messy people who just want to be loved but not knowing how to reciprocate or even to love themselves due to each of their respective intimate holdups. But more than that, it is a general story of identity and longing for acceptance. The metaphor of the crocodiles in human suits is one that could be applied to many different identities, sexual orientation, gender or gender expression, anything that separates one from the “norm” of society. At first a tricky metaphor to navigate, it ads a truly beautiful and all encompassing layer to the thesis of the book.
(Although I would like to point out that the crocodile metaphor is intentionally directed as a media fascination in Taiwan in the 90s that resulted in lots of shameful “undercover” reporting that is reportedly the cause of the suicides of several girls and women who were outted as a result of the coverage.)
Now, everyone has had a messy relationship. Romantic or platonic, we all know what it feels like to be dumped, left behind, forgotten, replaced, or otherwise rejected. Sometimes it is a mutual parting but in my own experiences, it has almost always been messy or at the very least complicated. I know that it is a loss that is unique because you are mourning something that is technically still there. It is also easy to leave something you are afraid of losing through self-sabotage, forcing the other person to walk away first. It is a habit that is hard to break and the regret of such actions often weighs heavily – Qui does an amazing job of really getting across just how heavy that weight really is.
It is difficult to “review” a book like this, especially when it hits your buttons. All that’s really left to say is that if you have ever felt left behind without closure, read this book. If you feel lost and alone, read this book. If you struggled with a sense of self in the current reality, read this book.
I am incredibly thankful to have been able to experience this writing in English.