It’s rare to find a book that can carve out a place in my subconscious and affect my dreams. Anna Joy Springer’s The Vicious Red Relic, Love
is one of those rare gems. When I asked Anna if I could review the book, she cautioned me with, “It’s really sad,” and it is indeed sad, but not depressing. It is terribly sad, though. For the next four nights, I was haunted by the imagery in the book, like it had come to life. I can’t remember the last time that happened.
Vicious Red Relic, Love, is laid out in an interesting way. On one page there are diary entries or notes from a lined notebook and then the next page will contain quasi religious tracts from Enron Scabbard or pictures of a tinfoil elephant. The most engaging story is the back and forth between two women, one named [Gil], who, we find out later, is HIV positive and who hasn’t confessed this to the other. This story really hit home for me when the mental acrobatics of what “exotic dancers” go through were described. I had a couple of friends who worked downtown San Francisco, but I had no idea what they must have gone through.
Because the layout was non-linear, I went through Vicious Red and found and read the stories that were to and from [Gil]. I continued reading the book, reading only the pages that pertained to the plotline that I was following. One of the stories was a retelling of the Sumerian epic poem of Gilgamesh, which is another story of friendship. I’m not sure if the author intended for the book to be read one story at a time, but I was discovering secret rooms—each mini-story fed each other. Each mini-story had a surprise and I felt that I could follow the story better if I read it all at one time. Once I had completed reading in this fashion, I re-read the entire book. Perhaps this is why the book implanted itself so deeply in my dreams.
The Vicious Red Relic, Love, explores sexuality and feminism. It tackles the terribleness of molestation and death, and is probably the most punk rock thing I’ve ever read in my entire life. Utterly devastating. Thank you, Anna. –Steve Hart (Jaded Ibis Press, jadedibisproductions.com)