De la Croix, St. Sukie. “The Blue Spong and the Flight from Mediocrity”, Lethe Press, 2017.
Something strange is happening with Charlotte and Maude, the Clam sisters and it has to do with one of them getting the bird (or does it?). Set in 1929 in Chicago, one of the sisters bought a blue spong, a very rare bird, from a dealer of songbirds and this changes their lives and also the lives of those that work for them.
I have not reviewed St. Sukie de la Croix is several years now and this is not the kind of book I expected from him (but do not understand that as a negative comment). I expected to read Chicago gay history as I did in his earlier book. “Chicago Whispers: A History of LGBT Chicago Before Stonewall”. Yet when the book arrived, I could see that it was something completely different and is historical fantasy that shows what goes on in some “heteronormative, misogynistic, repressive lives” and the follies that accompany them.
The sisters are exposed to a flying koan that provokes them “to cast off their commonplace mores, their staid lives, for something altogether bold and ribald”. Forget any comic books you have ever read before when you read this. This is a graphic novel without the graphics and historical characters take on new personas here that will astound and shock you. You might just wonder what drug you took before reading this until you realize that this is a recipe for a joyous life that is filled with unpredictability.
I am rarely at a loss for words bit this time I must say that I have absolutely no idea how to describe this book. It has an irreverence (that I always find to be fun) and the descriptions of societal scared cows such as religion and sex will most likely surprise most readers. It is a short book that is a quick read but I did find myself immediately reading it a second time just to make sure I caught everything.
I remember my father telling me when I was much younger that all through life we strive for excellence but make peace with mediocrity. That was not good enough for the Clam sisters and in order to avoid that mediocrity, one of them buys the Blue Spong and we meet some of the most bizarre characters ever. The allegory is great and the twists and turns that the novel takes are a delight. The only word that I can find to use to describe the prose is elegant and while it took me a while to realize what I was reading, with that came the realization that this is one of the most rewarding books I have read in a long time. Mediocrity is just, so well, mediocre and if you want to avoid it here is a way to do so. I am in awe of St. Sukie de la Croix’s writing and I believe that all who read this will feel the same way.