Rasmussen, Bjorn. “The Skin Is the Elastic Covering that Encases the Entire Body”, translated from Danish by Martin Aitken, Two Lines Press, 2019.
When Love is Taboo
As many of you know, I read a great deal and I really do not limit myself to genre and in this way I can allow myself to try new books and authors. Sometimes I am quite blown away by reading someone or something new but nothing prepared me for what I would read in Bjorn Rasmussen’s “The Skin in the Elastic Covering that Encases the Whole Body.” I have read thousand of coming of age and coming out stories but few make me sit up and shake with the thought that I was reading something new, important and great.
Many gay men who realized that they loved other men saw this as smashing down a taboo yet the guilt often remained that this love was sinful. And it is at this early point that I realize that this novel I am reading and now reviewing is unlike any kind of literature I have ever read in that I have no idea how to classify it.
Here is the story of a boy Bjorn, a teenager who is a cutter— he cuts into his flesh as a way to find some kind of way to deal with his mother who suffers from depression and with his own sexuality that causes him fear. He becomes involved with an older man and a sadomasochistic affair that he thinks will bring healing but does the opposite. As he searches for self-understanding, he feels more and more harmed and he has to deal with his own grief that he feels his sexuality brings him. In doing so, he pushes his flesh to its limits.
Early on as a university student, I had a wonderful professor who took me by the hand and taught me to both appreciate and love writing in the stream of conscious and what first appears here to be just that actually also involves autobiography, collage, and narrative thus making Rasmussen an original and powerful new (to me, at least) literary voice. This is not the stream if Faulkner or Joyce but a modern take on it and it is totally free with no restrictions. It is poetic, it is elegiac and emotional, it is sensual and pansexual, it is exciting and erotic. We are all guilty of wounding ourselves either mentally or physically and we hurt. Read this to soothe those wounds and yes, you will se yourself here. It is the skin that needs solace and it is our skin we hurt as it defines and covers us.
We are touched by skin and we touch skin and we actually find our skin permeated by the senses and by sex. When sex is good, the skin celebrates. Our skin reacts to touch and smell and the more I try to describe the more I find it and this book to be indescribable. Take my word and read it.