Elizabeth Scripturient (the delinquent, ecumenical (hermionesviolin) wrote,
Elizabeth Scripturient (the delinquent, ecumenical

Dangerous Angels (Francesca Lia Block) 1998

Weetzie Bat (1989)
Witch Baby (1991)
Cherokee Bat and the Goat Guys (1992)
Missing Angel Juan (1993)
Baby Be-Bop (1995)

I first read Dangerous Angels years ago and have been meaning to reread it for a while now. Necklace of Kisses coming out prompted me to finally actually reread it.

     Weetzie Bat (1989)

So, I started reading Dangerous Angels, and everything is so beautiful, and it made me wanna be glam and fairy, and I felt so strange in my black suit with light blue blouse.

And then I was thinking about how perfect everything is for them -- they even get a genie! And they get their true loves, who always come back. And they never lack for money. (Though on page 32 we do read “The [third] film [Coyote] was quite a success, and it brought Weetzie and My Secret Agent Lover Man and Dirk and Duck and their friends money for the first time.”)

But then Charlie Bat insists that L.A. is all illusion and drugs out to get back to his dream. And they don’t even deny/hide it; they use it as the ending of their movie.

And I remembered how so many of the old places Weetzie Bat loved got torn down and replaced.

And then Duck gets scared because of AIDS (though it isn’t actually named in the story).

And they do start problematizing meat consumption.

And My Secret Agent Lover Man’s films are so cheesy, but he does balk at bringing a child into this world.

Everything happens, piling on top of each other, in a way that reminds me of what I see as a failing in myself -- a desire to tell rather than show. Though she does have my penchant for Dickensian description.

And she just introduces things like Slinkster Dog without explanation, which I see as a brave thing and likely a strength.

And they keep saying “love is a dangerous angel;” and that theme gives the collection its title.

The book opens with high school, but school is almost never mentioned.

Both protagonists come from what one might call “broken homes” -- Dirk lives with his grandmother, and Weetzie’s parents are divorced. My first thought was to be pleased, but then I wondered if it was romanticized. Okay, FLB romanticizes everything, from the ‘50s to hamburgers to punk rock, but -- .

     Witch Baby (1991)

It occurred to me that there are never any lesbians in FLB’s books. Which reminds me of the serious lack of girl-on-girl action in Anne Rice’s books -- even the porn books. I feel like she Other/fetishizes gay men for her own aesthetic pleasure. Like, all the FLB gay boys are the hot best friends you can go cruising with, and the beautiful unattainable people in clubs, and so on. But of course nothing in FLB’s books is a realistic portrayal of anything.

We learn more about Duck’s dad and i realize that the gay men in FLB’s books have no dads. Part of me respects this artistic decision as it absolves one of the problematic matter of depicting fathers’ reactions to this fact about their sons (and parental figures of protagonists are so absent throughout these books across the board) but part of me feels like it plays into stereotypes. But then of course there’s the fact that stereotypes always have some basis in reality, and over-the-top efforts at diversity smack of tokenism. So I guess what it comes down to is just that certain stuff presses my buttons sometimes, so I notice the problematics of it.

I can’t remember if i understood the Spanish when I first read it. Niña Bruja. Serafina. Gabriela & Marquez echoing Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

     “I’ve been a terrible almost-mother,” said Weetzie. “I won’t just stop and pay attention when someone is sad. I try to make the pain go away by pretending it isn’t there. I should have seen her pain. It was all over her walls. It was all in her eyes.”
     “It takes time,” Brandy-Lynn said, fingering the heart locket with the shadowy picture of Charlie Bat. “I didn’t want to let you be the witch child you were once. I couldn’t face your father’s death. And even now darkness scares me.”

     “When I was little, my dad Charlie told me I was like a black lamb,” Weetzie said. “My hair is really dark, you know, under all this bleach, not like Brandy-Lynn’s and Cherokee’s. I used to feel like I had sort of disappointed my mom. Not just because of my hair, but everything. But my dad said he was the black sheep of the family, too. The wild one who doesn’t fit in.”
     “Like me.”
     “Yes,” said Weetize. “You remind me of a lamb. But you know what else Charlie said? He said that black sheeps express everyone else’s anger and pain. It’s not that they have all the anger and pain—they’re just the only ones who let it out. Then the other people don’t have to,. But you face things, Witch Baby. And you help us face things. We can learn from you. I can’t stand when someone I love is said, so I try to take it away instead of just letting it be. I get so caught up in being good and sweet and taking care of everyone that sometimes I don’t admit when people are really in pain.” Weetzie took off her pink sunglasses. “But I think you can help me learn to not be afraid, my black lamb baby witch.”

      Witch Baby looked around the table. She could see everyone’s sadness. Her father was thinking about the movie he was making—the village where everyone is poisoned by something they love and worship.

Whenever I think of these books I think of jennyrose’s comment on the zinesters list way back in summer 2000 about Weetzie Bat -- "it almost made me (yes, me; punk rock feminist queer bitch jennyrose) want to embrace my inner teenybopper and go skipping through the streets in dyed feathers and candy necklaces." but there’s actually a lot of darkness in them.

traces really is so like Weetzie, but if I were anyone from Dangerous Angels I think I would be Witch Baby. (Though we actually both got Violet -- you've been depressed for untangible reasons. you spend time creating, dreaming in technicolor, everything revolves around conflict -- this Which Francesca Lia Block girl are you? quiz, which feels inaccurate for either of us. I suppose I should reread the rest of FLB’s oeuvre as well. I just remember reading so many of them in a row and feeling like she kept telling the same story over and over)

I also kept track of various things -- the mentions of school, the mentions of gay men’s fathers, the progression of thought about eating meat, the thought about smoking cigarettes and stronger drugs. In Cherokee Bat and the Goat Guys and Missing Angel Juan i noticed how being pale is so often seen as a bad thing, though in Witch Baby Lily envies Cherokee’s blond hair. (And with that name, i always forget her hair is blond.) Cake is a mannequin (and in this reread i wondered if I noticed the Snow Queen echoes) but even in Cherokee Bat and the Goat Guys, Cherokee wishes she looked more like Lulu. It’s an interesting inversion of white being presented as the best and thus leading to dark-skinned people wishing they were white; the dark-skinned people here are earthy and full of passion, so the white girl wishes she were more like that. I noticed how both Angel Juan and Raphael are dark-skinned, and I wondered if FLB crossed over into problematic territory with the romanticization. Her romanticization of Jamaica is like her romanticization of L.A. and NYC and the canyons and every other place, but -- .

     Cherokee Bat and the Goat Guys (1992)

I found it interesting that the idea that goats are bad was introduced so early on -- Cherokee’s Bacchus dreams the night she gathers the fur for Raphael’s pants.

The room was spinning but even as she felt hinted, trapped. about to be devoured by the crowd at the foot of the stage, she also felt free, flickering above them, able to hypnotize, powerful. The power of the trapped animal who is, for that moment, the hunter’s only thought and desire.

Witch Baby and Angel Juan not having sex? This came as a serious shock, after the casual way that everyone seemed to fall into true love&sex

Cherokee’s boots are The Red Shoes!!! I really doubt I caught this allusion when I first read it, but it is so perfect.

At the healing circle, Coyote says, “Raphael’s desire for smoke” (247) and I thought that was such a great descriptor for why it is a bad thing, because “smoke” calls up images of hiding and being other than who you are (and also pollution).

     Missing Angel Juan (1993)

The kid with two mommies? I wonder if these are the characters of “Dragons in Manhattan” :)

     Outside the window is New York city with its subways and shining firefly towers, its genies and demons. It is waiting for Angel Juan to sing it to sleep.
My first thought, of course, is how NYC’s nickname is the city that never sleeps. My second thought is to sing the “while you’re singing my soul to sleep” refrain from Maggie Simpson’s “Hunger.”

     Baby Be-Bop (1995)

      And why did he have to tell? Boys who loved girls didn’t have to sit their mothers down and say, “Mom, I love girls. I want to sleep with them.” It would be too embarrassing. Just because what he felt was different, did it have to be discussed?
-408 (Dirk)

This book talks about the power of stories, and reminds me of Kissing the Witch.
     “Think about the word destroy,” the man said. “Do you know what it is? De-story. Destroy. Destory. You see. And restore. That’s re-story. Do you know that only two things have been proven to help survivors of the Holocaust? Massage is one. Telling their story is another. Being touched and touching. Telling your story is touching. It sets you free.”

      Our stories can set us free, Dirk thought. When we set them free.
Tags: books: read, flb

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