Across the Page: October ’08 New Releases

 
 

Bad Habits by Cristy C. Road
(Soft Skull Press)

Carmencita Gutierrez Alonzo (Car), the
narrator of Cristy C. Road’s ingenious debut novel, Bad Habits,
is out to find love and clarity —
two abstractions, she’s well aware, that do not always fit together
in a tidy package.

Largely autobiographical, Bad Habits
chronicles the year Car moved up north, away from her Cuban roots and
hometown of Miami, Fla. Road uses New York City with all of its grit
and glamour, history and gentrification, as a metaphor for Car’s own
transformation: “As the clocks ticked timelessly and the humans aged
blindly, every antique corner of New York City was in danger of destruction.”

What makes Car such an engaging and ultimately
sympathetic character is she is at once intelligent, compassionate and
witty, but also extremely destructive. Many elements distract or
— depending upon how you look at it
— further her journey, from her manic depression and history of sexual
abuse to her drug binges (“You have to accept any chemically altered
state of mind as a legitimate human feeling”) and pervious heart.

Though her intentions are good, old habits,
especially bad ones, are hard to break.
At one point, Car reflects, “Slouching the carpet, a desire to construct
happiness envelopes me, and I forget that true love exists (somewhere,
with whomever, and whatever caliber of love it may be) while I sat here,
nose burning in surrender.”

Car considers the “potential for love”
with many characters, but three haunt her throughout the narrative:
Sally, a one-night stand that leaves Car bewildered, just a little bit
in love, and with a bloody left nipple;
her former lover, the beautiful and unattainable Tatiana; and the adorable
train wreck, Ashby, whose decision to leave in order to “find himself”
only makes Car’s heart beat faster.

Car’s roommate and friends help her
navigate this thorny path by providing the right amount of support (or
drugs) and the occasional voice of reason to challenge her attempts
to justify these relationships. So you’re addicted to love, they seem
to say, who isn’t? And in the end, Car does begin to move forward,
if only in baby steps, rather than repeating yet another circle.

Road’s prose is edgy and her social
critique razor sharp. Appropriately compared to other transgressive
writers like Michelle Tea and William S. Burroughs, her deft illustrations
help distinguish her voice. Her work has been published in a variety
of collections, including We Don’t Need Another Wave: Dispatches
from the Next Generation of Feminists, Baby Remember My Name
, and
Live Through This.
She has given readings and showings of her art
throughout the country, and joined Sister Spit’s national tour last
spring.

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