“In this atmosphere it was becoming increasingly hard to feel real.”
Oh, Olivia Laing, you barely knew! I wasn’t sure if I should read this book at first, since I have been avoiding books that could increase my anxiety during these times. I was fully subscribed to escapism and erotica for a while there, but even that became exhausting. So I picked up Crudo, which I had been meaning to read for years. And it was exactly as I had imagined it—though the protagonists wedding (which coincides with Laings’s wedding) is supposed to be the central event of the book, you barely notice it happening. Not that I minded.
Laing’s narrator, who takes the name and personality of Kathy Acker, writes in anxious, short bursts, focusing more on the sensorial, then the factual, than letting the real world in all of its insanity bleed in. It is the perfect portrait for how I have been feeling since 2016, simultaneously an overwhelming blur and as if the world can only be grasped in small bites that almost immediately lead me to spiral.
Crudo doesn’t worry much about establishing a plot or giving characters an arc. And yet, I didn’t care because I connected with it in a visceral way. I could have been Kathy, despite not identifying the main narrator in any significant way. I felt Kathy’s anxiety and pessimism keenly. I feel it right now (thanks, world). Yet, because the subject of the book is not the pandemic, despite not being exactly removed from current reality, the book didn’t trigger me. It felt like a little bit of a relief, actually, to read something so close to my state of mind.
Crudo is an experience, and one that might not be for everyone. But I am glad Laing gave us this book and I think in years to come, it will become a time capsule of these troubled times in our darkest timeline.