by Jesus Angel Garcia
The title would imply that Jesus Angel Garcia’s novel badbadbad is loaded with all the familiar elements of sin and punishment, but this is also a novel of subtle misdirection, of well-chosen masks, a novel that forces the reader to question the distance between real and imaginary, between the roles we take on or that are bestowed upon us, our culpability for our actions and the actions of those around us.
badbadbad is, on the surface, the story of Jesus Angel Garcia (JAG) and his attempts to regain visitation rights with his young son, his work developing an internet presence for the First Church of the Church Before Church, and his rabid interest in the online dating site, fallenangels, where women suffering from abuse or bad relationships post requests for perverse and occasionally violent fantasies. Much lurks beneath this summary though, for each of these storylines contains elements of deception and control, and by virtue of the close first person narration, the various threads keep the reader unbalanced and uncertain, even as Garcia’s charming and sympathetic voice, his good intentions, assure him of the reader’s empathy. subtle of these deceptions occurs before the book even begins: Garcia dedicates badbadbad to his son and as a confession to his brother. This has the effect of both elevating and destabilizing the narrator’s credibility, before ultimately obliterating all reliability by suggesting, offhandedly, that perhaps the character known to the reader as Jesus Angel Garcia is in fact a man known as “Green.”
And JAG is only one of many identities assumed by the narrator throughout the novel, as he becomes more and more invested with the fallenangels site, eventually no longer working at his day job (the Church’s website, as with everything else in the novel, eventually falls apart under his negligence), and losing himself in his obsession: post[ing] several different versions of myself on the site, varying age, height, hair, race, occupation and hobbies to match (within reason) the requested specs of the girls…. I invested in haircare products, colored contacts, glasses with fake lenses, teeth-bleaching, platform boots, vintage to designer clothes, plus a few professional costumes, suits and such.
With many of these women, JAG insists he is only reaching out to those he can help and never judging them for their sins or blemishes or wants. And mostly these requests involve dress up or flagellation or defecation while occasionally they beg him to cross boundaries he is (initially) unwilling to cross: On a designated night, you would follow this script to the letter. You would break into my place by smashing the window at the back door, unlocking it from the inside. You would have to be brutal, slapping me in the face, calling me filthy names, threatening to kill me, binding my wrists behind my back, tying my legs to bed posts… Throughout, JAG insists the allure of the role-play is in helping women to find peace and happiness, but readers must question this assertion they must come to question all others, wondering if it is not the role playing itself which consumes JAG, the simultaneously creative and destructive quality of losing one’s old self and assuming a new identity, of being born clean, forgetting the sins and frailties while allowing oneself new transgressions in an unfamiliar guise.
Poem of the Week
who have experienced
on a large
i tell raif
i think my
might be dead
haven't seen her
& her car hasn't moved
for two weeks.
you would smell it
passing me a plate
of triangular shaped bread
slathered in jam.
Story of the Week
DARLEEN SQUEELED into the empty spot as soon as the gleaming white Mercedes pulled out. "We got lucky," she told Montana. "Even on a Monday night, this lot is killer."
Montana rolled her big blue eyes. "Whatever."
The eleven year old had better things to do, like text her friends. Incessantly, as if she had a tic. The kid hadn't wanted to shop tonight, but Darleen insisted. This was their first Christmas without Paulie and the girls needed to stick together. Darleen's ex had been nasty lately and mediation had hit a cement wall. Montana wasn't aware how dangerously close they were to losing access to Paulie's vast and unreported wealth.
Montana sighed dramatically as she yanked open the door of the Porsche Cayenne and tumbled out. She didn't pause in her texting.
Darlene checked her face in the rearview mirror. The most recent fat transfer had been wildly successful. She loved her new lips. Grabbing her Gucci bag, she hopped out of the front seat.
Her daughter trailed her into the mall, thumbs flashing on her phone keypad.