Puerto Rican author Luis Negron’s Mundo Cruel (published for the first time in English earlier this year) is but 91 pages long, and still manages to do more to simultaneously illuminate and lampoon queer culture than most books I’ve read. On page one, Negron uses the quote, “Faggotry is always subversive,” and then goes on to prove it nine different ways with stories that are, in turns, hilarious and poignant.
Take, for example, “For Guayama.” In a series of laugh out loud letters, a man named Naldi implores his friend to pay him back money he owes him so he can have his beloved dog stuffed. Naldi becomes increasing bereft, and the story becomes increasingly bizarre as Naldi jumps on a plane (he has a connection in the airlines) to go looking for his friend, then eventually ends up in prison, as the person he chose to stuff his dog stuffed him full of fake birth certificates and social security cards. Naldi ends the letters with mortification at his situation (“I’m all shaved and dressed up like a woman. I’ve got a husband they made me choose as soon as they figured out what the situation was. He couldn’t be more common”) and hope that when he’s released, he will be reunited with his beloved dog.
“For Guayama” falls on the lighter end of the spectrum of the stories. While the stories never get dark, per se, they are not all frivolous. “La Edwin” is a telephone monologue from an older queen who decries a younger gay man from his support group. While the monologue is filled with camp, there is a moment that I consider the climax of the story that stopped me dead on the page. The older man is talking about a relationship the younger man had with a leftist that ended poorly, and says the following:
“And so time passed and one day ‘Fidel’ came home, gathered his things, and, girl, he left La Edwin for a rightwing Condado queen…Yes, girl, form Condado, and pro-statehood. I know!! They tell me La Edwin is so desperate that she even joined a gym. The poor thing told me the whole story on the verge of tears. The thing is, I felt sad and mad at her at the same time and I said to her: ‘Girl, wake up, that’s the way it is here. All queers are the same and you young ones want to change it all from one day to the next. Oh, bisexuality, oh, gay is a political identity, bulldykes and fags together all the time, but–get with it, honey–the world has been the world for a long time. And that’s the way our world is.’ He didn’t say a word. Strange because he’d always have a fit if people called him fag or girl. Then he said the part that bothered him the most was all the wasted energy…You know he talks that way. Waste? Waste? Girl, you don’t know what waste is. But, I’m going to tell you. 1985. Seven. Not one, not two. Seven of my best friends including my lover–and no more and no less than eight months of being in a relationship–all died! Pum, pum, pum! One after the other. That, honey, is what I call a waste.”
I think this is perhaps one of the most eloquent portrayals of the divide between older generation queers and younger generation queers that I have ever seen. As I said, it stopped me dead on the page, and from that moment on I was in love with this little gem of a book that managed to make me laugh in one second and feel deep, profound, sadness and understanding in the next.
The next time I post about queer writers, Luis Negron is going to be at the top of my list.