Publisher: Mud Luscious Press / eprint: Dzanc Books
The first time I read Billie the Bull, I grasped for more. xTx says a lot with very few words, but while this book only takes a couple hours to read, every chapter is charged with meaning, symbolism, and layered emotion - which is why the moment I finished it, I read it again. And again.
In the fashion of xTx's writing (she likes lists), I will enumerate what this tale is about:
1) A giant woman
2) An insatiable man & his collector
3) A big son
4) A normal-sized son
5) The death of a bull
Admittedly, in the end I wanted Billie to be at peace with her past, or at least find something happier than the torment she faces as a woman with gigantism. But what I wanted is irrelevant. Given that xTx parallels Billie's story with the savage reality of bullfights, you can pretty much predict that there's going to be carnage.
I'm not saying I'm an advocate for sunshine endings just for the hell of it. I'm just saying this book left me silent and contemplative for the rest of the day. I was struck by Billie's words:
One might say that you can never leave these sorts of things behind; that the scars they made are permanent. Scars that stay with you no matter if you choose to leave them where they lay, or if you hold them tight so they can remind you of what they make you think you are.
Dzanc describes this book as a story of a mother's love for her son. Which is true. She can relate to her son who inherited her disease; she wants to protect him and nurture him through society's rejection, which her "normal" son is rejected by her. However, I think it's about something more. It's about how society treats a spectacle. It's about collective bloodthirst. For me, it has a taste of feminism and animal rights, but you don't have to read it through that lens. In all, it gives us a glimpse of what it's like to be "the bull," a reality that transfers to many walks of life.
I'm recommending this gem based on xTx's engrossing language and unique storytelling. I don't recommend it if you want something straightforward. Some questions are left unanswered or hidden in a puzzle of words, but while the end is unsettling, it is complete.