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by Tsaurah Litzky
170 pps. $16.95.
In Tsaurah Litzky's memoir Flasher, the author ranges from her longtime roost on Brooklyn's waterfront to spurts of vagabondage, marking points of attraction among the sweet and the bitter, both on the road and at home. In its broad outlines, it's not an isolated story. There are always inveterate life adventurers among us (perhaps you are one) who never touch home devoid of tales to tell.
Litzky has no lack of tales and an exceptional gift for telling. She unerringly finds the flaring heart of every encounter and fastens it inside a pinpoint balance of cold sober observation and emotional high vibrancy.
As she sums it up in the prologue: "This book is about how I became a prodigal daughter, a femme fatale--expert at falling in and out of love--a writer, a poet, a wife, a wanderer, a better friend and a quick-change artist."
Litzky's ports of call include Amsterdam, Italy, the suburbs of Maryland and the streets of the Lower East Side, in the decade between 1988-98. The rich string of incidents she assuredly unspools remind us that the exotic, whether bright or dark, is a plane ticket or Metrocard away.
She tends to her beloved and maddening aging parents. She bonds intimately with a succession of imperfect and memorable men. She is raped, miscarries and, briefly, marries. She steps unpremeditatedly into the planet's treacherous divides of gender, faith and race. The most random events--a smile at an attractive stranger at a mass celebration, a visit to an African braiding salon--can be the most weighted with portent.
Trusting her instinct for the primal, she grounds her memories in well absorbed Greek mythological archetypes and unreined immersions in raw physical sexuality, as befits one of the reigning stars of women's erotic fiction. Even in the face of our collective ongoing sexual revolution and sex positive feminism, Litzky's joyous, occasionally rueful ultragraphic carnality still jolts.
Litzky's frequently autobiographical, equally expert poetry goes to pretty much the same places, though her poems tend to lean detectably more toward the purely rhapsodic over the knee-scraping nitty gritty than her prose.
Litzky unbolts all doors and windows to the cascades of any given experience, sculpting the liquid rush of the moment like fine granite. A dreamer with eyes wide open, she is convinced that ecstasy is never too far, even with a hefty price to pay: "I know it is Circe in the New Year coming after me. She is trying to change me into a scared little sparrow so I will fly away from this chance at happiness. I promise myself that I will vanquish Circe and hang in there, do what it takes, because I know that committing to another soul will be the most revolutionary stand I can make." Somewhat more temperately she writes: "I know that all the love in the world cannot save me but if I had a man in my bed it might be easier to sleep." And, irresistibly, "I tell guys in bars that I am looking for a man with a heart in Aquarius, penis rising. They laugh, take a sip of beer and look around the bar for another woman to talk to."
Litzky defines the writer of our shared global city. She shows us something of not only how to survive but also how to live.