Mysterious Gray Skin

I started writing this in May 2005 as part of my ongoing reviews of the book Mysterious Skin. Unfortunately I never finished this review…

Just as a note: I’ve already finished the book. It’s absolutely amazing and has, literally, disturbed me quite a bit. Tonight I am seeing the film version, so I want to get these notes/thoughts about the book posted before I am influenced by the movie.

The “Blue” section ended with Neil starting prostitution and Brian’s dad leaving the family.

“Gray” picks up with Brian and his mother:

Since my father and Deborah [for San Fransisco] had left, I reasoned that Little River regarded my mother and I was weirdos (96).

Brian is listening to music like Kraftwerk and soon sees a newspaper article about a local woman who claims to have been abducted by UFOs and will shortly be appearing on a television program. He learns from the newspaper that the woman’s name is Avalyn, and he becomes determined to find her. When he sees a picture of her in the newspaper:

I could tell she know something remarkable, something etheral and profound. Beauty resided in that knowledge. I wanted it (99).

The newspaper article also mentions a sidebar titled: “Have aliens contacted you?” of particular interest to Brian: missing time, recurring nightmares, nosebleeds, fear of the dark, interest in UFOs — “sometimes to the point of obsession” (100). Given those criteria, Brian is even more convinced that UFOs visited him.

Brian’s mom is skeptical, but supportive. She watches the television show World of Mystery with him. When she sees Avalyn, she notes:

“She’s sort of homely,” my mother said. “She seems sad, as if no one’s ever loved her” (108).

Seeing Avalyn on the television show and thinking over the events depicted seemed to changed Brian’s life a little:

And the more I considered Avalyn, the more I considered my own life. The idea of abduction made perfect sense (111).

Brian concludes for sure that he was abducted that night after the Little League game and again that Haloween night when he blacked out and lost time.

I found it pretty touching that Brian had so much faith in his mother’s support. Even though it was pretty obvious she wasn’t really a believer in UFOs and whatnot, she cared about them because her son cared about them. Brian noticed this:

She would stay beside me until I solved it. Even if to solve meant to lose another block of time, to slip into the unknown world where I was certain they’d taken me before (113).

In the “Gray” section we also meet Eric Preston who, next to Wendy, is Neil’s best (and, well, only) friend. I love the first line Eric gives us:

Neil McCormick was turning me into a criminal, and I loved it (114).

That quote, I think, is a perfect example of the somewhat hypnotizing and charming power that Neil has over people.

Eric’s parents died in a car crash in California so he moves to Kansas to live with his grandparents. As an outsider, Eric gives us some perspective on how fucked up and boring things are in Hutchinson, Kansas:

School was over forever; crime seemed the only thing left to do (114).

In Modesto, I’d had a scattering of friends who shared the same interests in music and were queer like me. Here, I only had Neil (115).

He [Neil] told me I had guts for dressing like I did at such a backward high school (118).

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