Friday, January 01, 2016

She Uncurls Her Long, Hollow Tongue

What do Lynda Barry and Norman Mailer have in common? The aswang, that's what! Or as Norman Mailer spells it (I think) the asuang. I say "I think" because I am on page 1,017 and I can't remember where he mentions it. Four hundred pages ago? Could be! And somehow I forgot to tell you. The aswang or asuang is a vampiric creature of the Philippines and Mailer describes it in more or less traditional vampiric terms. Lynda Barry's description (in the voice of her grandmother) is much more exciting! "If you see a strange dog and it is watching you very hard and the back legs is more longer than the front legs and the tongue is sticking out - that is the aswang in the daytime! But at night she is a very beautiful woman who can cut herself in half and then she hides the bottom half. Then, look out! She can fly! The aswang crawls across the ceiling while you sleep and positions herself right over your bed. She uncurls her long, hollow tongue downward to your neck. It has a needle tip so sharp you can't feel it." That's from Barry's ONE HUNDRED DEMONS. You know how people just throw stuff in our yard, right? I blame it on drunken college students but I think all the drunken college students are home with their drunken families. (See also.) But someone threw an entire book about the Philippines in our yard this week! I haven't checked to see if the aswang is in it. The book was all rain soaked when I found it and it's probably still drying out on the porch. It's intact except that I guess the rain dissolved the glue on the paperback spine, so the cover is loose. Hmm, part of Lynda Barry's description (the creature cutting itself in half and the top half flying away) reminds me of a story from the book KWAIDAN about a creature called the Rokuro-Kubi. Its head detaches from its body and flies around: "He caught sight of the heads, - all five of them, - flitting about, and chatting as they flitted... 'Ah, that traveling priest who came to-night! - how fat all his body is! - When we have eaten him our bellies will be well filled...'" The difference is that while the aswang (according to Lynda Barry's grandmother) hides its own body, YOU have the find the Rokuro-Kubi's body and hide it: "its eyes opened monstrously; its hair stood up bristling; and its teeth gnashed... weeping tears of rage it exclaimed: 'Since my body has been moved, to rejoin it is not possible! Then I must die!'" I don't know, maybe that's true for the aswang, too; maybe that's why she hides her body. You'll have to ask an aswang next time you meet one. I'm not an aswang mindreader! All I know is that I have to finish this Norman Mailer book somehow, because the Doomed Book Club is all set to read Burt Reynolds's autobiography for the New Year. Huh, well, here's a Rokuro-Kubi with its head flying around, although most "internet" images show it stretching out its neck really long like Plastic Man!