At the beginning of Prosthesis, in the preface, Ariana D. Den Bleyker tells us, “The only material thing we truly possess is our body.” Instantly, I knew I was hooked, because as much as I write about the body, I had never made that connection before. Bleyker goes on to talk about how art is a kind of prosthesis to help us function as human beings. Art, I would say, is especially necessary when suffering from a mental illness as chronicled in this book—I also know this from personal experience. I have Cerebral Palsy, and my wheelchair and crutches are kinds of physical prosthetics, but art is my spiritual, emotional, and mental prosthesis when I feel drowned by having Bipolar Disorder.
I've never seen anything like Prosthesis--a kind of discussion with multiple parts of ourselves, employing the uncommon literary tool of message boards on the internet. How true and real; it speaks to our modern life and how we cope as artists—a lot of the time through support systems we find online.
I think writing a traditional memoir would be great for Den Bleyker, and her readers as well. I must say that the book is touching a lot of soft spots because I can relate so much with it, but I think that touching is a good thing; it makes me feel less alone.
Within the book there are beautiful lyrical passages that clue us in on the fact that Den Bleyker is also a poet:
“When things are illuminated, life is beautiful. Luminosity is, indeed, a wonderful thing. You are anchored in your body and that body is easy to please. You only have to honor the integrity of your senses.”
I have also noticed that the typos and “text speak” offer an authenticity; a sense of realism to the text. The text is also somewhat meta, as in, aware of itself as a book-- a text, a work of art—especially in passages like,
“I want to apologize if my habit of writing so many posts and thrusting frantic, ideas at you or if it has been off putting in any way. I imagine it could be a bit uncomfortable to read my posts, written in a confessional and emotionally-inflated tone. As I reconsider some of these posts and try to accurate assess them, I believe it’s be fair to say that everything is heightened, invested with significance and a frantic energy…”
I also appreciated how many of the posts read almost like love letters to the main protagonist, “JustMe42,” a way for the author and for her readers to lift ourselves up and remind ourselves of who we really are under our neurosis.
The shifting points of view of the main protagonist’s posts caught my attention. Like in this passage, where instead of the usual “my” Den Bleyker says “our”:
“Maybe I wasn’t seeing just a bird, but the process of what happens when our flesh fails, when life flounders and flickers, threatening to go dark. In that moment, all of our unconscious anxieties about death were projected onto that tiny, simple creature.”
The fact that this book offers multiple perspectives and displays multiple facets of the author’s internal thoughts was displayed well here and in other passages as well. It was an effective technique for this kind of memoir that I rarely see employed.
Though Den Bleyker is mainly known for her poetry, I’d say her foray into prose was quite successful, and I am looking forward to reading more from her for sure. You can order Prosthesis here.