Thursday, April 28, 2005

review of Magenta's Adventures Underground by Carol Lewis/Karen Lillis

ISBN: 0-9753862-0-4
Published by Words Like Kudzu Press, NY
By Carol Lewis/Karen Lillis, with illustration by Regine Polenz

Magenta’s Adventures Underground is an interesting modernization of Alice in Wonderland. It isn’t some cheese-mo psychedelic goth fairy tale, though; just like Alice, Magenta has a political agenda.

There are familiar images from the classic story. Certain images, Lewis left untouched. Magenta curtsies constantly. Other scenes, Lewis gives her own twist and makes them pertinent to the present. For example, a very disturbing game of chess:

“The game: The chessmen, Magenta took note, were in military gear:
Pawns were combat troops and members of the taxpaying workforce, Knights were soldiers in tanks, Rooks were single-family homes with a full arsenal of
rifles in the basement, Kings were business moguls with their fingers hovering
above the red button should the market need a nuclear attack to help it along,
and Queens were transvestite hookers in full makeup and six-inch heels; on
their heads they wore nurses’ caps.”

Magenta is already underground when the book begins. She hasn’t followed a rabbit down a hole; she was pushing and shoving down the steps in Grand Central Station. The chess game, being played by a dog, a vulture, and a cat-lizard is taking place in the terminal of the number seven train.

Magenta relates her story to this talking animal audience. She expresses her disillusionment at finding New York, once a haven for misunderstood artists, writers, and assorted other weirdoes, overrun by elitist trendy fuckers.

“We came to this city a few years ago from another planet, my brother and I; we were determined to find Bohemia; we headed straight for the East Village. When we got there we realized: we were thirty years too late. The apartment we landed—which once housed spontaneous theatre events and cost its renters $25.00 a month—costs us $2500 . . . There was a time when everyone who wished to could live here for a song.”

Magenta leaves not long after that along with a rat. While on the uptown A train, she sees a wounded Iraqi pigeon, sent by the UN, give a speech, to which no one listens. The pigeon begs the train passengers, (who later throw rotten tomatoes at him) “PRETTY-PLEASE DON’T BOMB MY COUNTRY.”

Magenta is then sexually assaulted and beaten by a female security officer. She slips into an unconsciousness clouded with strange and vaguely erotic dreams. When she wakes, she is in an underground cave, surrounded by Discarded Veterans. The book ends with an endless dance with a three-legged dog.

For anyone who enjoyed Alice in Wonderland enough to do more than watch the Disney cartoon, Magenta is a welcomed updated version too dark and complex to be encompassed in a 90 minute G-rated feature. Even if you’ve never read Alice in Wonderland, Lewis’ book is fun and entertaining. It is sadly funny at some points, and it will make you mad about all the right things. Of course, we’re all mad here . . .

Review by Bernice Mullins