I wish I could blog more often than once or twice a month. I admire those who can. But I am in the midst of a new collection of stories and two novels, and don't have the brain capacity to juggle more than that. Nonetheless...
I've stopped work just now and am writing this blog because readers keep sending me articles about the growing trend of new mothers who are consuming their placentas as nutritional, post-childbirth snacks. This is a fascinating subject, but I am puzzled as to why readers think I should WRITE A NOVEL ABOUT IT. I have lately been sent photos of a big, liverish textured mass with a blue tinge about ten inches in diameter merrily bubbling away in a stew pot with ginger, lemon, garlic and jalapeno peppers. Yes, a placenta. But don't faint. For centuries women in diverse cultures around the world have consumed their placentas, which are chockful of vitamins, minerals and all that good stuff.
Consumption of placenta also alleviates postpartum depression, aids in breastmilk production, acts as a uterine tonic, and replaces lost nutrients. Suddenly, after centuries as a counter-culture practice, eating one's afterbirth has gone mainstream in the U.S.A. It's called PLACENTOPHAGIA, the practice of placenta consumption. Now, placentas have always carried a special spiritual significance to many peoples. In my Hawaiian culture, the placenta was often buried under a tree, so the newborn child would always find its way home. Or it was carried out beyond the reef as an offering to our gods, so they would always protect the child. Or, it was consumed.
And by the way, my state of Hawaii was the first state to explicitly require that hospitals allow women to take their placentas home. New York and Nevada followed. It is now becoming a
womens rights issue: OUR BODIES, OUR PLACENTAS. In ancient Egypt, the placenta had its own hieroglyph. Some African tribes treat the placenta like a child's dead twin with formal burial rites.
In my forthcoming novel, THE SPY LOVER (August) a Chinese-Creek Indian woman consumes her own placenta raw, after giving birth in the wilds. A common practice of Chinese of earlier eras. (By now, I'm sure men have their fingers down their throats. But think about it, we eat animal livers, hearts, brains, intestines. Some humans consume other humans. Yes, even today.)
These various articles I have received explain how, once the afterbirth is cooked it resembles a healthy hunk of liver, or even well-done brisket, to be cut up just like meat. Or chopped up and thrown in salads. Or freeze-dried, ground up to powder and put into pill capsules. They are even throwing chopped placenta into smoothies. All right, enough. You can Google Placenta Benefits for more info.
My point in writing about placenta-consumption going mainstream is, again, because of the many readers writing to me, suggesting I write a NOVEL ABOUT IT. Again, though I find the growing trend fascinating, I myself am not a placenta-eater. I am not personally engaged in the practice. It does not engage my interest enough to write an entire novel about it. As all good writers know, you don't have to experience every sensation in life to write about it. But YOU MUST BE PASSIONATELY ENGAGED with the subject matter. You must feel driven to write about it. I'm sure some passionate, talented man or woman will eventually write a brilliant book about
placentophagia, a gorgeous meditation on life in the 21st century, how we lived and died and fractured and loved, and consumed our own body parts. Alas, it won't be me.
In the same way I would not write a novel (another request from my readers!!) about Trent Devereaux, alias, Trentdog, the man who is currently donating his fresh sperm on the Internet. This is a legitimate form of philanthropy. I believed it's been OKed by the FDA, and he has posted dozens of photos of babies born to couples who have been the recipient's of Trent's free sperm. I support his generosity and his sperm, one hundred percent. Trentdog, you rock! The man is a hero in a way. He has changed the lives of dozens of infertile couples. You can read his blogs about being a 35 year-old virgin, and masturbating (with insatiable zeal, it seems) for the good of infertile couples across America.
Again, I'm sure inevitably someone will write an epic of gorgeous, profound, randy and visionary prose about marathon, onanistic fresh sperm-donors and their offspring (perhaps some of whom are females who consume their placenta.) It sounds like a fabulous, lusty work of art. I would look forwarding to reading it. But not writing it.
The reason is simple, one of the basic tenets of good writing, something I have often hammered into writing students: YOU HAVE TO WRITE FROM THE HEART. YOU HAVE TO HAVE ONE BIG, TRUE THING YOU ARE DYING TO TELL THE WORLD. Readers are more intelligent than we give them credit for. They know when we are scamming. Its passion in the writing that makes readers want to turn every page. If passion is missing, the words lies stillborn. A soporific read. This is how we lose readers.
For this reason, I advise against writing novels that piggyback cultural trends (eating afterbirth, donating free sperm) in the hopes of achieving a bestseller. This happens about one time out of a thousand. Better to build up a fine list of novels written from your heart, in your own unique voice, culled from your particular DNA. It will give you your signature in the world of readers.
Every novel doesn't have to be MOBY DICK or NAKED LUNCH. Genre is fine, mysteries, thrillers, romances are fine. Just make sure you pack passion into the work. And authenticity. Yes, research. Sometimes a whole day of online research will net you only two sentences you can use. But those two sentence may give your voice an authority that's otherwise missing. It will lead your reader to TRUST you.
Be relentlessly descriptive. Use details from every sense you possess. If you talk about food, make your reader drool. If you talk about nostalgic rock, think aural, make your reader envision Pink Floyd's lunatic in the hall. Or Mick Jagger's spangled, pillow-lips. Recently I read a bio about that too-soon dead genius, Luciano Pavarotti. The writing was graphic and brilliant because the author described Pavarotti's very viscera when he sang, the way his legs trembled, the way sweat poured off him in cataracts. I was so swept away, I dragged out the tequila and turned on Puccini's TURANDOT full-blast. I mean, the walls shuddered. I mean, I wept. THAT is passionate writing.
Speaking of great passion, let me detour here slightly to direct you to Tu'a Pupu'a, the 6'6" Tongan football player who sustained a terrible injury, retired from the NFL, and took up (believe it!) opera singing. He's a huge, beautiful speciman of a man, with a miraculous voice, and has become the new reigning tenor of the opera world. His depth and range are unbelievable.
Seriously, please check out Tu'a Pupu'a on YOUTUBE, performing from Puccini's 'TOSCA.' Your mind will be forever blown!!!! He's huge, sings like Pavarotti, and is a true Polynesian native. As a Polynesian myself, my heart bursts with pride. He possesses what I wish forever for myself, and for each of you.
Aloha and Imua (Press on!) Kiana