Thursday, 23 April 2009

An except from 'Chameleon'

St George's Day

I thought it was about time I posted something from 'Chameleon'. I won't give a long introduction.

What I have selected is the beginning of chapter XII (aka. 'The Leather Chapter'). Alex, the narrator, describes his intense relationship to leather, or as he writes 'Leather'. Alex, and the other main character Jason (the chameleon) are both fetishists. They are also lovers. In this chapter Alex is actualised as a leatherman by Jason; Jason remakes Alex in his own image. 'Chameleon' is indeed a novel about appearance and deception, and Jason is the main protagonist; he is 'both pimp and whore', a self-made man who is the first to believe in his own image. Compelling. Charismatic. Deviant.

"You don't wear Leather."

I can't remember which one of us said it, or where, but I've always been inclined to take the credit even though, on reflection, it's more likely to have been Jason. The sentence has his immediacy and his rhythm; it only needs a 'mate' to be both complete and authentic. By 'Leather' (my own capitalisation) I mean bike leathers and the sort of leather I like to encase my body with - the stuff that I buy from dim, dark-windowed shops in London back streets. Jason called this leather 'Hard Shit'. He classified 'Leather' like others classified drugs; there was 'Soft Shit' and there was 'Hard shit'. He wore both but preferred the latter. And Jason was an addict. He was heavily dependent, and, although I like to pretend it is different for me, I know that I am too. Jason happily claimed, as with porn, never to have enough to satisfy himself: 'I live for bikes, mate, and Leather,' he explained, 'not that I have enough money for the Leather, but I manage. I'd have a wardrobe full of the fucking stuff, if I could. I'd live in it mate.'

'Wear' is too inadequate a word. Jason was right about that. 'Wear' cannot possibly describe the interaction between Leather and the body, simply because this 'Hard Shit' is not submissive like wool or cotton, even denim, or the polite leather - the 'Soft Shit' - you buy on the High St, that hang dependant on the body. Leather is different. It has parity. Neither can 'wear' convey the nature of the fetish, the psychological relationship between Leather and guy like me, or Jason, or Tom; a relationship that goes beyond mere wear and tear and the protection from the weather and the hard, abrasive surface of a road at speed, beyond even arousal and gratification. Even Jason's drugs metaphor, apt in many ways, was unsatisfactory.

To a hard-core Leather guy like me Leather seems to fulfil some, at least, of those rhetorical dreams of Sixties Drug culture, for to encase the body in Leather is to put on a more vivid, hard identity - one that all the identities with which we clothe ourselves - has the greatest synchronicity with the inner core of being. Leather, by allowing the mind to work beyond the societal norm, opens consciousness to new experience to a more sensual reality. In Leather there is transcendence.

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