What Looks Like Crazy on an Ordinary Day
Author: Pearl Cleage
E-book extra: Reading group guide.
That one unthinkable, unmistakable thing is happening to Ava Johnson in sleepy Idlewild after a decade of
luxe living in Atlanta: she is falling in love. The classic bestseller and Oprah fave is now available in a
delightful new e-book edition.
After a decade of elegant pleasures and luxe living among the Atlanta brothers and sisters with the best
clothes and the biggest dreams, Ava Johnson has temporarily returned home to Idlewild -- her fabulous
career and power plans smashed to bits by cold reality. But what she imagines is the end is, instead, a
beginning. Because, in the ten-plus years since Ava left, all the problems of the big city have come to
roost in the sleepy North Michigan community whose ordinariness once drove her away; and she cannot
turn her back on friends and family who sorely need her in the face of impending trouble and tragedy.
Besides which, that one unthinkable, unmistakable thing is now happening to her: Ava Johnson is falling
I'm sitting at the bar in the airport, minding my own business, trying to get psyched up for my flight, and I
made the mistake of listening to one of those TV talk shows. They were interviewing some women with
what the host kept calling full blown AIDS. As opposed to half-blown AIDS, I guess. There they were,
weeping and wailing and wringing their hands, wearing their prissy little Laura Ashley dresses and telling
their edited-for-TV life stories. The audience was eating it up, but it got on my last nerve. The thing is, half
these women are lying. More than half. They get diagnosed and all of a sudden they're Mother Teresa. I
can't be positive! It's impossible! I'm practically a Virgin! Bull.... They got it just like I got it f...... men.
That's not male bashing either. That's the truth. Most of us got it from the boys. Which is, when you think
about it, a pretty good argument for cutting men loose, but if I could work up a strong physical reaction to
women, I would already be having sex with them. I'm not knocking it. I'm just saying I can't be a witness.
Too many breasts in one place to suit me. I try to tune out the almost-a-virgins, but they're going on and
on and now one is really sobbing and all of a sudden I get it. They're just going through the purification
ritual. This is how it goes: First, you have to confess that you did nasty, disgusting sex stuff with multiple
partners who may even have been of your same gender. Or you have to confess that you like to shoot
illegal drugs into your veins and sometimes you use other people's works when you want to get high and
you came unprepared. Then you have to describe the sin you have confessed in as much detail as you
can remember. Names, dates, places, faces. Specific sexual acts. Quantity and quality of orgasms.
What kind of dope you shot. What park you bought it in. All the down and dirty. Then, once your listeners
have been totally freaked out by what you've told them, they get to decide how much sympathy, attention
help, money, and understanding you're entitled to based on how disgusted they are. I'm not buying into
that. I don't think anything I did was bad enough for me to earn this as the payback, but it gets rough out
here sometimes. If you're not a little kid, or a heterosexual movie star's doomed but devoted wife, or a
hemophiliac who got it from a tainted transfusion, or a straight white woman who can prove she's a virgin
with a dirty dentist, you're not eligible for any no-strings sympathy. The truth is, people are usually
relieved. It always makes them feel better when they know the specifics of your story. You can see their
faces brighten up when your path is one they haven't traveled. That's why people keep asking me if I know
who I got it from. Like all they'd have to do to ensure their safety is cross this specific guy's name off their
list of acceptable sexual partners the same way you do when somebody starts smoking crack no future
here. But I always tell them the truth I have no idea. That's when they frown and give me one last chance
to redeem myself. If I don't know who, do I at least know how many? By that time I can't decide if I'm
supposed to be sorry about having had a lot of sex or sorry I got sick from it. And what difference does it
make at this point anyway? It's like lying about how much you loved the rush of the nicotine just because
now you have lung cancer. Copyright 1997 by Pearl CleageThe foregoing is excerpted from What Looks
Like Crazy On an Ordinary Day by Pearl Cleage. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or
reproduced without written permission from...
Pearl Cleage is the author of What Looks Like Crazy on an Ordinary Day...; I Wish I Had a Red Dress;
Mad at Miles: A Blackwoman's Guide to Truth; and Deals with the Devil and Other Reasons to Riot. An
accomplished playwright whose stage works include Flyin' West and Blues for an Alabama Sky, Ms.
Cleage is also a contributing writer to Essence magazine and frequently performs her work on college
campuses. Cleage is the mother of one daughter, Deignan. She lives in Atlanta with her husband, Zaron
W. Burnett, Jr.
"Very funny and charming.... Following Cleage's twists and turns of the human spirit, readers may find
themselves in a very inspired and uplifted plane well before the last page"
"Cleage writes with amazing grace and killer instinct"
"Engrossing, entertaining… [a] wryly observant, moving tale…. What Looks Like Crazy is a smart novel
that will have readers laughing in recognition of the foibles of human nature as it lays bare its characters' -
- and our own -- assumptions about class, sexuality, and love in unexpected and thoroughly gratifying