Review: The Misfit’s Manifesto – Lidia Yuknavitch

35011611My rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Date read: 24 October 2017

Published by Simon & Schuster on October 24th, 2017

Verdict: This is a bit like Lidia-lite.

Find it on Goodreads.

“When did we forget that we are not the stories we tell ourselves?”

I admire Lidia Yuknavitch: for her honesty, her brilliance, her resilience and for her genius way of writing. Having just finished The Chronology of Water I couldn’t not read this.  This book does exactly what it says on the tin: It is a manifesto for/ about misfits. Lidia Yuknavitch uses her own experience as well as the experiences of fellow misfits to paint a picture of what being a misfit can mean and what we all can learn from them. She makes a powerful statement on the importance of art and of channeling pain into something greater. She shows how she has found a place in the world, after many many a detour. She shows how her weaknesses can be her strength and the place where beautiful art develops.

I think, the main problem for me was that I read it so shortly after the masterpiece that was The Chronology of Water. That book just blew my mind and there was no way a book that is essentially the longform of a TED talk to even come close to its structural brilliance. She also rehashes a lot of that book but in way that creates a narrative – and I thought the strength of her other book was that she did not do that. She told of her life in fragmented, poem-like chapters. This narrative created afterwards feels somehow less true to life.

Still, she can spin beautiful sentences like hardly anybody else and her voice and viewpoint is an important one. I adore that she ultimately arrived in a place of strength and how she uses that strength to try and make the world a better one.

First sentences: “Misfit. Trust me when I say there is a lot packed into that little word.”

I received an arc of this book curtesy of NetGalley and Simon & Schuster in exchange for an honest review.

Review: The Chronology of Water – Lidia Yuknavitch

9214995My rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Date read: 21 October 2017

Published by Hawthorne Press, 2011

Verdict: Absolutely unbelievably brilliant.

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This is not your mother’s memoir. In The Chronology of Water, Lidia Yuknavitch expertly moves the reader through issues of gender, sexuality, violence, and the family from the point of view of a lifelong swimmer turned artist. In writing that explores the nature of memoir itself, her story traces the effect of extreme grief on a young woman’s developing sexuality that some define as untraditional because of her attraction to both men and women. Her emergence as a writer evolves at the same time and takes the narrator on a journey of addiction, self-destruction, and ultimately survival that finally comes in the shape of love and motherhood.

I am in awe with this work of art; I do not know how to find the words to adequately explain why I loved this so much. How about this:

  • Lidia Yuknavitch is unflinchingly honest: her destructive tendencies, her flaws, mistakes, triumphs, loves are laid bare for the world to see.
  • Her command of language is mesmerizing.
  • I could feel every emotion possible while reading this.
  • She is a hero. But also highly unpleasant.

Earlier this year I reviewed Hunger by the amazing Roxane Gay; that book set the bar high for what a memoir could do – this book is similar in a way. It reads like a novel but has the emotional impact of raw, undiluted, real pain. Both women use art as a channel to deal with their deep and debilitating pain, both create works of absolute stunning beauty.

Lidia Yuknavitch tells of her life, of growing up in a household with an abusive father and a mother who slowly succumbed to alcoholism, of finding solace in competetive swimming, of failing university twice, of drug addiction, of the death of her child, of her two spectacularly failed marriages. She fucks up, a lot. She is undeniably awful, mostly to herself, often to others. She claws her way out of darkness so deep it seems to swallow her whole again, and again, and again. Her self-destructive tendencies are mesmerizing in their scope and her honesty is unflinching.

She tells this in short, fragmented chapters, with poem-like language that cuts deep and had me reeling. Always circling back to water and art, the two things that saved her. Her inventive way of using language and creating imagery alone would be enough to make this a near perfect book, her ability to channel her trauma into something this beautiful and stunning makes it my favourite of the year.

First sentence (of the acknowledgements): “If you have ever fucked up in your life, or if the great river of sadness that runs through all of us has touched you, then this book is for you.”

Review: Bitch Planet Vol. 2: President Bitch – Kelly Sue DeConnick & Valentine De Landro

299720291My Rating: 3/5 Stars

Date Read: 25 July 2017

Published by Image Comics, June 2017

Verdict: Beautiful, disturbing, scarily plausible; with a plot that could be better.

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Eisner Award-nominated writer KELLY SUE DeCONNICK (PRETTY DEADLY, Captain Marvel) and VALENTINE DE LANDRO (X-Factor) follow up on the success of EXTRAORDINARY MACHINE with the second installment of their highly acclaimed and fiercely unapologetic BITCH PLANET. A few years down the road in the wrong direction, a woman’s failure to comply with her patriarchal overlords results in exile to the meanest penal planet in the galaxy. But what happened on Earth that this new world order came to pass in the first place? Return to the grim corridors of Auxiliary Compliance Outpost #2, to uncover the first clues to the history of the world as we know it…and meet PRESIDENT BITCH.

This volume collects issues #6-10, a reader discussion guide and additional bonus materials.

I don’t know how to review this. I always struggle with reviewing graphic novels – especially when it comes to the artwork (somehow “oh look how nice it all looks” really is not all that descriptive). But I also struggle with reviewing this in particular because I am not really sure on my thoughts at all. So, this will be a rambly kind of review where I try to sort my thoughts as I go.

First of all, I did enjoy this. But it also made me umcomfortable. But I also love the characters. But I think it is a bit on the nose maybe. But I love the underlying message of acceptance. But the optimist in me thinks it is a bit to pessimistic. But the pessimist in me thinks it is so plausible, scarily so.

The characters are what sells this book to me: all the women here are brilliant, flawed, believable characters. I adore the way they are drawn (both figuratively and literally) and how unique they feel. However, they sometimes feel to be more of a vehicle to tell this particular feminist story than completely fleshed-out characters in their own right. I kept asking myself if they would exist if they weren’t needed to make particular points; if their reactions would still stay the same; if they would be fundamentally the same people.

The artwork is stunning in way that sometimes feels uncomfortable. The juxtaposition of colour works brilliantly but has at the same time an overwhelming effect. There were some stylistic choices that I found perfect: especially the use of lipstick in a way that subverts its traditional use.

I think ultimately I enjoy the big ideas and the characters and many of the style-choices a lot more than I enjoy the story. The plot is definitely the weak point here but I am interested enough to keep holding on the the ride to see where it all goes in the end.

Review: Bitch Doctrine – Laurie Penny (2017)

35153638My rating: 3/5 Stars

Date Read: 12 July 2017

Published by Bloomsbury Publishing, 13 July 2017.

Verdict: Great starting point, not many really new thoughts for me though.

Find it on Goodreads.

Smart and provocative, witty and uncompromising, this collection of Laurie Penny’s writing establishes her as one of the most urgent and vibrant feminist voices of our time. From the shock of Donald Trump’s election and the victories of the far right, to online harassment and the transgender rights movement, these darkly humorous articles provoke challenging conversations about the definitive social issues of today.

Penny is lyrical and passionate in her desire to contest injustice; she writes at the raw edge of the zeitgeist at a time when it has never been more vital to confront social norms. These revelatory, revolutionary essays will give readers hope and tools for change from one of today’s boldest commentators.

It will come as a surprise to absolutely no-one that I consider myself a feminist; academically, personally, and politically. As such I have read an awful lot of feminist writing, both for my degrees and in my free time – which is why there really weren’t all that many new things for me to discover in this essay collection. This doesn’t mean it isn’t a great starting point or not worth reading, it just means that I found myself skimming parts of the book.

Laurie Penny writes about many things important to me; and I agree on a whole lot of topics. She is angry and rightfully so; it is an absolute shame that the world isn’t fairer and better because it could be and it should be. I am fine with a feminism that is angry because why the hell are we still arguing about whether equality is fair?! Many things make me angry and I think it is important to use that anger to change the world in whatever way we can – and if it is only in changing how we act and react and treat people.

One of her major points is about how it is unfair that women writers are always meant to speak for all women – as if that was at all possible to achieve. However, she then quite often seems to speak for all women (giving us such weird phrases like “we as women of colour” [she is not a woman of colour]). For me that was a incongruity that I could not quite deal with. Paradoxically the book works both best and least when Laurie Penny uses her own experience as a baseline to discuss things. When she uses her own experience to underscore the more academic and political points she makes it works great and gives her work a more immediate urgency. But then she seems to sometimes think her experience to be more universal than it maybe is and then it detracted from her points.

I never quite warmed to the way she structures her essays; I often found the endings to be not quite thought-out or very abrupt. Additionally, there were some sentences that for me flowed weird and took me right out my reading flow. I think the best pieces were those that sounded more conversationally – I think because those were the ones where she was the angriest, and she does angry extremely well.

First sentence: “In case you haven’t noticed, there is a war on.”

I received an arc of this book curtesy of NetGalley and Bloomsbury Publishing in exchange for an honest review. Thanks for that!