While Whipping Girl continues to be a hugely important book for me, I was disappointed in many of the essays in Excluded, which come across as outdateWhile Whipping Girl continues to be a hugely important book for me, I was disappointed in many of the essays in Excluded, which come across as outdated and condescending in tone. The last essay, "Balancing Acts," is GREAT, and there are lots of hardhitting, important points delivered throughout the book. Overall, though, I found a lot of Serano's ideas about shifting activist ground to be missing the point -- for instance, the idea of resituating social justice activism around double standards as an inclusive tactic -- I guess I don't know why we should lose oppression as a framework. I also would argue that the notion of a holistic approach to feminism, which Serano puts forth as if it is new, is already operational in many corners of the queer/trans/feminist movement. Still, much of this would be useful as teaching material, as it's clear and incisive and articulates quite accessibly a lot of ideas that have been percolating (and articulated by others) in queer/feminist/trans discourse for the past several years.
"The Tale of Plagues and Carnivals" which takes up the bulk of this, the third book in the Neveryon series, is worth reading on its own as a response to and document of the AIDS crisis in early 1980s NYC. It's also worth reading for what it does to unravel its own fictiveness and expose (explicitly, where all else has been implicit) the seeping of the present into Delany's construction of the fantasy world of Neveryon.
The tale is fragmented, moving between Delany's documentation of the rising numbers of AIDS cases and the frustratingly slow search for their cause, and the plague he is simultaneously writing into his fictional world (and Delany comments frequently about how each narrative comments upon the other). And of course it's all fiction or at least all constructed (plot spoiler!) - yes, it's a dazzling literary performance but that is somewhat beside the point. The sense of urgency with which he writes is stunning - the narrative is consistently disrupted and disrupting; it acknowledges the impossibility of representation, and the attendant helplessness of the writer responding to and attempting to address crisis.
When I worked with Chip at Temple, we talked a lot about experimental novels of crisis (because I was/am working on one) - this tale, a novel in itself (the book contains two other shorter tales preceding this one), is an example of such a work. In his interview on experimental writing in Para*doxa, included in his volume of essays About Writing, he writes of the difference between the novel of crisis (e.g., Trumbo's Johnny Got His Gun) and the experimental novel of crisis (he uses Joanna Russ's The Female Man as his prime example) and why he chose the experimental mode to respond to the AIDS situation in 1983:
"Because of the topicality and the urgency of my own undertaking, I felt it was worth the risk to hoist up on my own shaky shoulder the burden of the experimental, when I decided to take on AIDS, life, and death in a novel started in '83 and finished in June '84.
"That judgment of the crisis was NOT: I must reach as many people as possible. Rather, it was: The people I reach, I must reach as INTENSELY as possible. ...To write that book, I said: Even if I don't use it all, I've got to have the full range of the contemporary aesthetic armamentarium from which to choose...I've got things to say that are too important and that will not fit within the structures of narrative fiction as it is usually handed to us."
These strategies are of their time and so seem a bit standard from today's vantage point - the meta and pastiche especially - but unlike a lot of pomo (I think) the novel reads like necessary, urgent and effective communication.
The other tales in here are also meticulously and impressively designed. ...more
especially notable are gayle rubin's remarks, 'a little humility' - and the introduction, which narrates the conception and uneven execution of an expespecially notable are gayle rubin's remarks, 'a little humility' - and the introduction, which narrates the conception and uneven execution of an experimental academic/arts/activist conference....more
I'm working towards a writing that subverts sexual bragging, a writing that champions the vulnerable, the fractured, the disenfranchised, the sexuallyI'm working towards a writing that subverts sexual bragging, a writing that champions the vulnerable, the fractured, the disenfranchised, the sexually fucked-up. --Dodie Bellamy when i write a character it must feel to me as if composed of bubble gum. a character is not a stable thing. a plasma. characters should always melt. --heriberto yepez My dirty secret has always been that it's of course about me. But I have been educated to believe I'm no one so there's a different self operating and I'm desperate to unburden my self of my self so I'm coming from nowhere and returning. That's sort of classic. You just cannot underestimate the massive difference in writing out of female anonymity. It blows all the styles out of the water. -- Eileen Myles are we not all a both or whatever sometimes? --kari edwards ...more
argues for a queer time and space outside the logic of capital accumulation; explores the transgender body as the embodiment of postmodern subjectivitargues for a queer time and space outside the logic of capital accumulation; explores the transgender body as the embodiment of postmodern subjectivity; looks at the culture that rose around brandon teena. AND MORE...more