Jim Lawrence's Reviews > American Monsters

American Monsters by Sezin Koehler
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Oct 01, 13

Read from April 27 to May 06, 2012

American Monsters is an unconventional work, part novel, part screenplay, part memoir, part academic thesis, whereby author Sezin Koehler explores the dark and female-phobic worlds of rave culture, horror fiction and academia.

The novel/screenplay is the story of a group of magical female characters who each discover hidden powers with which they destroy the men who abuse them and encounter each other at a rave held at the mansion of a hotel magnate in LA. They are lured into situations where they are forced by monstrous men to defend themselves with magical and physiological weapons worthy of Angela Carter, Kathy Acker or William Burroughs. It's a feminist revenge narrative in the form of Urban Fantasy replete with spirits, dark energies and creatively gruesome acts of violence. The memoir is the terrible and moving story of the murder of the author's friend Wendy by a girl who robbed her and her companions at gun-point one awful night in 2000. It tells of the author's trauma in the wake of the event and how she tried to heal herself and how the story of American Monsters was shaped by this life-changing experience. It's a tough read but it illuminates the fiction in an utterly compelling manner. The illumination is further brightened by the academic section of the book, which treats of the problems Koehler encountered as a 'third culture kid' who became embroiled in the LA rave scene and then became a participant-observer in that very scene when she studied anthropology. She gradually saw through the hippyish veneer of peace, love and co-operation to the ugly misogynistic truth underlying the ideology of the 24-hour-party-people generation in woman-hating America. Addressing the question of whether it is possible to create a feminist anthropology when the discipline is based on patriarchal and colonialist assumptions disguised in the language of apolitical scientific objectivity and postmodernist value-equivalence, Koehler concludes that there may be a way forward if feminist social science insists on its political programme in opposition to the effacement of ethics by the knowledge structures of the academic paradigm.

These themes, particularly the problem of the masculine gaze and the neurosis of male castration anxiety symbolised by the vagina dentata meme (dealt with in the section on misogyny in American horror narratives, focussing on Stephen King)are expressed within the fiction in a vivid ultraviolent mode that entertains and horrifies with equal power. Theoretically sharp, emotionally draining and highly readable, American Monsters will shock you and make you think.
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Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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Sezin Koehler Thank you so much, Jim, for this incredibly thoughtful review of my book. I am so happy that you understood my baby.


message 2: by Jim (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jim Lawrence You're most welcome, Sezin. :)


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