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368 pages, Paperback
First published June 28, 2011
I couldn’t help but suspect that this was more than a coincidence. It was like Roderick knew what those girls were up to. They came into the studio, leotards snug on their bodies, and flaunted the sex that was taking over their insides. They had boobs, and you could tell they were proud of them, didn’t care who knew. Roderick hated it. It was an insult to ballet. It turned the line of an extended leg into something impure, made pervs out of everyone.
Veronica fiddled with the plastic tab of her lid, wiggled it up and down until it came off. “The whole point of this is for Chantal to practice being strong enough for ballet class. So she needs to experience something even worse than Roderick’s insults.”
Her voice was quiet but full of purpose. Something about it frightened me.
“Like what?” Sixty asked.
Veronica moved in closer. “It should have something to do with sex.”
The word stung me. We all sat motionless.
Veronica kept going. “She should go over to the guys and ask them if she can do anything for them.”
I pulled out my copy of Dancing on My Grave. Normally, I would never have considered lending it to anyone, but it felt right helping Chantal, wonderful even, as though a secret about my own dancing could be wrapped up and cherished in her success.
“I’ve marked the parts where she stops eating. Read them whenever you have a craving.”
“She was so nice,” I said. “She sounded really smart and I thought she was as beautiful as Isabel.”
My mom looked stung. Good, I thought, maybe she’d learn how to mind her own business. But then she went on. “Did she and Dad talk?”
I was so sick of all her questions, her excuses, her suggestive tone of voice. “What is your problem, Mom? Why can’t you just be normal about things!”
My mom’s voice was louder now, shrill even, but I was going to focus on the lipstick. They looked funny together, like a flock of reddish creatures poking out of their shells. I chose a bright pink one with a sharp summit and a clean slope down one side. In the hallway mirror I pressed it firmly into my mouth. It was satisfying, the pull of the waxy edge on the skin of my lips, the sudden invasion of fuchsia.
Various Positions is about women, power, devotion, growing up and about different ways that bodies are aestheticized. I’d say the novel hinges on the politics of the female body as they’re experienced by a 14-year-old girl called Georgia. Georgia’s starting to realize the extent to which conceptualizations of femininity and feminism have been annexed by the public domain, that having a body poses a very particular social and political problem for women. I think that Georgia does her best to resolve this problem, but her so-called solution is pretty troubling — not to mention illegal and a bit creepy.