Friday, 9 December 2011

Woman's World review

Here's a nice review of Woman's World by Darby Faeth of the Foley Readers. I love it when people use the G word.

WOMAN'S WORLD    Graham Rawle
Start with the most cringe-worthy I Love Lucy episode you can imagine –– the kind you can't bear to watch, but can't turn away from either. Now filter that through a muslin of schizophrenia and dump it into a cocktail shaker along with cross-dressing, car crashes, murder, theft, and a budding love affair; all played out against a bucolic somewhere-in-England backdrop. Apply some vigorous agitation, pour the whole thing into a ransom note, and… you'd still only be halfway there.
       Nearly every review I've seen of Graham Rawle's kick-ass psycho-drama Woman's World relies on the the word "genius". I was hoping to take an original approach and avoid using the term but I may not be that strong.
       The premise of Rawle's novel would be distinct on its own but it's only the beginning. Composed entirely of phrases written by others, he actually allowed his work to take the course their words guided him on while still somehow navigating his plot perfectly and managing to keep his own voice mixed, as we say in the studio, "way up and in front."

       "What the…?", I hear you saying. 
       Rawle imparts his vision in a most unique manner. Rather than being typeset, every page of Woman's World is a collage of phrase and sentence fragments that he carefully cut from fashion and home-maker magazines of the Fifties and Sixties and pasted on layout board like a blackmailer's demands. The assembly process alone took him years.
       One might reasonably suspect that a jumbled visual presentation would make reading difficult but that's not the case. Rawle is an accomplished collage artist and his choices were clearly far from random (which, when you think about it, only accentuates the magnitude of his achievement). The deftness with which he alternates fonts, text weights and illustrations imbues this book with a rhythm akin to reading a side by Louis Armstrong's Hot Five. 

       His craft yields a piece one very much looks at look at as well as reads (or more accurately in this case, devours); a book not quite written in standard English, but rather in some specialty language replete with more "lady-of-the-house" soft-sell, hard-sell, jargon and journalese than the combined marketing arms of Mary Kay, Avon and Martha Stewart could dream up in a decade.

       And it's a story! Woman's World is a compelling narrative, completely rendered, full of twists and turns (see "Lucy", above) that careens like a drunk driver between the hysterically funny and achingly sad.

       What can I say –– the guy's a genius.