Writing, Self, & Sex
- Evelyn Lau (Author)
Inside Out: Reflections on a Life so Far. Doubleday Canada (purchase at Amazon.ca)
- Simone Poirier-Bures (Author)
Nicole. Pottersfield Press (purchase at Amazon.ca)
- Bill Brownstein (Author)
Sex Carnival. ECW Press (purchase at Amazon.ca)
Reviewed by Chinmoy Banerjee
Inside Out is Evelyn Lau’s memoir of the ten years since the publication of her first book, Runaway: the Diary of a Street Kid. It records the years of Lau’s life in writing, a life she has sought with an intense passion and singular focus. Lau’s life and writing are possessed by her past, the writing always attempting to control the confusion of experience with "words as neat as pins." She grew up, Lau says, both at home and on the street, "without a sense of where lines should be drawn," and this blurring of the boundary between the inside and the outside becomes the program of her writing. Setting "no limits to what I could reveal about myself or others in my life" becomes her signature, the mark of her integrity, making her writing into her authentic body, the site where she lives out of the power of those who control her physical body. That’s why she responds to Kinsella’s lawsuit against her for her article on their relationship with an enormous sense of surprise and violation.
Prostitution, Lau says, "has left its seal and shadow on everything," setting her apart, as she had feared it would, and also hoped because it protected her with a wall, making relationships less possible. It is art she wants, not the claustrophobia of a relationship. Lau’s dedication to art is Flaubertian: it is an altar at which she is ready to sacrifice all life, her own and that of those involved with her. She makes art out of her pain and will not take medication to relieve it. She notes the tediousness of people who talk about their depression but she then writes vividly and interestingly about her own depression. She makes us feel the emotional and physical wrenching of her bulimia. At the end she writes movingly of finding a room of her own but dreams that the hideous purple dresser of her childhood is sitting in it, real and immovable. Despairingly, she thinks, "it would be there in the days and dreams that stretched ahead," but one hopes for the sake of her art that she will be able to move it out and produce a writing that moves beyond her own pathology and develops an interest in others.
Simone Poirier-Bures combines memoir and autobiographical fiction to reconstruct the experience of growing up poor and Acadian in Halifax in the 1950s and early 1960s. Brief stories sketch the life of a family with an elderly candyman father, a schoolteacher mother, and a basement full of candy. Nicole discovers betrayal when her friends abandon her as she throws up after a tram ride downtown. A lady in a car takes her home. She wants to reward the lady with candy from her basement but takes a step from disappointment to growth when her mother doesn’t offer the candy and explains that the lady wouldn’t want it. From what her mother tells her, Nicole speculates that making babies is like the mass, "When a man and a woman say the wedding vows, the man’s sperm automatically enters the woman’s body, just as Christ’s body enters the host when the priest says the words." On a visit to her relatives after having won a scholarship to the U. S., Nicole finds them speaking to her in their thickly accented English, wishes to let them know that she still speaks French but can’t bring herself to speak their way. But her aunts and uncles, who "had always seemed so smart, so funny" seemed "different, now, speaking English . . . diminished somehow, speaking in that slow, halting way." Poirer-Bures manages to say a good deal in a few words.
Bill Brownstein offers an amused survey of the contemporary explosion in sexual expression and its commodificaton by looking at conventions in Las Vegas, the porn industry, Hugh Hefner, fellatio training in Hollywood, S & M in New York, the sex mart in Amsterdam, the difference of the Parisians, and swinging in Montreal. He situates the porn industry morally by placing it beside the $1.5 million wedding of Céline Dion at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas, with Berber tents, camels, jugglers and belly dancers: "To many persons on this planet, an indulgent wedding circus with dromedaries and jugglers is more perverse than anything coming out of the adult-video biz—including a ten person anal gang bang." Indeed, people in the porn industry turn out to be remarkably moral. Annabel Chong, who broke the world record by sleeping with 251 men in ten hours, sought "horizontal fame" while studying fine arts the University of Southern California and attempting to be a dutiful daughter. Disturbed by finding that all the men involved in the marathon had not been screened for HIV and not being paid what she had been promised, she went back to school to finish her degree and returned to the industry as director, producer and star in her own films. Monet, another porno star turned director to take control over her work, made a documentary, Porn: It’s a Living, out of her annoyance when a fellow dog-owner ran away from her when learning of her career.
There is so much porn around—more than ten billion dollars were spent in the U.S. on porn-related products in 1999; there are about sixty thousand sex-oriented Web sites—that John Leslie, one of the greats of the industry muses, "With all the porno out there, is anybody having actual sex anymore? I really wonder."
- Autobiographical Acts by Rocío G. Davis
Books reviewed: Begin Here: Reading Asian North American Autobiographies of Childhood. by Rocío G. Davis
- Baroness Elsa by Rosmarin Heidenreich
Books reviewed: Baroness Elsa. Gender, Dada and Everyday Modernity: A Cultural Biography by Rosmarin Heidenreich
- Life-writing Practices by Joy Henley
Books reviewed: Beyond the Home Front: Women's Autobiographical Writing of the Two World Wars by Yvonne M. Klein, Great Dames by Elspeth Cameron and Janice Dickin, and Thirty-Two Short Views of Mazo de la Roche : A Biographical Essay by Daniel L. Bratton
- Queer Retrospectives by Moynan King
Books reviewed: Outspoken: A Canadian Collection of Lesbian Scenes and Monologues by Susan G. Cole, Queer Theatre in Canada by Rosalind Kerr, and This One's Going to Last Forever by Nairne Holtz
- Transnational America Today by Michael Nowlin
Books reviewed: Ethnicities: Children of Immigrants in America by Alejandro Portes and Rubén G. Rumbaut, Strangers at the Gates: New Immigrants in Urban America by Roger Waldinger, and Harlemworld: Doing Race and Class in Contemporary Black America by John L. Jackson, Jr.
MLA: Banerjee, Chinmoy. Writing, Self, & Sex. canlit.ca. Canadian Literature, 8 Dec. 2011. Web. 6 Dec. 2013.
This review originally appeared in Canadian Literature #177 (Summer 2003), (Duncan, Wiebe, Jameson, Thérault, Martel). (pg. 155 - 156)
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