Sunday, June 29, 2008

Woman's World

by Graham Rawle
To create his new novel, Graham Rawle crafted it the usual way, and then spent two years combing through 1960s-era women's magazines to find bits of text - from ads or fiction or other articles - that he could use in place of his text. Then, rather than typing it all up, he clipped out all the magazine bits and meticulously arranged them on pages, occasionally enhanced by bits of magazine art or magnificent drop caps. He photographed the results, and that's what you see.

Like many, I don't always expect that a piece of art will produce a good story, or vice-versa. And I'm sure some people will be turned off by the look of Rawle's book, thinking that it would be too hard to read, even if the novel was well-written. Not at all. Woman's World is a joy to read, and the clipped-out quality is not just a novelty, but essential to the story. I can't tell you much of the plot without spoiling it, but it does become clear very quickly that the narrator is not the most reliable. Norma Fontaine's world of fashion and good housekeeping is not as simple as it seems. The dark humor and unusual narrative style of this book reminded me somewhat of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, although the stories themselves have nothing in common. Woman's World is a delight for the heart and mind as well as the eye.

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