A few days ago, I wrote about the Irish-American reading at
St. Mark’s Church in Manhattan
In an interview before the novel came out, Eileen said, "I'm writing, working on a new book called Cool For You. ...It's more about childhood. It's weird because it's technically about female incarceration. I had this idea about how the outsider in art is really male. Because I always think that females are insiders, and that female rebellion starts someplace where you're really trapped, like mental hospitals or shitty jobs. So I'm exploring my narrator, the Eileen Myles character, from the position of being, like, a camp counselor, and in lousy jobs and institutions. I have an Irish grandmother who ended her life in a state mental hospital in the '50s, during my childhood. So I'm weaving a lot of my childhood in with the notion of work and jobs. It's totally about class."
found most fascinating about this book, which was my primary reading matter
this week, is that while every inch of text succeeds as absorbing narrative---an
addictive portrait of the artist as a young woman, with plenty of sex,
oppression, and craziness to keep her readers completely hooked on the
story---the language here is so accomplished, the story so vividly and
exquisitely rendered, that you can take practically any paragraph and turn it
into a poem:
My belly was protruding a little. I wanted a cigarette. No, I will not smoke. I was trying to purify my youth. I wanted to be a perfect sacrament. I was trying to relax. I was trying to not die right away. I was trying to not start clenching my fists. Cissy get me a donut. Get me six. I was trying to stay awake. I was trying to be human. Get me a Coke too. I was trying not to cry. I was trying not to vanish.
This is indeed a very cool book, filled with the terrors of childhood and beyond, with a sense of the physical that brought to mind Alexander Lowen's comment in his classic study The Betrayal of the Body that "the knowledge of the ego must be tempered with the wisdom of the body." Such wisdom pervades this book. On menstruation, e.g., Myles writes: "Don't you think better when you're bleeding, don't you want to stay home and smoke and read and write. Don't you feel tremendously sexy. Have you spent years hiding it, arming yourself against revelation, the stains and the bloody smell. Do you want to fuck. I remember my friend describing his face when he described eating the pussy of a bleeding woman. That he had red wings."
Eileen Myles is so well known at this point in her life---she even ran for president in the '90s---that she has two websites: Eileen1 and Eileen2. Disarm yourself against revelation and check them out.