Woman's World: Salty-Sweet Confection

Here's the premise: completely bonkers collage artist from London (UK) cuts out and assembles 40,000 pieces of text cut from 1960's women's magazines to make a book that neatly subverts the messages of the original medium.

Norma Fontaine is a lovely young lass who lives with her brother and housekeeper in a charming house in a rather ordinary neighborhood. Maintaining her feminine allure is paramount and she spends her days trying on outfits, perfecting her poise and occasionally strolling down the street, setting hearts aflutter.

Except, why is her brother away so often? Why is the housekeeper occasionally referred to as her mother? And why does said housekeeper insist on keeping the curtains drawn during the day? Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that people on the street seem more horrified than charmed by Norma's appearance.

This chipper tale, full of bouncy cliches (such as, "My voice a light and airy souffle, straight from the oven.") and loopy writing, quickly becomes something else indeed. The genius of this tale is in its ability to be both creepy and buoyant simultaneously, much in the same way that women's magazines manage to be both cheerleader and mean girl.

That said, while I found it hilarious to read all the trite and meaningless phrases that women's magazines employ (their effect amplified by being squished into 437 pages), I am a sucker for a turn of phrase, a real organic turn of phrase penned straight from the unconscious.

That said, Woman's World is not that novel. It's not really any novel, it's it's own beast.

What it does, first of all, is very effectively and devastatingly pull the rug out from under the women's magazine industry and exposes it for being the fake, condescending and ridiculous machine that it is.

It's also a typographic wonderland filled with a host of delicious retro fonts from a world of glamour gone by. You'd expect it would be a nightmare to finish but after a few pages in, it reads smoothly.

Finally, the story is tight and executed with the smooth deftness of a knife cutting through silk.

Story, style and an undercurrent of subversive substance - it's the perfect salty-sweet confection.

Woman's World: A Novel/ Graham Rawle / Counterpoint / PB Takeover, 2009 (original UK edition: 2005)

Greedy Bugger? Here's More:
NY Mag on assembling a page of text
The Toronto Star on the process & motivations behind Woman's World
Graham Rawle being Graham Rawle


Joanne said...

This looks awesome - I read the first few pages on amazon and I love the style. So glad that you reviewed this and extremely happy that my library has a copy :)

B.Kienapple said...

I can't even imagine what it took to assemble this book but it's well worth it. Hope to see your own review up sometime in the future!

Graham Rawle said...

Fantastic review. I am hugely flattered and delighted you enjoyed the book. It took five years to create and I am shamelessly proud of it so it means a lot that you took the time to share your thoughts and insights. Graham Rawle

B.Kienapple said...

Graham, I am hugely flattered that you took the time to comment on my blog, especially since I enjoyed your book so much. I sent an email to your questions@ account with the full extent of my embarrassingly effusive thanks.


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