This week’s Unsung Letter, written by Angelica Jade Bastién, is on a poetry collection that cuts deep, and on the image of the madwoman on celluloid and the page:
A few years ago a feeling I’ve had for a while crystallized into a theory I’ve come to call The Ophelia Factor. As an Afro-Latina with bipolar disorder since my early teens I have been devouring the stories and work of women who share this struggle. These women contain multitudes. They’re celluloid mavens like Marilyn Monroe in how she’s framed by photographer Eve Arnold and writer Truman Capote. They’re noir sirens like the diabolical femme fatale Gene Tierney played in the 1945 Technicolor Leave Her to Heaven. They’re genius wordsmiths like Sylvia Plath, perhaps the foremost image in modern times of a woman undone by her own mind. What unites these women beyond their mental illnesses are a concoction of curious factors. They’re young, beautiful, and white. So often the stories of mentally ill women are flattened into tragedies in which they aren’t the architect of their own destinies. Instead they’re cautionary tales.
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The Big Issue review of Flesh of the Peach (illustration by Dom McKenzie)
Later today the Unsung Letter of the week will go out, but for now – I’m very chuffed to see Nicola Balkind’s lovely review of Flesh of the Peach in the Big Issue the other day, next to Ghachar Ghochar by Vivek Shanbhag (which I’ve also been hearing positive things about). I’m putting it up now since the issue after this one is now out, so I won’t be discouraging anyone who wants to read the review from not buying a copy (in case you don’t know, the Big Issue is a magazine that supports homeless people by allowing them to pay for the magazines and sell them on to make some money and support themselves).
Also: I was interviewed for the A Room of One’s Own segment on the For Books’ Sake podcast by Rebecca Smith. You can listen to the whole thing here (the main theme of this episode is ‘escape’). It’s not long, just about the length of a cup of tea (or coffee). And yes, as I write this, my situation is as described!
A recommendation this week of something a little different – a long poem in translation, brought to our attention by Ariell Cacciola:
It is a poem that hungrily gnaws on the antithetical senses of despair and sly humor. I couldn’t hazard a guess how many times I’ve read it (both the original and the translation) and I argue that you don’t even need to know the original German to understand the ricochet of language and anguish, the rubbery sense of voice that tugs the reader back and forth. I was lucky enough to have seen excerpts read publicly by both poet and translator, hearing the sound of each word and the relation to the next and then some.
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This week’s Unsung Letter comes to you courtesy of writer and editor of Necessary Fiction, Steve Himmer. What has he chosen to draw you to? A taste:
So it is also extremely funny in the bittersweet, laugh-or-you’ll-cry way life requires. It snuck up on me in a wonderful manner, seeming at first to be a kind of light urban fabulism. Then as characters and their tightly proscribed lives took shape, they revealed the complexities of immigration and bureaucracy and decidedly modern pains and isolations.
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One week from today, I’ll be joining a group of other debut writers to read at the Riff Raff‘s first event in London. We’ll be talking about publication journeys, reading from our books, and selling copies afterwards – of course accompanied by lots of friendly chat and advice, and there’s a bar. Buy your ticket here!
I’ll be selling copies of Flesh of the Peach, and the first fifteen folk who buy a copy will receive a small secret gift. I might also doodle on you book and complement your style. It all depends on the moment.
Hope to see you there!
Also while I have you – here’s a nice and very short review of Flesh of the Peach in Diva Magazine.
More events are in the planning stage (including a second trip down to London in June, and another to Leeds around the same time). All TBA as soon as they’re firmed up.