Tuesday, 31 July 2018

The Mismade Girl

Miss Maid Of Honour

The Mismade Girl
(Juliette Society Book III)

by Sasha Grey
Cleis Press 
ISBN: 978-1627781824

So here I am with a review of what is, sadly, the final installment of The Juliette Society trilogy by the quite remarkable Sasha Grey. I’m not going to labour the long and awesome history of the author again other than to say, if you’re going to be reading something which, on the surface at least, is manifesting itself as erotic literature then there’s surely nobody more qualified than Ms. Grey to accurately portray that kind of journey. If you want to know more about her history then you could take a look at my reviews for the previous two instalments in the series… The Juliette Society (reviewed here) and The Janus Chamber (reviewed here)… or you could simply google her name although, beware, if you do that you may find that the majority of your search results will more than likely be firmly entrenched in the exciting category of… “not safe for work” (NSFW).

Now, The Mismade Girl is the usual fun and very interesting ride that the first two novels in the series have prepared us for although, if I had to pick a winner, I’d have to say that The Janus Chamber is my favourite of the three due to The Mismade Girl having a fair few less movie references and discussions of cinematic history than the previous two volumes. Fans of these needn’t worry, however, as the central character of Catherine (who I can only assume is a manifestation of the writer in terms of her personality and interests) still maintains an interest in the art of film and reminds the reader, on more than once occasion (the books are written in the first person viewpoint) that the character used to be an aspiring director and film studies student.

Indeed, it’s already only towards the end of the second chapter when she starts talking about John Frankenheimer’s Seconds (reviewed by me here) and a little later goes on to discuss the way certain movie sequels are perceived as being better than the original of a franchise… although, it has to be said, I wouldn't necessarily agree with everything she picks out by way of an example. She also, within the space of just two paragraphs, neatly touches on the current and quite necessary zeitgeist of equal pay for women and the necessity for better lead roles for actresses in the American film industry. So you really have to admire the lady here.

Another great thing which comes up in relation to the horror film genre is the word kenopsia, which I’d never heard before and, sure enough, I couldn’t find it in an English dictionary. But, again, hit a search engine and you’ll find it soon enough and see why this made up word is so appropriate for the analogy Grey is making here. It means, to quote the writer here…

“... the eerie, forlorn atmosphere of a place that's usually bustling with people but is now abandoned and quiet - a school hallway in the evening, an unlit office on a weekend, vacant fairgrounds - an emotional after image that makes it seem not just empty but hyper-empty, with a total population in the negative, who are conspicuously absent… they glow like neon signs."

Isn’t that great?

This is just another of one of the writers more educational moments in a series of books which are full of wonderful and often cunning observations which are revealed in various ways in context to the experiences of the main character and are sprung, ninja-like on an unsuspecting reader in the most enlightening ways possible. For instance, if you want to be a little wiser about just how few big corporations are actually controlling and owning everything you buy, including stuff like that favourite organic or fair trade product you like, then this is the novel to point you in the right direction as to which questions you should be asking.

The story itself is a natural continuation, set a couple of years later, of the events detailed in the previous two volumes, picking up from the threads of the ‘missing presumed dead’ Anna and the certainly very dead Inana Luna, the sexual art siren whose fiery path Catherine was following in her role as a story hungry journalist in the second volume.

This time around we have her involved with a sex tape scandal (based on something which happened in the first novel), a car accident, a sexual paradise compound in a foreign country and, of course, various parties. If there’s one thing Sasha Grey does really well in her writing, bearing in mind she tends to do everything really well when it comes to her obvious intelligence and talents as a wordsmith, it's those party scenes. She somehow manages to write these seemingly throwaway revelry sequences with the ease and camera eye of one of those 1960s movie set pieces… as Catherine wanders around and interacts or observes various little vignettes in her walkthroughs. And, of course, being as this is written in the guise of an erotic novel, a fair few sex parties are on display here too.

Also, her imagination is not a phenomenon limited to her writing and I wonder if thoroughly sinister and attractive scene setters like the following, also come from her apparent skills as a DJ, as much as they do her own experience of such a milieu…

“The music is interesting, and creepy, and it takes me a moment to realise it's The Beatles being played backwards over Wagner, but there's an underlying bass line tying them together into something that curiously works."

Go on, wouldn’t you at least like to be at a party like that at some stage in your life?

I said earlier that The Mismade Girl is the last part of a trilogy and it does seem like it’s got a natural conclusion to all that’s gone before it. Indeed the title itself is a metaphor for a specific type of magic trick, again something I didn’t know myself, which Ms. Grey uses as a metaphor for a process of metamorphosis for her main protagonist that pretty much leaves things with a profound change in the character. I don’t see how the central character can go back to her original state of being after all the hands have been played here. And, as it happens, Catherine’s epilogue, which is directly addressed to the reader, certainly implies a state of conclusion to the trilogy as it stands. That being said, I do think the possibility of a future trilogy continuing things isn’t completely out of the question either but, well… we shall just have to wait and see what the writer does in the future.

One thing's for sure… when people mention Sasha Grey to me nowadays the first thing I think of is…  a brilliant, modern writer. All the glam and erotica, nice as it is, runs it to second place. So there you have it… as with the previous novels in the series, The Mismade Girl is well worth your time if you’re a fan of good, intelligent, observational writing. However, if you’ve not read the others then I would start with those two first.

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