Foucault’s Daughter: Three Reviews

Posted: July 31, 2011 in Uncategorized

I always used to find writers kind of ridiculous, self-regarding, vain and over-sensitive in their receptions of reviews of their books. Until I got some myself. And then I became ridiculous, self-regarding, vain, and over-sensitive.

So I am not sure how to even begin to give a fair account of the three reviews my debut novella has received.

They are all from people who I know personally, as online friends. One, Mark Simpson, is also a writer who I have read avidly and not a little critically. Not to mention including him as a subject in the fiction itself. So he would have had more right than most to lay into my little girl. He didn’t. He wrote a generous review, but it is what he doesn’t say that I am sure is more true and more meaningful than what he does. What he doesn’t say, is what made him a subject of my writing. If there is a space, I am always inclined to fill it. And now what Mark Simpson doesn’t say grows and expands and stretches over space. So to me, his review looks like a blank. I can’t see anything in it.

Elise Moore took my book and used it as a starting point for a discussion on the themes it refers to-homosexuality, and women’s relationships with homo-men. She also acknowledged how reading a piece by someone she knew, about someone she knew was disconcerting. I know she liked the book, but again, what she doesn’t say stands out to me more than what she does.

Fenner Pearson I think actually says what he actually thought when he read the book. And I found his words easiest to digest as a result. I don’t think he leaves anything out. And, like Elise, he acknowledges the weirdness of reading fiction by someone you kind of know, but kind of don’t, via the internet. My favourite bits  of his review were where he referred to being a Dad himself, and feeling bad when he is ‘absent’ from his kids, not physically, but by being off somewhere in his head.  And also when he mentioned the final scene of the book, where a ‘man’ and a ‘woman’ have a conversation on a clifftop.

Maybe that is the scene that caused the most trouble, as it is where someone who tends not to say things, actually speaks. It is the truest but also the most ‘fictional’ scene in the story. Because I know full well it will never happen in a million years. Which is why I had to make it happen. That’s what writers do. They turn that awful, crippling, dull, depressing inability that humans have to communicate with each other, and they transform it into meaningful language. Thank goodness.

  1. Elise says:

    Really? I thought I said exactly what I thought. And then more of it in the comments discussion with you. Not sure what to say now.

    • I think the personal connections/themes/style made it a very difficult book to react to straightforwardly!

      It was very obvious to me once I saw Fenner’s review, that he was in the much easier position of being someone totally outside the frames of reference of the book.

  2. Elise says:

    Yeah, writing that review was quite personal for me. Due to the themes I could connect to but perhaps many readers couldn’t (which made Fenner’s more “objective” review valuable), which is why I concentrated on them – as opposed to, say, reviewing it as a book about academic parents and children. I also thought a personal book deserved a personal response.

  3. But I put this up as a kind of wanky The Reader Is The Writer thing. Quite a lot of what I write is probably wanky po-mo shit! BUt we live in wanky po-modernism.

  4. Elise says:

    Well at least your wanky po-mo shit is sexy, lol.

    • It was a great discussion your review inspired I enjoyed it. I know that one of the other reviewers read it and he said it was ‘spirited’ which he called me in his review too. But is ‘spirited’ a code-word for ‘crazy ladies’? 😀

  5. Elise says:

    I’ll take “crazy ladies” over “spirited” any day!

    • I do have a problem with ‘spirited’ but it may simply be something he says about lots of people or some people. One can get too gendered in one’s analysis. But yes I think if two crazy ladies are talking, you may as well say what you see!

  6. Elise says:

    Thing is, I think that particular reviewer loves crazy ladies. Possibly, crazy ladies are merely spirited to him.

  7. Scott says:

    May I be a little *contraire*? From what I’ve read of Foucault’s Daughter, “spirited” seems less of an externally imposed code word, and more of a performative part of the presentation. And thats its charm: longing turned into “spirited” critical affray, set neatly in the background of the long march from Foucault’s sixties to the metrosexy present. I don’t know if you are or aren’t a crazy lady, incidentally, though I have known a few.

  8. Graham Perrett says:

    I haven’t read Foucaults Daughter yet, but having read Unethical Sluts(by QRG) recently I would like to echo Mark Simpsons comment in his review about how QRGs writing can stay with you… sometimes for days. But you do feel cleaner afterwards.

    • Thanks Graham. I don’t know if Mark would agree that you feel ‘cleaner’ after reading me! But I don’t really know how he did feel. He never said. Maybe he demonstrated how he felt, via his silences.

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