Reviews of the Ephemeral

Posts Tagged ‘Andie Berryman’

Mosaic of Air by Cherry Potts

In Short Stories on October 19, 2013 at 1:30 pm

-Reviewed by Andie Berryman

Mosaic of Air is a lesbian collection originally released in 1992 with its re-release in 2013. So why re-issue stories from a particular era, in this case the 1980s: would the stories now be a bit dated? In her foreword, author Cherry Potts examines this decision herself, she points out which particular lines are now mercifully obsolete (such as ”He couldn’t very well marry Phillip, could he?”), but also points to the stories which still, sadly, portray elements of contemporary lesbian life.

Mosaic of Air by Cherry Potts

There’s a short piece called ‘Second Glance’ about a woman ‘cautiously searching for the cues’ before speaking to a woman in a bar (which the author points to in the foreword), I passed it around some LGBT friends (in their 20s and 30s) to gauge a reaction, they all read the piece, nodding their heads and simply saying ‘yes’.

The ground-breaking era of the second wave of feminism and the elements of women’s lives is present throughout the collection. In ‘The Ballad of Polly and Ann’ that element is incest. Not many words are wasted on the perpetrator, rather the main protagonist’s unorthodox journey takes precedence. This (to my mind) mirrors the rise of rape crisis centres during the 1970s and 1980s, which started life primarily tackling incestuous abuse.

Then there’s the reclaiming of myths. The great joy in reading a Feminist collection like this is the re-imagining, from Woolf to Winterson, Cherry Potts also reimagines Helen of Troy as a mere beautiful pawn in the powerplay of the ancient world, but who, like most women in today’s society, negotiates the system. If you read nothing else in this book you must read ‘Arachne’s Daughters’; this takes apart a myth about Arachne (a human) challenging Athene (the goddess): ‘ ”Now, can you believe anyone would be so stupid?” ‘. It’s set as a speech given at a women-only meeting with a clever twist on why so many women shouldn’t fear spiders despite the extra legs and pincers ‘ ”Forgot something though didn’t they?…[Men]… How many Cancers and Scorpios are in the audience?” ‘.

Throughout is the filling of silence through the writing of experience. That’s quite clearly laid out in ‘Winter Festival’, a piece about being alone on what should be a day of being with a loved one: ‘ ”A day like any other, except perhaps for our expectations of it: unreasonable, companionable expectations”. One couldn’t imagine that story being relevant to the here and now, but it’s happening somewhere, to someone.

Another element in the canon of feminist writing is science fiction. There always seems to be a reaching out to space, a place which shouldn’t replicate patriarchal norms, but somehow does and distorts them slightly. ‘Mosaic of Air’ is an interesting parable featuring a proto-post-feminist lead, a computer programmer whose programme becomes sentient which surprisingly encases an abortion debate.

There is longing, there is the blessing of lust requited, written to my mind on a low frequency; this is what happened, it’s important that it’s displayed as an everyday facet of life. Cherry Potts’ writing quite rightly points out that lesbian life has been portrayed like an old postcard left behind the carriage clock on the mantelpiece for years; visitors have noticed it and yet not bothered to pick it up and discover the message on it, because it’s from Hebden Bridge and not Brighton’s clubs.

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Cars & Girls #FEMNOIR Sampler (ed. Evangaline Jennings & Tee Tyson)

In Short Stories on September 18, 2013 at 11:10 am

-Reviewed by Andie Berryman

Gun-toting and out for revenge, the main characters in Cars and Girls are fully fleshed out through the course of their quests for revenge, put in impossible situations caused by patriarchal constructs and shooting their way out.

cars and girls

At first glance it seems genders are flipped i.e Arnie becomes Amanda, Stallone becomes Suzy. It becomes clear that the narrative throughout is that of ‘don’t be a victim, do something about it!’. But how to achieve that in a so-called post-modern world still ruled by patriarchal institutions?

In ‘500’ by Zoe Spencer, we find ourselves riding shotgun in a sleek sports car driven by the aristocratic Emily. Emily has social capital, money and happens to be a handy shot (shooting on different country estates whilst growing up). Her father is killed by a man who wants to make her his possession and will go to extreme lengths, so Emily must first escape her gilded cage of security detail in order to get to him first. Spencer cleverly sets the main part of her story in Oxfordshire and takes us to locations that Emily wouldn’t stick out like a sore thumb, such as Oxford. Emily is smart and knows that her status will allow her story to be heard by the media and police, if she gets caught it’s likely she’ll get away with it.

Holly Hellbound (‘Roadrunner’ Tee Tyson) knows her status will only bring her certain death when she wreaks her revenge, so she takes it anyway. As a white trash version of Tarantino’s The Bride from the Kill Bill series, Holly exacts her vengeance and finds redemption along the way, knowing full well it doesn’t matter to the authorities what horrific abuse triggered the bloodshed, the fact that she kills people who ‘matter’ is enough to send her to the chair. Out of the collection, Tee Tyson’s writing excited me the most, Tyson perfectly (ahem) executes the fast, furious pace of her story and had me shaking with adrenalin, as if I were riding along with Holly, putting the pedal to the metal in her Daddy’s lime green road-runner.

Daddy’s pride and joy also plays a part in a night of perfect revenge exacted in Madeline Harvey’s ‘Barracuda’, an unadulterated tale of a woman (Etta) teaching her younger sister about the art of revenge in small town America. This tale seemed simplistic at first until I realised this story was the spine that held the pages of the collection together. The main narrative running through the collection is not that of pure revenge, it is about a key feminist action: I’m standing up to this so you don’t have to. The secondary narrative is that of the love interests (or as the writings go, fuck interests), the male love interests are considered briefly, used and then cast aside as women portrayed as love interests in action films generally are. The women lead characters are leads in every sense, they know what they want and get what they want.

The final story in the collection, ‘Crown Victoria’ by Evangeline Jennings, delivers a wonderful twist surpassing anything the film The Sixth Sense and its ilk could deliver. Once again we are out for revenge, this time in a decommissioned American police car circumnavigating the Southern states in America. This story completely emphasises the tedium of the double-checking women face in real life, the removal of possibilities of violence, the back-up plans and the constant communication check-ins. This story is cleverly placed as it teaches the reader (by the end) never to settle in a familiar fictional routine.

Writing portrayed as post-modernist is supposed be be knowing, you’re supposed to know what happens at the end as soon as you read the first chapter. What this collection does is spell out what the oxymoron of Post-feminism is, and indeed the button badge ‘I’ll be a Post Feminist in a post patriarchal society’ seems apt. I’m going to dispense with any more academic phrasing and simply say, I thoroughly enjoyed this collection, I loved that the characters got their revenge, I love how the lead characters (less one) got a happy ending. I heard there’s a new Cars & Girls Vol 2 out soon; my first thought was ‘Shut up and take my money!’.