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Psyche in a Dress

Fransesca Lia Block's book Psyche in a Dress is a very original, unique work. It's written as free-verse poetry, though the entire novel is one complete tale. There is a decided lack of proper grammer - no periods, confused capitalization, and absolutely nothing to designate conversation, but, at the same time, it flows so smoothly. I was never in doubt as to what was occurring, and the language itself was so evocative. There were certain portions of the story which I felt fairly screamed for music to be set to it and for the words to be used as lyrics. The imagery was that gorgeous, and the rhythm was so melodious. Even when something was sad or hurtful, the tale was still beautiful, sometimes tragically so.

As for the plot itself, Psyche in a Dress is a reimagining of some of the classic Greek characters, set in modern day Hollywood. The narrator starts as Psyche but then becomes Echo, Eurydice, Persephone, and then Demeter as her life evolves. She encounters Hades, Narcissus, Orpheus, Eros, and Aphrodite. She's an actress, a student, a girlfriend, a lover, a mother. She's used and abandoned, hurt and healed. She's loved. She runs away from the thing she wants the most in life, because she fears she's not good enough for it. She becomes her mother, and watches as her daughter becoems her. There's sex, drugs, and rock n' roll. Though there are supernatural elements to this story, for example, there is a maenad involved in the tale, I feel as though it's more about life. It's the story of a girl becoming a woman and all the highs and lows, joys and sorrows she experiences on the journey. To tie everything together, this woman embodies the personalities of several Greek goddesses, making the mythology more accessible, more relatable to readers of today.

Psyche in a Dress is unlike anything I've ever read before... and I've read quite a bit, and I don't think I'll ever encounter anything else quite like it.


Weetzie Bat

Weetzie Bat by Fransesca Lia Block is a strange little book. It's a quick, easy read, so, when I say little, I'm not speaking figuratively. However, despite its rather abbreviated length, Block manages to squeeze in plenty of content and her fair share of lessons. A free spirit child of two Hollywood alums with their own problems, Weetzie meets her best friend Dirk, and the two of them explore the L.A. world of sex, drugs, music, and whimsy together on their search for love, a home, and family. Dirk meets Duck, they fall in love, and then Weetzie meets My Secret Agent Lover Man, and they fall in love, too. When Weetzie wants to have a baby, though, My Secret Agent Lover Man is hesitant, so she turns to her two best friends, and she, Dirk, and Duck make a baby together - one with two daddies... and then three when My Secret Agent Lover Man comes back to her. While he left, though, he had an affair with a witch who eventually gives birth to Witch Baby, but Weetzie doesn't hold Witch Baby's parentage against her and takes her in, raising her as her daughter as well. Their world is one of acceptance and creativity, the magic of love sustaining them. The language is colorful and imaginative. It's almost as if Block has created her own language at times the text is so rich with new, inventive slang. Although there is a shadow of the supernatural involved in this book - there's a genie, and there are witches, underneath the glitter and glitz, this is a story about relationships of all kinds, and that's why I think it belongs in this category.


The Last Summer (of You & Me)

In her novel The Last Summer (of You & Me), Ann Brashares, author of The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, tells the story of three childhood friends - sisters Alice and Riley and their friend Paul - as they struggle to become adults. They met at the beach every summer, and then spent the rest of the year apart, but their bond was never severed, not even when Paul stayed away for three summers during the time when he and Alice were both in college. However, underneath the friendship, there is a love and an attraction between Paul and Alice that threatens to pull the three friends apart, forever changing the precarious balance on their delicate friendship.

What's odd about this book is that I really didn't like the characters, but I enjoyed the book itself, and I think this is because the events were just too honest NOT to be appreciated. Paul was a the son of a rich man who married beneath him. His father committed suicide, and his mother was selfish, a terrible mother, and he grew up hating money and those people who had it and those who wanted it simply because it represented the only thing he had and all the things he wanted but couldn't get. Riley is a carefree spirit, the typical Peter Pan character who doesn't want to grow up and wants those around her to stay the same as well, and her younger sister Alice is too afraid of losing her sister to move forward with her own life.

However, eventually, Paul and Alice succumb to their attraction, but when tragedy strikes, and Riley becomes sick, Alice pulls away from Paul and punishes herself, stopping her own life while her sister's is put on hold. He becomes rude and belligerent, purposely hurtful as his confusion and anger over losing Alice overwhelms him, unaware of his best friend, Riley's, sickness. It's only through her eventual death that Riley realizes that she's holding the two people she loves the most in the world hostage in their own perpetually suspended youth. Once she passes away, it's like the bonds that were holding both Alice and Paul back from becoming the adults they were meant to be are lifted. It's only in the final pages of the book that the lead characters finally become likable, because they finally grow up. It's sad, though, that it takes death to make this happen, but isn't that often the case? Like I said, The Last Summer (of You & Me) isn't necessarily likable, but it's truthful, and, sometimes, that's more important.

 

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