Prime Edition

AISHWARYA  SUBRAMANIAN
LEFT OF COOL

Left of Cool abandons the respectable and the popular, and turns its gaze to the odd and wonderful.

Milks subverts pop culture’s notions of adolescent girlhood

omewhere in suburban America, teenaged Caty is making out with a boy on a rope swing. The setting with which Megan Milks opens her collection of short fiction, Kill Marguerite, is a familiar one to me. Not because I'd lived it (Delhi in the '90s was short on rope swings) but because scenes like this seem to belong to a mythical teenager-hood of the '80s and '90s that is part Instagram-filter and part the result of reading too much American preteen fiction. Not that Caty is thinking of the genre she belongs in; she is preoccupied with how kissing this boy on this swing will help her relationship ... with her best friend, Kim. And shortly she will be embroiled in a series of attempts to kill her rival Marguerite, in a universe that follows the conventions of a video game.

This title story encapsulates a number of Kill Marguerite's concerns. A preoccupation with girlhood in popular culture; the queering of relationships; dizzying shifts between genres that test out the limits of each.

Some of these limits are of format. There are 14 stories in the collection but only thirteen included in my e-book — "Circe", which requires its recto and verso pages to be read simultaneously, had to be left out for formatting purposes but is available on the website. Meanwhile Sweet Valley Twins #119: Abducted!, a fan fiction with large chunks of text borrowed from the original series, is in the form of a choose-your-own-adventure story, to which the e-book format is far better suited than the print versions we had to grow up with. Many of the stories are collaborative — Floaters is written with Leeyanne Moore, Earl and Ed illustrated by Marian Rink and Traumarama pieced together from the responses of several friends.

My favourite thing about this collection is its interest in a particular kind of adolescent girlhood in which other girls are all that matters and where aspiration, desire and the urge to wound are all tangled together. A story is based on a column from the magazine Seventeen, for example, and another told through Tegan and Sara lyrics.

yth and metaphor and reality blur into one another in these stories, and it's never possible to claim that, for example, Dionysus is "about" a relationship with an alcoholic. In My Father and I were Bent Groundward, for example, the "sword" that impregnates the narrator and her father (both of whom claim a dislike of penetration) is also able to slice off their legs. In Slug, a young woman who has been on a disappointing first date has sex with a giant slug while turning into one herself. Tomato Heart is, literally, about a woman with a tomato for a heart, and has the distinction of being the only story (in a collection full of stories about bodily fluids and slug erotica) to make me feel a little ill. In Circe the myth and video game genres slot neatly together as Hermes "drops bottle of immunity into Odysseus' lap."

The connections between stories are as startling and as perfect; the "Patty has died" in Slug which connotes orgasm comes shortly after the series of "Caty has died" in the previous story that signify her failing to beat a level in the game. A metaphor from the relatively mundane Floaters resurfaces in the weird, liminal space of Swamp Cycle.

Yet my favourite thing about this collection is its interest in a particular kind of adolescent girlhood in which other girls are all that matters and where aspiration, desire and the urge to wound are all tangled together. A story is based on a column from the magazine Seventeen, for example, and another told through Tegan and Sara lyrics. This last is Elizabeth's Lament, another piece of Sweet Valley Twins fan fiction and also an angry, incestuous declaration of love.

This is an area of popular culture which literature rarely draws upon — possibly because of its association with young girls, whose tastes are always particularly open for mockery. That Milks sees it as important would be itself be enough to make me love her work. That the collection deals with it in this way — smart, queer, perverse, inter-textual—means even more. The stories in Kill Marguerite are unsettling and often unpleasant but they feel like a gift.

 
Newer | Older

Creative-for-SG


iTv Network : newsX India News Media Academy aaj Samaaj  
  Powered by : Star Infranet