Lucy Ellmann’s first collection of essays has been described as ‘excruciatingly funny’, ‘breathlessly brilliant’, ‘comedic genius’… But the trouble with Lucy Ellmann is her humour always seems to use the same devices: CAPITALS, long alliterative lists, anger, denunciation, and this tends to pall after 196 pages. Her book comprises fourteen essays and is almost entirely a rave against modern civilisation and the people who have created it: MEN.
An extract from the title essay is fairly typical
THINGS slip out of your hand. THINGS look solid and steady when in fact they’re wobbly: you step on the THING and you tip off…
THINGS disappoint us. Drawers stick so you can’t get THINGS out of them or into them. Machines conk out. Rugs fade. Clothes shrink…THINGS don’t stay put. THINGS are never the right way up. THINGS get mouldy. THINGS break…
But I’m sure you’ve got the idea. Quite amusing, but it tends to pall after twelve pages. As a general rave against everything it reminded of Jerry Seinfeld’s stand-up, ‘What is it about THINGS’, I can hear him say. But Ellmann goes on far longer than he ever would.
In her second essay, Three Strikes, she takes Virgina Woolf”s essay Three Guineas as inspiration for a heavily footnoted castigation of the world created by men. The three strikes she recommends are to be employed by women to wrest control from men. They are a housework strike, a labour strike and a sex strike. This echoes the Odalisque Manifesto in her novel Mimi where the main character, a plastic surgeon, falls in love with Mimi a radical anti-male activist and makes a ludicrous denunciation of men in a public speech.
In other essays she lashes out at bras, electricity, flight, detective fiction and, did I say, MEN?
The only slightly generous and approving essay is about Laura Ingalls Wilder and her Little House on the Prairie novels. Ellmann in several essays yearns for a time before electricity and has a fairly rosy view of life as described in these novels.
She of course has some harsh things to say about the ex-president of the USA, but no matter how much she admires him, she is not the next Thomas Bernhard. Now there was someone who could denounce without being boring.
Not particularly recommended, unless you are a woman in a very bad mood with the males in your life. And it might only make THINGS worse