cover image Body Work: The Radical Power of Personal Narrative

Body Work: The Radical Power of Personal Narrative

Melissa Febos. Catapult, $16.95 trade paper (192p) ISBN 978-1-64622-085-4

Memoirist Febos (Girlhood) assembles four whip-smart essays on the power of personal writing, which mark her “attempts to describe the ways that writing is integrated into the fundamental movements of my life: political, corporeal, spiritual, psychological, and social.” “In Praise of Navel Gazing” is a defense of memoirs focused on trauma, which she suggests are often seen as “gauche”: “the resistance to memoirs about trauma is always in part... a resistance to movements of social justice.” In “Mind Fuck,” she details a series of “unrules” for writing about sex: “sex doesn’t have to be good” and “writing about sex doesn’t have to include sex at all.” “A Big Shitty Party” shares hard-learned insights on writing about real people in nonfiction (when people give Febos permission to include them, “what they actually mean is that I have their permission to write anything about them that they can imagine I might”), and “The Return” makes a case that personal writing can help one deal with painful experiences. Febos’s fellow scribes will appreciate her shrewd takes on the intersection of craft and life, and even nonwriters will enjoy the artistry on display throughout. This is a wonder. Agent: Ethan Bassoff, Ross Yoon Agency. (Mar.)