cover image W the Whore

W the Whore

Katrin de Vries and Anke Feuchtenberger, trans. from the German by Mark Nevins. New York Review Comics, $39.95 (240p) ISBN 978-1-68137-672-1

The title character in this poetic and dreamlike collection of graphic parables is a sort of ever-changing pixie. Sometimes W is half dressed, with a piggish nose and looped pigtails sprouting from an otherwise bald head. In later stories, she’s rendered more realistically, as if age has given her form but darkened her surroundings. This confused chameleon searches for herself through a variety of sparsely narrated adventures: trying out relationships with men and women, going to a party, visiting a “house of births” and an “extinct land.” The shifting strangeness of the stories defamiliarizes feminine rites of passage, such as getting married. In “The Dress,” W wants to marry; an ominous older figure tells her, “Put the white dress on. And then it will happen.” But instead of meeting lasting love, she is hoisted into a tower, her dress a bell, where she sees other feminine bodies hanging from the ceiling—like bells or hanged bodies. Haunting yet never overt, the narrative strikes an almost biblical tone. Juxtaposed with surreal landscapes, the stories are meditations on desire, freedom, and the body. The freighted, dreamlike imagery can wash over readers, but it always leaves room for interpretation. (Jan.)