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A Child's Life and Other StoriesReview - A Child's Life and Other Stories
Revised Edition
by Phoebe Gloeckner
North Atlantic Books, 2000
Review by Christian Perring, Ph.D.
Nov 22nd 2005 (Volume 9, Issue 47)

This collection of illustrated stories by Phoebe Gloeckner seem to draw on her own experience as an abused and delinquent teenager growing up in San Francisco in the 1970s.  The young women she portrays have a similar history to the girl she describes and draws in her novel The Diary of a Teenage Girl (reviewed in Metapsychology February 2005).  Many of the stories feature Minnie, which is also the name of the teenage girl in Gloeckner's novel.  Many of the stories are explicit and shocking: even as a young girl, Minnie is drawn in a sexualized way, and her mother's boyfriend is always acting inappropriately in her presence, while her mother makes no objections and blames Minnie if there's trouble.  "Minnie's 3rd Love" shows Minnie in 1976 as a confused teenager on Polk Street, San Francisco, hanging out with other messed up teens and older people, getting drunk and taking drugs, being used, and making many mistakes.  Other stories have similar themes, showing other people in similar situations, or tell similar stories from different perspectives in different styles.  Many of them are sexually explicit and disturbing in their power to evoke not only the pain of abuse but how Minnie gets so drawn to people who will hurt her. 

Gloeckner's drawing is very distinctive with its bold lines and strong faces, especially striking for their large eyes staring at the reader.  She has an MA in Medical Illustration, and some of her most powerful pictures collected at the end of the book employ this skill, showing men and women's bodies in cross-section, both sexualized and corpse-like.  Her covers for J.G. Ballard's The Atrocity Exhibition and the groundbreaking  Angry Women may be familiar to some readers.  One of the darking images is a self-portrait showing her skin rotting and covered with boils, entitled "Self-portrait with Pemphigus Vulgaris."  It's a remarkable collection of work exploring female adolescent sexuality, victimization and cruelty, showing women not just as passive vessels used by men, but also as actively participating in hurting other people.  This is remarkable work and is among the best graphic illustration available today.  Highly recommended. 

 

© 2005 Christian Perring. All rights reserved.

Link: Phoebe Gloeckner web page

 

Christian Perring, Ph.D., is Chair of the Philosophy Department at Dowling College, Long Island, and editor of Metapsychology Online Review.  His main research is on philosophical issues in medicine, psychiatry and psychology.


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