Friday, March 3, 2023

Boy Parts by Eliza Clark


Did I really just read this whole book in a single day? Yes. I didn't even mean for it to happen, just, once I started reading, I couldn't stop. BOY PARTS is a book I've had my eye on for a while but I was afraid to read it because so many reviews were saying it was super gory and comparing it to AMERICAN PSYCHO. Now that I've read it for myself, I can say... it is like AMERICAN PSYCHO, but better, because it delves into a lot of amazing social commentary about sexism, society's inability to see women as the perpetrators of violence because of that sexism, "woke" culture, art and how we consume it, and so much more. Fuck Bret Easton Ellis, man. If you're going to read about one unhinged, narcissistic psychopath this year, pick this one.

In the beginning, with its stream of consciousness style of narration and the way it picks apart the disaffected youth culture of young working class British girls, BOY PARTS really reminded me of GREEN GIRL. Irina, the heroine, is a fetish photographer who enjoys taking pictures of men who aren't classically attractive. She poses them in photographs in ways that subvert the male gaze-heavy fetish photographs that show women in peril or pain. Subverting the status quo. Which sounds all right, until you start to see the woman behind the art: is she making a statement or does she just enjoy hurting people? Why does she like horror movies that ape snuff films, and banned foreign movies with lurid rape scenes? Why does she keep seeing people with pieces of glass in their eyes? 

This is a weird, trippy, nasty book. There is violence but for the most part, it's pretty tasteful. The author doesn't wallow in it, which I appreciated. I will say that there is a cat death: it's mentioned twice, both times depicted on page. It made me really sad but it wasn't as graphic as what happens to the people in this book, which somehow still didn't gross me out as much as the opening paragraph where the heroine is about to drunkenly regurgitate a sandwich. I liked the slow unraveling of her sanity and the way that she's an unreliable narrator in her own story. I think some people use unreliable narrators as a narrative Get Out of Jail Free card, which-- no, don't do that. But when it's done right, it can add an extra layer to the story, focusing you to squint your eyes and study the plot through a smeary lens.

Irina is a truly chilling character but the people she surrounds herself aren't much better. Which maybe isn't much of a surprise if you ask yourself-- what kind of person would willingly stay in the orbit of a sociopath? The cast of secondary characters is vast and layered, and part of the fun of this book is sticking around and seeing what chaos Irina will wreak in the name of her art next. This was a great book to chase WOMAN, EATING with, and if unhinged female artist characters are the new black, I know what I'll be swathing myself in this season. I can't wait to read Eliza Clark's next book, but I have to say-- the fact that she wrote a character like this slightly terrifies me.

5 out of 5 stars

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