Cover Image: Valerie

Valerie

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date:

Member Reviews

Unlike most of my GR chums, who read this when it was nominated for the Booker International last year (many felt it should have won!), I came to it late, directly after consuming the new hefty biography of Warhol, and also subsequently re-watching Mary Harron's film, 'I Shot Andy Warhol'. 

So I was a mite puzzled (and disappointed) that Stridberg's imagined fantasia strayed from the facts about Solanas' life as often as it adhered to them. The author never quite explains WHY she did that, and it is weird that some of the more obscure facts (such as that Warhol was admitted into the hospital as 'Bob Roberts' for his fatal gallbladder operation) are adhered to, but she seemingly arbitrarily changed such things as the location of Valerie's childhood from New Jersey (which accounted for her thick honk of an accent - see:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sPQVt...) to the non-existent deserts of Georgia .... and that she 'mistakenly' has Paul Morrissey also shot in Valerie's assassination attempt (the other victim was Mario Amaya, who is never mentioned), or had Viva present there also (she was on the phone with Andy when he was shot - and she also inexplicably calls her 'Viva Ronaldo', when to my knowledge she never went by that name - her real name was Susan Hoffman). 

Anyway, as soon as I grudgingly let go of the fact this WASN'T going to be factual, I got into the groove of what it WAS, and enjoyed many of the riffs. The surreal and at times impressionistic prose seemed a good match to the tale Stridberg DID want to tell, although there were many sections that (purposely?) remained opaque and repetitious, especially those chapters that had alphabetical subheadings. And though much of it was fascinating in a perverse way, I was left not really understanding the purpose of revisiting Solanas' life in this fashion - other than to draw attention to the inequalities still besetting the female gender, which drove her protagonist crazy, and perhaps lead one to seek out more factual information on her. 

My sincere thanks to both Netgalley and FS & G for providing me with an ARC in exchange for this honest review.
Was this review helpful?
Valerie is fiction, feminism, and true crime all wrapped into one. 

Valerie Solanas was discovered dead in her hotel room in San Francisco after an attempted murder of Andy Warhol. "Valerie", the book, takes us through her terrible upbringing in Georgia, the mental hospitals she visited before she ended up in San Francisco, takes us back to that hotel room, and also back through the trial where she was tried and convicted for the attempted murder. There was a lot of study building in Valerie but I think it was necessary for it to be so successful. 

This book reads almost like a biography but it's much more than that because it's also fiction. I loved that this book was focused on Valerie and her life as a radical feminist. At times it was difficult to read but I still really loved it. It was mesmerizing. I strongly recommend this book.
Was this review helpful?
Absolutely loved this book! Loved it even more for learning all about Valerie Solanas’ life, I ended up purchasing SCUM Manifesto and will now be looking forward to what Sara Stridsberg puts out next! Thanks for sending — love the cover as well!
Was this review helpful?
When you read a quote unquote highbrow book, the impulse (at least for me) is usually to try to write a quote unquote highbrow review.  Because there isn’t much dignity in reading an intelligent book like Valerie (published as The Faculty of Dreams in the UK) and dismissing it with pedestrian critique, but whatever, I’m going to do it anyway.  I found this both boring and deeply annoying.

I can never really figure out what I want from novels which fictionalize the lives of real people.  Because my impulse is to lean more toward more factual, biography-style novels (see: Fire from Heaven by Mary Renault), but then it’s almost like… why don’t I just read a biography of that person?  Why am I even reading a novel if I’m so opposed to creative liberties?  But I have also been known to enjoy more abstract fictionalizations (see: An Imaginary Life by David Malouf) which take a real life person and imagine, fictionalize, or dramatize details of their life, so it’s not something I’m inherently opposed to. Valerie falls into the latter category to an extreme.  Sara Stridsberg in her forward admits that this is not an attempt to recreate the details of Valerie Solanas’s life; it’s more of a ‘literary fantasy’ where she loosely spins together fragments of Valerie’s life and ideologies, while deliberately skewing facts (changing Valerie’s birthplace from Ventnor to Ventor; moving it from New Jersey to a desert in Georgia).  It just… didn’t work for me.

This is a book of ideas with nothing to ground them; the narrative threads are too few and far between for me to have anything to really grasp onto.  I didn’t understand for the longest time why Stridsberg was bothering to disguise this fragmented, meandering, awkward novel as the story of Valerie Solanas, and while I did feel like that question was eventually answered, it was too little too late for me.  I read this entire book thinking ‘I don’t care, I should probably care, why don’t I care, does the author care at all about how disengaged I am?’

But I do feel the need to remind everyone that I use the star rating system subjectively and I use my reviews to explain why I react to books in a certain way; I don’t think this is a ‘bad book’ and I would dissuade no one who’s interested in it from giving it a shot.  It just did nothing for me.  Though the US cover is one of the prettiest I’ve seen in a while, so there’s that.

Thank you to Netgalley and FSG for the advanced copy provided in exchange for an honest review.
Was this review helpful?
ON JUNE 3, 1968, Valerie Solanas was hauled into Manhattan’s 13th Precinct booking room after shooting Andy Warhol in the torso. She’d turned herself in to a rookie traffic cop in Times Square, explaining that Warhol had “too much control of [her] life.” When reporters at the station asked why she did it, Solanas was more evasive. She claimed she had lots of reasons—but didn’t elaborate. “Read my manifesto and it will tell you who I am,” she said.

That was only partly true. The SCUM Manifesto, which Solanas self-published a year earlier and peddled on the streets of New York, can’t be read at face value. Part satire, part feminist cri de coeur, part science-fiction reverie, it’s a text whose rhetorical power depends on excess. Solanas edges past absurdity and into a kind of fanatical idealism in which men are strategically exterminated and women are free to “create a magic world.” There’s no more war in Solanas’s would-be utopia; no government; no economy; just big-hearted women “grooving” on each other. It’s hard to not be swept up in her theatrics, even if you suspect she’s being facetious—and maybe she isn’t. The SCUM Manifesto is equally amusing, arresting, and bludgeoning, without claiming allegiance to any one mood. 

Today, the SCUM Manifesto bears all the hallmarks of its time: slangy, pissed off, feverish with social and political revolution. But in the late sixties, the manifesto was a fresh countercultural missile. It was still over-the-top, of course, but it appealed to a generation fed up with the hypocrisy and hierarchy of institutional America. Few contemporary readers—especially women—agreed on when Solanas was joking and when she wasn’t. The cadre of radical second-wave feminists who rallied in her defense may have believed her when she wrote, “The elimination of any male is, therefore, a righteous and good act, an act highly beneficial to women as well as an act of mercy.” More mainstream feminists, including those in Betty Friedan’s National Organization for Women (NOW), were wary of championing Solanas, lest that support be misconstrued as an endorsement of violence. Friedan even dispatched a panicked telegram to Ti-Grace Atkinson, the president of NOW’s New York chapter and an early Solanas booster: “Desist immediately from linking NOW in any way with Valerie Solanas. Miss Solanas [sic] motives in Warhol case entirely irrelevant to NOW’s goals of full equality for women in truly equal partnership with men.”        

Solanas wasn’t interested in gender equality or partnerships. She wanted to blow up the whole goddamn charade, as SCUM’s infamous first paragraph attests:

Life in this society being, at best, an utter bore and no aspect of society being at all relevant to women, there remains to civic-minded, responsible, thrill-seeking females only to overthrow the government, eliminate the money system, institute complete automation, and destroy the male sex.

Was she serious? Not even Solanas went—or stayed—on record one way or the other. The SCUM Manifesto carved deep schisms in feminism, activism, and pop culture that partisans on all sides backfilled with contradictory interpretations of her message. Over the years, she came to emanate an aura of grubby menace and martyrdom that intensified as she spiraled into very public paranoia. Her interviews were chock full of lies, boasts, and delusional self-promotion, as when she told the Village Voice in 1977 that she’d been offered a hundred-million-dollar advance for her next book. Whether she was a genius exploited by powerful men, or a crackpot armed with a typewriter and a .32 pistol, was anybody’s guess. More than a half-century after the shooting that made her newsworthy, Solanas still seduces. And she still confounds. 

As with recent reappraisals of radical feminists Andrea Dworkin and Shulamith Firestone, Solanas isn’t so easy to pigeonhole. It’s clear she suffered from mental illness (she believed the Mob bugged her uterus), and she was abused–emotionally and sexually—by men she trusted. Dworkin and Firestone’s “violence” was ideological; Solanas actually tried to murder somebody. Her legacy can’t be refurbished as cleanly as, say, Dworkin’s, who this year received laudatory write-ups in publications that once scorned or ignored her. As Cynthia Carr noted in the Village Voice in 2003, “At one time, Valerie Solanas seemed the feminist ghost least likely to rise from the grave. The one and only member of the Society for Cutting Up Men, she was just too mad and too bad.”

Solanas is still mad—but perhaps less bad these days. She’s messier and more pitiable than her feminist contemporaries. Readers today risk taking her too seriously or, like Warhol, not seriously enough.

Valerie: or, The Faculty of Dreams: A Novel by Sara Stridsberg is the latest in a small rash of books, films, and television shows that find inspiration in Solanas’s story. The novel was originally published in Stridsberg’s native Sweden in 2006, where it was awarded the prestigious Nordic Council Literature Prize. (The English-language edition is translated by Deborah Bragan-Turner.)

Stridsberg begins the novel with a disclaimer: her book isn’t a biography but “a literary fantasy” that doesn’t adhere to the facts of Solanas’s life. It doesn’t even adhere to the facts of geography or history. The real Solanas was born in 1936, in Ventnor City, New Jersey, next door to Atlantic City. Her parents—Lou, a bartender, and Dorothy, a dental assistant—were first-generation Americans from working-class families. The Solanas of Valerie is born in Ventnor, Georgia, an invented desert hamlet where the sky is the “same pink as a sleeping tablet or old vomit.” She lives with her mother in a “desert house with no pictures, books, money, or plans for the future.” 

From there, though, the novel more or less follows the chronology of Solanas’s life: her student days in the animal laboratory at the University of Maryland’s psychology department; her career as a panhandler and sex worker in New York; the writing of her play, Up Your Ass, which she tried to strongarm Warhol into producing. In 1967, Maurice Girodias, the French publisher whose Olympia Press put out highbrow smut including Lolita, Candy, and Tropic of Capricorn, contracted Solanas to write a novel. Convinced she’d been conned into forfeiting all of her future copyrights, she allegedly decided to kill Girodias (there’s no consensus as to whether this was her real motive). He was out of town the day she showed up at his apartment in the Chelsea Hotel, so she went to the Factory and shot Warhol instead. Solanas then ping-ponged between prison and psychiatric hospitals, and in the years after her release enjoyed a fringe celebrity thanks to interviewers who milked her for outlandish copy. Later, she became homeless. She drifted out west. She worked as a prostitute in San Francisco’s Tenderloin, conspicuous in her silver lamé dress, and died there in a welfare hotel in 1988.

Although Valerie follows the contours of Solanas’s life, the novel isn’t conventionally plotted. It’s more like a postmodern collage of imagined transcripts and interviews and snippets of lyrics (mostly from Hole’s 1994 album Live Through This), spliced with Stridsberg’s own mythopoetic evocations of Solanas’s life. There’s a metafictional layer, too, as the unruly Solanas rebukes the narrator-cum-author:

NARRATOR: You are the subject of this novel. I admire your work. I admire your courage. I’m interested in the manifesto’s context. Your life. The American women’s movement. The sixties.

VALERIE: Whore material. Screwing material.

NARRATOR: The context—

VALERIE: —there’s no such thing as context. Everything has to be wrenched out of its setting. Frames of reference can always explain away the most obvious causal connections. Buyers, sellers, slack dicks, slack pussies. It’s a question of phenomena that can always be taken apart.

The result is a novel that conveys Solanas’s ambiance but not necessarily her substance: the pain she carried with her so long it hardened into faith. Like Dworkin, Solanas’s pain often transubstantiated into apocalyptic fury, although she was also capable of tenderness, as when she wrote, “The female function is to explore, discover, invent, solve problems, crack jokes, make music—all with love.” Still, pain eats like acid through Solanas’s work, which Valerie mimics in its mix of high-flown imagery and squalid metaphor. Rather than look at Solanas’s pain head-on (“everything has to be wrenched out of its setting”), Stridsberg takes an oblique approach. 

The earliest trauma was Solanas’s sexual abuse by her father. In Valerie, that first assault is depicted with the woozy, sun-dappled lyricism of a Terrence Malick film:

You will remember forever the magical light, the sludgy water creatures, distant birdcalls, rolls of ponderous clouds above. The shade of the trees, a shimmering green yearning and for what, you do not know, just a beast in your stomach wanting out and shafts of light descending through the green darkness.

As the abuse continues, Solanas herself takes the narrative reins:

it was nothing special, it was just that Louis used to rape me on the porch swing after Dorothy had driven into town . . . I rented out my little pussy for no money and afterward he always wept and tried to untangle the knot of chewing gum in my hair . . . there was nothing left to cry about except America would keep on fucking me and all fathers want to fuck their daughters and most of them do and only a minority refrain and it’s not clear why except the world is always one long yearning to go back.

The voice here is closer to Solanas’s actual literary style, as when, in the Manifesto, she writes, “Every man, deep down, knows he’s a worthless piece of shit,” or, “To call a man an animal is to flatter him; he’s a machine, a walking dildo.” In Valerie, the fictional Solanas continues to blurt caustic one-liners: “In every man sits a masturbating little infant with extremely sadistic impulses”; “All married women are prostitutes”; “Only real whores are real women and revolutionaries.”

In addition to these stream-of-consciousness interventions, the fictional Solanas also talks in abstractions, riddles, and in mini-rants that read like outtakes from the Manifesto. Here she is talking with her psychiatrist:

DR. RUTH COOPER: You are extremely ill, Valerie. That doesn’t mean you’re not a very gifted, headstrong woman.

VALERIE: There is no illness. My condition is not a medical condition. It’s more a condition of extreme clarity, of stark white operating lights illuminating all words, things, bodies, and identities. [. . .] Every girl in patriarchy knows that schizophrenia, paranoia, and depression are in no way a description of an individual medical condition. It is a definitive diagnosis of a social structure and a form of government based on constant insults to the brain capacity of half the population, founded on rape.

Maybe Solanas really spoke in such chiseled barbs. Or maybe Stridsberg’s stylized dialogue dramatizes how alien Solanas must have seemed to other adults—how spooky, how feral. She makes very little small talk in the novel; she rarely comments on the weather, or gossips, or repeats clichés like the rest of us. She describes herself as “on the borderline between human being and chaos.” Even her casual conversation is rendered as bleak melodrama:

NARRATOR: And why did you stop writing?

VALERIE: Up to now the history of all societies has been the history of silence. Rebel, psychoanalyst, experimental writer, woman’s potential as dissident. Language has become increasingly a physical substance whose only function is to underline my loneliness.

Like the collage style of Valerie itself, the character of Solanas recycles and remixes other texts, and plagiarizes herself. Elsewhere in the novel, an aging Solanas repeatedly quotes her own Manifesto, especially the maxim, “You’ve got to go through a lot of sex to get to anti-sex.” She paraphrases arguments she first made twenty years earlier. In Stridsberg’s account, Solanas—particularly as she lay dying of pneumonia in the Bristol Hotel—is an echo chamber of language.

Still, she remains a cypher. (Warhol is a cypher here too, an apparition of “shimmering, glittering fagginess” slinking against the Factory’s white walls. But then, blankness was part of the mystique Warhol cultivated.) Stridsberg nixes most novelistic conventions: plot, character development, motivation, epiphany, denouement. Instead, the novel is animated by Solanas’s ego, and by her bristly, sarcastic, dreamlike, vulnerable voice. In the end, Valerie is as much a tragic literary story as a tragic biographical one. Stridsberg conveys how a fitfully brilliant and audacious writer was dogged—and then silenced—by her own words. Solanas never published another book after the SCUM Manifesto, although her fellow lodgers at the Bristol Hotel later reported the clatter of typing from her room at all hours. “She was writing,” Solanas’s mother told New York magazine in 1991. “She fancied herself as a writer, and I think she did have some talent.”

Stridsberg isn’t the only artist who has tried to ventriloquize Solanas, or to understand who she was and what she represented. In I Shot Andy Warhol (1996), directed by Mary Harron, Lili Taylor plays Solanas as a mashup of Fran Lebowitz and Joe Pesci—a slouchy, fast-talking grifter who doesn’t take anyone’s shit. More recently, Lena Dunham delivered a farcical version of Solanas in American Horror Story: Cult, in which Solanas commands a crew of homicidal women from inside her psych ward. Breanne Fahs’s 2014 biography, Valerie Solanas: The Defiant Life of the Woman Who Wrote SCUM (and Shot Andy Warhol), comes closest to giving readers the full picture, although even Fahs acknowledges in the preface that there are limits: “Tracking the life of Valerie Solanas, much like pursuing the movements of an invisible wolf, has led to many dead ends.” 

Solanas’s shooting of Warhol is one reason she’s struggled to be taken seriously. It has the quality of bad performance art—of impromptu spectacle—which is reinforced both in Harron’s movie and in AHS. There’s a kind of staginess to the act, like a scene from one of Warhol’s own movies. (And, in fact, Solanas basically played herself in Warhol’s 1967 dud, I, a Man.) There’s also the contrast between Solanas and Warhol, as if they were negatives of each other: the latter deadpan, sexless, almost cryogenic; the former talky, short-fused, earthy. She made an uneasy fit among the glossy Factory superstars, with her newsboy cap and rummage sale clothes. And, of course, there was Solanas’s status as a queer woman on the margins. She was poor, intermittently homeless, and mentally ill in an era during which such people were often lobotomized or locked away in barbaric asylums against their will. With few options available, Solanas risked her life in pursuit of liberation. If her methods were flamboyant, or crude, or violent, well, so was the straight world she fought against. Yet when embodying Solanas, most people inevitably resort to parody or burlesque. She’s easy to mock. 

Valerie does something different. It inhabits Solanas from the inside out and restores her to appropriately mythic origins. The desert backdrop that runs through the novel is a blank canvas on which Stridsberg projects ancient dramas of incest, isolation, and betrayal. But the desert is also a metaphor for how people like Solanas seem to come out of nowhere to hijack history. Several of the novel’s chapters have subheads that situate the reader on a historical continuum: the Bikini Atoll nuclear tests, Marilyn Monroe’s death, the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy. The effect is to juxtapose Solanas—and, by extension, others like her, who were socially and economically voiceless—against the awful gutter wind of history. What Solanas did is trivial by comparison to these epochal events, and yet her Manifesto envisions a world in which such events might be averted. No more war. No more government. No more patriarchy. No more men. 

In that respect, Valerie gives us Solanas as she probably hoped to be: still failed, yes, but vindicated. It’s not much of a spoiler to say that at the novel’s end, a ghost reads to the dying Solanas from the Manifesto, as if it has become a bedtime story. Like the greatest fables, it contains a quotable lesson: “the meaning of life is love.” For Solanas, that line must have been nice to say, even if she didn’t believe a fucking word of it.
Was this review helpful?
I thought I would see how Sara Stridsberg would handle Valerie and it turned out quite like I thought it would. Her abuse by her father figure, led by her mother going out to serve drinks as a bartender and leaving them together each night. Then her reaction when he left them. It goes on and on that Valerie considered herself a whore from the age of 7. She had the ability to get good grades in school but she had a mouth that didn't quit. She would have been less of a character but she shot Andy Warhol and he lived another 20 years, this is what made her famous. All the newsmen and people bugged her and wanted to know why she shot him and wouldn't let up. There were so many people that Valerie knew it was kind of anti-climatic with the people because we would learn what they wanted in life. And most of them had horrible deaths awaiting them. It seemed as if the older Valerie got she seem to change because of the medication she took when she was locked up and because she craved street drugs later and this killed her. Sara made you feel as if you were in Valerie's shoes and that made me feel pretty creepy. I probably would have made this book 4 stars if this was not true.
Was this review helpful?
Valerie by Sara Stridsberg is a free NetGalley ebook that I read in early August.

Originally published in Sweden in 2006, this is an imagined biography of Valerie Solanas. Its chapters are dated non-chronologically by locations between 1945-1988 with single-spaced, Q&A/interview dialogue and second-person-imperitive (i.e. You do this and think about that), stage-direction-like, musing, sardonic, observational vignettes that are very hard to get used to; yet they speak loud and clear of Valerie wanting to be accepted and motivated, yet also seen as original, gritty, tough-love, and battle-worn.
Was this review helpful?
A different type of book for me to read but I found it interesting.  It is about Valerie Solanas a writer and feminist and would be assasin  that was found dead with her pages of writting around her.  Sara Stridsberg goes over the life and happeings of Valerie and puts the writtings of the SCUM manifesto in her own words and thoughts to try and give you more of an insight into Valerie and what she was about. Well written but could be confusing at times not a light read thats for sure but I found it to be engrossing and I had to read to the end.
Was this review helpful?
Oh, Valerie Solanas...you poor tortured soul.

Writer, radical feminist and Andy Warhol would be assassin Valerie was found dead in a hotel room, alone, broke and surrounded by her latest writing. 

Sarah Stridsberg visits the hotel room, the courtroom and the hometown of Solanas - trying to find a piece of Valerie that may still exist. 

It's weirdly written - with a change in the narrative voice, documents and Solana's own hard to read takes on feminism. 

It's fiction, but only sort of. It's biographical, a little. It's amazing...totally.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the opportunity to read and review this book.
Was this review helpful?
I honestly don't know what to make of this unusual book.  Valerie Solanas, who gained her 15 minutes of fame for shooting Andy Warhol, lived a large and in many ways tragic life.  There was violence, mental illness, and sexual assault.  She was, however, a writer who many respected. If you're looking for a biography- this isn't it and Stridsberg is up front about that.  This follows no usual path, plot, or format and I actually found it difficult to read.  Thanks to the publisher for the ARC.  I appreciated the opportunity to experience this and recommend it to those looking or experimental literary fiction.
Was this review helpful?
While not completely accurate (accuracy is not the point), this book offers a unique look at a misunderstood figure.
Was this review helpful?
This book made me feel as lonely, unstable, damaged and disturbed as Valerie herself. I'm not sure if it was intended by the author, but the style was so distracting and different from what I'm used to. Maybe that was the whole point of it. Some parts I just skim-read. Some parts pulled me in. 

What's weird though is that the writing made me empathize with the mental sickness that Valerie was going through - the self talk, the darkness, over confidence, wild imaginations and her hatred for men which led to the writing of SCUM. But as much as she hated men, she sold herself to them for money. It felt as though she needed them to prove her existence. 

She was clearly disturbed but she didn't want help and didn't think she needed any. She just felt like the world was against her, and that the world needed her - the women needed her and the men must be erased from the face of the earth. She felt that Warhol deserved what he got, and that she did nothing wrong. 

Can we blame her for being the way she was after years of being sexually abused?

Overall, how did I feel about this book? Let me put it this way. You know how sometimes you look at a painting, you're so drawn to it and by it, but at the same time you don't fully understand its concept or idea? Yup. That was how I felt. 

If you're looking for something very different to read where the narration style can vary from dialogues to paragraphs that start with letters a-z to tell the story, then jumping back and forth in time line, you may enjoy this. Also, be warned, it's extremely graphic, and has profanities here and there.

See if you can swallow this:

Valerie: There's really nothing to cry about. All fathers want to fuck their daughters. Most of them do. A minority refrain for some unknown reason. I've been fucked by America. It's absolutely all right and absolutely all wrong. The world is one long yearning to go back.

Thank you Netgalley and Farrar, Straus and Giroux for a free eARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
Was this review helpful?
I was not able to finish this one. I just could not handle the writing style and it was difficult to follow.
Was this review helpful?
This is more artistic than I was expecting. As a result, I found it a bit challenging to stay with. Written mostly in the form of a play with some auxiliary narration slipped in between, it plays with style, syntax, form etc. 

Overall, this was not my favorite title, but for readers who enjoy something that plays around with the format of a novel or fictional biography may really enjoy this. 

I think that there's always something to be said about authors who take the story of a person and make it as engaging as possible. I know that Stidsberg did her best to capture an image of a woman, and I think that this portrait is like any piece of art: appraised uniquely by each beholder.
Was this review helpful?
Valerie Solanas, the woman who wrote the SCUM Manifesto and tried to kill Andy Warhol in 1968, gets revived by author Sara Stridsberg in a book that mixes reality with fiction as Stridsberg imagines conversations with Solanas in the motel where she died, the courtroom where she was tried, her violent childhood home, and all the journey of her life.

I have to say that this was not an easy book to read and I can’t bring myself to give it any stars because as much as this book is a work of fiction, it is still rooted in reality and the topics discussed are difficult.

Solanas had a very difficult childhood where she was raped from a very young age by her father and then beaten by her alcoholic stepfather. After all of that her life in this book was a series of constant moving around and doing sex work that she didn’t voluntarily want to do as well as being raped on other occasions. While portrayed as a brilliant woman who wanted to become a psychology professor and wanted to write, the cruelness of the world and especially the men around her brought her down. Warhol is said to have stolen her play and that’s why she shot him.The book, as was Solanas herself, was very anti men and in fact she declared herself as a man hater and called for the extermination of men as the only way to save the world and women. 

In the era of the Me Too movement and so many men being taken to court and being held responsible for rape, in an era where mental illness is being properly talked about, in an era where we see that the damage done to us as children shapes and follows us for the rest of our lives, this is a relevant read. While this version of feminism is extreme and there’s no reason for the extermination of men, it’s yet another way to discuss how the society and cultures that we grow up in shape their men to be damaged and hostile and drive them to hurt others as they have been hurt. How a cycle of abuse continues and an end doesn’t seem possible. Additionally, I didn’t like the book’s view of sex work.

It’s a heartbreaking, terrifying, wild, and extremely graphic book from beginning to end with no moments of rest. It all reads like a fever dream where things go back and forth constantly and everything makes sense in a very blurry type of way. I loved the way it was written and hated the content and to know that someone was messed up by life so badly that it led all of these events. This is also a very polarizing book and I’m sure many people won’t like it. So if you decide to buy it when it comes out be, as we should be with everything we consume, critical.
Was this review helpful?
Valerie oh Valerie! So many conflicting emotions while reading this one. Which I think was the author's intent, and she mastered it beautifully. Valerie suffered from mental illness. I felt like i was in Valerie's mind experiencing the stream of consciousness right along with her. It wasn't just that you read a ramble. However, it was an experience in real time of what Valerie was thinking, feeling, and how she processed it. 

At times, reading her ideology was very difficult. She was a certified man hater, and I read this one while on maternity leave with my new baby boy! I literally cringed through a lot of this. But, I also cringed reading about the sexual abuse she experienced as I have a little girl as well. The level of character development here is unreal. The  plot definitely advanced entirely through the characters. The narrator would dash in and out at times wiring as if speaking to Valerie and that momentarily took you out of Valerie's point of view. However, it didn't distract and was part of the story. 

While fiction, as there aren't any deserts in Georgia (at least not while I lived there for many years), the story rings true. The writing is completely mesmerizing too. I only wish more of Valerie's real life story surrounding her son would've made it into the book. He wasn't even mentioned. I only knew loosely about the story of Valerie and Andy Warhol, and I'm glad the shooting wasn't the entire focus of the novel.. And I'm glad to have gained this newfound insight into both Valerie's story and mental illness. 

Thank you NetGalley and the publisher for this ARC!
Was this review helpful?
This is an example of experimental literature at its most audacious.   Subject matter, that of the life of Valerie Solanas, who gained notoriety when she attempted to murder Andy Warhol after he rejected a play she'd written.  He never fully recovered, and neither did she.  Weaving in and out of time, shifting between the filthy Tenderloin hotel room in which she died in 1988, her early life, and the events of 1968, this novel teeters between the unreadable and the brilliant, but it is the subject matter that turned me off, and while I admire Stridsberg's obvious talent, I found myself repulsed by the downward spiral of madness and the unending effluvia of bodily fluids.
Was this review helpful?
I was unable to finish this one which was disappointing as the description drew me in- I was not aware Andy Warhol had ever been shot- who wouldn’t want to know who and why? The formatting was awful - I may try later but I can not recommend this one at the time. 
Thank you # netgalley and the publisher for the free advance copy.
Was this review helpful?
The Faculty of Dreams - Pub date March 21, 2019

My rating reflects my admiration for this book even more than my enjoyment of it. It's a semi-fictional novel about the life of Valerie Solanas - famous for writing the SCUM manifesto in 1967, giving rise to radical feminism, and for shooting Andy Warhol in 1968. 

This book is written in a very experimental style, which at times I loved and at other times I loathed. The narrative weaves back and forth in time through series of dialogue and commentary. It all feels vaguely like a fever dream. I'm astounded that this novel was translated from Swedish, I can't imagine what a feat that must have been. There is a ton of crass and uncomfortable language and situations here, but all serve the overall theme and life of Valerie. It's no surprise this made it to the Manbooker long list this year, it's a hell of read.

Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with this ARC in exchange for an honest review!
Was this review helpful?
Simply the most awful book I have ever read.
I hated the milieu described, and the disgusting descriptions given (I have never read a book with the word ‘vomit’ repeated so many times), related to sex and mental illness, and both combined, as far as drugs, prostitution, rape, and child abuse. That’s whoredom, fornication, child abuse, and dysfunctional families to the max. And insane extreme feminism.

As I was painfully reading, a new genre came to mind, I would call it “Literary filth-tion”.
I constantly felt assaulted, and many passages did make me want to throw up, for real!

Sorry, I won’t give you any quotation.  At this point, inserting an excerpt would feel like soiling my blog.

There were some tries at different literary forms: dialogs, alternate narration across several periods with back and forth, list of paragraphs following the alphabet, with I assume the letter corresponding to some words of that paragraph in Swedish, though I’m not that sure, as I believe the translator would have tried to make it more apparent. I would hope. If not, what’s the point, I have no idea.

Some readers were ecstatic because some elements of Solanas’s life were changed, like her city in Georgia is described as being in the desert, and there’s no such thing in the State of Georgia. I don’t understand either why such a modification would be literary so fascinating.

As members of the Man Booker International 2019 shadow panel, we were recommended to judge each book at three levels: writing, content, longevity.
The only points I could give it refer to longevity, in the sense that I’m definitely not ready to forget it. It has indeed entered my record as the worst book I have ever read!
I’m grateful to the official judges for not including it in their shortlist.

Did it deserve to be on the MBI2019 shortlist?
Are you kidding? Why do you even ask!
Was this review helpful?