Lucy Corin, Everyday Psychokillers: a History for Girls, Fiction Collective 2, 2004
Why not start out by saying simply that this is a great book, a fully-imagined, poetic, textured effort? It's true—Lucy Corin's Everyday Psychokillers: a History for Girls is, first, unlike anything you've read. It's a novel, but it's got much more going on, as most good novels do: the informational edge of a study of psychokillers, an exploration of their mythology and the mythology of psychokillers v. girls (and their inevitable linkage); it's a meditation on the idea of psychokillers (the word begins to gather energy in the novel as we go, as it is repeated, worried between Corin's fingers, constantly there in the character's mind, like a perpetual echo. It's got sidetracks into Egyptian mythology, too, but the book is primarily downright beautiful and fun—hilarious, fucked-up, and excellent. The main job of novels is to entertain, and thus this one does. And does a lot more. It's probably a disservice to claim this novel as some sort of feminist art, and I think Corin herself would not encourage this, because it's got a lot more going on than that, and it's certainly not particularly empowering, thank god, but there is an attention to the situation of girls: as suggested in the title, this is a history (including the factual burden that always rides along) for girls. And there's lots to that herein. But first, again, it is great fiction.
And sometimes it comes out through the associative logic of lists:
You can see here on display a small helping of social commentary, which is unfair, except that this element of critique is more a sustained attention to these ideas, and this is a function of the main character's voice and qualities of mind. Everyday Psychokillers doesn't read like a critique or anything over-theoried-so-it-becomes-a-ruined-shell; but it does work constantly as a meditation, going over and over itself, inscribing something.
We figure out really early on that this story is going to be different. It's much darker, often hilariously so, almost reveling in it, but Corin generally walks this high-wire well, not caving to one side or the other, staying complicated, and you can't just say that it's a send-up, or it's macabre, or it's just grotesque, or it's depressing. It is all of these and more. It is serious and beautiful:
And it is at times a sort of lamentation, too:
It also plays with the ideas of place and landscape, of mapping things out in constellations to understand them, an idea near and dear to our hearts:
And in the end it plays as a kind of awesome tragedy. It's difficult to disengage from—there is the usual sort of dread that we feel as we feel the right hand stack of pages dwindling: we know the book is slowly ending, that our time with it is limited, and we are wondering what it all will come to. And there is a sense of expectation—all this built-up violence must be accruing somewhere, and it does pay off, and thankfully not in the way that you expect, and then we're out of pages, returned to the world, and all alone again in it.