My reading has been all over the place this term, torn as I am between a nearly impossible schedule and the vagaries of ebooks that don’t let me renew…I’ll try to catch up with a few, but that will be tricky…
Somewhere in November I finished Caitlin Moran’s How To Build a Girl. As a chronicle of a blue collar teenage wannabe indie rock critic it was fun to see bands name-dropped, perfect indie rock heroes invented, and a poor girl sort of make good. As an exercise in separating narrative voice from autobiography it was fascinating – the urge to rewrite one’s own history seems nigh-on impossible to resist. Moran makes her narrator subtly different than herself, but also enough alike to keep me wondering who was who.
As with Lerner’s narrative voice in earlier texts I read, this one gave me a weird sensation of almost being in a funhouse of sorts. I kept getting these tantalizing glimpses of an actual narrator, someone I could argue and laugh with, someone I could empathize with or hate. Both authors are smart enough (especially Lerner) to realize some of the possibilities inherent in that sort of narrative voice, and I wonder then about some of the co-construction of identity that I am currently using as a lens of sort by which to read fiction.
Construction of identity is clearly a trope here (check out the title), and the sort of girl that Moran builds in her narrator drove me crazy as well as made me wonder exactly how this whole construction process worked (s).
Her dad was also a fascinating character, and the relationship she shows between her parents feels both tinted with nostalgia and judgment, of the sort that daughters can have of their bombastic, full-of-love, unable-to-hold-a-job fathers.
I feel compelled to mention the part of this novel that brings out the fanboi in me, the music. She hits on lots of the best bands of the era, and the best music, and what I loved about that music. The ways that pop music, played by strangers, with not all that much in common with my life or my experiences, resonates and builds an identity is equal parts wannabe tribal member and true believer, but reading this novel brought a lot of that back and projected it into the future.