“Let’s complain ”, exhorts Lucy Ellmann in a preface to her first collection of essays, Things are against us. And he complains, although the verb hardly seems adequate for the reckless and carefree fury that spills from its pages. Aimed at everything from plane rides to zippers, gender writing for men (especially men), her anger is matched only by an irrepressible comic impulse, from which kitsch puns, outrageous jokes, and gags are both obscene and poisonous. . As she explains: “In times of pestilence, my imagination turns to tricks.” Despite the nonsense, Ellmann complains only to the extent that the sans-culottes complained about what was happening at Versailles. She wants to foster revolution and this book is nothing less than a manifesto.
It starts off fairly smoothly with the title essay, one of three that has not already been published elsewhere. Ellmann is tormented by the “conspiratorial maneuvers” of inanimate objects. Socks run to get away from her, and pens, credit cards, and lemons run after them. Paper cutouts, soap bars, and fitted sheets never fit. It’s the kind of mischievous anthropomorphism that Dickens, one of her favorite writers, excels at, but what really makes her nervous is the feeling that if these things If they feel like getting so hostile, then what possible slights could those we really hurt produce: the vegetables we eat, the animals?
Humans are not, in fact, the innocent part here, but Ellmann’s guilty “we” unit evaporates in the next essay, Three Strikes, which divides the human race into them and us: they are men, we are women, and more. or less keeps it that way until the end of the book. His message, one that has its roots in his 2013 novel Mimi, and it resonates everywhere – it’s that men have made such a colossal dinner to rule the world, it’s reasonable for women to take over. He has many ideas on how to defeat the patriarchy, including strikes (we must reject all housework, work and, Lysistrata-style, sex with men) and the mandatory redistribution of male wealth (“wringing money out of the hands of men). men is a humanitarian act ”). Matriarchal socialism, he believes, is our only hope if we want to save humanity and avoid an ecological catastrophe.
There are many things that men could protest here. His unwillingness to live in harmony with nature is blamed for everything from war and fascism to toxic rivers and fracking. Violence is their “security blanket”, misogyny a form of terrorism. They could also try to smile more. Oh, and push yourself outside From the kitchen: “The worst thing about men being in charge of cooking fancy food in restaurants is that now every plate arrives covered in ejaculation, all drizzle, foam and trickle.”
The one word answer to any hurt male feeling is, of course, itsstory (yes, gender language is affected as well). Or, indeed, current affairs, be it the abysmal rape conviction numbers, the enduring wage gap, the “femicidal” violence… The list is endless, and Ellmann loves lists. While they seem simplistic at times, they can also trigger glorious flights of fantasy like one titled “This it is the stuff of girls’ dreams ”. Your latest article? “To hide a pet mouse in your mouth and scare people.” Take that, teen makeup vloggers.
Ellmann also gives free rein to italics, capital letters, and elongated footnotes, and while he is not as ambitious as avoiding periods and paragraphs in Ducks, Newburyport, his comprehensive and award-winning 2019 monologue, adds anarchic energy. As typographic brochures, these pages are listed below. Here it is, for example, in an essay on lingerie: “MENS THEY HAVE EROTICIATED THE BRA, BUT THEY DON’T HAVE TO USE THEM. “
Bras. Haven’t we moved on from that topic? Especially since the confinement supposedly turned us all into “bralettes”. As retro as it sounds, and Ellmann, a kid from the 1950s, certainly admires the “politically advanced” 60s and 70s, just because we’ve stopped talking about those things doesn’t mean they’ve stopped being a thing. Likewise, while the tone of his outrage is mixed with the vigilant self-censorship of the awakening, his frame of reference is highly up-to-date: Covid wreaks havoc, 3D printers scurry, and the impact of Maga’s January attack on Capitol Hill. .. Actually, that has had markedly little effect on American patriotism, according to Ellmann.
Aside from Agatha Christie, whose books are “heinous, only suitable for people with colds,” the single most vilified target than the male of the species is the United States. Trump, of course, embodies both, but even without him, America is a mess. Somehow, just as long litanies of male mistakes may seem a bit, well, androcentric, this beating of the United States becomes, in its own strange way, another form of American exceptionalism.
In a biographical note, Ellmann describes herself as a “restless iconoclast, very prone to anger.” As impressive as her splendid verve is, she is also a lover of Bach, her husband, fruit bowls, handicrafts, just standing still. His writing is also driven by a deep generosity shown in the lighthearted eclectic nature of his fonts – where else would you find Abraham Lincoln, Audre Lorde, and Whit Stillman jostling each other’s elbows? And although she is willing to prohibit all verbal abuse and any mention of people’s appearance, she is not the type to cancel. Her essay The Woman of the House, for example, continues to appreciate Laura Ingalls Wilder, despite “troubling errors and omissions” when it comes to Native Americans.
You don’t have to agree with everything Ellmann says to find this flexible and provocative volume invigorating. In fact, part of her cunning lies in making the reader guess precisely how seriously she takes herself. It closes with a modest hope that it may result in only one “repentant man” helping a woman achieve an additional multiple orgasm somewhere in the world. That, surely, is a manifesto worth supporting. Come to think of it, she better be a feast woman.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism