VILLAGE VOICE Book Review, July 7th 2009


Downtown’s Lady Boswells: Bohos pause from their alternative lifestyles to type up two new memoirs

Book Review By Roy Edroso

  • Will Work for Drugs By Lydia Lunch published by Akashic, 155 pp., $15.95
  •  Live Nude Elf: The Sexperiments of Reverend Jen By Reverend Jen published by Soft Skull, 245 pp., $14.95

In the 19th century, Adah Isaacs Menken set a template for women bohemian authors in America. In the stage show Mazeppa, Menken showed off her body in flesh-colored tights, while in lush poetry books she showed off her soul (“O jealous soul! why wilt thou crave and yearn for what thou canst not have/And life is so long—so long”). Americans have always been suspicious of bohemians, but female bohos can easily turn this suspicion to fascination, which can sell a lot of books.  


For women writers identified with the fringe, this is a marketing opportunity. It can be a literary one, too. If people are fascinated with you, then you can write a lot about yourself—sex is an obvious must-have, but you can also talk about other interesting things that happened to you or have crossed your mind. If the writer is not good, this is an invitation to disaster, which, fortunately, the two bohemian writers whose books I picked up this month, Lydia Lunch and Reverend Jen, have for the most part escaped.

Lunch, best known as a No Wave musician in the ’70s and ’80s, has released Will Work for Drugs; Reverend Jen, a popular downtown scenester in more recent years, has Live Nude Elf. They’re from very different eras, and inevitably this affects not only how they present themselves but also the method and meaning of what they write. . . .

Jen and Lunch are both Adah Menken’s heiresses.

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