Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Live Through This: On Creativity and Self-Destructive

The women in this collection give courageous insight and inspiration to any artist struggling with self-destruction.
-Sara Quinn

Live Through This: On Creativity and Self-Destructive (2008) is a collection of works framing women’s experiences. With contributions from feminist artists such as bell hooks, Annie Sprinkle, Elizabeth Stephens, Nicole Blackmen and Patricia Smith, this snappy book includes fiction, poetry, prose, non-fiction, cartoons, paintings and photography. It’s a testament to art as an outlet for creativity, and a healer for our own self-destruction.
Each feminist has published independent works including: plays, visual art, books, pornography and comics. For example, Nicole Blackman has a a collection of poetry, Blood Sugar and Annie Sprinkle, inventor of “cancer erotica,” wrote Dr. Sprinkle’s Spectacular Sex—Make Over Your Love Life published by Penguin.
Edited by Sabrina Chapadjiev, Live Through This is idependently published by Seven Stories Press in New York City. Seven Stories Press publishes “cutting-edge” fiction, non-fiction, poetry and prose. Recently, the press published famous anti-war activist, Noam Chomsky’s controversial book Profit Before People.
Live Through This is a great example of creative non-fiction; however, at times the narrators are unreliable, especially when substance abuse is involved. Initially the book seemed melodramatic, but after a few chapters I started identifying, or at least, better understanding the raw complexity of these women. I’m amazed by the intimate details they share surrounding their expereinces (such Carol’s description of losing her virginity). This forces me to reflect if I’m capable of being so bold and courageous in my own non-fiction endeavours. I also like how Sabrina Chapadjiev uses both “visual and written essays” to push the creative aspect of non-fiction. These essays depict child abuse, substance abuse, self-harm, sexual abuse, sexuality, depression, breast cancer, beauty image and abandonment. Because these are true accounts, readers may find more personal parallels with their own life and apply these testaments of survival to their own self-destruction.
Through a feminist lens, Live Through This portrays another side of women that is rarely, accurately portrayed in popular culture. It even includes a list of resources at the end for further mental health support if readers need help overcoming their own self-destruction; however, I would not say this book is ‘self-helpy.’ I would recommend this book to my peers, especially women and artists. The universal theme of mental deterioration and resuscitation resonates in a powerful way.

This quote shows insight into a writer’s motivations:
“As a writer, I enjoy playing the puppeteer and manipulating characters to extremes, often far beyond the stages of their real-life inspirations…
Writing always came from a desire to understand things that haunted me, a way to come to terms with issues that made me wonder.”
- Nicole Blackman, Page 96

This quote describes the personal contradiction theme between the public and private spheres women live in:

“Space grew between my two lives. One where I dance, another where I cut. One where I was responsible, another where I drank too much. One where I was a feminist, another where I binged on food and starved myself. One where I accepted my sexuality, another where I had sex with people I didn’t want to. One I could control, one I couldn’t."
- Anonymous, Page 203

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