In April 1988, Valerie Solanas - the writer, radical feminist and would-be assassin of Andy Warhol - was discovered dead in her hotel room, in a grimy corner of San Francisco. She was only 52; alone, penniless and surrounded by the typed pages of her last writings.
In The Faculty of Dreams, Sara Stridsberg revisits the hotel room where Solanas died, the courtroom where she was tried and convicted of attempting to murder Andy Warhol, the Georgia wastelands where she spent her childhood, where she was repeatedly raped by her father and beaten by her alcoholic grandfather, and the mental hospitals where she was interned.
Through imagined conversations and monologues, reminisces and rantings, Stridsberg reconstructs this most intriguing and enigmatic of women, articulating the thoughts and fears that she struggled to express in life and giving a powerful, heartbreaking voice to the writer of the infamous SCUM Manifesto.
The life of Valerie Solanas, who wrote the SCUM Manifesto and became famous when she shot Andy Warhol in 1968, is speculatively reconstructed in Stridsbergs's inventive and stimulating novel, her American debut. Told in nearly a hundred short chapters that span almost 50 years, the book's major focus is Valerie's death in 1988 at the Bristol Hotel in San Francisco. Through an unnamed character called Narrator who allows Stridsberg to be in the room for historical events, the narrative returns to the Bristol Hotel again and again. Narrator questions deceased Valerie about her life; she also, in separate chapters, addresses the reader directly and addresses Valerie in the second person. Much of the story is told in dialogue between Valerie and Warhol superstar Ultra Violet and between Valerie and her mother, Dorothy, who is also prominent in the novel. As each new piece of Stridsberg's portrait of Valerie is added, it alters the big picture, provocatively. The novel is as much about how little one can understand other people as it is about Valerie's life. Stridsberg entertainingly casts new light on both Solanas and on how society views pop culture.