AN INSTANT NATIONAL BESTSELLER
Memoir meets craft master class in this “daring, honest, psychologically insightful” exploration of how we think and write about intimate experiences—“a must read for anybody shoving a pen across paper or staring into a screen or a past" (Mary Karr)
In this bold and exhilarating mix of memoir and master class, Melissa Febos tackles the emotional, psychological, and physical work of writing intimately while offering an utterly fresh examination of the storyteller’s life and the questions which run through it.
How might we go about capturing on the page the relationships that have formed us? How do we write about our bodies, their desires and traumas? What does it mean for an author’s way of writing, or living, to be dismissed as “navel-gazing”—or else hailed as “so brave, so raw”? And to whom, in the end, do our most intimate stories belong?
Drawing on her own path from aspiring writer to acclaimed author and writing professor—via addiction and recovery, sex work and academia—Melissa Febos has created a captivating guide to the writing life, and a brilliantly unusual exploration of subjectivity, privacy, and the power of divulgence. Candid and inspiring, Body Work will empower readers and writers alike, offering ideas—and occasional notes of caution—to anyone who has ever hoped to see themselves in a story.
Memoirist Febos (Girlhood) assembles four whip-smart essays on the power of personal writing, which mark her "attempts to describe the ways that writing is integrated into the fundamental movements of my life: political, corporeal, spiritual, psychological, and social." "In Praise of Navel Gazing" is a defense of memoirs focused on trauma, which she suggests are often seen as "gauche": "the resistance to memoirs about trauma is always in part... a resistance to movements of social justice." In "Mind Fuck," she details a series of "unrules" for writing about sex: "sex doesn't have to be good" and "writing about sex doesn't have to include sex at all." "A Big Shitty Party" shares hard-learned insights on writing about real people in nonfiction (when people give Febos permission to include them, "what they actually mean is that I have their permission to write anything about them that they can imagine I might"), and "The Return" makes a case that personal writing can help one deal with painful experiences. Febos's fellow scribes will appreciate her shrewd takes on the intersection of craft and life, and even nonwriters will enjoy the artistry on display throughout. This is a wonder.
Brilliant craft book, and so much more.