So I am changing this section of *Alter Tunes* (Various music that I am so into that I put it on my altar, take pictures and discuss) to *Alter Reads*
This week on Alter Reads, Whip Smart; A Memoir. By Melissa Febos.
The play on words of the title, the graphic on the cover and even some of the coverage it’s gotten suggests that it is largely a narrative memoir about the author’s time spent as a dominatrix in NYC. It is that. But the story is less about the sexy/lurid underbelly of NYC sex work and so much more a universal story about our experiences as human beings and how those experiences shape us and further more, our reactions to the human beings we allow ourselves to be shaped into.
I felt really included in this book. I didn’t feel at all like an outsider observing someone else’s experience. Perhaps that is due to my own life and how I relate in many ways to various aspects of the story.
Melissa Febos has presented a great gem in the form of this memoir. I read it as a universal story of densely layered self-discovery. The duality of darkness and illumination on the path toward oneself. Febos has given us a memoir who’s main themes appear to be addiction, BDSM work, and recovery. All topics that conjure scintilating images of leathery danger, wild sexiness and places of darkness and pain where only sex, drugs and rock & roll can take you. But in this book the later is not necessarily true. In fact for me, both surpisingly and then not, those topics end up being the most base and mundane (not that they are either of those) aspects of the story. Rather than being the point of the book those themes are a catalyst to underlying narratives of cognition, compulsion, power and self actualization.
We are cordially invited to witness, and sometimes play an active mental roll in, the creation of a persona/person that grows larger and larger in the persuit of self preservation. We witness the writer at the height of her popularity/self-confidence/personal power and we feel the euphoria of that cresting wave right along with her. When that wave begins to crash, time starts to slow down the way it does when a situation you have no idea how to cope with presents itself to you… Oddly you find yourself further into the text than you would have imagined.
The story really becomes engaging as the author starts to come to terms with the fact that that she has created a thematic life template for herself to move about in freely, but not always vivaciously. Naturally the compulsions that run like a fine thread through the many aspects of this book all find themselves in the same undesirable place of repetition, learned outcome and ultimately stagnation.
But not for long time because Febos is a most masterful describer of recovery and wide-eyed revelations of self. Of course this is the best part, watching the constructs Febos has so intricately crafted fall away via talk therapy, previously gaurded aspects of relationships and 12 step programs. Ultimately presenting a relaxed, no so difficult to navigate person who, in fact, was carrying her truth around with her the whole time.
If I made my little book review seem a like I was projecting myself on to Febos’ memoir it’s because i was and I couldn’t help it. Nor I imagine could anyone who has ever been forced, or had the courage, (for any reason), to step back and examine themselves in an unguarded and truthful way. Even if only for a moment.
She also made me miss my therapist REALLY bad.
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