Kathy Lou Schultz
Some Vague Wife
Berkeley: Atelos, 2002
Some Vague Wife, Kathy Lou Schultz's 2002 Atelos Press book, is
comprised of three sections: Songs, Stories, a Novel. The writing traces
the cartography of desire, the body, a becoming in the midst of contingencies,
the unknown, proposing no definitive map but instead rendering a nuanced
reading of the shifting locations of selves, others, relationships. This
is further complicated by the embodied, daily experience of race, class,
gender, theory, sex, intimacy. Sexual difference is specific, yet exploded
by genders subtle and brash fireworks.
Schultzs sources are many and varied -- everything from haiku, the
medieval The Wife's Lament, the language of the blues, hymns (By
and by the river shall come to you) to the gender and genre bending work
of Kathy Acker and Dodie Bellamy, as well as writers from whom she quotes
at the beginning of sections -- Woolf, Brossard, Stein, Loy. The structure
and elements (including who is speaking what to whom and how) comprising
specific forms -- a song, a novel, a sonnet -- are explored, plied, stretched
and turned. Schultzs writing is ravenous, vulnerable, and smart.
Schultz deploys myriad strategies to address gender. While the writer
here is female, the specific gender strategies she uses and is used by
are dispersed and destabilizing. In some versions genders pantomimes
are defined by a misogynist culture that elides sexual difference, and
at others (sometimes simultaneously), the writer seizes the performance
with power and agency: "When I wore lipstick people smiled at me
more and were pleased," "my pronouns slip inside my shiny purse,"
"Your gender is a skin I wear then put away when tiring," "The
ideology of opposites falsely proposed masculine and feminine as two halves
of a whole, when I knew them to be costume-drag and accompanying accoutrements."
The body is ever present. It is written through, over, between, with,
by, and on. Being female, it is often colonized as a goal, a destination,
"a girl for every pocket;" its signifiers problematic, "My
organs tucked away each morning as a necessary clerkship/complete with
starched whites and a pen and clipboard," "She is still asking
herself where this body-her body-ought to be, where exactly to put it,
so that it will cease to be a burden to her." Charting this, Schultz
notes, "My body is not a destination." His is at times, though
it leads back to the writers female body, "...his body is a
destination. Miles on a train I have traveled postponing pleasure. Our
voices hang in the air, I touch myself." Within the text, the writer
writes on a male body, "Inscribing my language upon him," simultaneously
an act of violence, power, tenderness.
Schultz writes with awareness of "both the psychical or interior
dimensions of subjectivity and the surface corporeal exposure of the subject
to social inscription and training." (Grosz, 188) She exposes the
constructedness of experience and identity at every turn. Boundaries
between individuals slip, "I kept mistaking your hand in my pocket
for my own and startled in fright when I couldnt feel my fingers,"
though there is still a desire for "answers," for clearly marked
boundaries "And still I wanted to believe in the clear choice: the
right one and the wrong one and the possibility of finding the former."
This book is rife with the thematics of travel, navigation, maps. "I
drive a bus between unspecified locations," "A scar, a map I
burned through." The charting of the uncharted. Its discomforts,
risks, and pleasures. The Mobius strip of experience. This is a compelling,
smart, and sexy book that has the amazing ability to catch the reader
--- Robin Tremblay-McGaw
Elizabeth Grosz. Volatile Bodies: Toward a Corporeal Feminism.
Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1994.