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 gender’s subtle and brash fireworks.
Schultz’s 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. Schultz’s 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 gender’s 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 writer’s 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 couldn’t 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 off guard.

--- Robin Tremblay-McGaw

Elizabeth Grosz. Volatile Bodies: Toward a Corporeal Feminism.
Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1994.