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Fetish Lives

Jones, Gail

14 ratings by Goodreads
ISBN 10: 1863681795 / ISBN 13: 9781863681797
Published by Fremantle Arts Center Pr, Fremantle, WA Australia, 1997
Condition: Good
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Bibliographic Details

Title: Fetish Lives

Publisher: Fremantle Arts Center Pr, Fremantle, WA Australia

Publication Date: 1997

Binding: colour Illus Stiff Card

Book Condition: Good

Dust Jacket Condition: No Jacket Issued

Edition: First Edition.

About this title


In this arresting and richly imaginative collection of twelve stories, Gail Jones explores the role of obsession -- the inescapable loves and torments she calls fetishes -- in the lives of both the famous and the ordinary. Structured around a series of lyrical echoes and repeated images, her stories weave fact and speculation to recreate little-known events in the lives of such figures as Marcel Proust, Walt Whitman, and Elvis Presley that may have motivated their art and obsessed them as individuals.In the case of Eleanor Marx, the daughter of Karl Marx, it is the act of translating Gustave Flaubert's masterpiece, Madame Bovery, that takes over her life, determining even the course of her death. In Ceylon, Anton Chekhov finds a Ceylonese lover he cannot bring back to Russia, but whom he recalls even on his deathbed years later.In other stories, Jones examines how we fetishes these artists: in the story on Walt Whitman, it is not his obsessions that Jones plunges us into; rather, it is his hold as a poet on the lives of others that she envisions. A female Elvis impersonator devotes equal amounts of attention to conspiracy theories about Elvis's death as she does to the role of existentialism; through her we see how Elvis lives on in unlikely fans.In giving life back to those long dead, and to some who never lived at all, Jones does not sentimentalize the moments she imagines. She dissects the intricacies of obsessive desire and of the workings of memory with the dedicated attention of someone who is part psychologist, part conjurer, part biographer, but above all, fascinating.

From Kirkus Reviews:

A debut collection(winner of the 1997 Western Australian Premier's Book of the Year Award) that sneaks a sidelong view of history as the true and only drama left to us moderns. Most of the real-life characters here are famous, but the 12 stories that Jones invents for them will surprise readers who think theyve heard it all before. Madame Tussaud and Elvis Presley, Walt Whitman and Anton Chekhov, Karl Marx's daughterall are pulled out of the confines of mere biography and kneaded into a postmodern dough that rises with the yeast of invention. Thus, we find Eleanor Marx dying slowly while slaving over her translation of Madame Bovary, whereas Anton Chekhov falls quietly in love with a Ceylonese servant girl (whom he leaves but never manages to forget). The ``fetish'' of the title quickly reveals itself as an obsession, shared by all the principal characters, for some minor object, event, or person whose importance swells into a consuming passion. In ``The Veil,'' a member of the firing squad that executes Mata Hari receives a last seductive glance from the femme fatale just at the moment that he pulls the trigger, and thereby becomes the condemned woman's final victim. In ``Queenie the Wordless,'' a working-class Australian girl, convinced she is an heir to the British throne, is struck dumb while listening to Queen Elizabeth's Christmas broadcast. And in ``Touch,'' the homosexual Walt Whitman is transformed into a kind of literary paterfamilias after haunting various artists who lived after him, from van Gogh to Kafka to Isadora Duncan. Fascinating and marvelously fluid, though occasional lapses into pomposity (How many landmines, after all, have confiscated how many souls? What is it that returns to earth in such bloodied bits and pieces?'') threaten to ditch Jones into an academic gutter. Fortunately, she always pulls out in time. -- Copyright ©1998, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

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