The Witches Are Coming
Hachette Books/Allen & Unwin
When I’ve read Lindy West’s work (Jezebel, The Guardian, NY Times) I’ve enjoyed it. I haven’t followed her as fanatically as many but I started – and must get back to finishing – her memoir Shrill and I look forward to seeing the TV show adapted from it (which I would watch for Aidy Bryant at any rate – though I’ve heard nothing but good things about it). I’m even more on board now having read this new book of essays which filled me with fire, injected huge amounts of humour and gave me fresh perspective. In short, everything you want from a book of essays, or indeed from a book.
West is very funny but it’s never at the expense of making a point.
And the premise – which forms a thread here – is that the outdated, mis-used term ‘witch hunt’ (witch hunts weren’t witches doing the hunting, men weren’t the target but that’s how Trump and right-wing media has appropriated it) has been soped up by West; she’s owning it; the witches are coming – they’re coming for men in the HashTagMeToo-era; in the post-Obama/pre-Trump-Impeachment-era; in the fight to be heard, to be valued, to be treated equally.
So throughout these 18 essays West mentions the witches, or evokes the hunt – but she also finds humour in daily life, she finds humour in rage and she uses anger as a weapon.
I thought, often, of how this book hurtled me along in a way that the writing of Rebecca Solnit has; also Chuck Klosterman. In fact if we take the feminist vestiges of Solnit’s valuable writing and the geek-out passion of Klosterman’s pop-culture pieces when spiking we could possibly build something that looks and feels like the work Lindy West has created here.
She reminds us that Twitter is a fucking mess, that being reminded to not grope is not a ban on living and being – just a ban on shitty, gross behavior. She takes us inside the madness of Gwenyth Paltrow’s Goop lifestyle where people lined up to get their aura photographed and that wasn’t even close to the worst thing that happened.
Frequently laugh-out-loud funny, West also reminds us of the hypocrisies that seem to never cease. When Elizabeth Banks, producer of Shrill, is interviewed about her decision to adapt the memoir she is asked a startling array of body-image questions rather than unpacking what drew her to the work.
There’s lighter stuff here – but it always packs a punch. An exploration of the comedy of Adam Sandler is brilliant, for many reasons, not least because it considers the impact of finding heroes at an impressionable age; of being caught up in moments and happenings (SNL) as well as living within clubs (peer-pressure mode) and eras (the 1990s/early-00s).
But in the final few chapters/essays, the political points are driven home harder. And better. The gut-punches come. And come again.
At times this feels like virtuoso writing. At no time ever is it boring or padded. West’s prose is frequently exhilarating. She’s documenting the cusp of a time; the moment/s before the new era hits. And she’s one of the leaders we should look to for guidance, with interest and in awe.
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