Laura Gonzalez

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Heroines by Kate Zambreno ***** — 31 Dec 2013

Reading dates: 19 November – 31 December 2013

When reviewing The Bat, I urged you to stick to your reading list, lest you should encounter novels like this and waste your time. With Heroines, I am going to contradict myself. It is everything one would hope from venturing outside of the confines of a reading list created at a time removed from the reading experience. In November, I joined a reading group called ‘Sick, Sick, Sick: The Books of Ornery Women‘ and this was the first text to discuss. What a find too. it is energetic, sensitive, angry and its topic is hysteric women. It is a sad book. Zambreno discusses the wives of famous writers: T.S. Eliot – eerily named Thomas Eliot, the man, rather than the poet – Francis Scott Fitzgerald, Paul Bowles and others. The wives who give themselves up as writers to take on their caring, companion roles, the support. Yet, the writing struggles within them as it often does. It comes out as something [hysterical] recognised as an illness. They are interned in sanatoriums; they die. Meanwhile, the husbands get to own the papers and diaries of their wives and convert them into characters (see ‘Tender is the Night’). Hamlet the Existentialist versus Ophelia the Hysteric. Yes, they both die, but in what different ways. What is also interesting is Zambreno’s own writing, her involvement in the stories of these wives. She is obsessed – all the signs are there, including the breakdowns – and there is nothing wrong with it.

This is an important book to read, re-read and to remember. Even to study. Important because it is a coming into consciousness book for a woman and a writer. Hysterics, Kate Zambreno tells us, were photographed but could not photograph. This is her as Francesca Woodman, able to tell her own story. The Freud Museum has a show with works from these wives, these writers that were denied their work: Zelda Fitzgerald, Virginia Woolf, Sylvia Plath and Anna Kavan. I have just expanded by reading list for 2014.


© Jane Fradgley with kind permission of Guy’s and St Thomas’ Charity (and the Freud Museum website)

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The Bat by Jo Nesbø * — 22 Dec 2013

Reading dates: 11 – 22 December 2013

Books like The Bat are the reason why in 2013 I made a reading list of 17 books. Of those, I managed to read, so far, fourteen, with Libra, No Name and Ada bleeding over into 2014. Yes, 17 was too many for a whimsical reader and I have learned from this. My next reading list only has 6 titles and if I read all of those, my year will be a great reading year. As 2013 has been if it weren’t for The Bat. Disappointing, predictable, uninteresting. I cannot believe this was the first in the Harry Hole series, the one that won the awards. It seems an after thought, a bad prequel, writing by numbers. It has nothing to redeem it and is very far away from The Snowman, or even The Devil’s Star. Don’t read it, even if you love crime fiction. Stick to your list.

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… is Femme Letale — 18 Dec 2013

I have been going through a crisis. These things are sometimes necessary and I am not complaining. I am just taking the time to get better. As part of the therapy, I have been trying to simplify. This does not mean to reduce, or to get rid of stuff, or to do less. Instead, it has meant finding out what is important. Facebook is not important. It demands a coherent image of myself I cannot quite give. When I cannot give it, it results on a barrage of comments asking (dare I say demanding) answers. I feel better having shut those voices, at least for the time being.

Being a performer, I question whether the issue is that I try to present myself as myself when, in reality, it is but a performance, a role if you want. For weeks, since starting reading Kate Zambreno’s Heroines, I have toyed with the idea of autobiographical non-fiction novels, fictionalised autobiographical blogs and any combination of the above jumble of words. Difficult to explain, I know. I am trying to find the fiction in non-fiction, the performance in the everyday. In her website, Zambreno has a blog called Frances Farmer is My Sister, which part of her book is based on. I think it is easier to assimilate something when it has a name, when it has a title. This blog’s title is Laura Gonzalez–Blog. How lame is that? Thinking my burlesque name was part of the process of coming to terms with something and I think it made me a better dancer. When I am La Canelle, I am La Canelle. Un point c’est tout.

Years and years ago, I started a blog on Livejournal, under the name of Femme Letale. I still use that name on twitter, ebay, and other platforms where the rather boring lauragonzalez has already been taken. I am thinking about being Letale a little more of my time, perhaps even here.

Who is Femme Letale? Her beginnings go back to 1990, when Pedro Almodovar was filming ‘Tacones Lejanos‘. Diva Becky del Paramo has twisted problems. Judge Dominguín is investigating the death of her son-in-law, also her former lover. But Dominguín is not what he appears to be. By night, he mutates into a drag queen, singing Becky’s songs on playback and falling in love with her daughter. This drag queen’s artistic name is Femme Letale.

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She is not a fatale or a fatality. She is lethal, a police officer, and enforcer. You do know that one of my favourite films ever is Die Hard, right? Letale ventriloquises Becky, she borrows her voice like I borrow many. Her choice is to perform. She is a gay icon, yet, not homosexual herself, complicated, incoherent in melodrama, which makes it all coherent. She overacts, but she also investigates. She can be hysterical when she wants, dress up, wear wigs. She is an introvert extrovert. Both. Yes, both. You can see how she can be therapeutic.

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Madness, Women and the Power of Art — 16 Dec 2013

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Madness, Women and the Power of Art [Paperback]
Frances Davies (Author, Editor), Laura González (Author, Editor)

If madness has a female voice, what art can represent it? Why do women so often find themselves lying on the couch as patients? Does creativity and cultural production have a special relation to madness? This collection of essays from an international cluster of sociologists, social and mental health workers, artists and literary critics offers wide-ranging answers to these pertinent questions. From the madwoman in the attic to the position of women in outlaw motorcycle gangs, the essays address such topics as the role of perversion in Italian literature, a Marxist critique of the psychiatric system, multiple personality order, and the link between creativity and self-harm. Some accounts come from direct observation, or suffering itself; others from reading and looking. In its attempt to represent madness, the convulsive ripples of thought dissect, contradict, perform and, at times, grieve. This book is an enthralling journey into the depths of madness.

Paperback: 252 pages
Publisher: Inter-Disciplinary Press; First edition (1 Dec 2013)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1848882475
ISBN-13: 978-1848882478

Frances Davies is a Child and Adolescent Mental Health Practitioner in Rochdale, Greater Manchester. Originally a social worker in South Africa, she came to the UK to further her studies. Her work on this book began with her MSc studies in Child and Adolescent Mental Health at the University of Northampton. Laura González is an artist and writer. When she is not following Freud, Lacan and Marx s footsteps with her camera, she lectures postgraduate students at the Glasgow School of Art and Transart Institute. Her current research explores knowledge and the body of the hysteric through text, dance, performance and video.

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The Complete Father Brown Stories by G. K. Chesterton **** — 11 Dec 2013

Reading dates: 3 October — 11 December 2013

I read this book in the wrong way. I don’t think it is meant to be read in one go, in the same way that a box of ibuprofen is not meant to be taken all at once. Yes, it feels I have overdosed on something that in small chunks might have taken a pain away. The stories are lovely, like a bowl of spicy chickpea stew, warming, just right. I love Father Brown; I am a little hesitant about this heresy but I think I love him more than I love Sherlock. He is, of course, less flawed, more moral and spiritual, easier to love. The stories I cared for less are those where he took his time to appear into. Once his little round body and crooked umbrella were in sight, the room had light, everything was going to be ok. And it was. Even if it was too much, I cannot deny the enjoyment of reading these stories. Now that I have read them all, I will go back to them during my next virus, my next flu, one at a time, as I think they are meant to be read.

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The Turn of the Screw by Henry James* — 5 Dec 2013

Reading Dates: 26 October – 2 December 2013

Frankly, I found Henry James’ prose unbearable, the story inconsequential — more confusing that eerie – and the characters, despite the winks to my favourite topic of hysterical women, rather unbelievable, although the sentences in these 160 really annoying pages made me learn to control my breath as Neil and I read the whole book aloud to each other, thinking as we did that it would fit Halloween and not knowing that our reading would be so extended beyond the holiday of the dead.

Writing Jamesian sentences is hard and, I must say, the effort does not pay of.

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About Me

I am an artist and writer. My recent practice performance, film, dance, photography and text, and my work has been performed, exhibited and published in many venues in Europe and the US. I have spoken at numerous conferences and events, including the Museum for the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York, the Medical Museum in Copenhagen, College Arts Association and the Association for the Psychoanalysis of Culture and Society. When I am not following Freud, Lacan and Marx’s footsteps with my camera or creating performance works as part of my Athenaeum Research Fellowship at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, I teach postgraduate students at Transart Institute.

I am currently immersed in an interdisciplinary project exploring knowledge and the body of the hysteric. In 2013, together with Child and Adolescent Mental Health practitioner Frances Davies, I co-edited the book ‘Madness, Women and the Power of Art’, to which I contributed a work authored with Eleanor Bowen. My book ‘Make Me Yours: How Art Seduces’ was published by Cambridge Scholars in 2016. In this text, investigates psychoanalytic approaches to making and understanding objects of seduction, including an examination of parallels between artistic and analytic practices, a study of Manolo Blahnik’s shoes as objects of desire, a disturbing encounter with Marcel Duchamp’s last work, and the creation of a psychoanalytically inspired Discourse of the Artefact, a framework enabling the circulation of questions and answers through a relational approach to artworks.