WAYS OF LOOKING AT A WOMAN by Caroline  Hagood


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A series of essays that combine musings on motherhood with literary and film theory.

In this collection, Hagood (Creative Writing/Fordham Univ.; Making Maxine’s Baby, 2015, etc.) blends her academic interest in women’s creative works with her personal experience as the mother of two children. The book’s structure borrows from academia, dividing the essays into sections with titles such as “Research Proposal,” “Methodology,” and “Literature Review.” The essays are short—few are longer than a page—but introspective. The author’s focus is on understanding her place in the world, and she often finds her answers in metaphor: “I was obsessed with mixed genre art, and had now become it. What could be more of a mixed genre than a woman with a mini-woman growing inside her?” References to a variety of artists and theorists appear throughout, from philosophers Michel Foucault and Jacques Derrida to film directors Sarah Polley and Jean Cocteau. The essays address such topics as maternal ambivalence (“My emotional center wanted nothing more than to have a second kid and my mental center wanted nothing more than to have my emotional center committed”), Hagood’s writing style (“I want to show you not the explosion but the mushroom cloud”), and her literary ambitions (“If only I could do for motherhood and womanhood what James Joyce did for walking around the city and taking a crap”). They’re full of the minutiae of the author’s thoughts, and this self-focus may exhaust readers at times. At the same time, though, this intensely personal aspect is one of the book’s greatest strengths; the author wisely doesn’t try to draw universal conclusions about motherhood or femininity based on her own limited experience, which allows readers to interpret and apply her thoughts as they see fit. Her well-developed, imagery-laden prose makes the book an enjoyable read, and the essays’ brevity makes them suitable for bingeing, if desired.

Thoughtful, literary-minded musings on motherhood, art, and the frequent intersection of the two.

Pub Date: March 1st, 2019
ISBN: 978-1-934909-58-4
Page count: 80pp
Publisher: Hanging Loose Press
Program: Kirkus Indie
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