Saturday, February 17, 2007

The ultimate chick-lit makeover

I recently read the memoirs of a fellow Melbourne chick just a few years older than myself - Kate Holden - called In My Skin. The book details her transition from dreamy uni student, to heroin user, to addict and finally, perhaps inevitably, to sex worker. What differentiates this story are a couple of notable things. One is that her upbringing was not the classic tragedy you might expect (absent father, depressed/alcoholic mother, abusive step-relatives), but a pretty normal, loving, suburban one - in fact, one not so terribly different from my own. The other thing that sets this memoir apart is Kate's refusal to portray herself as a victim, and that, incredibly, she managed to find some pride in her work as a prostitute despite the hardships she endured. Speaking of which, if you are thinking of reading In My Skin, be prepared for some eye-watering descriptive passages.

The emotional strength she relied on to do her job well eventually bolstered her enough that she was able to kick her habit and move on.

I do find it kind of infuriating that the book publishers here in the UK have decided that the original cover (the one I own) wasn't "glamorous" enough:

I actually remember thinking as I read the book, that if anything it was a bit too glam. It features a photo of the back of a classy-looking woman taking off her bra in a car, through the rain splattered window. In the novel, Kate is at her lowest, sickliest, most pitiful point when she resorts to getting into strange men's cars on the streets of St Kilda.

However, this cover obviously didn't attract enough readers, so in order to lure the Bridget-Jones-reading, yummy-mummy crowd, the publishers have gone for a lighter touch - a whimsical illustration in soft pastels of a woman removing her stockings, with a typeface borrowed directly fromSex and the City:

When I first saw the new cover it made my blood boil at the sheer inappropriateness - the unthinking arrogance - of making a shockingly honest memoir of a woman barely surviving on society's edges, look like a light-hearted bedroom romp.

Now I just smile when I think of all those smug, snobbish, middle-class mums who are in for the shock of their lives.


susanna said...

thanks for reminding me, melbourne bird. i have been meaning to read that book for some time. if it bears that ridiculous cover, though, i will be getting out the brown paper my mother used to use for all her books!

enjoy the cold. it was 38 on both days of the weekend back here in melbourne.

Anna said...

Hadn't heard of it, but I'll be keeping a lookout for it now. I'd better get reading, my list of "to read" books keeps getting longer and longer.

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