The Awful Truth
Diana Hamilton extends her previous explorations of ethics and techniques of self-control (OKAY, OKAY and Some Shit Advice) onto the fraught terrain of authorship and selfhood: in two long pieces, THE AWFUL TRUTH draws with wry seriousness on psychoanalytic theory, film criticism, memoir, and self-help literature to interrogate contemporary bromides drawn from philosophy, online forums, CBT, and Women's Health alike. Part homage to influences like Bernadette Mayer, part restless meditation on love and identity, "Write in Your Sleep" is a verse 'annotated bibliography' in which the narrator ardently catalogs her dreams in an attempt to discover a link between life and art that dodges both. In the second piece, a novella titled "Fear and Trembling," a woman who styles herself a therapeutic innovator forces her friends to re-enact Hollywood classics, only to be rebuffed by one friend's adaptation of Kierkegaard as paranoiac sci-fi erotica centered around a Bartleby-esque refusal to perform free emotional labor. With a keen sense of both the consolations and the limits of the various genres that animate her work, Hamilton surveys the semiotic scramble of 21st-century subjectivity—obsessions with health and productivity, privacy and commodification—and lays bare the masochism implicit in moralistic imperatives to improve ourselves and to capitalize (literally) on our repressions.
"We need, they say, 'a machine for fighting anxiety' that would allow us to act out of desire rather than fear. Hamilton's book is a utopia of sharing and listening that exceeds social norms—that reorients our fears about the world into desire for our friends and for our lovers and for a better world for us all."—Marie Buck[publishers' note]