In the Flesh

Telegraph-Journal Review of In the Flesh

Telegraph-Journal, New Brunswick, Saturday May 5th, 2012

In the Flesh“In the Flesh, edited by Kathy Page and Lynne Van Luven,  Brindle and Glass, 240 pp

In this collection, 20 essayists explore complicated relationships with their bodies. Each writer focuses on a different part of the body and, in so doing, intimately reveals what’s inside and behind it.

The narratives are deeply personal. Sue Thomas rolls her gall- stones around in her hand as she thinks about her pancreas. Stephen Gauer explores organ donation through his own experience of donating a kidney to his granddaughter. In his meditation on skin, Taiaiake Alfred writes of his place in a racist hierarchy. Caroline Adderson considers the centrality of hair to our sense of ourselves, painfully illustrated by her visit to Auschwitz and its room of full of stolen hair.

This collection is not for the squeamish. Margaret Thompson’s reflection on the ear is clever and visceral with a description of someone with a beetle in his ear who “tried to flush the insect out with melted butter.” Trevor Cole’s Eyes is put together perfectly, every word where it should be, as when he describes his young allergic eyes: “The whites were a sickly yellow and bulging out grotesquely, surrounding the irises like rising bread dough.” Eww.

A story about the vagina is written by a man (André Alexis), while Merilyn Simonds writes of the penis, and this switch is an editorial choice that not all readers will agree with. This reader would have liked to read a woman’s perspective on her vagina, as in Lynne Van Luven’s funny and honest account of her conflicted relationship with her breasts.

In all, this collection is a thorough and provocative look at the body, broken down into its messy, beautiful and complicated parts.”

Rebecca Higgins for the Telegraph-Journal

Buy In the Flesh:

In Canada:  Munro’s Books

In the UK:  W H Smith

In the USA: