Things Are Against Us – a funny and furious womanifesto

Hephzibah Anderson in The Guardian:

“Let’s complain”, exhorts Lucy Ellmann in a preface to her first essay collection, Things Are Against Us. And complain she does, though the verb barely seems adequate for the atrabilious, freewheeling fury that spills from its pages. Aimed at everything from air travel to zips, genre writing to men (above all, men), her ire is matched only by an irrepressible comic impulse, from which bubbles forth kitsch puns, wisecracking whimsy and one-liners both bawdy and venomous. As she explains: “In times of pestilence, my fancy turns to shticks.” Goofiness notwithstanding, Ellmann is complaining only to the extent that the sans-culottes grumbled about goings-on at Versailles. She’s out to foment revolution, and this book is nothing less than a manifesto.

It begins gently enough with the title essay, one of just three not to have already been published elsewhere. Ellmann is tormented by the “conspiratorial manoeuvrings” of inanimate objects. Socks race to get away from her, and pens, credit cards and lemons hurry after them. Paper cuts, soap slips and fitted sheets never do fit. It’s the kind of rogue anthropomorphism at which Dickens, one of her favourite writers, excels, but what really unnerves her is the sense that if these things have it in them to become so hostile, then what potential slights might be delivered by those we’ve really wronged – the vegetables we chow down on, the animals?

Humans are not, in fact, the innocent party here, but the unity of Ellmann’s guilty “we” evaporates in the next essay, Three Strikes, which splits the human race into them and us – them being men, us being women – and more or less keeps it that way until the book’s end. Its message – one that’s rooted in her 2013 novel Mimi, and resounds throughout – is that men have made such a colossal dog’s dinner of running the world, it’s only reasonable for women to take over. She has plenty of ideas for how we’ll rout the patriarchy, including strikes (we must refuse all domestic labour, work and, Lysistrata-style, sex with men) and the compulsory redistribution of male wealth (“yanking cash out of male hands is a humanitarian act”). Matriarchal socialism, she believes, is our sole hope if we’re to save humanity and avert ecological catastrophe.

More here.