Synopses & Reviews
In her second collection, Shanna Compton leads readers on a lightly satirical tour through various works of advice for young women, including antique etiquette manuals, 19th-century sermons, pseudoscientific physiology textbooks, newspaper clippings, and the Internet.
Counseling girls on everything from fashion to family, the multiple personae in For Girls (& Others) clamour to convey their contradictory (and often ridiculous) wisdom, as their polyvocal cacophony pitches toward hysterical heights.
"This second collection shows more unity but less versatility than Compton's rightly praised, devil-may-care 2005 debut, Downspooky. 'For Girls,' the first of the two sequences that make up the book, responds to, reacts against and takes many phrases from an 1882 'health manual' with the same title: its advice on fashion, bodies and morals gives rise, in Compton's hands, to quirky but politically pointed verse: girls are told (too often, she implies) 'to erase the body,/ blank the self/ to receive the costumes it consumes.' The source text and all the antifeminist counsels, all the social pressure, it represents may give Compton too easy a target: her sequence recycles its own attitudes, with too few surprises for its length. 'Comedy of Manners,' the second sequence, may be harder to like at first, but should fare better over the long-term: its hints of romantic narrative, frequent sarcasm, riffs on found texts and ambitious range of diction (from elaborate to vulgar) all serve Compton's consistent interest in how and whether the culture will ever let girls grow up: 'Our official position is class piata.'" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)