F/32: The Second Coming
More outrageous than Erica Jong, more sensational than Nicholson Baker's Vox, more explosive than the subsequent Vagina Monologues, f/32 is Eurydice's astonishing award-winning debut. If Gogol had an irrepressible nose, then Ela (a name meaning orgasm) has a less metaphorical organ which is relentless and defining. It whines, it shrieks, it drives Ela mad. Thanks to "it," Ela is an urban siren. Ela (a pseudonym meaning orgasm) stops all hearts. No matter how many people love her, she daily inspires more. She spends half her life avoiding the people who love her, and the other half making them love her. Whoever meets her, desires her at their own risk. Then, one day, she loses the instrument of her pleasure, and sets out after it on a quest for it. f/32 is a wild Rabelaisian romp through most forms of amorous excess, but it is also a brilliant and apocalyptic tale orbiting around a macabre assault on the streets of Manhattan. Ela’s mock-quest for self-understanding and unification, f/32 lures the reader into a landscape of sexual alienation, continually interrupted by gags, dreams, mirror reflections, flashbacks, and street scenes from Manhattan. Between the poles of desire and butchery the novel and Ela sail, the awed reader going along for one of the most dazzling rides in recent American fiction. Fasten your safety belts, for the most unforgettable narrative ever written by a woman.
Ela is voracious: no matter how many people want her, she daily inspires more. Then one day, she loses the instrument of her “pleasure," & sets out after it on a mock-quest for self-understanding & unification. Eurydice's groundbreaking novel examines the Judaeo-Christian dichotomy of flesh & spirit, as it is lived by a modern Everywoman, Ela, in NYC. The narrative, conceived as a neo-fable, follows Ela's urban mock-quest for self-understanding & unification, as she struggles with her alienation from her sexuality & (when seen from the other side of the mirror) her alienation from self-conscious cognition & civilization. Ela's unleashed female signifier (literalized as her estranged vagina) is naturally out of sync with the signified world around her; & the integrity of her quest is undermined by her socially-enforced image of herself. In the final redemption, Ela reunites with her dismembered body &, according to one reviewer, by that act she "redefines the modern world." “f/32" refers to the aperture of the camera lens that presents the central transformation (vagina into viewing lens) in the novel. f/32 exorcises the language of everyday sex, the fear of sexual terms, the secrets of the female body. It reclaims the sexual signifier for women & subverts the Lacanian mirror. It has been called "the definitive novel on female sexuality.”
Eurydice’s debut novel, f/32, was published as a result of winning a National Fiction Competition to which Ron Sukenick submitted her College thesis on his initiative. She was living in India and working in film. The book was bought by Virago Press, rewritten as f/32: The Second Coming, published as a separate novel by Virago, and translated into many languages, incl. Dutch, Italian, German, French, Japanese. This fable of a vagina on the run, and of its owner’s quest for self-understanding and unity through a landscape of sexual alienation continually interrupted by gags, dreams, mirror reflections, flashbacks, and her Manhattan street life, quickly became a literary cult favorite.
"f/32 was my surreal reverie of a vagina-turned-Pantagruel. Some readers called it the definitive word on severed genitalia. Others found it troubling & excessive, imagination-gone-rampant. Then Lorena Bobbit castrated her husband. There was a moment, described in the news, when a policeman stumbled on the severed penis which Lorena in her angst had thrown out of her car window at an intersection as she fled home. The small-town cop retrieved John Wayne’s lone cock & carried it in a napkin to the doctors who stitched Humpty together again. It was then that I knew reality had outdone me, had proven me prophetic against my wildest attempts at creating a fantasy. I don’t know yet of a camera that can view the world through one’s genitals, but I won’t be surprised if that happens too." —Eurydice