Lauren Fairbanks - Carrie Meeber enters the related fields of advertising and prostitution. As an unflappable narrator makes inquiries into her bizarre life, a cartoonish, hyperkinetic, blaring street world envelops the reader



Lauren Fairbanks, Sister Carrie: A Novel, Dalkey Archive Press, 1995.

"Sister Carrie is a first novel by a woman writer possessing such an original voice and slashing, surrealistic wit that she is sure to take her place at the forefront of cutting-edge fiction writers. Carrie Meeber leaves her stifling Florida home for Chicago, where she enters the related fields of advertising and prostitution. As an unflappable narrator makes inquiries into her bizarre life, a cartoonish, hyperkinetic, blaring street world envelops the reader. Depraved characters parade themselves and their crass literary leanings; many keep journals, out of which Carrie is revealed with stylistic pyrotechnics. Fairbanks's scrappy, fantastic, debauched characters reveal themselves as well in hot rapid monologue and dialogue. There is something of Kathy Acker in Sister Carrie, something of Ronald Firbank, William Burroughs, Mark Leyner perhaps, even the Joyce of Finnegans Wake. (And Theodore Dreiser's Sister Carrie? revamped, accessorized, given riot grrrl attitude). But it is finally a tour de force from a young woman writer with a voice all her own and a sardonic world-view perfect for the irony-clad nineties."

"Written in gaudy postmodern prose that bears absolutely no resemblance to Theodore Dreiser's magisterial naturalism, this often hilarious first novel emulates its famous predecessor only in being an account of Carrie Meeber's experiences after she runs away from home (this time in Miami) to discover her own identity in Chicago. Both protagonist and author play with language, taking the placid cliches of everyday life and shocking them into audacious, often bawdy images. Questioned by a curiously detached narrator, Carrie describes a world of fantasies, delusions and ego trips peopled by characters like Queenie, Zenobia, Bro (the prime minister of the count of Nogs), Valmouth and Englebert Humpherifyoucan. Her journey to self-realization is chronicled in her journals and the jottings of her friends. She finds a job with the advertising agency Pimp & Co. and falls in or out of love. She may or may not be a prostitute, a pimp, or a madam; she may or may not have been an actress, a filmmaker, or a model--"Good old reality," Carrie says. "The only perfect thing. Subject to perception." Fairbanks struts her stuff through this satyricon of self-revelation in a world gone cynical. Perhaps not to everyone's taste, this is an exhilarating debut by an enormously gifted writer." - Publishers Weekly

"Dreiser fans beware: this Carrie, a prostitute-advertiser, resembles his heroine far less than she does Stephen King's twisted sister. Fairbanks excels in spewing out rapid-fire imagery, wrenching irony, bizarre juxtapositions, and clever wordplay. She ambitiously attempts to describe Carrie and her world from several points of view, but the result is a disjointed jumble lacking in any apparent purpose other than to shock and confuse. As the narrator observes: "The problem with these last few pages is... there doesn't seem to be much truth or anyone willing to get on track." Fairbanks passes the Beckett test of minimalist despair and the Kathy Acker bodily fluids count but fails the pre-postmodernist Mr. Ed dictum of never speaking unless one has something to say. This first novelist's flash and dash might be better suited to short fiction and poetry. Recommended only for literary punksters, Acker fans, the terminally post-hip, and comprehensive collections." - Jim Dwyer

"Like Kathy Acker, first-novelist Fairbanks finds inspiration for her barely readable word collage in the works of Joyce, Beckett, and Burroughs. A bit funnier than Acker, Fairbanks indulges in the same self-referential riffing, with lots of typographical gimmickry as well. This surreal prose poem has little to do with Dreiser. Here, Carrie is a thoroughly modern girl who runs away from her mother's condo in Florida to Chicago with her diaphragm in her pocket. Part Asian and part Texan, this clever 23-year-old embarks on careers in prostitution and advertising. To Fairbanks's self-styled radical way of thinking, these are of course the same thing. Her faux documentary novel is full of such facile political and cultural thinking, and is made up of interviews, log entries, letters, and lists. Among the witnesses who testify on Carrie's behalf (though it's not clear what she's on trial for) are: her pimp, Pimpo, who owns the wild bordello where she works; Zenobia, her wacked-out mom; her co-workers, Queenie and Brocade, who never understood their high-brow friend. Someone celebrates Carrie's talents as a sexual innovator, which include her choreographed performances at the bordello, and her public masturbation with a statue of the Madonna. Eventually Carrie gives birth and escapes to Jamaica, but she seems to have contracted AIDS, which undermines the sense here that this is all ``a hip self-parody.'' The many brief sketches throughout seem intended to shock with their grotesqueries--Nazism, dismemberment, drug abuse, etc. And the name-play, too, reaches such lows as a character called ``Englebert Humpemifyoucan.'' Pretentious nonsense." - Kirkus Reviews


Lauren Fairbanks, Muzzle Thyself, Dalkey Archive Press, 1991.

"Nothing is pure or sacred in Muzzle Thyself. If it hasn't rubbed up against something or isn't sweating, it's of little concern to Lauren Fairbanks. Literary fragments, "found materials," are organized in such a way as to appear unliterary. The narrative line breaks with authorial intrusion and other modes of interruption. Most poems end with a slammed door or a punch line. Muzzle Thyself is not lofty or nice, but it has juice. It's a created world, a world reflecting one mind. The creation is complexly unrealistic, filled with humor, rubbish, and ambiguous information.
Fairbanks is not looking for a momentary stay against confusion; instead, she revels in life's chaos. Her poems are a celebration of what passes for life: fistfuls of glitter and noise in the street. The emphasis is on the page: words on paper. Period. The content should surprise. Rather than what "they" want to hear (William Carlos Williams said), "Tell them something else."

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