★★★★★ (x infinity)
Harper Perennial | 2018
Filed Under: Stunning in its simplicity, ravenous in its message.
This book is unlike anything I have ever read, and I am utterly emotionally ruined by it.
Seriously. This book has fucked me up.
I started reading in the morning and I didn’t put it down until I read the last page that evening. I was completely obsessed, completely enthralled and emotionally enamoured.
I’ve taken a couple of days to think about this review because I want it to be coherent and not preachy, but I’m definitely about to go on a rant of epic proportions filled with long quotes, so buckle up buttercups.
This is the story of five men, all of whom have been the victim of a serial rapist known as Maude. It is the story of how the media handles rape, and how society handles rape. How we speak about it, how we shame, how we lay blame. It’s about the questions we ask, how we ask them, the assumptions we make and how we try to make ourselves feel more comfortable in the presence of someone else’s trauma. It’s about how survivors grapple with their new reality and their upended perception of themselves, their relationships, their bodies and the world around them.
It’s about gender equality and gender roles and gender assumptions. It’s about the groups we align ourselves with, the lines in the sand we draw as tribes. The hate we have. The resentment we have. How women feel about social history and how it doesn’t matter until it happens to a man. It’s about how blind we are to our shared wants and needs. And how if we just worked together we could change things.
It’s also creepy with elements of suspense.
All things combined, it became a work of art that was literally intoxicating to me. At one point my husband said, “are you going to stop reading soon?” I looked at the clock – I’d been reading for 4 hours, missed dinner and I didn’t even realize it.
Good evening, I’m your host, Melissa Hope and thank you for joining me on BCN’s number-one primetime television talk show The Melissa Hope Hour… [Guests], what do you make of these specific cases and the controversial circumstances surrounding how, in particular, they occurred?
Jennifer: Listen, no one deserves to be the victim of a sexual assault, but doesn’t this bring up another issue… I mean, shouldn’t people engage in some kind of behaviour so as not to put themselves in a vulnerable position?
Melissa: There are no mitigating factors when it comes to sexual assault, Jennifer. All right, Meryl Pichette, your chance to tick-tock on the Melissa Hope clock. Jennifer brings up an interesting point regarding being made to penetrate… Meryl, tell me what you’re reading on social media about this SHOCKING story.
Meryl: Well, Melissa, our readers definitely have a lot to say here: the word MAUDE has been trending on Twitter for three days straight… A lot of Americans want to know, how, like literally HOW exactly, this could’ve been rape. I mean, from a purely logical perspective, wouldn’t a man have – and I just have to ask this, with all due respect to the victims – wouldn’t a man have to get an erection in order to be made to penetrate?
Melissa: …More like Maude to penetrate!
This is not a narrative novel in the typical sense. There are no scenes of a detective on the hunt, scene-setting, descriptions, or even really a defined time. It is abstract in its prose, but it’s in this abstract style that you are hit with so much raw, unflinching emotion that it becomes impossible to look away and impossible to stop reading.
The book is woven together with poetry, prose, journal entries, radio show dialogue, tweets, dating app chats and monologues and erratic thoughts. You live within the characters as they speak; you watch the news, you read the tweets, you see the texts.
This book places you on the outside of society, looking in. Taking you away from your timelines and newsfeeds, and forcing you to see how we behave as a group from a clearer, more distant perspective. How our behaviour looks from a macro perspective, instead of the micro that we are so used to seeing in our own little bubbles.
Conflicted about #MaudeToPenetrate Why was this married father of 2 drinking w/ a random woman in the first place? -Meghan McCain
I’m just going to say it: Men, enjoy a taste of your own medicine #Maudsters -Laura Marie
When it comes to violence against men, some people are actually saying what many have been thinking: Men are getting what they deserve. Inside the bizarre world of #Maudsters -Bitch Magazine
This #Maudsters shit is the scariest witch hunt of them all. -Feminist Bullshit
Can a man be raped? Some say not possible. Join the #MaudeToPenetrate debate tonight on Facebook Live @ 11:30 p.m. EST -Facebook
Yes, men can get raped. There is no #MaudeToPenetrate, only rape -Teen Vogue
Yo dudes CANNOT GET RAPED. Trust. Not possible. Someone is lying #HateMaudeToPenetrate -Kanye West
Pray for the sins of the #MaudeToPenetrate men with us. -Westboro Baptist Church
Don’t worry! We are working with the greatest to catch monster Maude! Disgusting! America has best most amazing experts! -President of the United States Donald J. Trump
46-year-old Michael Parker of Shelburne, Vermont, is the latest victim in a string of unsolved violent sexual crimes by a female perpetrator -BuzzFeed
Everything you need to know about trans criminal Michael Parker, formerly Michaela Parker -Christian Daily
Trannies are mentally ill people who need psychological help, not your sympathy #MaudeToPenisRape -Gavin McInnes
There is a special place in hell for people questioning Michael Parker’s honesty based on his sex assigned at birth. Very special place -Roxane Gay
Maude’s all “I’m not going out tonight I’m just gonna stay home, Netflix and rape.” -Whitney Cummings
This is nothing less than an outstanding, emotional journey that is both devastating and eye-opening, and a powerful teaching moment about rape culture, if you are open to it.
What I think is absolutely brilliant, is that the book uses male victims in the story to create a powerful point that is two-pronged.
One. When a man is raped it gets attention. But when a woman is raped, it is expected.
Two. When a man is raped, he is ridiculed. When a woman is raped, she is doubted.
This is not a “feminist” diatribe in paperback. It is an honest, rational look at the way society has conditioned us to approach sexual assault and sexual assault victims.
Each character receives their own “part” of the book, and although there are no labels or titles to let you know who is speaking, the voices and the styles applied to each are so unique and perfectly crafted that you know exactly who is who. There are characters who are just like you and me, and then there are characters who are obviously inspired by real-life figureheads who perpetuate certain aspects of how society is currently functioning.
Like Sebastian White, a gay Libertarian opinion writer who hates feminists and liberals and goes on and on about what a unicorn he is being a gay man in the alt-right movement. Sound like anyone you know?
There’s so much to loathe in this world, wouldn’t you agree? Islam. Welfare leeches. Rachel Maddow. Liberals. Sean Penn! Anything with beets in it. Beets are vile. But more than any of that, as you know, I loathe feminists. It’s no small miracle that all feminists in America haven’t been stoned to death by now. I’m just telling you the truth. Feminists are pollution, taking a stance – against what exactly, no one in their right mind knows.
It’s ironic that this character would then go on to be raped. What are feminists taking a stance against? Well, the way this character (and those before and after him) are treated after his rape, for one.
The culture in which a raped man is questioned about having an erection at the time of his rape is a patriarchal one that feminism seeks to dismantle in order to replace it with one where a male victim of sexual assault is not asked about his boners. Where a woman gets the benefit of the doubt. Where rape kits don’t sit untested for decades. Where victims are not asked about how much they had to drink or what they were wearing. Male or female.
There is a poignant moment in one of the scenes where men are in a bar, sitting around joking about the victims, and then a woman walks in and the men push their alcoholic drinks away and instead sip at their water.
Knowing. Scared of this random woman.
It’s not something men think about very often. Or ever. What it’s like to walk through a parking garage by yourself. Or to the store across the street at night. #NotAllMen sprang forth because all men didn’t want to be lumped together as pigs, as rapists, as assholes and douchebags who think they can treat a woman any damn way they please.
And I get it.
I’m not religious, but my mom is Christian and she hates when people hear she’s a Christian and assume she probably doesn’t like gay people, or that she’s probably against immigration. Or that she’s probably a little bit racist. Because that’s what the loudest, most awful religious voices have conditioned outsiders to believe by way of their behaviour.
My mother is not any of those things, by the way. I know it. But because I know her.
I don’t know all men. What I do know is that one of the most fundamental differences between men and women is that one can easily hurt or kill the other with just their bare hands. And that seems to happen a whole hell of a fucking lot.
It used to be acceptable. It used to be that you hit your wife for corporal punishment like you would a child, and everyone ran a household that way. It was the assumption that men were in charge and women were to be agreeable and if they weren’t, they were punished. Women couldn’t even get a bank loan without a man co-signing with them.
Women have been fighting back against that kind of shit for a fucking long time. Men have joined the movement. But good men joining the fight against the status quo doesn’t erase history. And it doesn’t erase the present issues. I myself was in an abusive relationship. He was really nice when I first met him.
So, I’m sorry. I know rationally that it’s #NotAllMen.
But it’s a lot of men. And if I don’t know you and we’re alone together at a cross stop or on a jogging trail, yes I’m going to have my guard up. All women are going to have their guards up. That’s not a personal indictment. I’m not saying I think you’ll hurt me. I’m saying I have been conditioned to be concerned for my safety around men. I’m telling you I don’t know what you’ll do because I don’t know you. You’ll probably do nothing. But you could grab me and hold me down. You could slap my ass while you’re walking by. You could flash me.
This shit happens. All. The. Time.
What makes this book so powerful is that this is not about women being raped. We as a society are slightly numb to the idea of women being the victims of sexual violence. Hell, my favourite genre to read makes a pretty good living thinking up new and exciting ways to kill women – put them in cages or chain them to walls or stuff them in freezers. It’s all for entertainment, right? God-for-fucking-bid someone says “fuck” on TV or shows a nipple! But don’t forget to tune in at 9pm for a new SVU episode – this week another woman is fucking abused!
Listen, I’m just making a point. I have no real issue with this. Obviously. I do think books and shows, done with good intention, are an extra source of light to shine on the issues women face. I think that’s important – showing we are not alone in our experiences.
Funny enough, the complaint we hear the most from men these days is that they don’t “feel safe” approaching a woman to flirt anymore.
Once again, women are saying “hey! this fucked up shit is happening to us!” and instead of men (not all men) saying back, “you’re right! that is fucked up! I’m sorry you have to deal with that!” Men are whining about how this affects their ability to hit on women.
Walking red flags, those ones.
This book is so fucking good. It’s not only a work of art, it’s a work of societal importance. And it’s also pretty creepy.
This is my favourite time of year. When everything begins to die without choice. When the great mother begins her grand death-sentencing. But I am the greatest mother of all. And while I’m not a murderess, I do love a good ending to a man’s mind, especially if I’ve written it. It’s not revenge. It’s not payback. Nothing was done to me. It’s just something I like to do now and again.
Maude is a faceless void. You literally know nothing about her except that she could be any woman who walks into a bar. Any woman you pass on the street. Any woman you ride in an elevator with.
Just like for women, our “Maude” could be any man who walks into a bar. Any man we pass on the street. Any man we ride in an elevator with.
What could be better about her?
Why are her arms shaped like that?
Do her arms remind you of your mother?
Do your mother’s arms remind you of a daughter?
What do you want to do to her?
If you could do anything you wanted to, what would you do?
Play with her? Penalize her?
Hit her? Rape?
Beat her? Cry on her? Cum on her?
Take her body away from her? Cut off her hair? Give her to your father? Give her to the government? Close her legs? Close her lungs? Burn her in public? Take away her children? Take away her abortion? Give her a miscarriage? Give her life? Would you cut off her clitoris? Cut off the parts of her face you don’t like? Cut out her carbohydrates? Inject her with something? Explain something to her? Show her how something is done? Teach her? Fuck her? Make her white instead of brown? Does crying make you uncomfortable? Does talking make you uncomfortable? Does looking into eyes make you uncomfortable? Would you live with her? Share a house with her? Give her your last name? Treat her with respect? Cheat on her? Cheat on her with someone younger? Lie to her? Curse at her? Call her a good girl? Call her a monster? Can you trust her? What if you can’t trust her? How will you feel if you can’t trust her? How will you behave if you can’t trust her? What does it say about you that she can’t be trusted? Is she beautiful? Can you have her? What if you can’t have her? How will you behave if you can’t have her? What does it say about you that she can’t be had? Will you make her pay? Will you let it slide? What if she’s ugly but you need to fuck? What if she smells but you need to fuck? What if she’s gay but you need to fuck? What if she changes her mind but you need to fuck? What if she’s a child but you need to fuck? What if she’s your child but you need to fuck? What if she’s in pain but you need to fuck? What if you’re married but you need to fuck? What if she lets people die? What if she likes war? What if she ungrateful and unkind about it? What if she asked for it? What if she runs for president?
How would you feel if she did the same things to you?
<Maude has left the chat.>
<Maude is offline.>
This is, far and away, the only book I have read in literally a decade that has made me this emotional and awe-inspired.
Next time someone asks me my favourite book of all time, I’ll have a hard time not saying this one.
In her blazingly original and unforgettable debut novel Any Man, Amber Tamblyn brings to startling life a specter of sexual violence in the shadowy form of Maude, a female serial rapist who preys on men.
In this electric and provocative debut novel, Tamblyn blends genres of poetry, prose, and elements of suspense to give shape to the shocking narratives of victims of sexual violence, mapping the destructive ways in which our society perpetuates rape culture.
A violent serial rapist is on the loose, who goes by the name Maude. She hunts for men at bars, online, at home— the place doesn’t matter, neither does the man. Her victims then must live the aftermath of their assault in the form of doubt from the police, feelings of shame alienation from their friends and family and the haunting of a horrible woman who becomes the phantom on which society projects its greatest fears, fascinations and even misogyny. All the while the police are without leads and the media hound the victims, publicly dissecting the details of their attack.
What is extraordinary is how as years pass these men learn to heal, by banding together and finding a space to raise their voices. Told in alternating viewpoints signature to each voice and experience of the victim, these pages crackle with emotion, ranging from horror to breathtaking empathy.
As bold as it is timely, Any Man paints a searing portrait of survival and is a tribute to those who have lived through the nightmare of sexual assault.