Saturday, September 17, 2011

REVIEW: Moving Pieces by Emily Maroutian

Although the subject matter itself isn't something I would normally be drawn to, and even though I'm not generally a fan of 'experimental' fiction, I was intrigued by what Emily Maroutian was trying to accomplish with Moving Pieces. Her narrator is without gender, meaning the story takes on different meaning depending on what sex you assign to the narrator.

I intentionally sat down to read the book without any particular gender in mind, just to see how the story would develop. Early on, the idea that the narrator was a woman just got stuck in my head, although I questioned that often. At times, I even became certain that the narrator was a man, although that assumption never lasted for long. It made for an interesting experience, and I caught myself rereading several passages just to see what gender 'fit' best. To nobody's great surprise, I also experimented with reading the narrator as transgendered, but for some reason that never worked for me.

As for the story itself, it's partially a story of self-discovery (the narrator is a recovering drug-addict), and partially a story of a buddy road-trip (the narrator enlists a best friend and his wheels). Something about the narrator's language had me thinking female from the start, but the buddy nature of the road trip had me thinking I could be wrong. We either have two guys on a road trip, or a girl who can manage the platonic best friend relationship with a man. Ironically, having the narrator fall in love with the female singer of a punk band should have lent further credence to the narrator being a man, but I immediately read a lesbian angle into that relationship. Just for fun, I reread those passages with a transgender slant, but as interesting as it was, I wasn't convinced.

The story itself is very well-written, once you get used to the narrator's lack of gender, and the story hits enough emotional highs and lows to warrant the added attention required to manage the gender issue. The only thing I might have done differently would have been to strip the gender from the author as well - I don't think I read the narrator as a woman because Emily is a woman, but it would have been interesting to see how the same book by E. Maroutian might have been received.

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