I was offered a review copy of a book published by The Feminist Press entitled Icon, edited by Amy Scholder and, to my great shame, it has taken me far too long to get around to writing about it. Described to me as “a collection of writings by prominent feminist writers, thinkers and performers, revealing their private views on a public person” it sounded like just the thing I needed for taking a break from academic books after I completed my Master’s dissertation at the end of November. Hand-in came and went, December whizzed by in a blur of socialising and seasonal festivities, then January ended up being far busier than I had anticipated. Last week, I moved a pile of books in the living room and there was Icon, so I finally got stuck in. The cover of the book offers a taste of what this collection of essays offers the reader:
What does the phenomenon of celebrity say about our culture? What is it about that face, that music, or that body of work that crosses over into an obsession? In this daring collection of never-before-published personal essays, some of the most provocative writers of our time offer a private view of a public figure – and in the process, reveal themselves.
Being more used to academic books in recent years, I wasn’t prepared for how personal the chapters would be. Each writer offers up something far more than a history of their chosen icon or why that person is so important to them. Instead, they weave a story about their own lives – past and present – showing much more than how this person influenced them. Even if you don’t know the name of every writer or icon listed on the cover and in the contents page, each story allows you to identify with a connection. The emotions and discoveries that these writers mention when discussing the people who fascinate them is surely something we can all relate to. The book’s editor Amy Scholder is a former editorial director of the Feminist Press and her introduction explains how the book came about.
Public figures easily become symbols, ideas, icons. But the fascination doesn’t diminish. What I’ve come to realize is that in looking for them, I look for myself as well. […] I began to imagine how other writers might respond, given the chance to write about their icons, and asked some of my favourites to contribute to this book.
After reading Mary Gaitskill’s words on Linda Lovelace, Jill Nelson on Aretha Franklin, and Justin Vivian Bond on Karen Graham, I started to wonder who I would choose as my own icon and how I would write the story of my fascination. This might even be something for a short series of guest blog posts on Rarely Wears Lipstick as, like Scholder, I am now curious about the choices of other people I know and admire. If you are at all interested in celebrity, identity and obsession, I think you will find this book extremely fascinating. Icon is a rare combination of a book that is easy to read yet extremely thought provoking.
DISCLOSURE: I was sent a copy of Icon free to review by Turnaround Publisher Services.