Some Preliminary Notes on Kier-La Janesse’s House of Psychotic Women, and Comics Criticism

“So for me the struggle has been between the person I am – solitary, driven, obsessed – and the person I think I’m supposed to be: a grown-up who has dinner parties and makes a good impression on in-laws.  But the truth is, I’ve never made a good impression, and I hate cooking.  In fact, I practically hate food because it always becomes the focal point in relationships, and just symbolizes death to me.  I don’t want a partner to cook food with and get fat with and then go on diets with.  I just want to sit on the floor eating cereal and listening to records.”

Kier-La Janisse, House of Psychotic Women

This.  Every day pretty much.

I need to write a thing on the totality of this book.  It hit a lot of chords.  I also think this book is the real way to navigate art criticism as biography that a lot of pitchfork styled reviewers miss out on.  A lot of critics who put themselves in their reviews, only go so far.  It’s more about showing you themselves as they want to be seen, without true introspection, and what’s worse, little intersection with the work beyond “so I sat down to listen to this book”.  If you’re going to put yourself into your reviews, go full boar.  That was part of what let me down with that Matt Seneca(one of my favorite comic critics, who I’m glad to see writing criticism again) write up of Jupiter’s Legacy was that even though in the opening paragraph he talked about the work as it related to specifically him, and the whole review sort of alludes to that these thoughts on the book are coming from a personal space–I had read that review after this book, and was like “give me the real details!  who dumped who, and who cried where” otherwise, what’s the point?  Either you are a part of the critical journey or you’re not.

And maybe part of that is format too.  It’s hard to do that kind of introspection on a website you don’t own, in a short form almost blog format.

The amazing moment that happens reading House of Psychotic Women is when you start seeing the echoes of Kier-La’s life running through the films as she describes them.  It’s a special kind of magic, that I haven’t really experienced in many other places before.  If at all even.  It re-invigorated my love of criticism. 

I mean I’ve always said I view my criticism as part of my artistic process, and generally when I’m speaking about things, its through the lens of how I see things as an artist, and what I want to do with my own art.  I always feel guilty about that, because I also feel that criticism has to stand or fall on its own merits, and I believe in a close textual analysis divorced of things like “feelings”.  Which I mean when Kier-La is talking about film it has that close textual feel that I love from academia.  And maybe the strength is that you get that same close textual feel when she is talking about her life.  She is as precise and keen with her analysis on the whip and the body, as she is her own life.  So maybe that’s the contrast I’m talking about.  The whole review by Seneca of Jupiter’s Legacy was toned through his voice, and attitude, but it didn’t feel personal.  As close as we got was that he bought the book on his birthday.  And I mean, maybe there isn’t blood behind loving a book like Jupiter’s Legacy like that, or maybe the analysis hasn’t been brought around to its logical conclusion. 

This got way out of hand.  But it’s a lot of jumbled up thoughts I’ve been having while, now, re-reading House of Psychotic Women.


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