Elephant Girl, a review

This book broke my heart. I hate it. I loathe, despise, revulse, and malign it. And yet I love it with great passion and abiding joy. Am I crazy? Read it and see.

I don’t generally write book reviews on my blog. but came across a memoir a few days ago that makes it imperative that I do. Elephant Girl by Jane Devin reminded me why I love the written word above all things. As a writer and editor (editor mostly, as those who wondered where my blog went may have noticed lately) I whine, mope, and complain frequently about how words are fluff and not to be confused with reality. Words are the tools us writers use to jerk around our readers. They are also what the generality of everybody use to fool ourselves. Words felt useless to me, fake – or at least not enough to hold Truth.

Well, Jane Devin was a splash of cold water. Words do matter, hugely. How could I forget that?

Elephant Girl cover image from Jane Devin

* Cover design by Stephanie Cameron

The story of Jane Devin’s life as related in this memoir is something that is an action. Words as doingness. And her action has created an immense reaction in me, physiological and mental. For one thing I almost read myself sick. I could… not… stop in my second sit-down with her book and read all through the night, putting it down only when I finished after 8 a.m the next morning. Boy I felt like crap physically for two days later. That damn book. My mind, however, is still in joyland, despite how awful so much of her narrative felt, a litany of punishment for the compassionate soul. Too bad she draws you in so effortlessly, or I wouldn’t have had to feel so crappy about the whole thing. Darn that unobtrusive writing!

This story of her life is a human story, as it says in the subtitle. It is so universal, I can’t be the only one who reads this tale and is cut by its nature to my very core. It makes you look into places you wish weren’t there, and yet you’re glad you did, even so. I know many things, but I never knew this.

Jane Devin’s fine book is the product of an amazing human being. I’m kinda embarrassed to be wasting my skin so much after reading her experiences. Add another unwanted emotion to the effects. For people who have left any portion of their emotional equipment on the shelf for very long, Elephant Girl will bust it out in spades.

As a reviewer I leave much to be desired, since I would rather the reader learn from the book what it’s about, and not from somebody telling them. Besides, as far as I can tell, this book is about me.

In awe, wonder, and gratitude,


Filed under: Writing | Posted on August 16th, 2011 by LWIII

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