BOOK REVIEW: Please Miss: A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Penis by Grace Lavery

October 4, 2022

Please Miss: A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Penis

Grace Lavery

Grace Lavery is in their own words ‘a reformed druggie, an unreformed omnisexual chaos Muppet, and 100 percent, all-natural, synthetic female hormone monster’. In this meta surreal book she solves her “penis problem,” begins receiving anonymous letters sent by a cult of sinister clowns, and sets out on a magical mystery tour to find the source of these surreal missives. Misadventures abound.  As Grace fumbles toward a new trans identity, she tries on dozens of different voices, creating a coat of many colours.

Lordy, imagine reading George louis Borges on poppers, whilst in a lift dropping 45 floors, with a quietly menacing clown, cocks everywhere and dressed in a raspberry crepe onesie. If you can hold that in your head, then read on. What a wriggling writhing altogether bonkers book this is, at first sight a mirage of a memoir, an overview of trans philosophy, shimmering in gorgeous decadent detail of a life gone firmly off the rails, but the engine at the heart of this book is a steady piston, driving the ramshackle baroque narrative at a hell of a pace but with a serene sense of direction. We are driven by grace, respect, intellect, thought.  We may not know where we’re going and it’s going to be a hell of a ride, but Lavery inspires a sense of deep trust in this journey into their trans self.  Some books trumpet that they are rollercoasters, this one is; but like all good thrill rides, we’re bucked in, and really quite safe, it’s the imagination of the designer that’s taken all the risks, we just get to enjoy the gasps, shrieks and laugh out loud moments of pure bodily joy.

Lavery’s prose is absurd, lovely, cosy, and filthy, stuffed with humour, overflowing with philosophical bon mots and shimmy up against the readers mind in a most salacious and disturbing way.  We weave constantly in and out of perspectives, thoughts and ideas of penises and sex, endlessly, kaleidoscopically, relentlessly.  There’s no attempt to make any of this accessible to a non queer, binary cis reader, the blending of fiction and truth can baffle as much as delight but feel tangibly real in the context of this life lived at full throttle. Perhaps that’s the fun of this clever and thought-provoking memoir, offering up stories and experiences that shock, titillate and challenge but steering us to our own conclusions. Lavery don’t care what we think, or do they? I wonder if behind this petulant provocative poser of paradoxes if there’s not an eminently sensible person quietly sipping tea and smirking at our surprise.

‘Please Miss’ is a chimera, and shifts in the hand as it’s read, offering up pastiche, parody, philosophical insight and intellectual challenge, there’s no easy route though this book, or through life it posits, no ‘one’ trans experience, or theory or outcome, but undergoing it is the point, as of life itself. Ideas are parsed with a razor-sharp analysis of contemporary experience, from ideas of gender, a porno version of QI, thudding through popular culture with an fascinating perspective on Mars Attacks and putting Victorian writers like Wilde and Dickins under the scrupulous  lens for their insertions of sexual narratives. All mixed in with a soberly challenging meta narrative of fourth wall breaking author reductive trans theory, which is asking a lot of the casual reader, but this book demands of its reader. Oh and if that wasn’t enough, a worrying amount of abusive stalker clown letters…..

Lavery; famous professor of Critical Theory at an eminent Californian University has an endearing way of circling back around again to their point, via scholarly tangents, curious digressions, startling lunges for the wheel and blind alleys of erudite thought, it’s a heady mixture, and when they eventually get round to it can be startlingly, insightfuly honest and considerate of the viewpoints of the significant others in their life.  I’d adore to be trapped on a train in a snowdrift with them.

Well worth the effort to both read and just cling on, but also left me feeling that I was not quite in on the joke, if of course, there was even a joke in the first place which there must have been as anyone so obviously clever as Dr Lavery would never forget to write it in and then point it out.

Out Now: £14.99

For more info or to order the book follow this link to the publishers website