Review: Laurie Foos, Ex Utero (Coffee House Press)


How do we continue talking about loss of sexual identity? About the absurd yet
incredibly powerful images that bombard us daily--especially on television,
especially on talk shows, which seem to have become pop-therapy for
disfunctions of all sorts? And how to even approach the obsessive-compulsive
materialistic frenzy found in the ever-popular shopping malls? There is,
fortunately, comic relief and redeeming intellectual surrealism in Lauie Foos'
Ex Utero--a short, wonderfully accessible, completely absorbing novel that cuts
through these issues without pain.

I need to cultivate a sense of humor, and this book helps. In an opening
reminiscent of Kafka, we learn that Rita, the heroine, while "lying in bed one
night...realizes she's lost her uterus." Apparently, she'd lost it earlier that
day at the mall while shopping for "red high heels and a low slung bra," a
crisis which sets off a series of equally bizarre events. Her husband can no
longer sustain an erection; another woman who hears Rita's story on a popular
talk show finds her vagina closed up and impenetrable; a third, hearing of
these sorry tales, suffers an even more devastating loss.

It is difficult to feel compassion for these characters, for indeed they are
merely caricatures reminding us of our own absurd participation--on whatever
level, in whatever form--of inauthentic sexual identification and behavior, and
our apparent powerlessness against the images and rhetoric to which we are
exposed. At the same time, we are forced to examine the methods by which we
demand attention and voice our sense of loss, while actively seeking to reclaim
what is ours.

While following the recovery and resolution of these women's lives and
relationships--with talk show heroes, newscasters, detectives, spouses and
lovers, other women, pets and even food, we can reach a level of acceptance, if
not complete understanding. The novel is original, entertaining and edifying:
a must-read.