*The feature image is a collage of Nuala from The Dreaming and the cover of Paul takes the form of a mortal girl.

I found the book Paul takes the form of a mortal girl by Andrea Lawlor at the Book Lounge. When I started with the book I was not sure if I like it – I am still not sure if I like it ironically, but I do think it is a great book, which is probably a weird thing to say. Paul/Polly is the main character in the book.

If I am honest with myself, there are two feelings that I feel toward Paul/Polly – and I need to state it upfront: I am jealous, but also angry. On the one hand I am jealous of them, because they can shift their body to their will and I want to be able to shift/change my body as they can. I am angry at them, because they don’t stay in the shape I mostly associate with (or yearn after), namely that of Polly. (And then I ask myself, why do they still use the pronoun he when they are Polly.) Maybe this also says something of my own prejudices and desires. And this to my mind, is why the book is really impactful. It calls forth certain responses which I am myself uncomfortable with holding/feeling and to think about it.

Other things I love about the book: The references to queer culture(-s), zines and most importantly mixed tapes.* There are so many intertextual references in action in the storyline and most probably the reason why I need to reread the book, because with every re-reading the meanings will be more and different. (Also, being a queer trans woman there are histories which I belong to, but don’t really know about because I am white, privileged and middle class. This book forces me to think about it.)

And then the mix tapes. Having grown up in the 80s/90s, this brought some memories back. Polly’s mix tape for Diane (a love interest of Paul/Polly) is particularly good:

Side A:Side B:
I AM a Poseur – X-Ray Spex
Pretty on the Inside – Hole
Cherry Bomb – The Runaways
What’s Inside a Girl? – The Cramps
Rebel Girl – Bikini Kill
Pumping (My Heart) – Patti Smith
Golden Thing – Throwing Muses
Rid of Me – PJ Harvey
Touch your Woman – Dolly Parton
If I Was Your Girlfriend – Prince
Beauty and the Beast – David Bowie
That’s Really Super, Supergirl – XTC
People Are Strange – Echo and the Bunnymen
You will just have to read the book…

To close off there are some references made to the Sandman. Polly: “He waited a beat, then picked up his comic again, just casually enough to signal his wilingness to not read, although he was getting to a good part involving Death, who definitely seemed a little queer.” Although the Sandman is not a central part of the story, when I was reading about Paul/Polly, i was thinking about Nuala. Paul/Polly can certainly be a character from the Sandman who decided (or forgot about their previous life, or don’t know their true linage) to live a “normal” life and discarded their powers, but trying to find their way back.

*I looked up some of the zines referenced in the book, here is a really interesting resource, as well as here. This is also a great guide in terms of how to make a zine.

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