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Photographs taken by Keri Pickett over several years on the land of the Northwoods Radical Faerie Collective, who go into the wilds of Minnesota every summer on a retreat.

I had previously only encountered the Radical Faeries via mentions in various queer media and glimpses at pride marches. The impression I got could be summarized as 'sparkly'-- they tend to be devoted to some serious drag. This turns out to have been a correct though incomplete impression; the self-summary in this book boils down to 'extremely gay hippies'. Very heavily into ritual as a form of community-building, the creation of sacred space via intentional irreverence, the reappropriation of various cultural signifiers as leading to the freedom to use those signifiers without camp or irony, ecological activism, all that jazz.

This leaves me of two minds. On the one hand, they have to be doing something very right, because the photographs are magnificent. It's rare for me to see photos of people who are wearing clothing their culture considers gender-deviant in a manner that has no defensiveness and no defiance in it at all, but these are pictures of genuinely safe space and of people wearing what they want and behaving in ways they want to without caring what the world in general might think. There is power and beauty in these images, and a deep sense of freedom and community, aided by the fact that this is one of the few groups among the Radical Faeries which allows women, straight men, and anybody who is willing to go along with it to join. (One guy brings his seventy-year-old mother. I just find that awesome.) They also have something I guess I can best describe as a rejection of the body as politicized? I mean, this is a group in which HIV status is an omnipresent issue, and the insistence on HIV not being any of the things HIV culturally is but instead simply a pragmatic fact with which everyone copes as they can is cool to watch.

On the other hand. Ninety percent of the text in this book makes me want to go found a retreat group in the middle of Manhattan for overly caffeinated bitter and sarcastic lesbians with a keen grasp of irony. There is a level of crystally New-Age-ness with which I am totally unable to cope, and I know that's me, but after a certain amount of unfettered unpunctuated untypographical poetry I start to reject the very concept of unabashed letting-it-all-hang-out sincerity on the grounds that it does terrible things to people's writing styles. You know what I believe in, to the heart's unfathomed core? I believe in grammar. I really believe in it. And so there is part of me that looks at this sort of thing and goes, I am so glad someone is doing this, I think this is an important thing that needs to exist, yes, neo-tribalism is shiny, and I will be over here with my citified architectural post-structuralist queer theory-thoughts and my inability ever to stop using formalized rhetoric. Just. Punk came in for a reason.

Which is to say, this is a lovely documentation of a really fascinating and worthwhile subculture that I am also kind of allergic to on some levels, including its prose. It was an interesting read. I can't help wanting to copy-edit.

Oh, and if you aren't into photographs with tasteful nudity, this is very much not your book, but given the things I've been saying you probably knew that already.

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rushthatspeaks: (Default)
Photographs taken by Keri Pickett over several years on the land of the Northwoods Radical Faerie Collective, who go into the wilds of Minnesota every summer on a retreat.

I had previously only encountered the Radical Faeries via mentions in various queer media and glimpses at pride marches. The impression I got could be summarized as 'sparkly'-- they tend to be devoted to some serious drag. This turns out to have been a correct though incomplete impression; the self-summary in this book boils down to 'extremely gay hippies'. Very heavily into ritual as a form of community-building, the creation of sacred space via intentional irreverence, the reappropriation of various cultural signifiers as leading to the freedom to use those signifiers without camp or irony, ecological activism, all that jazz.

This leaves me of two minds. On the one hand, they have to be doing something very right, because the photographs are magnificent. It's rare for me to see photos of people who are wearing clothing their culture considers gender-deviant in a manner that has no defensiveness and no defiance in it at all, but these are pictures of genuinely safe space and of people wearing what they want and behaving in ways they want to without caring what the world in general might think. There is power and beauty in these images, and a deep sense of freedom and community, aided by the fact that this is one of the few groups among the Radical Faeries which allows women, straight men, and anybody who is willing to go along with it to join. (One guy brings his seventy-year-old mother. I just find that awesome.) They also have something I guess I can best describe as a rejection of the body as politicized? I mean, this is a group in which HIV status is an omnipresent issue, and the insistence on HIV not being any of the things HIV culturally is but instead simply a pragmatic fact with which everyone copes as they can is cool to watch.

On the other hand. Ninety percent of the text in this book makes me want to go found a retreat group in the middle of Manhattan for overly caffeinated bitter and sarcastic lesbians with a keen grasp of irony. There is a level of crystally New-Age-ness with which I am totally unable to cope, and I know that's me, but after a certain amount of unfettered unpunctuated untypographical poetry I start to reject the very concept of unabashed letting-it-all-hang-out sincerity on the grounds that it does terrible things to people's writing styles. You know what I believe in, to the heart's unfathomed core? I believe in grammar. I really believe in it. And so there is part of me that looks at this sort of thing and goes, I am so glad someone is doing this, I think this is an important thing that needs to exist, yes, neo-tribalism is shiny, and I will be over here with my citified architectural post-structuralist queer theory-thoughts and my inability ever to stop using formalized rhetoric. Just. Punk came in for a reason.

Which is to say, this is a lovely documentation of a really fascinating and worthwhile subculture that I am also kind of allergic to on some levels, including its prose. It was an interesting read. I can't help wanting to copy-edit.

Oh, and if you aren't into photographs with tasteful nudity, this is very much not your book, but given the things I've been saying you probably knew that already.

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