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What the reviewers said about

How to Conceive of a Girl

'A writer of exceptional sensitivity, precision and courage... Her stories embody a profound critical engagement with the complexities, ironies and bewilderments of concepts such as sexuality, the family and history.'
--Peter Bishop, Director of Varuna Writers' Centre, NSW


'...one of the most remarkable of young Australian writers.' -- Helen Daniel

'Lovely, clean and astute writing with a robust, very visual humour.' -- The Weekend Australian

'Spencer writes in just about every style that I can think of right at this moment --  dialogue, evocation, theory, magic realism, anecdote, letters, news items and creative appropriations of other texts, all patched together in collages that, despite their eclecticism, are far from random... If you immerse yourself and let the fragments accumulate, you get a new perspective on the messy, lateral workings of the human heart and mind. It's exhilarating.'
--Jenny Pausacker, The Age

'Witty, emotionally powerful, and very crisp.' - Louise Adler, Arts Today

'This is something really special... written with an elegance and eloquence that is inspiring. Spencer writes in the grey area between essay and story and poem without getting stuck in academic mind games. Her best is quite funny and sad and erotic. "A Lover of Space" is simply one of the loveliest stories I've read anywhere in ages.'
--Michelle Griffin, City Weekly

'The reworking of a classic text, mixed with contemporary theory and other elements of a common culture, is characteristic of Spencer's style and its strengths. In "Fatal Attraction in Newtown'"she mixes the narrator's upsetting experience of seeking exemption from jury duty (on the grounds of being an anarchist) with a screening of Fatal Attraction into an exploration of sexual politics and juridical violence that is both a powerful fiction and critical essay. Spencer's relation to history is genealogical, concerned with the web of connections that form the present and its subjectivities, tracing the complex, post-60s shifts in Australian culture and society which have affected her girls.'
--Peter Hutchings, The Sydney Morning Herald

'This is a collection of writing that defies easy definition, combining short story, essay, montage and reverie, sometimes on the same page. Spencer moves from dreamlike fantasy to acute analysis of sexual politics, mixing skewer-sharp character detail with luridly funny evocations of the 70s, juxtaposing pop-culture savvy with searching evocations of desire. Rewarding and engrossing reading.'
--Phillipa Hawker, Marie Claire

'...The Addams Family, Karl Marx, excerpts from New Idea, Luce Irigaray's poetry, Rod Stewart's lyrics and the theories of Roland Barthes are all vitamised together...  And Spencer is not a writer to cast you a linear life-line. But as she says of writing about the 70s: "Maybe realism is inadequate for exploring the confused contradictory fragmented mess that it was". So go with the flow when reading this. One connection  invariably leads to another and, despite the jagged edges, the prose glides.' --Nadine Cresswell-Myatt, The (Melbourne) Herald Sun

'Spencer's book will appeal to anyone with an interest in ways of breaking out of sequential narrative. Her montage or collage assembly of incidents and reflections,  rearrangements of time and place, attract me enormously, after the this-follows-that
technique of much contemporary chronicling of life among the young and self-regarding...Self-regarding? Her work certainly is, but the playfulness of the methods she employs and the self-questioning throughout... reflect an intellectual toughness that deserves to be encouraged and promoted.'
--Michael Sharkey, The Weekend Australian

'I enjoyed reading Spencer's stories, at times they made me laugh, they constantly made me reflect, once or twice they made me cry... Beth Spencer is a talented and inspiring writer. Her stories address issues central to women's lives with spirit, honesty and humour.'
--Enza Gandolfo, Australian Women's Book Review

'This novel rejects linear narrative in favour of fragments of stories within stories...  Spencer controls it all with great verve, weaving a colourful tapestry. It has a definite feminist agenda but no pushy didacticism -- Spencer gets her point across with
humour and whimsy. Western patriarchal culture has long relegated the female as Other: opposite to and incomplete without the male. These stories joyfully undermine the concept.'
--Thuy On, Sunday Age, Editor's Choice column

'..Spencer's voice is contemporary, local... Her symbolic includes TV game shows, Barbie dolls, a vinyl suitcase, not to be cheaply topical or kitsch-cute, but because the unconscious is no snob, it attaches to itself and makes use of these cultural artifacts and imbues them with meaning. It is all dream material and Spencer indicates new possibilities in our relationship with mother/matter/mutter (to quote de Laurentis) where it is not simply stuff to be transcended. By revealing that there's nothing "natural" about being/becoming/conceiving of a girl, by bringing this into language, literature and therefore culture, Spencer makes it more possible to rethink/renegotiate the social contract... ..[There are] dangers involved in broadening gender definitions,  in boundary crossing, in abseiling and hang-glidings from secure subject positions; that is, in bringing the unknown, the unarticulated, the disavowed into cultural consciousness. It's a serious business whether it's done on a battlefield or stage. And I'm always grateful and amazed, renewed in my attempts to continue doing this when I read work like How to Conceive of a Girl. You could say that it en/genders courage.'
--Kathleen Mary Fallon,  Australian Book Review

'Gleefully divorcing herself from boring old naturalism, Beth Spencer flings herself into textual free-fall in this strange, delightful book... the collection simply buzzes.  Loosely traversing the so-called "Generation X" territory, Spencer investigates such subjects as Barbie Dolls, robot sex, drinking beer on an overnight train and Coles eye-shadow. The feel is crazy, skittish, frisky... and not at all the turgid, gritty treatment this subject matter usually receives. More please.'
--Cassie McCullagh, The Good Weekend


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