What makes the textual image of a woman with a penis so compelling, malleable, and persistent? The phallic woman can be a ribald joke, a fantastical impossibility, a masculine usurper, an ultimately unthreatening sexual style, an interrogation into the I of the author, or an examination of female culpability. Every Inch a Woman takes note of a proliferation of phallic feminine figures in disparate North American and European texts from the end of the nineteenth century onward. Carellin Brooks traces this phallic-woman motif backward to the sexological case study, and forward to newspaper accounts of testosterone-taking third-sexers. Brooks examines both high and low literature, pornography, postmodern theory, and writing.
About the author
Carellin Brooks' earliest childhood memory of Wreck Beach is mostly of the arduous trek of four hundred odd steps that lead down to the beach. An inquisitive and adventurous 18–year–old, she later undertook the mission to find Wreck Beach but success eluded her: she walked around the point from Spanish Banks, getting as far as Tower Beach. Discovering and exploring what she now considers to be the best nude beach in the world would have to wait.
But not for too long. Upon returning from England where she completed a Master of Studies degree in English, she rediscovered what it was that had intrigued her about the beach in the first place: the unbridled idealism nestled within its natural beauty. Wreck Beach is one of Vancouver's least commercialized beaches, where concession stands, manmade swimimng pools and toilets with plumbing are nothing more than myths. It is this fantastic purity that continues to fascinate her, she says. The first time Brooks shed her clothes and swam in the nude, she recalls, was a "mystical experience. The day was perfect, sunny, glowing. It was heaven." Going to the beach is a respite from the fast–paced, commercial lifestyle that's packaged and sold to us daily. Lying in the hot sun, cooling off in the refreshing ocean, reliving the utopian moment of serenity, celebrating the landscape: these are only some of the experiences that she says whisk one's soul away from the chaos of city life.
Even so, she considers herself representative of the average beachgoer. Although Brooks is a great supporter of the work done by the Wreck Beach Preservation Society, her love affair with the beach is one that's highly personal, and not so much ideological. She visits the beach as often as time permits, simply to enjoy. Her favourite spot is the main beach because access to the ocean for swimming is best.
What else remains to be added to the Wreck Beach experience for Brooks? Now that Wreck Beach the book is complete, and she's attended the annual Polar Bear swim on New Year's Day, she has a new goal: to visit the beach each month of the year.
And you thought all academic books were dull? ... [a] penetrating study of gender-bending penetration.
BC Bookworld, Vol. 19, No. 4, Winter 2005