Psyche in a Dress
Near the end of Francesca Lia Block's brilliant new novel, PSYCHE IN A DRESS, the title character reflects on her life, thinking, "When your mothers tell you to love and appreciate your body it isn't just to get you to shut up. They know that when you are old you are going to feel exactly the same way inside that you do now. We try on different dresses, different selves, but our souls are always the same --- ongoing, full of light."
In this lyrical, complex novel, trying on different selves, different dresses, different names is exactly what happens to Psyche (Soul). Born to a largely absent mother and a tyrannical, sadistic film director father, Psyche feels at odds with her surroundings. She only feels complete when she unites with her mysterious lover, Eros (Love), who comes to her in darkness, with the smell of "night-blooming flowers" and the scent of the ocean. Eros holds her and tells her stories of the myths. Their relationship seems idyllic until Psyche, goaded by her sisters, betrays Eros's trust by using a candle to see his face.
Eros, crushed by her doubting, flees from Psyche, who is destined to spend the rest of her life trying to recapture the love she once knew. As she does so, she is transformed, in body and name, into various heroines of the Greek myths Eros once told her: Echo, Eurydice (whose Orpheus sounds a lot like Kurt Cobain) and Persephone (whose Hades also bears a passing resemblance to Marilyn Manson). During her odyssey, Psyche travels to hell and back, and through a variety of landscapes, from lush gardens to wealthy boutiques, that firmly place her story in a thoroughly modern California setting.
Finally, when Soul and Love unite, a daughter, Joy, is born, and the true nature of the mythic patterns that have shaped Psyche's life is revealed. Fans of Block's earlier books, including the vastly popular Weetzie Bat series, know that Block often infuses her lyrical writing with mythical and fantastic elements. Here, though, she goes a step further, using the classic myths as the basis for an undeniably modern story. Drug use, rape, abuse and a variety of other evils reveal the true brutality of the myths, while Block's flowing free verse reveals their beauty.
Reviewed by Norah Piehl on October 18, 2011
Psyche in a Dress
- Publication Date: September 1, 2006
- Genres: Fiction
- Hardcover: 128 pages
- Publisher: HarperTeen
- ISBN-10: 0060763728
- ISBN-13: 9780060763725