Geek Girls Rule! #376 – Review: The Refrigerator Monologues by Catherynne Valente

So, I had found out about The Refrigerator Monologues by Catherynne Valente a couple weeks ago and pre-ordered it on spec.  It dropped last week, so I decided to go ahead and start reading it Friday on my break and my commute.

I finished it at 11pm Friday night.

I do not often just sit down and read like that anymore.  I have a full time job, I have a ton of projects, housework, cats, husband.  I am constantly bemoaning a lack of time to sit down and read.  But for this book, I made the time.  I aggressively made the time.

Each of the stories in the book are wives/girlfriends of superheroes, who have died in order to provide the hero with emotional motivations and man-pain.  They are all thinly veiled versions of well-known fridged female characters, who should be relatively easy to recognize if you are at all familiar with the various comics canons.

The stories are told in first person, as if each character were telling them as part of their daily meeting at the Cafe Lethe in Deadtown.  They begin with the one who died first and acts as the linking narrator, and work up to a character who dies as the others are talking and who appears in Deadtown as the second to last story winds down.  This order of stories is absolutely fucking brilliant.  Going from the one who has the most distance from her life and death, to the one who tells the story as she dies, beaten and throttled in an actual refrigerator.

As they tell their stories, each character talks about their dawning realization that they are little more than fuel for the male hero’s pain and story motivations.  How when the male hero talks about his pain, it’s taken seriously, but when they do (for the character who is not actually fridged, but is in this nebulous limbo state) they are a problem and over-emotional and need to be removed (in her case committed).  This is the deconstruction of superhero comics that we have needed for decades.  It is a brilliant and I love everything about it, even if I spent an hour or so after finishing it laying awake mulling it over.

Please, do yourself a favor and pick up this book.  It is fantastic.  It is everything I did not know I needed.

I’m not sure what else to say about it without giving away spoilers.  And that the last story is actually even more gutting than the story of the character it’s based on.  Just, go.  Get it. Read it.  In a week or so maybe we can have a discussion here about it.

 

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