Revolting Women

by Kitty Drake in September 2020
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Literature Women

We are all worms, Clem Macleod explained in her editor’s letter for issue one, and “in the end, we’re going to be eaten by them.” One of the most compelling literary magazines to emerge in the last year, issue two is themed ‘Revolting Women’ and appeals to a very particular idea of community. Put very simply, Worms is a magazine where women talk about the books that changed them. In one interview, the Australian-born writer and scholar McKenzie Wark cites Angry Women (1991) — which featured bell hooks, Kathy Acker and Annie Sprinkle — as the book that has influenced her life most because “it was the opposite of what Chris Kraus once called ‘good girl feminism’”. What this magazine is ushering you into, is an illustrious tradition of disruptive female thought.

One of the best pieces in here is by the Australian sex worker Tilly Lawless, about a promise she made herself: “When I first started sex work I allowed myself two luxuries; i) that I would never again get public transport home from a kick ons and ii) that I could buy any book I wanted without guilt or hesitation.” A catalogue of the many books that have meant something to her — Lorna Doone and Watership Down feature — this is a story about how her body bought her books, and part of its power is that it is not straightforwardly positive, or negative:

“Drenched in his sweat and staring at the Suncorp financial services sign over his shoulder, that yellow slice of pineapple beyond the hotel window, I sensed the beyonds that had opened to me. Beyond Sydney, beyond ‘economic disadvantage’, beyond this.”

Worms is zine-like in its presentation, in the sense that it’s mostly black-and-white, and it’s charmingly messy. Publications that have influenced the editor are cleverly absorbed into the design of the magazine. One great piece — about two librarians who in 1972 published a collection called ‘Revolting Librarians’ — is illustrated by a scan of their original call-out for submissions: “We are putting together A BOOK about you — by you A patchwork color quilt: crazy/ not so crazy.” Revolting women of the past are made vividly present here because we see their typos, and exclamation marks, and random capitalisations. To open this magazine is to feel part of a continuum of women writers and readers, and that is precious.

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