WOMAN'S WORLD is a 437-page novel collaged entirely from fragments of text clipped from the pages of vintage women’s magazines and reassembled to tell the 1962 story of Roy, and his sister Norma’s struggle to live up to the prescribed ideals of feminine perfection
"The book took five years to create. I first drafted the novel in outline, then searched through hundreds of women’s magazines, cutting out anything that seemed relevant to the scenes I’d written: sentences, phrases and words that when joined together might be rearranged to approximate what I wanted to say. These pieces were transcribed, filed and stored, and from them I began to assemble my story as a Word document. Little by little, my original words were discarded and replaced by those I’d found. Once the text was finalized, I pasted up each page from the organised snippets. The method was primitive: scissors and glue. Apart from a little post-production tweaking, everything was done by hand.
1950s women’s magazines read as instruction manuals for womanly perfection. Norma, immersing herself in the fulsome directives on feminine protocol, is transfigured through the syntax and inflection of the source material’s distinctive voice. The gulf between the magazine pages’ impossibly high standards and her real-life situation is bridged by the newfound vocabulary. Empowered by its authoritative tone, she adopts the descriptions themselves as a mantle of femininity, envisioning herself swathed in pale lilac organza supported by a dozen layers of stiff tarlatan, or a simple, elegant white and gold chiffon cocktail dress by Digby Morton.
The very idea of Norma sitting down with scissors and glue, cutting bits from her beloved magazines and pasting them together to tell her story, is a constant visual reminder of her fragmented thought process and her dependence on the magazines to find her female voice.
"The most wildly original novel produced in this country in the past decade. . . Like all great artists, Rawle has used the constraints of this exercise as a fiercely enabling liberation. . . This book is a work of genius."
NEEL MUKHERJEE, THE TIMES 2006
"A breathtaking - and breathtakingly idiosyncratic - work."
THE OBSERVER 2006
"A brilliant invention, allowing full lyrical use of the available material, which Rawle gathers and pleats into rhapsodic riffs of garment ecstasy. . . A tale that moves with the pace of a thriller, with as many cliffhanging chapter endings and swerves of story. Woman's World may prove metafiction's first bestseller."
TOM PHILLIPS, THE GUARDIAN 2006
"What begins as an exquisitely wayward work of art and outright comic masterpiece transforms into a galloping plot of serious literary intent. Woman's World is charming, chilling, sinister, surreal and utterly unforgettable."
SAMANTHA BOYCE, SCOTSMAN 2006
"The novel's powerful, twisting plot offers a serious interrogation of the sexual stereotypes that can exert such a perverse influence over the vulnerable. What emerges is a tender love story in which an apparently happy ending also contains dark elements of unfinished business. The narrative, it turns out, is as peculiar as the presentation."
DAILY TELEGRAPH 2006
"Compellingly eccentric… a clever hybrid of cultural critique and domestic farce."
TIME OUT, NEW YORK 2008
"Five years in the making, Rawle's book is both a work of art and an astonishingly moving, funny novel. This is an ingenious, wonderful book."
SCOTLAND ON SUNDAY 2005
"Rawle's narrative grips as a reading experience from start to finish. His appropriation of the found material is so seamless and artful that words by an unnamed army of women's magazine writers read as his own. Rawle transforms the linguistic clichs peddled by these magazines into something fresh, subtly subversive and often laugh-out-loud funny. . .This novel's triumph is that it works on every level."
RICK POYNOR, EYE MAGAZINE 2005
"Brilliant… It’s garish and funny, a tour de force."
MATT GROENING, (THE SIMPSONS), MINNEAPOLIS STAR AND TRIBUNE 2009
"Woman's World sparkles with linguistic mischief while detailing a moving and psychologically acute story."
CLAIRE ALFREE, METRO 2005
"Entirely mesmerizing…The effect is hilarious, then ominous, and ultimately very dark. . .There is much more to be said about the crazy brilliance of this novel. I'm tempted to place it in the genealogy of great 18th century comedies such as 'Tom Jones' or 'Tristram Shandy'."
BETHANY SHNEIDER, NEWSDAY 2008
"Wildly clever and painstakingly crafted...It is Rawle’s ability to shape endearing, troubled characters who wring a heartfelt response that makes this novel so compelling."
CHRONICLE HERALD, CANADA 2009
"Fresh and inventive. . .Woman’s World is an absorbing, unsettling story that uses the niceties of found material to spell out darker themes. It’s an amazing mash-up, a beautifully bizarre accomplishment that might inspire copycats if it didn’t require such staggering discipline to pull off."
ERIN LOEB, BOOKSLUT, 2008
"As an art project, Woman's World is an astonishing feat. As a work of experimental text, it is pure quirky goodness. As commentary on woman's magazines and pre-feminism 1960s, it brims with colourful irony."
GLOBE AND MAIL, CANADA 2009
"A page-turning thriller that’s utterly original yet retains the sensibility of its source material. Even without Rawle’s amazing facsimile presentation, Woman’s World stands on its own as a delightfully dark suspense novel about a family with a horrible secret."
VERY SHORT LIST, USA 2008
"If genius and madness go hand in hand, this text is the proof. . . the genius is that this isn't a mere novelty, but a perfect marriage of form and function. Genius."
GAY TIMES 2005
WOMAN'S WORLD has been exhibited internationally in artist book and graphic design exhibitions including the 24th International Biennial of Graphic Design at Moravian Gallery, Brno, Czech Republic; Kunsthal Museum, Rotterdam; Cooper Hewitt National Design Museum, New York; Walker Art Institute, Minneapolis; Hammer Museum, Los Angeles; Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, Texas; Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art, Winston-Salem, North Carolina; RISD Museum of Art, Rhode Island and the University of Johannesburg, South Africa. It is held in the permanent collection of M HKA, Museum of Contemporary Art, Antwerp and the National Art Library, Victoria and Albert Museum, London.