Elf Girl (Rev Jen’s New Book — Out Today!)

Well, it looks like Saint Reverend Jen has finally made the Big Time. Simon & Schuster, a major house, has brought out her latest book Elf Girl and it goes on sale today. To them, as to us, she gives nothing less than a life: her autobiography, from soup to nuts (I use the term advisedly), as opposed to a collection of anecdotes as she has done in the past (see my review of Live Nude Elf here).

In poring through the new book one is struck by how this compulsive art-maker gives life to everything and everyone else, too. Every inanimate object around her she anthropomorphizes, deifies; every friend (human or chihuahua) becomes mythologized and caricatured; every event chronicled and raised to the level of history like a Viking singing her own Saga. Every person who attends her Anti-Slam becomes a star. Her house is a Troll Museum. Her dog is a superhero. It’s like she were she were feathering her nest, armoring herself against pain by investing the entire world with color, humor, personality and romance. And for those not close enough to witness this miraculous alchemy personally, she writes.

Another thing that occurred to me while reading this book is that Jen is unique in playing both sides of the street. Most performance artists who slip into an assumed persona do so by creating a Hyde to their Jekyll. In other words, the twain don’t meet. The persona is designed as some kind of escape vehicle; we never hear about the “real” person beneath the make-up. But Jen wears it on her sleeve; the two run together, and the relationship is clear. Description of her childhood explains why. Her father, a lawyer by day, was a frustrated artist–he actually painted a mural of Jen’s favorite cartoons and comic book characters on her bedroom walls when she was growing up. At eight, she contracted spinal meningitis, had to have a painful spinal tap, and suffered memory loss. As a result, the precocious elf-child was always encouraged in outlandish artistic schemes; she’s never NOT been what she is: art school, acid and trafficking with a thousand other lunatics only turned up the heat on what she was already doing. It’s a delight to accompany Jen on her droll and merry adventures. And also to get the inside skinny. (For example, I long knew she had been in a relationship with No Wave film-maker Nick Zedd; I’d never known that she’d previously dated Christopher X.Brodeur, former mayoral candidate and Giuliani-stalker).

At any rate, if you don’t buy the book right away, to my mind it’ll make a perfect Christmas gift a couple of months from now — it even comes with festive elf feet right on the cover!

But if you just can’t wait and just gotta have it now, she’s launching it with a bevy of local events. Tonight she’ll be at St. Mark’s Bookshop with her pal Jonathan Ames; tomorrow night on her home turf at Bowery Poetry Club; and on November 5 at Bluestockings. Go see the real Elf Girl in person!

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