200 pp., 5 x 8 in,
- Published: February 18, 2020
McKenzie Wark invents a new genre for another gender: not a memoir but an auto-ethnography of the opacity of the self.
Another genre for another gender.
What if you were trans and didn't know it? What if there were some hole in your life and you didn't even know it was there? What if you went through life not knowing why you only felt at home in your body at peak moments of drugs and sex? What if you expended your days avoiding an absence, a hole in being? Reverse Cowgirl is not exactly a memoir. The author doesn't, in the end, have any answers as to who she really is or was, although maybe she figures out what she could become.
Traveling from Sydney in the 1980s to New York today, Reverse Cowgirl is a comedy of errors, chronicling the author's failed attempts at being gay and at being straight across the shifting political and media landscapes of the late twentieth century. Finding that the established narratives of being transgender don't seem to apply to her, Wark borrows from the genres of autofiction, fictocriticism, and new narrative to create a writing practice that can discover the form of a life outside existing accounts of trans experience: an auto-ethnography of the opacity of the self.
What is a sex life, and what other “lives” does it jostle out of the way to assert itself as the essential spine of an autobiography? In Reverse Cowgirl, McKenzie Wark relates in careful ways the work that goes into the synthesis of a life out of fragments of experience, identity, and intellection.
Grace E. Lavery, University of California, Berkeley
In McKenzie Wark's Reverse Cowgirl, little black book meets commonplace book. Wark's wild ride through the dream of the 70s and 80s (and beyond) smartly complicates whatever we already knew about transition memoirs—and transition, and memoirs. Wark's life is refracted through fashion and theory and music and fucking (so much fucking!). I'm stunned and grateful for the time spent in the company of this luminous book.
Andrea Lawlor, Author of Paul Takes the Form of a Mortal Girl
This would be a sexual autobiography if McKenzie Wark did not explode the presupposition that sex and genre are binary and that the subject is one and indivisible. It's both a speculative trans autofiction and a tale of the passage from the analogical pre-AIDS sixties to the digital AIDS and trans 2000s. This book is a polybiography where productive, undefined desires struggle to exist beyond the boundaries of patriarchy, capitalism, but also gay culture. Ingredients include one quarter sperm and ass-fucking, one quarter punk glitter and bitch pills, one quarter communist theory—and you, the reader, add the rest.
Paul B. Preciado, author of Testo Junkie
Wark refuses to call this book a coming-of-age tale, even if it ends up marking her coming-into-identity as a trans woman. If the text may initially feel dystopic in spite of its moments of ecstasy that transcend and descend, it ends in a space of utopic self-invention.