Woman’s World

Graham Rawle


Book, 14,9 x 21 cm, 437 p, language: English, publisher: Atlantic Books (UK), Soft Skull Press (USA), ISBN: 978-1843543688.
Materials: ink, paper

Collection: Collection M HKA, Antwerp (Inv. no. B 2026/512).

Literary synopsis

Norma Fontaine lives in a perfect woman’s world of handy tips and sensible advice. Whether it’s choosing the right foundation garment, practising feminine allure through meticulous grooming or polishing a whotnot, Norma measures life by the standards set in the magazines she reads. So when she bumps into Mr Hands and he suggests taking tea at the Excella Café how could she possibly refuse? What could be more exhilarating, or appropriate?  Woman’s World is a full-length collaged novel created from fragments of found text from women’s magazines from the early 1960s. Sentences, phrases and words have been cut out and pasted onto the page in order to tell Norma's subversive story. Once removed from their original context, the words have been reassembled to tell a tale of romance, guilt and dark family secrets. The found words influence the narrative, while their physical presence on the page leaves a residue of their original context. It offers a reading experience that is both literary and visual, challenging our perception of what a novel should look like and how it should be written.

Relation of the novel to the artist’s practice

Graham Rawle spent five years creating Woman’s World, a full-length novel constructed by piecing together fragments of text clipped from early 1960s women’s magazines. His main concern was to ensure that the collage method was relevant to the story – the form and content considered as one. He had been writing a story about a housebound and somewhat troubled woman, Norma, whose life is governed by the ideals prescribed by the women’s magazines she devours. Their strong directives leave no room for compromise, making it hard for any ordinary woman, let alone Norma, to live up to their demands. The shortfall leads her to create a persona entirely fabricated from the words in the magazines. When it occurred to Graham Rawle that Norma could actually be a cross-dressing man, the whole thing made perfect sense. Women’s weeklies from that period actually read like a ‘how to’ instructional manual for the budding transvestite – everything you need to know to achieve perfection in all areas of womanliness. 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 already says a great deal about her fragmented mind and her dependence on the magazines to find her female voice. The book design, the layout of the page is governed by the content. Rawle is not interested in adding visual tricks unless they’re inextricably linked to the story and add something to it.

Novel's website

Ensembles View all

Actors View all