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590 LETTERS IN CANADA 1997 But I am in danger of making this book sound earnest when it mostly is a marvellous read on what has come, and might still come, out of a meeting of two cultures: on why May 24th is 'Bread and Cheese Day'; on how white people stole lacrosse only to let it die; on how, the white man having gone Prohibitionist on the Indians' sacred tobacco, Indian reserves could become places where anyone cquld come and smoke to their heart's content. Maracle.had committed himself to come back for one year. At the end of the year, and the end of this book, he has decided to stay. He is home again, among his original extended family. It's an absorbing story with a happy ending; no one should ask for more. (MEL WATKINS) Karlene Faith. Madonna: Bawdy and Soul University of Toronto Press. xv, 218. $45.00 cloth, $19.95 paper When writing about Madonna - risibly dubbed the 'metatextual girl' by David Tetzlaff- one is compelled to cite her work, press writers, unofficial biographers,. academics, fans, and haters. One tends not to strike a theoretical and interpretive pose before wending a way among contradictions and amorphous personae. Karlene Faith's scrutiny of Madonna's body andbawdy conduct (though rarely the fugitive soul) delightedly highlights both the tensions inherent in the superstar's performances and the passionately conflicting responses they evoke. The chapters comprise an ongoing, unresolved dialectic between Madonna's heuristic, staged challenges to (largely sexual or gender) norms and the practical and ideological weaknesses of these provocative performances: s&M displays, feminism made a spectacle in the conventionally sexual body, the (heterosexual?) woman's foray into bisexual, homosexual, or interracial relations, the adult's pose as youthful seductress. The sustained ambivalence of Faith's own response to Madonna operates compellingly in the third chapter, 'Grist for Feminist Thinking,' where quotation and analysed contradiction must vie with Faith's explicit scepticism regarding s&M representations as efficacious tools in a violent and hierarchical society. Though alert to and accommodating of alternate readings, Faith, in this chapter, wryly notes that Madonna's role reversals and staged transgressions generate fame and profit because they so often fail to 'challenge hegemonic power relations.' Elsewhere, Faith's ambitious practice of giving hearing to a wide range of theorists and Madonna analysts verges on a pastiche of possible readings, all viable, but somewhat fractious in proximity, as citations, along with cursory references to complex issues, overwhelm Faith's own address of Madonna's contradictions. Vacillating between (often others') endorsements and critiques, and between essentialist and constructionist approaches, Faith recreates a performer who is at the service of the male HUMANITIES 591 gaze, yet 'owns her body'; one who enhances the artifice of gender and sexual relations, but shows commitment to an 'honest portrayal' of nastiness; one whose gender traducing qualifies as inclusive, though she 'fails to satisfy a gay standard' of resistance. Though I concur with Faith that dyadic or exclusive interpretations of Madonna are inadequate, and though I sympathize fully with the author's qualified attraction to the performer, I also feel that·the popular and academic presses (especially the 1993 Mado11na Connection) have drawn ample attention to the provocative and troublesome politics of Madonna, and that an wunitigated focus on relativity may allow for nnexplained slippages among analytical modes. When humanist and postmodern assumptions of identity are simultaneously or alternately mobilized- as they are in this text- what is the theoretical relationship between them, and what determines their opposition, complementarity, or hierarchy? Why, for instance, do Madonna 's assertions about power and control generally signify as factual, while her self-identification with gay men- surely a pushing past binaries -receives a failing grade? Why commend Madonna as a role model for young women, only to dismiss (in a single paragraph, the penultimate one of the chapter) the issue as false, implying unavailable consensual standards? That said, Faith shrewdly uncovers various ways in which Madonna discomfits viewers, including the apropos comment that Madonna disturbs some feminists precisely because she evokes 'longing for the perfect, politically conscious and articulate woman to represent us on world stages.' Faith, conversely, subordinates her own uneasiness...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 590-591
Launched on MUSE
2014-07-02
Open Access
No
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