What are the rules for how to react to acts of war and violence depicted in the media-things that seem so big and distant from our day-to-day lives?
Is there anything stable that we can believe in as real or true?
These are just two of more than a handful of conundrums that guide the story in Double Teenage, the debut novel from writer and artist Joni Murphy.
Double Teenage tells the story of two young teenagers who are coming of age in the 1990s in a little desert town along the US–Mexico border. Through their love of theatre, they find their way into a wider world that’s rich with opportunity, but at the same time, dense with situations of peril and violence.
This unrelenting novel shines a spotlight on the paradoxes of Western culture-where people are obsessed with depictions of fantasy sexual violence, while at the same time, willfully blind to the many ways in which desire and hurt twine together in real life; where survival goes hand-in-hand with trauma and witnessing; where art, books, movies, TV, and plays work to both shield us from reality and also help us to face it, and powerful healing rituals can be made out of everyday material goods-hoodie sweatshirts, homemade alcoholic punch, joints, and blood pacts. In this way, Double Teenage ultimately offers a way through violence into an emotionally alive place beyond the trap of girlhood.
Praise for Double Teenage:
“Like the Celine and Julie of Jacques Rivette’s film, Joni Murphy’s protagonists are highly attuned to magical forces. But, growing up Las Cruces, New Mexico-a town that they separately flee for points north-the magic they see is infused with unfathomable violence. From the micro-inflictions of ‘self harm’ to the criminal and systemic violence that surrounds them, they struggle to make sense of their surroundings by whatever means are available to them: sex, romance, and drugs; literature and fashion; art, theater, and critical theory. Double Teenage is the definitive book of The Young Girl. It’s also a definitive book about NAFTA, the Ciudad Juarez femicides, spectacular serial killings, culture and class, and the comforting media-lull of repetition. In an effort to understand, if not everything, at least those things that surround her protagonists, Murphy writes with an unforced and calm beauty. Double Teenage is a stunning first novel, moving with stealth and intelligence against the North American landscape.” —Chris Kraus, author of I Love Dick
“In this world / there were two kinds of girls, / Celine and Julie were neither.” Joni Murphy’s DOUBLE TEENAGE is a novel of shadowy doubles, tracking the ghosts of adolescent girlhood between America’s “true west” and western civilization itself. At once sober and elegiac, Murphy’s novel snakes from southern New Mexico to Chicago, from the confusions of adolescent sex to the ruins of love in adulthood, from real murder to its images in tv and literature and, yes, theory– passing in and out of a Ciudad Juarez of the mind. Is it possible to survive girlhood? Are dead women the only kind our culture wants or understands? Joni Murphy’s searching new novel is a book of questions which have no answer, questions begged as much by the obscenity of facts as by the record of our phantasms: our movies, our TV, our Bolaño, our borders. Read it.” —Ariana Reines, author of Mercury and The Cow
“Joni Murphy speaks to us directly. She speaks to us from a place of borders, of countries, and of languages that are strange to her and in need of reinvention. Through her ear and her eye, through her transmissions from these dusklands, we recognize something actual, an event or place, but cross-examined, rendered and remixed. Sometimes theatrical, sometimes cinematic, always urgent and painted on a broad canvas, unafraid of the depth of each landscape, of the mountains that we cannot see that lie beyond the mountains that we can. Her monologues follow the flow of thought-visual, critical, poetic, nostalgic. She speaks to where we are now-when the ‘we’ is the individual and the body politic, in this historical moment, where this marginal place, through the thought of her writing, becomes the centre.” —Matthew Goulish, founding member of the performance groups Goat Island and Every House Has a Door
“Joni Murphy has made a series of portraits, depictions not ultimately of people, but rather of a specific ambition, the only ambition that she feels is real, or can be real. Here there is an urge toward knowledge, but never knowledge that can be completely obtained. That which can be had completely cannot be trusted, says Murphy. Truth must be partial, glimpsed in bent glass, or found in its afterimage, wounding. Trysts, bodies, beds, books, they function as spurs. Here they are never what they are, but only road signs pointing elsewhere… not to a place but to a sort of journey.”
—Jesse Ball, author of Samedi the Deafness, The Curfew, and A Cure for Suicide
“Double Teenage seems like the definitive book of The Young Girl as defined by Tiqqun. It’s also a definitive book about NAFTA, the Ciudad Juarez femicides, spectacular serial killings, and media’s comforting lull.” —Chris Kraus for The Millions
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