What in the world is going on with Norma?
As refreshing as it is to be reading a—comparatively speaking—novel, after a string of books that I have not quite been able to characterize, Woman’s World is still considerably more unconventional in terms of the definition of a “novel” than, say, something written by Nathaniel Hawthorne. What Graham Rawle is giving readers is a story, constructed beautifully out of clippings from 1960s-era women’s magazines. This is the story of Norma Fontaine/Little, but after reading the beginnings of this book I cannot place my finger on who she really is.
I think this might be part of Rawle’s intention, or maybe not. After all, the actual text of this book was largely improvisational on his part—he stated that his first draft of the story was his own words, but in using the clippings the bulk of his writing was altered. Because of this, Norma’s personality is slightly muddled during the first one hundred or so pages of the book. We know that she lives with her brother, Roy, and someone named Mary, and that her wardrobe is seemingly endless and exceedingly fashionable. But the story of her life before this novel is unclear. Who was she before? Why is she not allowed to answer the door? Why do her neighbors think her a stranger, and her home’s regular postman confused by her presence? How much, if at all, can we trust her?