literary journalism

Lucy Ellmann’s ‘Things Are Against Us’

“Let’s complain,” suggests Lucy Ellmann in the preface to this new collection of essays, her first book of nonfiction. In lieu of a Table of Contents, a ‘Table of Discontents’ catalogues the 14 pieces, of which three are previously unpublished. The griping begins innocently enough: in the titular essay, Ellmann sets out the disappointments of THINGS. “Fitted sheets never fit,” she writes. “And duvet covers? Their deviltry is legendary.” The pitch amps up quickly with ‘The Underground Bunker’, a piece about Trump’s America that first ran in the Irish Times, followed by ‘Three Strikes’, an anti-patriarchy polemic that appeared in The Baffler.

Not included in the collection but of similar tone is ‘Crap’, an essay dispatched by her publisher in 257 tweets to promote the book’s release. Among the litany of things that Ellmann considers crap are architecture, the BBC, crime fiction, Judy Garland, the internet, kale, mathematics, The New Yorker, pop music, prosthetic sex arses, wild swimming and world leaders. Some of the sentiments raised eyebrows: “scientists are crap” did not go down well at a time when Sarah Gilbert, the co-creator of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, received a standing ovation at Wimbledon. Other tweets provoked outright outrage: “releasing a manmade virus from a lab to crap on the world is crap of the highest order” was accused of promoting a racist conspiracy theory.

Men, too, are crap in Ellmann’s eyes—a recurring motif throughout Things Are Against Us

Read the full review online in the Irish Times

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