Book Review : Tiffany Scandal - Shit Luck (2016)
I've given myself the goal of reading more female authors sometime last year. My objective wasn't necessarily tipping the scales of social justice, but I had grown rather alienated by the male perspective of female characters: sexy, Kung Fu savvy , caring for lonely children and utterly helpless when shit hit the fan. Perhaps not other book expressed in such universal terms what it is and what at it feels like to be a woman than Tiffany Scandal's novel-in-stories Jigsaw Youth, which floored me like a hurricane wind. What a truthful and violently vulnerable book it was. It turned my life upside down for a couple days, which is the highest achievement possible for a book that wasn't meant for me. I was anticipating her new release Shit Luck with unchecked enthusiasm and...and it teleported me into another dimension. She redefined the possibilities of her writing in a hundred pages or so.
The nameless protagonist of Shit Luck is living through the worst day of her life. The universe seems to conspire against her efforts to make it to work in time and it doesn't treat her any better once she slips into the office. It doesn't get better once she comes home: a friend drops by unannounced and invites her to a house party of kids a decade younger than her. So what does our protagonist do? She gets her hair into a spectacular hairdo and decides to drown her sorrow into alcohol and hopefully a young, shallow man's scent. Turns out, neither of this was in the cards for her. The house party will be the end of her life and the start of something way stranger and terrifying. The universe really IS conspiring against you, young woman and there little you can do about it but run!
Shit Luck could not be any more different from Jigsaw Youth. It is stylistically close to Tiffany Scandal's debut There is No Happy Ending, yet it's very much still its own thing. It's an existential comedy with speculative fiction and Giallo elements. Shit Luck reads like a screenplay of an unaired Twilight Zone episode written by Dario Argento and Harlan Ellison where the protagonist needs to accept her fictional nature. Her existence is a conspiracy against her survival that keeps going and going past the logical ending point. Shit Luck begins in cold, hard reality an blooms into an existential allegory of victimhood of Camus-esque proportion. It's wild. Tiffany Scandal made her reputation a more of a conventional storyteller, so Shit Luck blindsided me like a drunken garbage truck driver at an intersection. The surprise was a pleasant one, though. It only crushed my legs metaphorically and for a short period of time. And I've had my legs metaphorically crushed by Scandal before.
Mirror: Tight black dress with a bra that gives you cleavage you forgot you had. Red platform wedge heels and matching lipstick, and...a beehive hairdo?
"Fuck, I look like a librarian."
"Yeah, a sexy librarian! Cougars are in these days. You're going to have guys fawning all over you."
"But I'm not even cougar age yet."
"You're closer to being a cougar than being jailbait. Is this about the beehive?"
You shrug. It's about everything.
The use of second person narration works admirably well in Shit Luck. It's not easy to pull off, but it has strong enough context here. The narrator sounds like the protagonist's future self lecturing her about what's going to happen to her. It gives the book a strong, fatalistic edge that wouldn't have been achievable otherwise. Shit Luck is an absurdist comedy at heart, but it has a sharp set of teeth and ultimately doesn't fuck around with its subject: harassment. Josie often tells me how helpless and fatalistic it feels to be harassed by a horny man. One day, she gave me the excellent example of being followed on the street by a very angry Mike Tyson looking for a fight. There's nothing you can do about it but run. Shit Luck pushes this example to an interdimensional extreme (hence the, you know, absurdist comedy angle) and there's definitely other things discussed, but at the core it's a book about a woman running from a seemingly ubiquitous attacker. Of course it's dramatized, but the desired effect is achieved.
Tiffany Scandal did it again. She reinvented herself and redefined the expectations her audience might've had for her writing. Shit Luck is surreal, experimental and way over-the-top at times. There's a sex scene in there that reads like a gory variation on the classic Maxell commercial, I shit you not. I would even suggest reading it with Ride of the Walkyries playing in the background. Where can Tiffany Scandal possibly go from here? I don't have the slightest clue, but she's earned the keys to the car at this point. It's one thing to write your own Nevermind but it's a whole other ball game to write your own In Utero, reinvent yourself and confirm you're a tremendous creative force, you know? Get yourself some Shit Luck for the Holidays. Then get Jigsaw Youth and join the Tiffany Scandal fan club. The weekly meeting aren't a full house yet.