Awarded Sweden's prestigious Nordic Council Literature Prize and longlisted for the Man Booker, this novel conjures the life and mind of Valerie Solanas—1960s firebrand, American feminist, author of the SCUM manifesto, and the woman who shot Andy Warhol.
... a shimmering and nuanced portrait of the ideals Solanas might have held, and a life that could have brought her to that understanding. The gentleness and strength of Stridsberg’s writing lends itself perfectly to this deeply empathetic novel. Most of all, in the story’s refusal to seek easy answers, its dedication to acknowledge and address the difficulties of its own construction, and its belief in the power of writing all make Valerie a book and a portrayal that I think Solanas herself would be proud of ... rejects the traditional in favor of the new ... The writing is bold, with sparse and resonant exposition ... The writing is beautiful, with evocative, quotable lines...These lines often walk a balancing act, toeing the line between aphorism or camp, and yet always come out on the right side of that tug of war ... Normally, I find many novels written with such a distinct voice to be taxing to read, their gimmicks in prose or presentation to be an impediment to the story being told. Here, nothing could be more natural. Perhaps it is the story of Solanas that lends itself well to experimentation, but I think it might just be the earnestness of Stridsberg’s passion for the subject that ties this all together. You truly get the sense that she loves Valerie, for her unknowableness as much as for what we do know ... Perhaps most fascinating about the novel is the metafiction aspect ... In immediately abandoning the attempt to paint a true picture of the woman that was Valerie Solanas, Stridsberg has allowed herself to find the Valerie that evaded all except the woman herself.
It must be said that Valerie is not for the faint of heart or the squeamish ... And some readers may be daunted by the non-linear structure and certain narrative indeterminacies. Still, the novel commends itself for the lyricism of its prose, the urgency of its momentum and the poignancy of its depiction of an almost forgotten radical who managed to overcome terrible obstacles to try, however misguidedly, to express the rage of a generation.
Although Valerie follows the contours of Solanas’s life, the novel isn’t conventionally plotted. It’s more like a postmodern collage of imagined transcripts and interviews and snippets of lyrics...spliced with Stridsberg’s own mythopoetic evocations of Solanas’s life. There’s a metafictional layer, too ... The result is a novel that conveys Solanas’s ambiance but not necessarily her substance: the pain she carried with her so long it hardened into faith ... she remains a cypher ... In the end, Valerie is as much a tragic literary story as a tragic biographical one. Stridsberg conveys how a fitfully brilliant and audacious writer was dogged—and then silenced—by her own words ... Valerie gives us Solanas as she probably hoped to be: still failed, yes, but vindicated.