A novel/'autofiction' about the complexities of being a woman, an artist, a mother, and a wife; a novel about persona and obsession and loyalty and repression; an exorcism.
Told in four volumes over seven years, with emails, g-chats, and an ‘interview’ with Lydia Davis (and a nod to Ms. Davis’s The End of the Story), the style of Person/a is often experimental, pushing the boundaries between fiction and nonfiction, obsession and mental instability, female independence and a loyalty to current and former lovers, but with the ultimate loyalty being to oneself or one's writing, and is there a difference? and should we be ashamed?
"The entirety of my life has been built upon books and movies and personas of women who go mad with love. Who must be hospitalized with their madness. Who walk the streets of cities in search of their lovers, in their madness. Truly I couldn’t even manage that." - opening to Volume Four
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"If Elizabeth Ellen exists, I would tell her it was like she channeled the anthemic scorn of Alanis Morrisette’s “You Outta Know” through Anais Nin, in her own inimitable way. And if Elizabeth Ellen doesn’t exist, at least she can invent herself.
"I love this book. It’s challenging, but she’s gaming the whole way through. Maybe even forget the comparison to Nick Carraway. Maybe she’s more a Tyler Durden, or Kirk Lazarus from Tropic Thunder: she’s the dude playing the dude disguised as another dude.
"Ellen’s gigantic, circular novel leaves everything on the page. It’s one of the most thoughtful and creative books I’ve read in a long time."
"PERSON/A is a fresh take on familiar feelings of loss and obsession. Its shifting narrative challenges readers to face their own preconceived ideas about the distance between woman and narrator, person and persona. The novel feels like half autobiography, half fiction, and both halves will leave readers stunned."
"Gratifying as Person/a is on a sentence-by-sentence level, the book is something that really needs to be experienced as a whole in order to really experience what it manages to accomplish. At the end, I’m more stunned than able to decide or articulate what I really feel about Person/a, and that’s marvelous."
"In more than one way, Person/a reminds me of Eminem circa 2000, both middle fingers up, trash-talking the entire music industry. Besides being a big Fuck You to society’s expectations of women and romance, it is a big Fuck You to the literary world."
—Juliet Escoria, on The Fanzine
"Person/a is very much an Important Feminist Work, in that it illustrates the pains of Trying To Have It All, but, like any good Feminist Work, it only addresses this through action and experience, rather than theory."
—Juliet Escoria, again, on The Fanzine
"If you read Chris Kraus' 'I Love Dick' and then this novel, they'd seem to be in an enthralling conversation with one another."
—Allison on Goodreads
“PERSON/A is not only a great novel; it’s a French film. It’s Paris, Texas. It’s A Woman under the Influence. Its HBO’s True Detective meets Anna Karenina—I think; I’ve never really read it LOL—meets that one music video where Britney Spears overdoses in a bathtub. It’s about love, obsession, narcissism, marriage, delusion, pain, pleasure, art, life, addiction—it’s about you, me, things that transform, that come apart. Basically, Elizabeth Ellen should win the Pulitzer Prize and then immediately be beaten to death with it because she’s so good, so human, so completely fucked.”
—Brian Alan Ellis, author of Something to Do with Self-Hate
“[Person/a] is boring in the way a drug addicted supermodel is boring … which I'm not sure actually constitutes ‘boring.’”
“Your novel was encouraging to me. Because I’m writing another autobiographical novel also, and I keep feeling pressure in my mind from various vague sources, and just a general feeling, to not write what I most want to write, which is something that goes deeper into autobiographical writing, exploring it even more than I have before.
Your novel seemed very brave and extreme and exciting to me, the amount of freedom you were exhibiting.”
– Tao Lin
“I felt at times while reading [Person/a] that I was guilty of some conspiracy against my partner.”
– Laura Theobald
“At this very moment, through the sound system at the coffee shop in which I am writing this, the recording of Patsy Cline singing the Willie Nelson written "Crazy" is playing. It feels appropriate and significant, and it is through this appropriateness that I will enter an attempt of locating a possible thematic core. Madness, obsession, fixation, infatuation, lovesickness, the fragmentation and bottomless confusion of the self that strives to know itself, know others, find itself through, by the means of, others, that constant looking, looking, looking, and unknowing, unknowing, unknowing-- these are the things that I think about when I think about what your novel is about. Also, and this is the formal genius, the way it begins to slide and shift its style towards a kind of elliptical essay about fiction, while still remaining fiction.”
– Ben Gross, on Person/a
“Person/a has really dragged you through the mud.”
– Chelsea Martin
"[Person/a is] like the 21st century Moby Dick. I mean that."
“[Person/a] reads like an exorcism.”
– Fiona Helmsley