I started reading Body Horror: Capitalism, Fear, Misogyny, Jokes while preparing to have my stomach cut open and a weird little dude—I liken it to the psychic side-twin from Total Recall—removed. I’m still not sure if I recommend this book as pre-op reading: I doubt Body Horror helped my naturally anxious brain become calm or positive. If anything, my problem was that I knew I should stop reading Body Horror (staying calm, staying positive!) but I found the essay collection difficult to put down.

Here’s the situation with Anne Elizabeth Moore: I’ve dropped the ball on noticing her. Big time. Several times. Moore is a founding editor of the Best American Comics series and the Chicago-based Ladydrawers collective, which, among other things, produces nonfiction comics by pairing journalists (the journalist is very often Moore) with woman comics artists. I’ve seen Moore’s work countless times but never fully investigated what else she’d written. Previous books like Unmarketable: Brandalism, Copyfighting, Mocketing and Cambodian Grrrl: Self-Publishing in Phnom Penh collect the critical journalism Moore’s been producing for over a decade.

Like the collections that came before it, Body Horror throws a net over a wide variety of subjects, from the opening article about witnessing a 2014 garment strike in Cambodia (where five strikers were shot and killed) to more personal essays about her own survival of “several debilitating diseases” and what it feels like to be extremely ill. Moore goes into detail about her experiences, but rarely touches on her actual diagnosis. This will invite some into her experience and leave others making lists of symptoms in an attempt to diagnose her. I had to check myself a number of times, remembering that Moore has a right to maintain her privacy, and the specifics of her illnesses are not really the point. The book’s introduction, which expresses fears over threatened changes to the Affordable Care Act, is especially powerful.

Moore’s writing is conversational and easy to read, but remains academic at its core. There were times where she lost me, as when she referred to a film I hadn’t seen (Moore is very focused on film, especially indie and foreign horror) and I couldn’t figure out what allusion she was drawing. This happened more than once. These are critical essays and tend to rely on the reader to do outside research for any needed explanations. Even so, I recommend Body Horror for those who feel a sense of catharsis from shows like SVU or who, like me, seek to better understand man’s ancient enemies: illness, poverty, and time.

Body Horror: Capitalism, Fear, Misogyny, Jokes
Anne Elizabeth Moore
(Curbside Splendor)