Cultural Critic Speaks at Writers Salon
By WRILEY NELSON
Cultural critic, artist and award-winning journalist Anne Elizabeth Moore visited the Community Arts Network of Oneonta on May 18 to present selections from her new book. The Feminist Press at the City University of New York released a second, expanded edition of the award-winning “Body Horror: Capitalism, Fear, Misogyny, Jokes,” originally published in 2017, in April.
“Body Horror” is a wide-ranging collection of essays that examine the ways consumerist capitalism assaults and exploits women’s bodies. They range from investigative journalism to corporate history to the deeply personal, such as Moore’s struggles with chronic illness in a healthcare system that expends as much effort denying treatment as it does providing it. Featuring chilling illustrations by Xander Marro, “Body Horror” is an impressionistic look at the “gore of American culture and politics.”
After allowing the audience time to explore CANO’s art exhibits, Moore read the essay “The Shameful Legacy (and Secret Promise) of the Sanitary Napkin Disposal Bag.” It begins with the history of Lillian Gilbreth, a groundbreaking industrial psychologist and mother of 12 whose market research in the 1920s spawned the modern menstrual product industry. From there, the piece expands to discussions of environmentalism and waste, patent law, corporate marketing strategies and incentive structures, identitarian neoliberal feminism, and the deep contradictions of an industry designed to “mask half the world from the other half.” It is a balanced and exquisitely crafted essay on political economy.
Moore finished the evening by reading “Three Months After Emerging from your Deathbed,” a tender and haunting meditation on mortality, gratitude, simple pleasures, and the baffling compromises of friendship.
Moore is a modern exemplar of the best tradition of muckraking journalism. In addition to an earlier career in comics, she has spent over a decade examining exploitative garment factory jobs in Cambodia. She is among the world’s foremost journalistic experts on intellectual property law, which she described in a 2013 “Jacobin” article as “perhaps the most influential body of legislation in the global economy.” Her wide-ranging work, she told “The Freeman’s Journal,” is unified by the question of women’s economic viability under the conditions of global neoliberal capitalism.
In a brief conversation, Moore discussed her career and the process of updating a book that went out of print shortly before many of its predictions came true.
“Revising ‘Body Horror’ for 2023 didn’t take very much,” she said. “A few of the essays touched on or talked about things that have since happened, so I changed the speculative phrasing to historical phrasing…I took out a piece about a superbug pandemic, because I didn’t want to confuse people about bacteria and viruses.”
Although its publisher folded shortly after printing, the first edition of “Body Horror” became an underground cult classic.
“I worked for many years in comics, and some people would camp out in front of my house waiting on comics. Even with that kind of experience, I’ve never in my life had such a positive reaction as I received in response to this book,” Moore said.
Born in Winner, South Dakota, Moore lived in Detroit for several years and moved to Delaware County early in the COVID-19 pandemic. The move was motivated in part by her health and by the natural beauty of the Catskills. Moore said she was also interested in questions of rural housing justice and communities’ willingness to accept new members; she explored these issues in urban settings during her time in Detroit and with her previous book, “Gentrifier: A Memoir.”
“Body Horror” is available wherever books are sold. Moore’s current projects include the podcast “My Inevitable Murder,” examining public safety in rural communities through the lens of true crime media, and a hot sauce company. For more information, visit https://anneelizabethmoore.com.