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Kinflicks by Lisa Alther

Kinflicks (1976)

by Lisa Alther

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Gave back to Kat.
  wphilbrook | May 3, 2018 |
'Once again I was shamelessly allowing myself to be defined by another person'

Ginny Babcock is called back to Tennessee, where her mother lies seriously ill with a blood clotting disorder. In alternate chapters, we follow her emotions - and her mother's.
In between, Ginny narrates the course her life has taken. Her days as a cheerleader, and first romance with footballer Joe Bob:
'Joe Bob didn't talk much. He preferred to be known by his actions. But when he did talk, his voice was soft and babyish; he would grin and open his mouth much wider than necessary and make flapping sounds...His favorite expression, and hence the favorite expression of the entire school, was "Do whut?" '
Then her fling with hoodlum Clem; going away to college and studying philosophy with Miss Head, before dropping out with lesbian lover Eddie, and going off to live in a hippy commune in the wonderfully named Stark's Bog, Vermont, where 'the house looked like Coney Island the day after the Fourth of July'. And finally 'married bliss' and motherhood...and an encounter with army deserter Hawk...
It's very wittily written, but with a sad sub-text...lots of sex but by no means all successful. As Ginny observes 'my tutoring anyone in lovemaking would be like Helen Keller's conducting bird watches.' Highly enjoyable. ( )
  starbox | Jun 27, 2016 |
“Kinflicks” by Lisa Alther has been one of my favorite books for nearly thirty years. It is a brilliant piece of ‘chick lit’ that predated the genre by a couple of decades.

This is the story of Ginny Babcock. Well, at least the story of Ginny as she pushes and pulls herself through the maze of everyone else’s desires and expectations.

She starts out, as most girls do, as daddy’s princess. Alas, puberty hits, and armed with a ponytail and padded bra, Ginny becomes the perky flag swinger and arm candy of the local football star. However, his relentless sexual pressure and just general dumbness start to cool Ginny’s ardor, until her father forbids her to see him. So, in best Romeo and Juliet fashion, she demands they run off and get married. Then fails to show at the appointed time. Enter Clem Cloyd, former childhood playmate and now the town’s motorcycle thug. It is love at first sight. Until he nearly kills her. Daddy to the rescue again and Ginny is bundled off to an exclusive girl’s college where she develops an intensely romantic, yet celibate, attachment to a female professor. Unable to maintain the rigidity of this relationship, she is seduced and swept off her feet by a lesbian neighbor in her dorm.

Get the picture? Every action in Ginny’s life has been dictated by who was lusting after her at the moment.

After the dramatic end to the lesbian love of her life, Ginny succumbs to a whirlwind courtship and marriage to the town’s insurance salesman. A nice guy, but Ira Bliss is nothing if not predictable. Ginny tries motherhood to alleviate her gnawing boredom and after her delusions are dashed, tries a transcendental affair with an disillusioned (and freaking crazy) wandering Vietnam veteran. Given Ginny’s track record, care to guess how well this worked out? C’mon, take a guess . . .

Did I mention that while this story is spinning out in retrospect, Ginny is at the bedside of her dying mother? Her source of angst and the rock against which she has always rebelled is slipping from this world. As Ginny watches her weaken we realize that everyone who has ever defined Ginny - her father, her mother, her lovers, her mentors, her husband - are gone. They have moved on with their own fates. For the first time in her life, Ginny has no one to tell her who to be. She realizes that in the end and is at first empty and then bereft. The silence is deafening.

Why readers should read this book:

“Kinflicks” is hilarious. It is so far beyond hilarious that it will take the light from hilarious ten thousand years to reach it. Lisa Alther has a brilliant grasp of satire, irony, humor, and the absurd. The insights into sex, romance, and suicide are blistering and ironic. And funny. Always funny. There is a fair sprinkling of explicit sex in the book, both straight and gay. However, this book is not erotica. It is always awkward, geeky, inappropriate, and painfully absurd. So suspend your prudishness and your lasciviousness and check out one of the best books in the last thirty years.

Why writers should read this book:

Did I mention that this novel is funny? A brilliant model of how to write and present satirical and ironic humor. Alther has a way with words and can turn a phrase with the best of them. Technically, the book is written in alternating POV. The retrospective chapters are third-person and the real time current chapters are first person. Technically the book is perfect. She moves between past and present with ease and there is never any confusion about where you are in Ginny’s life. Alther also is a master at making sex scenes not sexy. They are funny, awkward, absurd and usually quite embarrassing. Nothing titillating here. However, it all rings through as raw, thought provoking and, most of all, honest. Check it out! ( )
5 vote terricoop | Sep 29, 2008 |
good story from what I remember ( )
  eyeshaveit | Mar 15, 2008 |
A very interesting thought provoking book. The journey of a woman who's life changes radically after living in conservative Tennessee. Well observed and skillfully written.
  caronerd | Jan 1, 2008 |
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My family has always been into death.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Book description
Teenage sex-freaks, serious sophomores, chirpy cheerleaders, lesbian hippies, frustrated suburban mothers - the world is full of them, but none is quite like the heroine of Kinflicks, who is all of these, and more.
Meet Ginny Babcock, witty, sexy, zany, as American as blueberry pie, and far too able to take on the colouring of those around her. Ginny lures the readers through a riotous, raunchy American odyssey in an attempt to find her true identity. Powerful, ambitious, unfailingly honest and very funny. Kinflicks is also a poignant novel about life and death, with a deft, refreshing and highly original voice.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0394498364, Hardcover)

Meet Ginny Babcock - the forerunner to BRIDGET JONES It's the 1950's and 60's in Hullsport, Tennessee and Ginny Babcock is coming of age. Bouncing from one identity to the other, she adopts the values, politics, lifestyles and even sexual orientation of each new partner she finds. In this wise, funny and ultimately heartbreaking story, Lisa Alther explores the limited roles offered to women in this period - from cheerleader to motorcycle moll, bulldyke to madonna - each embodying important truths about the aspirations of the culture that created them. Honest, wise, funny and tragic by turns this is a remarkable novel in a class of its own.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:20:22 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

Lisa Alther's classic coming-of-age novel set amidst the changing times of the 1960s American South. Growing up in Tennessee in a family of privilege, Ginny Babcock's world is seemingly idyllic. Her father, the Major, runs the local plant - and, thus, the town - and her mother works on beloved home movies, or "kinflicks," as her children call them, documenting the quintessential moments of her children growing up. But her mother's camera isn't there to capture Ginny's growing rebellion against her prim Southern upbringing. From her backseat exploits as a popular high schooler, to her late night adventures at the moonshine joint with a greaser boyfriend, to her passionate days with a lover at the militant feminist commune in Vermont, Ginny throws herself into the moment - until, finally, she must return home and look after her ailing mother. Funny, wise, and filled with unforgettable characters, Kinflicks is a captivating novel that draws on the human fallout of turbulent times. This ebook features an illustrated biography of Lisa Alther, including rare photos from the author's personal collection.… (more)

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