From Curlers to Chainsaws

From Curlers to Chainsaws: Women and Their Machines

Edited by Joyce Dyer, Jennifer Cognard-Black, and Elizabeth MacLeod Walls

East Lansing, MI: Michigan State University Press, 2016
ISBN: 9781611861907

The twenty-three distinguished writers included in From Curlers to Chainsaws: Women and Their Machines invite machines into their lives and onto the page. In every room and landscape these writers occupy, gadgets that both stir and stymie may be found: a Singer sewing machine, a stove, a gun, a vibrator, a prosthetic limb, a tractor, a Dodge Dart, a microphone, a smartphone, a stapler, a No. 1 pencil and, of course, a curling iron and a chainsaw.

From Curlers to Chainsaws is a groundbreaking collection of lyrical and illuminating essays about the serious, silly, seductive, and sometimes sorrowful relationships between women and their machines. This collection explores in depth objects we sometimes take for granted, focusing not only on their functions but also on their powers to inform identity. For each writer, the device moves beyond the functional to become a symbolic extension of the writer’s own mind—altering and deepening each woman’s concept of herself.


Winner of the 2016 Independent Publisher Book Awards

From Curlers to Chainsaws is a groundbreaking collection of lyrical and illuminating essays about the serious, silly, seductive, and sometimes sorrowful relationships between women and their machines. This collection explores in depth objects we sometimes take for granted, focusing not only on their functions but also on their powers to inform identity. For each writer, the device moves beyond the functional to become a symbolic extension of the writer’s own mind—altering and deepening each woman’s concept of herself. Learn more...


Praise for From Curlers to Chainsaws

"In the old analog days, one knew better than to use a mechanical calculator to divide a whole number by zero. The machine would tear itself apart looking for the right answer in the cogs and gears of the endless stuttering. The toothsome essays found in From Curlers to Chainsaws propel themselves through the same worrying transmission, discover relentlessly revved and ready answers in the existential engineering of our everyday appliances and devices. These are works of stunning effort and raw oomph. These writers ratchet and roll, calculate and calibrate. They enter elegantly the number of ways nothing goes into the infinite.”

— Michael Martone, author of Michael Martone and Winesburg, Indiana

From Curlers to Chainsaws makes stops along the way to visit prosthetics, lawnmowers, typewriters, vibrators, washing machines, and on and on, from traditional women’s gear to equipment we’re all using now, praise be. This is a book full of mechanized pleasures and frustrations unto torture, but more important, a book of women’s voices so clear and diverse and funny and heartbreakingly individual that you hurry from one to the next, even as you wish to linger longer with all. A smart and useful and wise anthology, this is an entertainment to be cherished and a resource to be treasured.”

— Bill Roorbach, author of Life among GiantsTemple Stream and
The Remedy for Love

 

"Taken together, the essays [in this anthology] urge us to continue to ask new questions about the impact of machinery and technology on our lives. What is the metaphorical value of our newest machines? In what unexpected ways do they connect to our goals, our pasts, our passions? What is particular to women's experiences with them, and why...? Rather than answering in a single voice, the essayists approach these questions and others from a rich diversity of directions. They do so with humor, with lyricism, and with good old-fashioned storytelling. Machines in these pieces have constrained women, and they have empowered them—often in unexpected ways. They connect them to their mothers and their children and to all of the fears, longing, resistance, love, and loss that offer those relationships their depth. From Curlers to Chainsaws will leave readers pondering those depths, along with all of the ways machines allow women to move, to create, and to shape their own identities."

— Heather McEntarfer, Literary Mama