Norma Fontaine lives in a perfect world of handy tips and sensible advice. Whether it’s choosing the right girdle or honing her feminine allure, she measures life by the standards set in the women’s magazines. But Norma discovers that the real world is less delightful – and more sinister – than the one portrayed in the glossies. When dark secrets threaten her brother’s blossoming romance, Norma must decide whether to sacrifice life in a woman’s world for the sake of his happiness. As her decision is slowly revealed, readers realise that, like life in the magazines, Norma isn’t quite what she seems.
Woman’s World is a full-length collaged novel created from fragments of found text from women’s magazines from the early 1960s. Thousands of sentences, phrases and words have been cut out and reassembled on the page in order to tell Norma’s subversive story. It offers a reading experience that is both literary and visual, challenging our perception of what a novel should look like and how it should be written.
The book has been exhibited internationally in artist book and graphic design exhibitions including the 24th International Biennial of Graphic Design at Moravian Gallery, Brno, Czech Republic; Kunsthal Museum, Rotterdam; Cooper Hewitt National Design Museum, New York; Walker Art Institute, Minneapolis; Hammer Museum, Los Angeles; Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, Texas; Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art, Winston-Salem, North Carolina; RISD Museum of Art, Rhode Island and the University of Johannesburg, South Africa. It is held in the permanent collection of M HKA, Museum of Contemporary Art, Antwerp and the National Art Library, Victoria and Albert Museum, London.
Rawle’s novel… represents the merging of visual and verbal creativity into a uniquely authored work. There is really no other artist/writer on the scene today (or any day) quite like Mr. Rawle. Although ‘graphic novels’ have become a huge global phenomenon and a serious literary endeavor, Mr. Rawle’s methodology and outcome is entirely his own. By painstakingly mining vintage magazines and publications for real fragments of text, he assembles stories whose texture and language comes from the commercial world and yet whose dramatic content is entirely original. He has taken a familiar avant-garde strategy—collage—and implemented it on an unprecedented scale. He also exposes the origins of collage in the production processes of the commercial graphic arts. The experience of reading Woman’s World is like none other. Such works are contributing to a renaissance in the world of independent publishing.
Ellen Lupton, Senior Curator of Contemporary Design, Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum, Smithsonian Institution, New York
"The most wildly original novel produced in this country in the past decade. . . Like all great artists, Rawle has used the constraints of this exercise as a fiercely enabling liberation. . . This book is a work of genius."
(Neel Mukherjee, The Times, 3 December 2005)
"A breathtaking and breathtakingly idiosyncratic work"
(The Observer, 13 August 2006)
"A brilliant invention, allowing full lyrical use of the available material, which Rawle gathers and pleats into rhapsodic riffs of garment ecstasy. . . A tale that moves with the pace of a thriller, with as many cliffhanging chapter endings and swerves of story… Woman's World may prove metafiction's first bestseller."
(Tom Phillips, The Guardian, 15th October 2005)
"What begins as an exquisitely wayward work of art and outright comic masterpiece transforms into a galloping plot of serious literary intent. Woman's World is charming, chilling, sinister, surreal and utterly unforgettable."
(Samantha Boyce, Scotsman, 2005)
"The novel's powerful, twisting plot offers a serious interrogation of the sexual stereotypes that can exert such a perverse influence over the vulnerable. What emerges is a tender love story in which an apparently happy ending also contains dark elements of unfinished business. The narrative, it turns out, is as peculiar as the presentation."
(Daily Telegraph, 28 August 2006)
"Five years in the making, Rawle's book is both a work of art and an astonishingly moving, funny novel. This is an ingenious, wonderful book."
(Scotland on Sunday, 6 November 2005)
"Rawle’s narrative grips as a reading experience from start to finish. His appropriation of the found material is so seamless and artful that words by an unnamed army of women’s magazine writers read as his own…Rawle transforms the linguistic clichés peddled by these magazines into something fresh, subtly subversive and often laugh-out-loud funny. . .This novel’s triumph is that it works on every level."
(Rick Poynor, Eye Magazine, 31st October 2005)
"Brilliant… It’s garish and funny, a tour de force."
(Matt Groening, creator of The Simpsons, Minneapolis Star and Tribune, 2009)
"Compellingly eccentric… a clever hybrid of cultural critique and domestic farce."
(Time Out, New York 2008)
'Woman’s World' sparkles with linguistic mischief while detailing a moving and psychologically acute story."
(Claire Alfree , Metro, 2005)
"If genius and madness go hand in hand, this text is the proof. . . the genius is that this isn’t a mere novelty, but a perfect marriage of form and function. Genius."
(Gay Times, 2005)