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Authors: Jaimy Gordon


BOOK: Bogeywoman
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Praise for Jaimy Gordon and

“A book of great risk and humor and beauty, but above all it is a book of enormous generosity.”

—Beth Nugent, author of
City of Boys

“Extraordinary.… Gordon’s verbal technique evokes
Ulysses, Lolita
, Salinger, David Foster Wallace.”

Publishers Weekly

“The quicksilver narrative voice and plucky intransigence of Ursie Koderer … make this coming-out novel … one of the more memorable of its genre.”


“A vernacular unto itself.”

Library Journal

“Gordon’s writing will grab and pull you in.”

Bloomberg News

Jaimy Gordon

Jaimy Gordon’s
Lord of Misrule
won the National Book Award in 2010, and was also a finalist for the Pen/Faulkner Award.
, her third novel, was on the
Los Angeles Times
list of Best Books for 2000. Her second novel,
She Drove Without Stopping
, brought her an Academy Institute Award for her fiction from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. She has been a fellow of the Fine Arts Work Center, Provincetown, and the Bunting (now Radcliffe) Institute at Harvard. She teaches at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo and in the Prague Summer Program for Writers.


Circumspections from an Equestrian Statue

The Bend, The Lip, The Kid: Real-Life Stories

She Drove Without Stopping

Shamp of the City-Solo

Lord of Misrule


Copyright © 1999 by Jaimy Gordon

All rights reserved. Published in the United States by Vintage Books, a division of Random House, Inc., New York, and in Canada by Random House of Canada Limited, Toronto. Originally published in paperback in the United States by Sun & Moon Press, Los Angeles, in 1999.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

Portions of this work originally appeared in the
Notre Dame Review, Gargoyle
, and
Cape Discovery: The Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center Anthology

The author wishes to thank the American Academy of Arts and Letters, The National Endowment for the Arts, and the Arts Foundation of Michigan for generous support while she was working on this book.

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Gordon, Jaimy.
Bogeywoman / by Jaimy Gordon. —1st Vintage Contemporaries ed.
p. cm.
eISBN: 978-0-307-94690-4
1. Coming out (Sexual orientation)—Fiction. 2. Lesbians—Fiction. I. Title.
PS3557.O668B64 2011

Cover design by John Gall
Cover image © Hana Haley


This book is for
Karen, Hilry, Adam and Spencer
and in memory of Marion Gordon

Mere life, with its mere hunger


Tough Paradise for Girls

I’m the Bogeywoman. Maybe I belonged in the bughouse. Anyway it was Doctor Zuk who got me out, and then the fuddy dreambox mechanics kicked her out right behind me. But first she saved me, and that’s when I lost her—if I ever had her—unless I am her. Am I Zuk?


I mean how I ended up at the age of sixteen in the loonie bin, when I wasn’t even buggy.

It happened at Camp Chunkagunk,
Tough Paradise for Girls
. At camp I was always the Bogeywoman, but the true meaning
of Bogeywoman only came to me in my sixteenth year, and that’s how I landed in the bughouse. It was a good camp that Merlin found for me and Margaret, a rare camp, a tough camp, but what normal girl goes to camp for nine summers? (Margaret had had it in four.) I was out beyond the White Caps’ rope, doing the dead man’s float, stringbean style. Dangling straight down, I mean. So I was staring not at the sky but at a certain girl also doing the dead man’s float—my Lake Twinny, Yvette Deaux was her name, one of those tall, broad-shouldered French girls from up around Sourhunk Lake, with a small head like an ostrich, handsome, strong, kinda dumb, I didn’t even like her much. I was seeing how her thighs were filaments of neon-green electricity under the lake, and all at once I got the idea I wanted to slide my hand between them. From that moment I saw everything in a different light, murky, as through a dark lake. From then on I was a
Unbeknownst To Everybody, and that was the meaning of Bogeywoman.

At Camp Chunkagunk I had been the Bogeywoman ever since I dropped a black snake, during Quiet Hour, through the roof of the counselors’ cabin.
I’m the Bogeywoman
I rumbled in the chimney hole. I was just a Chipmunk then, age seven. And they had come rushing out into the dappled light, uttering pleased shrieks. See up there! on the roof! It’s that Ursie, Ursie Koderer. And I did not disappoint. I was their toy bad guy, their boygirl, their bogeygirl, no front teeth, smudge on the edge of every camp snapshot, always tearing around under a cracked, white-hot roof of blond hair. I was the Bogeywoman from that day on, even to the Big Bears.

(Big Bears wore their bathing suits strapless—their smooth-muscled shoulders gleamed, their slim rib cages held up their heads like bud vases over those shiny “latex” bathing suits we all wore, one-piece and boned like girdles, the opaline grosgrain plate of them
cut mysteriously straight across the upper thigh, the knoll of coochie hidden under that ledge, in deep shadow.)

Then at sixteen I found out my love of Camp Chunkagunk was a hunger. And always had been, I guess, only in the beginning I ate like a bird. Now I saw the same things I had always seen, but I was afraid to leave them alone with me.

(They already had some fluting there, the Big Bears, at the clavicle—and that sunny prickle, a rash like eensy roses climbing up the throat, and half of them had a pigtail, soaked black by lake water, wrapped around it, and drops of water rolling drunkenly into the baby-oiled gulley between their momps under the latex, the iridescent breastplate slipping down just slightly.)

I was a Big Bear now myself. I was an older girl and a
so I did not. Was mad to but would not. Lemme die first. Yvette Deaux never even knew. I have always been the boss of my hunger, the chef of my starvation, so to speak. I can read the sign. Does it say
? I don’t touch. I have never (except that once) driven away a scared girl with a stray hand across the border. She’s gotta put a hand on me first.

And she does. That’s why my luck is good. That’s why I’ve had nothing, well, almost nothing, to do with craggy-jawed bus station hags, broken-toothed gym teachers with whistles around their necks, or crewcut WACs. I prefer ladies—like Margaret, my first love. Margaret loved me. Margaret, you might say, trained me to be loved. But I am seldom as shocked by the sheer piggery behind fine fingers and fluted hipbones as anybody would be with old Margaret. Ladies are prone to first touches and second thoughts. I am not a lesbo, they announce, and I say, a
?! Whaddaya mean? Me neither—I, er, just kinda like you.

BOOK: Bogeywoman
5.03Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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