Rev Jen: Elf Girl
Published: November 9, 2011
By Rev Jen
Gallery Books, softcover
Jen Miller, aka Rev Jen, is a self-created cult figure, the “patron saint of the uncool,” and her newest book is a celebration of all the uncool things she’s done. She is not easy to categorize, and of course she likes it that way. A “preacher,” performer, painter, director, curator of a troll doll museum, and writer, with numerous books under her belt, she’s now produced a memoir. (Technically, it’s not her first. Her 2006 self-published book People Who Don’t Like My Work Are Bad People: A Memoir has that honor.)
Elf Girl makes the glaringly uncool (and just plain ill-advised) move of opening with a scene in which the Rev gets a job as a department store elf. Sound familiar? Yeah, and Miller ain’t no David Sedaris, though she’s arguably more suited for the job, since she wears elf ears 24-7 anyway. But from there it’s a fun, light read, especially if you’re already a fan. We learn about the genesis of the Rev’s semi-famous Anti-Slams—an answer to the critical poetry slam movement—in which all participants get a 10. (Her reminiscences about performances that inspired her include one in which the performer played a theremin with his penis.) We learn about the Rev’s sexual exploits, her discovery of hallucinogenics, and how she decided to dismiss “the art world’s goal of legitimacy” once and for all.
The book is, in places, Maryland-centric, as Rev Jen grew up in Silver Spring. She blames her weirdness on the fact that her mother rode the teacups ride at the Enchanted Forest amusement park in an attempt to induce labor with her, and she spent a summer in college working at a Sleven (7-Eleven, that is) in Ocean City, which she found “satisfying on some deep spiritual level.”
It’s maybe fruitless to critique someone who is so steadfastly against such endeavors, and Rev Jen’s book doesn’t pretend to be anything other than it is: a lighthearted look at the life of someone who has poured all her efforts into breaking the rules just for the fun of it. There’s an infectious quality to it all, for sure. And if you’ve ever harbored secret desires to wallpaper your bathroom with fur or something, here’s your bible.
Rev Jen will read from and sign her book Nov. 10 at 7 P.M. at Atomic Books (co-owned by erstwhile City Paper contributor Benn Ray). For more information, go to atomicbooks.com.
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