Here are the first few pages of PRETTY GIRLS MAKE GRAVES, copyright © 2011 by Nicole Trilivas:
I’m not a good writer. I just have something to say. I’m not charming enough to eat, pray or love myself onto a best-seller list. This isn’t Oprah’s Book Club material, and I use the word “fuck” a lot.
My name is Justine and I have a story to tell. I have a story the way everyone has one, and it’s not a new story the way no one’s story is new. You’ve heard this one before. You hear it everyday.
I once read that the whole cosmos of stories could be concentrated into only a handful of basic plotlines—a few plastic mannequins that we dress in immeasurable ways. Every story comes down to those basic, naked prototypes: man vs. man, man vs. nature, man vs. self—whatever.
Because I can’t make my story fresh, I’m shamelessly jumping onto the backs of existing plotlines and characters to piggyback my way through my life. If I’ve felt this way, so has someone else. If I’ve felt this way—then so have you.
You and me, Reader—we’re in this together. I know more about you than you think. I know you’ve worn a scarlet letter (though it wasn’t necessarily an “A”). I know because we’ve all been both the adulterer and the cuckold, the widowed and the one dearly departed; we’ve bared everything from crosses to our teeth, albatrosses and Jewish stars. We have all been dominant and submissive; the inquisitor and the witch—burnt to a crisp upon a stake; the virgin and whore; the spider and the fly. We have had things stolen from us, and we have sticky, sticky fingers.
I’m hijacking the vocal chords like puppet strings off archetypal characters because we’ve all been there—but that’s not the only reason.
I’m doing it as a cop-out. I want to tell you the story of all the amassed stupid, sordid shit from this last year of my life—about every amassed stupid, sordid boy—without having to admit I’m still adrift in girlhood, and have to take any ownership of this head-turning mess. I just want to be the writer. Yet even still, my mark is all over this story like an ill-concealed murder weapon. It wasn’t Miss Scarlet in the conservatory with the candlestick. It was me—but I don’t want it to be.
So I abduct lost girls to help me: coasting in hand-me-down pick-ups, sometimes; sometimes in glossy limousines. Pretty girls from myths, fairy tales, literature, pop culture, or current events. They’re the type of girls you’d find in dew-stained parks too late in the midsummer night, in dank cathedral basements, or slung in thin hallways between dreams and red-lit windows; the girls from everlasting nursery rhymes. The girls imprisoned. The girls interrupted.
I pick them up and let them crash on a sheet-less mattress until their histories spill like milk. These are the same disavowed girls who—in my uppity Massachusetts boarding school—would wake me from a thick slumber by slithering in drunk with clownishly smeared lipstick, who’d wear discolored negligees and get mistaken for the undead. The clean ones with the dirty, dirty mouths.
Their narratives echo too familiar, they always have, so I conjure them like specters, and speak in their tongues when I chicken-out. Sometimes I use them do things I shouldn’t be doing, or to make the points that they could make sharper.
They’re here to do brave but messy work. I need stories of flame-licked goddesses, stories with the desperation of teenage runaways. So Ophelia, Dido, and Sleeping Beauty need not apply. If a poisoned apple brought you down, if you gauged out your dandelion eyes, threw yourself on your husband’s funeral pyre, or drowned yourself in a brook over a boy who was just not that into you—you’re not needed here.
You may want to know—these stories I tell through all my pretty, lost girls—are they true, is it really my story?
Some of these stories are true and some of these stories are lies. All of these stories are true. All of these stories are lies. Our deepest secrets are the ones we keep from ourselves.
True story: I’m scared no one will love me after they read this.
True story: the rest of these words are lies. Don’t believe another thing I say. This book is fiction.
True story: this is the truth and nothing but the truth. So help me God.
These are the contents of my life—except they happened to someone else. And these are all the bad things I’ve done—except someone else did them. And this is all the shit that made me—except the shit didn’t happen to me. And these are all my secrets—except someone else confessed them. This is what I have to say. I’m not a good writer. I just have something to say.