Gag Reflex by Elle Nash — A Punk Noir Review by Scott Cumming

Punk Noir Magazine

Nash delivers a novel in unique form in the shape of a teen’s LiveJournal entries from 2005 as our protagonist, Lucy, as she grows into adulthood and details her loves and how she looks. The thing about that is, she is anorexic and is caught between committing to her weight loss and trying to recover. She is not helped by entering into relationships where she plays second fiddle to actual girlfriends and convinces herself throughout about what feelings are and aren’t real.

Nash hits the nail on the head with some highly profound lines including “i’m not really better. just the shell of better. just the idea of better. the charade.”. The thing about this is that I can completely relate to this in terms of what I have been through, but there was also a part of me that questioned some of these lines because of the character they were coming from and wondering if they were immature, but I came back to the reality of them. It can be easy to get lost in a novel about somebody spinning out.

“i don’t think i feel my own emotions anymore

i just recognise them and articulate”

I loved this line also and would say this is a novel of growing up and I maybe felt it so strongly because despite my age in years I have emotionally grown up in the recent past. Nothing as traumatic as what is depicted, but this is all human experience and I would urge people to read this book on the fact that it comes from a place of depth.

Later, Lucy replaces her obsession with her weight with other things and spins off while trying to keep things together. This is a knowing novel that I feel bad for questioning, but this is precisely what art is about.

The format of the novel is unique also in that we have the LiveJournal pages recreated with comments and a note of the music now playing which includes names I have not thought of in a very long time. There are passages of group chats where anorexic girls speak about the combinations of junk food they will eat while binging or just want to fantasise about.

All in all, Nash continues to be one of the more fearless writers out there while not losing any inventiveness and creating a world and character about an 18 year old girl that engrossed, connected and even brought out some of the insecurities of an overweight near middle-aged man.