Pre-Dead Bodies: A Review of EV Knight’s Three Days in the Pink Tower
Three Days in the Pink Tower. EV Knight. Creature Publishing, July 12 2022.
Content warning: this title and this review contain explicit reference to sexual assault.
Considering EV Knight’s Three Days in the Pink Tower within Roe v. Wade’s rubble prompts the reader to permit—even embrace—what the novella encourages: a view of the feminized body as a foregone conclusion. To be female, horror media tells us, is to be born already knowing the script; if this (a particular set of organs), then that (sexual assault, medical abuse, ritual sacrifice perhaps). Knight makes no bones about the truth of the story in her foreword, citing #metoo and the stagnated conversation around survivors. Recent horror media such as the 2022 film Men attempt to reckon with original sin as perceived from positions of power: not Eve’s choice but her mere existence. Likewise, there is no moral to the assault of Knight’s heroine, Josey Claypool—there is only her re-emergence, her survival, and the story she tells of and for herself. Rather than reveling in bleak nihilism, Three Days in the Pink Tower expands its borders beyond fable or fairy tale to reach a country of interiority, transformation, and crucial subjectivity.
Carnival, girl gang, secret sin, stranger at the door: Three Days in the Pink Tower presents a classic slasher set-up. Its physicality is toothsome, drawing on Americana flavors of funnel cake and ripe sweat; its menace feels almost comforting to readers raised on a diet of post-Blair Witch horror and ripped-from-the-headlines true crime. Josey’s a self-aware narrator, sketched in shades of Fear Street and Go Ask Alice, trimmed with Final Girl flourishes and fumbling toward modest blonde ambitions. What happens to girls who go on dates with boys who aren’t friends? What third path exists between virgins who get sacrificed and sluts who die first? Horror fans know that the slightest sexual miscreance, such as getting into a strange boy’s car, functions as a gateway to bodily harm, deviance, or even transcendence. That telltale secret sin isn’t just Josey’s minor desire for a carnival cutie, but a major shift in her worldview. Her friends are good churchgoing girls, she confides, and she—she’s been dabbling in dark arts. Her friends wouldn’t understand, and her mother won’t approve. She’s drawn to a tarot reader at the carnival, and from then on, the cards’ stories dominate, augment, and reflect her own.
The Tower in tarot is a card most readers fear pulling. Its cataclysmic art, of a tower collapsing in flame, heralds upheaval. Whether good or bad, most of us would rather not find out, because it’s usually easier to continue on the same path than break new ground. When new ground is broken for us, we’re left to pick up the pieces and shape our own meaning from the destruction. Josey’s entry into the Tower is a bleak rite of passage, a spiritual threshold breached as her body is abused by her captors. The pinkness of her Tower—the pink-painted cabin in which she’s held—calls to mind heteronormative girlhood, of course, but also the body itself. What is embodiment but captivity, spirit entombed in living flesh? Josey recognizes her body as pre-dead, her blondness calling to the dead blondes of Twin Peaks and Psycho, her femaleness a script written by a shadowy hand. But then, to be pre-dead is to be among the living. To be human is to assign meaning to random chance, particularly pain—not necessarily out of denial, but in order to embrace oneself as human and partaking in the creative rites of humanity.
Knight’s fourth book and her first for self-proclaimed “feminist horror” press Creature Publishing, Three Days in the Pink Tower belongs to the growing lineage of speculative memoir. In conversation with such titles as In the Dream House, Monster Portraits, and We Were Witches, the self-mythologizing at hand serves as a bridge between material reality and interpretive urge.
Knight’s choice to blur the lines between autobiography and slasher honors her memories of trauma and assault, while building a scaffold for transformation. Emotional reality is prized by writers trafficking in slipstream forms, Rashomon-cam narratives, and that fashionable bugbear, autofiction. If trauma generates ego death, then objective reality—couched as monomyth, correct steps taken to ensure growth and survival—capitulates to subjective impact. Truth may emerge from the mouth of a mechanical carnival spider. A black dog may appear to guide and protect us. Healing may come from telling ourselves a story we know by heart, this time with a twist. Whether Josey’s vicious, vengeful denouement “really happened” is a question with no answer; the scene, one of bloody and unblinking bodily wrongness, echoes with truth. Its result—the preservation of Josey’s life—reinforces the reality of Knight’s voice. She is here, writing. She is not pre-dead but among the living.
Thank you to Olivia Pritzker and Creature Publishing for the advance review copy.
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Selected further reading:
- Trickster Makes This World by Lewis Hyde
- White Magic by Elissa Washuta
- Tarot for Change by Jessica Dore
- Night Rooms by Gina Nutt
Diana Hurlburt is a librarian, writer, and Floridian in upstate New York. Her short work has appeared most recently from DIS/MEMBER and Neon Hemlock, and is forthcoming from Nyx Publishing and Diabolical Plots. You can find her on Twitter and Instagram.
This review was commissioned by an email pitch to the editor; the author and editor are acquainted on social media. It was edited by Zachary Gillan and copyedited by Chad A. Hines. A review copy was procured by the author from Creature Publishing.
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