Elevate Difference

The Reality Shows

Described by Ben Brantley of the New York Times as someone with the “power to disturb,” Karen Finley is a woman with her finger on the pulse of America.

Renowned for her performance art, she is an underground favorite and a feminist idol. Her ability to tie satire, sex, and snappy political commentary into every aspect of her work is a brilliant, modern-day re-vamp of the “personal is political” mantra.

Finley’s most recent book, The Reality Shows, is a collection of transcripts from performances spanning the last decade. “Make Love” is an intimate recollection of the September 11 attacks and “The Passion of Teri Schiavo” is a biting and brilliant essay on America’s almost hysterical infatuation with the “victimized woman.”

Finley’s fictional portrayal of political and pop culture figureheads is challenging and at times, absurd. In “George & Martha” she describes, in great detail, a fictional affair between Martha Stewart and George W. Bush. Later on, the reader ventures inside the mind of Silda Spitzer in the days following the prostitution scandal that forced her husband Eliot to resign as the Governor of New York.

Finley’s plays, complex in nature, daunting, and a hotbed of controversy and debate, are simplistic at their core. Each essay, performance piece, and poem invites the audience to take an introspective look at the passions and insecurities that govern most actions. Finley has an incredible ability to peel back the layers of the world’s most powerful figureheads and reveal the fragility underneath. In a world driven by hysteria, misinformation, bias, and greed, this is a truly refreshing take on the American political landscape.

The Reality Shows is not a book that a large audience will appreciate, but that’s never been Finley’s style. It is a thought-provoking, laugh-producing read that will leave the reader wanting to see more of the world filtered through Finley’s eyes.

Written by: Cheryl Santa Maria, April 11th 2011

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