Paul Takes the Form of a Mortal Girl was such a delight to read: it’s a magic-realist picaresque journey from the middle of country to one coast and then the other, set in early-1990s queer social circles, with a protagonist who has the ability to change his body from male to female, and in other ways as well. It’s smart and funny and poignant and I enjoyed following all of Paul’s adventures, from college in Iowa City to the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival to Provincetown to San Francisco, and I also liked the way that Lawlor intersperses fairy-tale interludes with Paul’s story: a Hansel and Gretel story, a selkie story, a Little Red Riding Hood story, and others. I also love how many great little details there are in this book—the track list of a mix tape Paul makes, how a girl sends Paul a postcard that quotes “Diving into the Wreck” by Adrienne Rich, how Paul’s friend Jane thinks about writing a paper only using theorists with last names starting with the letter B, how Paul goes on an acid-fueled disquisition about cover songs. And the writing, gah, I’m so into prose like this: “Paul watched the traffic lights change from red to green in the blue-gray dusk. The contrast made him think of Nan Goldin photographs and he wanted to tell someone, to marvel at the beauty with someone at whose beauty he could also marvel” (319). A cold night is described as “the blue night of snow and streetlights, air like paper cuts” (12). And then near the end of the book there’s this, when Paul is walking in San Francisco, “looking up at the attic windows and roofs of renovated Victorians, the treetops, a congregation of pigeons on the web of train wires over Market Street, the big western sky” (353).

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