Katherine Angel is the author of Unmastered: A Book On Desire, Most Difficult To Tell. She was born and grew up in Brussels, Belgium, and lives in London. She studied at Cambridge and Harvard universities, has a PhD from Cambridge, and currently holds a research fellowship at Queen Mary, University of London. She is writing a book on ‘female sexual dysfunction’ in Western psychiatry. Her work has been published in History of the Human Sciences, Biosocieties, and The Lancet, and her writing has appeared in The Independent, Prospect, The New Statesman, Aeon, and Five Dials. She also collaborates with theatre group The Blackburn Company. Unmastered is her first book.
Unmastered is an incisive, moving, and lyrical work that allows us to think afresh about desire. Touching on experiences of desire and pleasure, as well as grief and pain, the book probes the porousness between masculine and feminine, thought and sensation, self and culture, power and pliancy. It celebrates the erotic, while reflecting critically on cultural ideas about desire, sexuality, and gender. Exploring how our lives can be shaped by the words we use and the stories we tell, Unmastered is a searching work that shifts in meaning and resonance even as it is read.
Crossbones Graveyard — Independent
Amora, The Academy of Sex and Relationships — Prospect
Steve McQueen's Shame — The History of Emotions
Desire that Dare not Speak — New Statesman
On Desire and Reflections of Self — Wellcome Trust
Papering Over The Cracks — Aeon Magazine
The Enthrallment of Neuroscience: Naomi Wolf’s Vagina — The Lancet
On Lily Briscoe, in To The Lighthouse — Zola Books
On audience, persona, and silence: How I wrote Unmastered — FSG Work In Progress
On Kate Bush and Prince — Five Dials Magazine
Unmastered — audio excerpt
Radio interview with Carrie Plitt
on Kiss My Arts for NTS Live
Thompson’s Live: Chris Goode and Company’s podcast, on the subject of the book and performance, with performance maker Andy Field and poet Elizabeth James
Friday 30th August
Intimacy Lab at Hack the Barbican curates an extract from Unmastered:
8 pm, 9 September 2013
Berlin International Literary Festival
6pm, 11 September 2013
Haus der Berliner Festspiele
White Review No. 8 Launch at Foyles
6.30pm, 22 August 2013
113-119 Charing Cross Road
London, WC2H 0EB,
June 2013: Reading and Q&A with Kate Zambreno (author of Heroines, Semiotexte, MIT Press) at Community Bookstore, Brooklyn, New York.
June 2013: Reading at Animal Farm Reading Series, Brooklyn, New York.
June 2013: Reading, and Q&A with Dr Julie Walsh, Warwick Book Festival.
April 2013: Performance of Unmastered, Remastered with the Blackburn Theatre Company, at launch of poetry magazine Clinic III and Five Dials Magazine, London.
October 2012: Reading at The Book Stops Here, London.
June 2012: Performance of Unmastered, Remastered with The Blackburn Company, Institut Français’ Night of Philosophy.
‘Unmastered is written with an honesty so defiantly pure it amounts to an act of cultural resistance. Poetic in the best sense, Unmastered is sharply truthful, musical, beautifully patterned and full of memorable insights and images. It is a book you immediately start to reread.’
— Adam Foulds, author of The Quickening Maze and The Broken Word
‘...the real joy lies in the artfulness with which she uses these intimate episodes as a way of unwrapping the larger issue of what it means to be a woman, both object and subject of desire …Unmastered is a giddily joyful book...Days after reading, its images linger in the mind...[an] elegant and uplifting journey through the labyrinth of female lust.’
— Olivia Laing, The Observer
‘A thinking woman’s meditation on sexual desire...ghostly and poetic...In the end, Angel doesn’t offer up any pat answers to her questions because she knows that none exist; desire, like liberation, is individual—not universal.’
— Publishers Weekly
‘...An intriguing literary and cultural study…Katherine Angel writes in a first-person voice that allows her to be erudite and personal at once, often taking an intimate detail and broadening its relevance...The strength of Angel’s writing...makes the book seem both universal and intimate at once.’
— The Economist
‘Katherine Angel’s Unmastered is one of those totally out-of-the-blue, impossible-to-classify, weird and new and wonderful fiction-ish non-fiction books, which happily come along every so often and make you go, “Whoa: this is what we need now” ...Angel’s masterful debut provides an aptly timed, erudite, pretty much perfect antidote to all the shoddily written erotica out there...[Unmastered] gives a libidinous thrill all of its own.’
— Dazed and Confused
‘With short bursts of prose teeming with dynamic imagery and language, Angel swirls together a number of themes around sex and desire in a way that is....intimate and questioning. I found the work to be staunchly open – the writer poses questions to her audience, but without aggression or judgement.’
— For Books’ Sake
— Interview with For Books’ Sake
‘a construct, a literary meditation...political and poetical...critically self-aware’
— Iain Finlayson Times Reviews
‘An unconventional and strikingly lyrical observation of women and their desire to speak.’
— Kirkus Reviews
‘an unconventional, deeply personal exploration of female sexuality.’
— June Books To Watch Out For, New Yorker
‘...a supple intelligence and a slithery style...[Angel] treats the silences between sentences like enjambments; she uses them to bait us...Gender becomes a game, a mutually agreed upon madness, a source of strength, a drag, a turn-on. She presents these paradoxes, but never resolves them. Why would she?...Unmastered is a smart rejoinder to the idea that pleasure has nothing to teach us.’
— Parul Sehgal, Slate
‘A genre-busting nonfiction account that reads like poetry, revels in ambiguity, and intentionally defies definition.’
— Oprah Magazine
‘Katherine Angel’s Unmastered stayed in my head for weeks after I read it. It’s brave, moving, and perfectly structured.’
— Sam Byers, author of Idiopathy
‘Writing honestly about sex takes moxie, but to reach the degree of subtlety and significance Angel attains also requires knowledge, literary finesse, wit, and acuity...[Unmastered is] meticulously crafted...Angel is funny, tender, candid, and generous...Unmastered is a brave, beautiful, thoroughly considered, and haunting book of reflections, a masterful inquiry into sexuality and its consequences.’
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Katherine collaborates with The Blackburn Company on a curated performance/reading of Unmastered. Performances have taken place at the Institut Français and at the launch of Clinic III and Five Dials magazines at Son Gallery in London. Future performances are in development. Please contact Katherine via The Wylie Agency, or Nick Blackburn, if you are interested in hosting a performance.