Nails By MP Johnson, 77 pgs.

For the record, MP Johnson is a Razorcake contributor, although I’ve never met her. She normally writes in the world of bizarro fiction, a cult genre of the weird that made me wonder if I would like Nails. She assured her followers this short book was different from her normal writing—much more personal.

I’ve been interested in seeing Johnson change over the past year or two as she has more openly addressed her attempts to accept her gender. While I don’t have personal knowledge with it, my observation has been that transitioning can be an incredibly hard experience. Johnson opens a window to it with these seventy-seven pages.

The story takes place over the course of a few days in Los Angeles. By herself, away from friends and family, it’s a place she can feel safe (so to speak) to crossdress and explore who she is. Johnson goes to a Damned concert, gets her nails done, eventually meets a dominatrix, and has many a misadventure along the way. There were so many times I felt empathetic to everything which befell her. Johnson’s ability to draw the reader into her tale says a lot about her writing.

Speaking of that, for anyone who thinks authors in the world of bizarro fiction can’t write, I’d suggest they read Nails. Johnson’s prose sets the reader in the scene even with its edgier moments. I came across scenes where I cringed at the brutal description (if I ever have to shave my asshole I’m going to be sooo careful) but the fact that it did so is a sign of Johnson’s talent.

Nails is not an easy read. I felt sad through most of it—while I can’t relate to experiences with gender issues, I could understand the sentiment of loneliness and how crushing it is. Johnson has her experiences but they’re relatable and interesting (if sometimes embarrassing), which shows a great talent of a writer. The ability to pull at my heartstrings and make a unique tale universal is incredible. Despite its lack of happiness, the raw honesty makes Nails one of the best books I’ve read in a long time. I can’t recommend it highly enough. –Kurt Morris (Lazy Fascist Press, lazyfascistpress.com)