Skip to content

lark benobi Posts

best memoir, 2017

I read over a hundred books this year and now that I’ve come to the end of it I find that Hunger by Roxane Gay is the one book that has stuck with me the longest, and has changed me the most. It’s the one book I want to write about tonight, as my last post in 2017.

I was lucky enough to hear Roxane Gay speak this year when she came to my hometown for a reading. She was warm, empowered, strong, confident, and most of all she felt aware of all these things about herself.  She had a supreme graciousness toward others, and a patience, especially with those readers and fans and people in the crowd that night, some of whom seemed overpowered by their own hurt and in need of someone who would listen to their stories and understand. Roxane Gay was able to listen. She was able to say exactly the right thing.  Her strength and presence were extraordinary.

And then there is this book. As I read it, the strong confident voice I listened to at the reading seemed to completely shrink into a hesitant and cautious voice, one that was afraid of its own conclusions. I believe Roxane Gay when she writes that this book the hardest thing she has ever tried to write. Because what I experienced, while reading the book, is that it was nearly too hard for Roxane Gay to write her story. The writing felt guarded and circuitous and almost stuttering. The strength and confidence I felt from her when I heard her speak fell away toward silence and hurt. And I thought as I read: Where is the strong confident person I saw on stage?

But here’s the thing: Now I’ve come to realize just how strong it was for Gay to write exactly this way about her past.  Maybe she had no choice. Extreme honesty seems to be the core of who she is. The book demands faith and acceptance from the reader at all times. It doesn’t take care of the reader. Indeed it forces the reader to take on the role of patient loving listener. The reader is asked to take care of the writer, rather than the other way around. It’s as if, through the act of reading this book, you’re being patiently guided to become the kind of person who can listen to another person’s trauma, and understand.

The novel feels like a watershed of sorts, written before #metoo, and apart from it, but pointing toward this extraordinary change in our culture, where women in future might begin to get angry and speak out against those who abuse them, rather than feeling shame and punishing themselves and their bodies for what happened to them. So quite unexpectedly and for all the reasons above I find myself tonight realizing that Hunger by Roxane Gay was my personal Book of the Year.

-lark benobi

 

 

the politics of art: fiction

With Trump in the White House,  journalists are battling to keep words attached to facts, to the point where CNN runs adds explaining why an apple isn’t a banana.

But fiction is immune to Trumpism. It’s a language apart.  And just now fiction can tell truths that non-fiction can’t.

Here are some of the most truthful, most political novels I’ve read–the links will take you to three independent bookstores who deserve your business:

Preparation for the Next Life by Atticus Lish should replace The Grapes of Wrath on every high school reading list. A novel about New York from the point of view of the most disenfranchised. A book that is never sentimental, never condescending. One of the best books I’ve ever read.

 

 

 

The Sarah Book by Scott McLachlan taught me more about despair in West Virginia than sixteen billion profiles on Trump voters.

 

 

 

 

Blood of the Dawn by  Claudia Salazar JimĂ©nez– I’ve read of political violence and state terrorism before, but not from within such a female perspective. A woman leaves her family to become a resistance fighter and it occurred to me while reading it that I had read so many times of a man going off to war while the woman stays home with the children, a trope so often repeated that it feels natural, and yet here the woman goes, and she is so much a mother, and her choice feels wrenching and unnatural, part of the terror of the times.

Blood of the Dawn is published by Deep Vellum. The Sarah Book and Preparation for the Next Life are both published by Tyrant.

 


(Pre-Order The Book of Dog)

 

 

 

drawing my characters

I hadn’t started out with the intention of making an illustrated book. It just happened. Thanks for the feedback on the pictures–I sure enjoyed drawing them.

As I prepare the print version I find myself with new ideas for pictures, or going back to re-draw some of the ones I wasn’t so happy with–like this new one, a new look at the heroes of this story:

 

THANK YOU!!

Thank you early readers for your feedback! It makes me wildly happy that some of you noticed that a couple of the names listed for Satan are of hazardous industrial products, and that some of the things that characters in my story hear from the radio come from real-life sources, including Info Wars and our very own President. I, too, was surprised at how easily these actual words that human beings have spoken lately fit into an absurd story about the End of the World.

 

some amazing books


some books i want to remember reading–click on the picture to see the titles bigger–these are the kinds of books that make me say “if you haven’t read this you should” to my friends.

Hello.

I wrote to the end of a new book today. It has pictures. I will publish it eventually, and if you happen to read it, I think you will be pleasantly surprised, and possibly delighted. After you read it, please run for public office, or march on Mar-a-Lago, or contribute to the ACLU.

Thanks for being a reader. We’re a vanishing breed.