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Category: publishing

Read It: THE BOOK OF X by Sara Rose Etter

The Book of X

Perfection of a kind. A musky odor emanates from every sentence, and each word seems meticulously chosen to evoke, mm, something like sanguinarian, or even coprophilic pleasure. This is ruthless, relentless, and visionary writing. The story could well mean more than its superficial meanings, I’m open to it meaning more…something deeply feminist…something deep about the many indignities and pains suffered by any person living inside a female body…but even before I try to ruminate over any possible metaphorical meanings I am filled with admiration, with elation even, for Sarah Rose Etter, and for her clarity of vision, and for the way she dares to be this ruthless in her storytelling. 

Ok, I loved it. Even though I feel a little sick.

People who follow me on Goodreads know that I have a beloved shelf for what I call ruthless books. After reading The Book of X I’m thinking I need a sub-shelf for unabashedly, bravely repulsive books, where I would give this novel a place of honor, along with recently read, much admired novels Three Plastic Rooms by Petra Hůlová, Feebleminded by Ariana Harwicz, and Ultraluminous by Katherine Faw. I can’t say whether this is a trend, or whether I’m simply attracted to these wild-and-musky-female-author-breaks-every-taboo type of novel right now, but all of these novels gave me the same mixed feeling of nausea & joyful release.

If you decide to read this novel, or to read any of the others I’m mentioning here, I’d love for you to ping me with your review. Something wild unites them all.

Also: A big thank you Two Dollar Radio for bringing this novel to the world. This indie press has been busy publishing some of the smartest, scariest fiction out there.

Here are more of my goodreads reviews.

the audiobook version of the book of dog is still my favorite

Weirdly, for an author who spent hours illustrating her novel, my favorite version of The Book of Dog is the audiobook narrated by Bernadette Dunne, who gave me the happy experience of hearing my story come alive.

Here is a sample:

The Book of Dog, Ch. 4: “Stella Steals Some Kitchen Shears”

Here is where you can find the audiobook and order it online:

buy on Downpour
buy on Audiobooks.com
buy on Audible (where for some reason it costs twice as much)

The Book of Dog by Lark Benobi

“owl-baby”

“Here is your father, owl-baby, in a nutshell: He has complete faith that, now that he’s involved in the day-to-day, you’ll shape right up. ‘Once we apply the right parameters, she’ll outgrow it,” he says to me. ‘Don’t you think she’ll outgrow it, once we apply the right parameters?’ And in a swift and manly motion he picks you right up off the floor and tosses you toward the ceiling a few times, the way he imagines fathers toss their children, before setting you back down.”(from my most recent, just-finished novel…I spent some time making papercuttings of some scenes as I wrote them)

from my novel in progress

“The next day the school summons me back to sign some papers. I take you along with me, owl-baby, to remind them that you, like any other child, deserve understanding, and also because I have no choice—there is no sitter left in all of Sacramento, I think sometimes, who hasn’t heard of you. You’re still just a baby, practically speaking. As we sit here together in the head teacher’s tiny office, the formerly optimistic head teacher won’t look us in the eye. She’s looking down at the Russ Berrie collectibles on her desk instead. I can tell I’ll get nowhere with her. The best I can hope for is a pro-rated tuition refund.” (from my novel-in-progress, illustration below)

new scissors made me happy

I like to imagine my characters visually. For some reason my newest/next novel feels like I want to imagine the characters as papercuttings. So I bought some Fiskar “Titanium” scissors, and they make me very happy, and it feels very exciting to be experimenting with this medium, and with color too, after all the b&w line drawings for The Book of Dog, butI’m getting a little wild with the palette.

The Joy of Not Knowing What You’re Doing

Most people who read my blog already know that I had never drawn anything before The Book of Dog, which I illustrated with black-and-white line drawings–like my dear friend Wanda Lubiejewski.

At the very end of my Book of Dog journey, though, I started fooling around with paper cuttings instead. It was so much fun that, when I realized my Book of Dog paperback cover didn’t work at all for the square format of an audio CD, I came up with this completely different look for the audiobook.

Now I’m having fun imagining the characters of my next novel as paper cuttings. Here is one possible picture for a scene that takes place in the Premature Owl-Baby Ward (why not):

Hans Christian Anderson was a master at this obscure art, by the way. He used to cut out characters while he told his stories and then unfold them at the end. Here is one of his amazing papercuttings:

my next novel

I’ve written my next novel. Like The Book of Dog, this novel is a celebratory story, mostly about motherhood, and with some mild bestiality.

AFTER by Claire Tristram is now available on AMAZON

After by Claire Tristram, another pen name I use, was a novel originally published in 2005 with Farrar Straus & Giroux. It’s the story of two people damaged by acts of war and terrorism, and how they come together to try to heal one another. It does not go well. I first wrote a version of this novel in the wake of 9/11. The novel is relentlessly, deliberately dark. I had all rights reverted to me a few months ago, and since then I’ve spent some time with this story, making subtle revisions that I’ve always wanted to make but that I ran out of time for, the first time it was published. The differences are subtle but they make me happy. The story line is similar enough to the original printed version that I didn’t feel it was wrong to retain the same title. This novel has been a sometime-favorite for people writing doctoral dissertations but I don’t think I’ve changed enough to get in the way of their interpretations.

Ok. A few words about After as a reading experience. I can’t honestly recommend my own book for people who loved The Book of Dog by Lark Benobi, or who like their books full of cheer…because After is not cheerful. When this novel first came out it got a lot of enraged reviews.

BUT if you ever find yourself in the mood for a harsh relentless read, maybe something to go with a certain, raging-at-the-world kind of mood that you wake up with one day, I can recommend After for that! No ebook yet but if you can’t afford the going price feel free to ping me and I’ll send you a PDF.,

(the cover photo, by the way, is taken at oceanside, on a cloudy day, during a total eclipse)

 

gentle readers, I am about to ask a favor of you

Hi everyone. I’ve learned that if I get 5 more reviews on Amazon for The Book of Dog by Lark Benobi then I’ll be eligible for some promotional programs. If you’ve written a review on GR and not on Amazon, it would be a tremendous favor to me if you would also post on Amazon. Thank you and sorry for the wee promotional intrusion. Here is a picture of some whiptail lizards..