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Category: publishing

Read it: LEAVE THE WORLD BEHIND by Rumaan Alam

I’ve read Leave the World Behind three times and each time I love it more. It took me a while to get used to its voice–sardonic and even a little bit mean, as well as being outrageously, unapologetically omniscient. It’s a voice that I’ve more or less been schooled to distrust in this postmodern world. Once I tuned myself to this novel’s unique rhythms, though, both the story and the storytelling became explosively alive for me.

I needed to learn how to read this novel. I needed to overcome my natural likes and dislikes to fully appreciate its genius. For example, one thing I typically don’t have patience for in novels is long lists of stuff. Authors seem to like lists a lot but usually they seem kind of lazy and unnecessary to me. Alam uses this technique to perfection in chapter 3, though, when he lists all the things Amanda puts in her grocery cart. It shouldn’t be riveting, but it is. Each item Amanda chooses off the shelves gives me one more angle to view her character, and by the end I understand her limitations, and her self-image, and the ways she feels most vulnerable. All from a bunch of food items. It’s extraordinary writing.

My favorite novel published in 2020. It won me over. It snuck up on me.

Note with spoilers 2/16: (view spoiler)[I’m diving in for a fourth time, honestly, I’m fascinated by this novel and how it works. This time I’m listening to the audiobook. The narrator is really good.

It’s a very complex book in terms of craft. At first it’s written in a way that you assume it’s one of those big social novels like The Corrections, and then it morphs into something more stark, some kind of an examination of privilege and race and prejudice…and then there are a series of ever-more-horrific encounters, all of which never spill over into the expected violence, AND THEN it leaps into a seriously gorgeous meditation on what-might-be-next if and when the rarified world we live in collapses.

I don’t say “gorgeous” too often about novels and the way they’re written. The flamingos in the pool. The deer moving in huge herds. Rose in the woods, and the little fire of hope the author puts out there for us readers, when he assures us that she’ll survive. And that through her something meaningful will survive.

Read It: THE BOOK OF X by Sara Rose Etter

The Book of X

Here’s why you should read this book: because 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.

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
buy on Audible (where for some reason it costs twice as much)

The Book of Dog by Lark Benobi


“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 not-yet-published, just-finished novel.. )

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:

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..