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the book of dog Posts

Publication Date is coming fast–to celebrate I’m giving the ebook away for free!

Hi everyone. The publication date for THE BOOK OF DOG is three weeks away and until then I am offering a free ebook to anyone who asks, here:

http://larkbenobi.com/the-book-of-dog…

I also have extra paperback ARCs and one-off prints of the novel where I was experimenting with cover design. The interiors of these books are identical or have just very minor typos that have since been corrected. If you review books on Goodreads or Amazon, use the contact form above to request a one-of-a-kind, pre-publication paperback copy of THE BOOK OF DOG~I’ll even sign it!  I will draw an extra picture! I’m excited to share this story with you and I hope to hear from you soon.

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Robert Repino

Robert Repino, author of the extraordinary novel Mort(e), did me the great favor of reading The Book of Dog by Lark Benobi, and the even greater favor of providing a quote for my book jacket. Here it is:

“Playful and surreal, heartwarming and heartbreaking, Lark Benobi’s The Book of Dog delivers a story of determination and love in a time of despair. Rather than merely raising a middle finger toward the age of Trump, Benobi prefers to slam it with her fist.”

I’ve noticed on Goodreads that there is a lot of speculation among readers about jacket quotes and how they come about. For sure, sometimes blurbs come about when an editor or agent asks authors on their lists to blurb one another. But I’d like to just say that asking an author you admire to read your still-unpublished book is usually a very personal ask. It’s one author to another author. It’s two people who have never met. It’s somebody with an unpublished book reaching out to an established author whose work she admires, and saying something like: “Excuse me, I think you’ll like my book, will you read it and see?”  And if, in spite of all good sense, that author you’ve asked to read your book replies: ‘yes, I’ll read your book,’ and later, ‘yes, I want to say something nice and on the record about your book,’ then that author is giving a tremendous, open-hearted gift, of both time and reputation. Thank you Robert.

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my book cover journey

Here are the cover design blunders and successes for The Book of Dog, from last to first. I was learning Adobe InDesign along the way. Some of these covers are terrible. I really knew nothing in the beginning either about design or about the software. Some of the covers, I learned, looked good on the screen, but not on paper. The first cover, of Stella and Mary Mbwembwe riding together in a car, did not survive the transition from screen to page.

For this last one I went back to my crafty roots, the same as I had done with the first cover, a cover that I had made from sharpies and post-it notes and cut-out letters from magazines. For this last one I cut some dogs out from black construction paper, in the style of the interior drawings. I laid them out on the scanner glass and covered them with tissue paper for the backing. It made me so happy. Just as I was setting up the scan, my cat walked across the scanner glass. She had been outside in the weeds and she and left seeds and dirt on the glass and I just left it there because it seemed appropriate to the book’s theme, to have some help from my animal.

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Foreword Reviews weighs in on The Book of Dog

Foreword Reviews will be publishing the below review of The Book of Dog in their September-October magazine and they gave me permission to publish their review in advance here.Lark Benobi unabashedly takes on modern politics in all its bestial madness in The Book of Dog, celebrating the joys of womanhood, diversity, and the wonders of nature.

The apocalypse arrives in California via a yellow puffball mushroom cloud that rises from the Mexican border to blanket the planet. Code-named Agent-T, the cloud turns women into beasts and men into conservative and religious fanatics who denigrate women.
On the same day, a pregnant teenager, Stella, runs away from her aunt’s home and travels to Nethalem to find Lix Tetrax, her baby’s father—alternatively known by the names Lucifer, The Ruler of the Free World, and the seven-headed beast. Stella befriends five women-turned-beasts along the way: the physically deformed Margie; a down-on-her-luck waitress, Wanda; a marine officer, Eureka; an undocumented caretaker, Mary; and the poverty-stricken Josefina. Together, they attempt to stop the seven-headed beast from enacting his malicious agenda.
The story is told from the alternating viewpoints of the six women. Their origin stories arise from social, economic, religious, or cultural grievances that play a significant role in their bestial transformations and serve as cleverly constructed metaphors for current affairs. Religious imagery of angels and beasts represents the dividing duality of politics.
The story, which begins in verse, flows effortlessly with concise writing and comedic lyricism. Short sentences are interspersed with longer, stream-of-consciousness passages from the characters in their animal forms: “Even afterhaving lived a mediocre life full of sorrow … you have stayed together through it all, still keeping faith in what it means to love, and be loved.”
The book’s simple, childlike sketches are interspersed between chapters and add to the fantastical ambiance. Images provide clues to each woman’s transformation. Depictions of Stella in free-flowing, form-fitting, belly-baring t shirts are comical yet subtly deliver a message about male domination and male chauvinism.
The Book of Dog may be a crazy kitchen-sink satire of modern politics, but it is also a triumphant tale about marginalized people who work together to effect the greater good.
NANCY POWELL (September/October 2018)
Foreword Review HUMOR FICTION
The Book of Dog
Lark Benobi
Vegetablian Press (Sep 6, 2018)
Softcover $15.95 (214 pp)
978-0-9996546-1-3

Here is a link to pre-order The Book of Dog, to be published Sept 6 2018.

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On Being a Writer in the Age of Trump

I wrote an essay for the site “Women Writers, Women’s Books” on the ways our Misogynist in Chief is changing language–the way it is used to inform, the way it is used to dissemble. I would be honored if you give it a read, and tell me what you think. Here is the link. The very silly author selfie is taken in front of Rodin’s “The Gates of Hell,” on the Stanford campus. It’s a great spot. I’m listening to “Don Giovanni” btw…

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On the unique organic pleasure of reading Downdrift: An Eco-Fiction

Downdrift by Johanna Drucker is a book that amazed and delighted me, even though as a cohesive narrative it fails completely. Fail is the wrong word, though, for a goal that is never attempted. This novel doesn’t want to be judged for its storytelling, and it is not so much a novel as it is a sometimes-whimsical, sometimes-serious thought collage.

As the novel begins, organisms in every ecological niche on Earth have begun to experience the intrusion of human-like characteristics into their behaviors. This change is presented as the opposite of evolutionary progress: to behave in a human way is instead categorized as “downdrift.” 

The story is narrated throughout by “Archaeon,” a unicellular organism that belongs to the Kingdom Archaea, a creature that has (through contact with others of its kind) absolute knowledge of events the whole world over, but that has almost no sense of narrative suspense.

Archeaon explains its sense of narrative timing this way:

Our time scales–yours and mine–are as different as our size and complexity. To me, all of the follies of the animal kingdom are the trivial business of a few seconds of my historical memory. Nearly three-quarters of the earth’s existence has passed in my presence, billions of years. Compare that to the mere millions in which primitive arthropods and other organisms came into being. And you? A blip on the screen, a tweak in the evolutionary chain, a phenomenon of rapid acceleration. I will long outlive you and the changes wrought on this world by your machinations.

What forward narrative momentum there is in Downdrift (and it barely registered with me as I read along) hangs on the stories of a lost cat and a peripatetic lion, creatures that re-appear at intervals in the story, and that seem destined to meet at some point. And they do meet. But that meeting seems beside the point when it happens, because the real delight of Downdrift is not in narrative at all, but in an accumulation of detail, sentence after sentence, that by the end paints a picture of vast ecological disruption.

Another round of salamander antics is taking place in the autumn woods. A big group outing, comprised of extended families and pseudo-families, is underway at the edges of a pool. They have collected food bright as their red bellies or the stark yellow of their spots. The older ones are picking at a few, very few, highly colored bits of fungus and mixing them with all manner of beetles and flies, worms and larvae, spiders and moths and grasshoppers to make a banquet from an ancient recipe. These traditions may also soon be at risk, but not yet.

In a brave choice on the author’s part Homo sapiens barely signifies in this novel at all. At one point coyotes are stealing human babies; at another point Archaeon wryly observes “an outbreak of human shoaling, seepage into the homo sapiens from the minnows and sardines,” an image that carries with it both the idea of humans under stress, as well as the lack of significance that humans and their problems have to this story.

Because this is not the human’s story. The subtitle to Downdrift is “an eco-fiction,” and the novel fulfills the goals of this relatively new genre in a significant way. The novel is a metaphor for the way we value convenience over preservation; the way we prioritize the artificial over the natural; the way we focus on our daily worries rather than the long-term problem of potential ecological collapse. For those who have the willingness to let the a story flow past at its own pace, the novel offers a unique and thought-provoking take on the world and our place in it.

Downdrift: An Ecofiction by Johanna Drucker (2018: Three Rooms Press)

 

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