Friday, February 22, 2013

Dinner Party with Bodies and Books

"Writing for me is a humanism: it is about leaving one's skin and going toward the Other." 
-- Marie Darrieussecq

I used to give dinner parties as often as I could get groceries together. I would invite people I ran into that day and they would come if they could. Sometimes they would bring their own dinner, like a tuna fish sandwich packed in their bag. In the case of the tuna fish sandwich, we cut it into six pieces and served it as the appetizer. 
The real point was never the food, although we did eat some interesting food. (I recall that tuna sandwich as being the best I ever ate. Perhaps because someone else made it—I always prefer the cooking of others. Perhaps because a bite or two of tuna sandwich is the perfect portion, just enough to be interesting, picante with pickles and hovering in a special place on the supply and demand curve.) The real point was the conversation: The crazy hydrogeologist who rearranged the table to explain erosion control, the mad carpenter who demanded a broom, an egg, and the best glass in the house to perform a trick called "The Flying Egg." It is always the case at dinner parties.
I was thinking about that and I realized I would like to have a dinner party with four authors right now because I would like to see what they would say to each other. Here they are the books that made me invite them to my imaginary party...

Pig Tales by Marie Darrieussecq translated by Linda Coverdale.*Published by The New Press, 1997.
A woman working in a beauty parlor chronicles her descent into gluttony and lust. In one word, she is becoming a pig and she even grows a corkscrew tail. The woman's transformation reflects that of her country, raked by revolution, epidemics and famine. Part fantasy, part satire on France. A debut in fiction. (Summary from WorldCat.)

Monstrous Beauty by Elizabeth Fama. Published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2012.
In alternating chapters, tells of the mermaid Syrenka's love for Ezra in 1872 that leads to a series of horrific murders, and present-day Hester's encounter with a ghost that reveals her connection to the murders and to Syrenka.  (Summary from WorldCat.)

Hair Side, Flesh Side by Helen Marshall. Published by ChiZine Pulications, 2012.
A child receives the body of Saint Lucia of Syracuse for her seventh birthday. A rebelling angel rewrites the Book of Judgement to protect the woman he loves. A young woman discovers the lost manuscript of Jane Austen written on the inside of her skin. A 747 populated by a dying pantheon makes the extraordinary journey to the beginning of the universe. Lyrical and tender, quirky and cutting, Helen Marshall's exceptional debut collection weaves the fantastic and the horrific alongside the touchingly human in fifteen modern parables about history,  memory, and cost of creating art. (Summary from WorldCat.)

Paper Valentine by Brenna Yavanoff. Published by Razorbill, 2013
In which a girl hauted by the troubled ghost of her best friend finds herself sucked into a darkly mesmerizing string of murders, in which a serial killer who leaves a paper-heart 'valentine' on his victims' bodies draws ever closer... (Summary from Publishers Marketplace)

* It would be nice if Linda comes to the imaginary dinner party too. It would facilitate conversation. And I've always suspected that translators have a great deal to say about reading.

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