Since this is my last post, I thought I’d show my thanks by recommending a book that, if you like horrible, gross, thoughtful, beautiful things, you’ll love — Douglas Warrick’s Plow the Bones. This was the best fiction book I read this year. Hands down, far and away. And I read a lot of really good stuff this year.
This is simply better.
Warrick’s prose is lovely and strange. The first paragraph of his you read starts “There is a man whose pupils are full of moths. Dry moths, dying moment by moment and collecting in drifts behind his eyes, deep down in that secret and endless world behind his face.” I read the whole story, “Behindeye: A History” and I still couldn’t tell you if that’s a metaphor or a description of a dream or just how the story goes. You just have to take it as how the story goes.
There’s an awesome story about a Golem band and a sad story about a dying guy. But most of all, there’s “Ballad of a Hot Air Balloon-Headed Girl.” It starts “I knew a girl who tied a hot air balloon envelope to her shoulders, just in case her head should ever burst into flames.” Since it’s a Warrick story, her head does eventually burst into flames. And then, he uses that occasion to tell his reader something so terrible and true about love that I about can’t stand it. The story ends with the narrator, who has loved the Hot Air Balloon-Headed Girl, soaring above him, confessing that he fantasizes about shooting her down:
I have never, since the sores burnt my feet in the Carschton cell, spent a moment of awareness not hating myself for this fantasy. For the desire to steal from her the only transcendence she ever knew, to end her long experiment with happiness by reintroducing her to gravity, and to merciless impact.
I read that and I feel like I have learned something about the motivations of people who hurt their loved ones. Some truth you can’t get at by approaching it straight on, because it’s too terrible. You need an author to take you there round the bend. And Warrick will take you around some strange bends.
It burns me that this book isn’t better known.
But now I’ve done what I can, so I’ll bid you farewell. Thanks for having me, Alyssa, and thanks for putting up with me, the rest of you.