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THE DEVIL'S TREASURE

A BOOK OF STORIES AND DREAMS

The book rewards those looking for a deeper connection to Gaitskill's rigorous imagination.

Gaitskill’s unusual new project creates a collage out of her previous works, connected by the thread of a new short story.

At the age of 7, Ginger goes to hell to steal the Devil’s treasure.  Traveling down the clean, well-lit stairway in her nightie, Ginger passes scenes of degradation which draw her into their torment, lizards the size of dogs growing out of walls, and a room where all the modern conveniences of the world are running all at once. Finally, she comes to a “quiet, old-fashioned room” where the Devil sits reading a book in an armchair, behind which lies his treasure. Ginger steals the sack of treasure only to discover that now she can never put it down; that the treasure has become a part of her; that it is something she needs but does not want and that the truth it speaks is about love and pain and how they will not be separated in this life or the one beyond. In and of itself, this tale treads territory familiar to anyone versed in Gaitskill’s oeuvre: fear and desire intermingle; revulsion and fascination mirror each other. However, this project is not primarily interested in exploring Ginger’s story. Rather, the author intersperses short segments of Ginger’s tale between longer sections of previously published works, spanning from Gaitskill’s first novel, Two Girls, Fat and Thin (1991), through her novel in progress, End of Seasons. The manuscript is color-coded in tones of orange and red which fluctuate page by page (orange for excerpted work; red for Ginger’s story and literary commentary by the author). This creates a flickering effect evocative of the setting Ginger wanders through, an effect reinforced by Gaitskill’s original collages that recall the images hung on hell’s walls; however, the total impact of the book is hard to describe. Devotees of Gaitskill’s work are likely to appreciate the opportunity to revisit her masterworks on something of a guided tour where the author herself is able to instruct us that she is not "captivated" by cruelty, as has sometimes been said, but rather, “stunned by the omnipresence of cruelty, by the senselessness of its infliction, and at the same time by its seeming inevitability, its naturalness, its apparently primary place in our human nature.” Those new to her work would be better served to start at the beginning and work their way up to this more impressionistic construction.

The book rewards those looking for a deeper connection to Gaitskill's rigorous imagination.

Pub Date: Oct. 19, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-73354-015-5

Page Count: 256

Publisher: ZE Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 17, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2021

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JAMES

One of the noblest characters in American literature gets a novel worthy of him.

Mark Twain's Adventures of Huckleberry Finn as told from the perspective of a more resourceful and contemplative Jim than the one you remember.

This isn’t the first novel to reimagine Twain’s 1885 masterpiece, but the audacious and prolific Everett dives into the very heart of Twain’s epochal odyssey, shifting the central viewpoint from that of the unschooled, often credulous, but basically good-hearted Huck to the more enigmatic and heroic Jim, the Black slave with whom the boy escapes via raft on the Mississippi River. As in the original, the threat of Jim’s being sold “down the river” and separated from his wife and daughter compels him to run away while figuring out what to do next. He's soon joined by Huck, who has faked his own death to get away from an abusive father, ramping up Jim’s panic. “Huck was supposedly murdered and I’d just run away,” Jim thinks. “Who did I think they would suspect of the heinous crime?” That Jim can, as he puts it, “[do] the math” on his predicament suggests how different Everett’s version is from Twain’s. First and foremost, there's the matter of the Black dialect Twain used to depict the speech of Jim and other Black characters—which, for many contemporary readers, hinders their enjoyment of his novel. In Everett’s telling, the dialect is a put-on, a manner of concealment, and a tactic for survival. “White folks expect us to sound a certain way and it can only help if we don’t disappoint them,” Jim explains. He also discloses that, in violation of custom and law, he learned to read the books in Judge Thatcher’s library, including Voltaire and John Locke, both of whom, in dreams and delirium, Jim finds himself debating about human rights and his own humanity. With and without Huck, Jim undergoes dangerous tribulations and hairbreadth escapes in an antebellum wilderness that’s much grimmer and bloodier than Twain’s. There’s also a revelation toward the end that, however stunning to devoted readers of the original, makes perfect sense.

One of the noblest characters in American literature gets a novel worthy of him.

Pub Date: March 19, 2024

ISBN: 9780385550369

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 16, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2024

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DEMON COPPERHEAD

An angry, powerful book seething with love and outrage for a community too often stereotyped or ignored.

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Inspired by David Copperfield, Kingsolver crafts a 21st-century coming-of-age story set in America’s hard-pressed rural South.

It’s not necessary to have read Dickens’ famous novel to appreciate Kingsolver’s absorbing tale, but those who have will savor the tough-minded changes she rings on his Victorian sentimentality while affirming his stinging critique of a heartless society. Our soon-to-be orphaned narrator’s mother is a substance-abusing teenage single mom who checks out via OD on his 11th birthday, and Demon’s cynical, wised-up voice is light-years removed from David Copperfield’s earnest tone. Yet readers also see the yearning for love and wells of compassion hidden beneath his self-protective exterior. Like pretty much everyone else in Lee County, Virginia, hollowed out economically by the coal and tobacco industries, he sees himself as someone with no prospects and little worth. One of Kingsolver’s major themes, hit a little too insistently, is the contempt felt by participants in the modern capitalist economy for those rooted in older ways of life. More nuanced and emotionally engaging is Demon’s fierce attachment to his home ground, a place where he is known and supported, tested to the breaking point as the opiate epidemic engulfs it. Kingsolver’s ferocious indictment of the pharmaceutical industry, angrily stated by a local girl who has become a nurse, is in the best Dickensian tradition, and Demon gives a harrowing account of his descent into addiction with his beloved Dori (as naïve as Dickens’ Dora in her own screwed-up way). Does knowledge offer a way out of this sinkhole? A committed teacher tries to enlighten Demon’s seventh grade class about how the resource-rich countryside was pillaged and abandoned, but Kingsolver doesn’t air-brush his students’ dismissal of this history or the prejudice encountered by this African American outsider and his White wife. She is an art teacher who guides Demon toward self-expression, just as his friend Tommy provokes his dawning understanding of how their world has been shaped by outside forces and what he might be able to do about it.

An angry, powerful book seething with love and outrage for a community too often stereotyped or ignored.

Pub Date: Oct. 18, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-06-325-1922

Page Count: 560

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 13, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2022

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