City of Incurable Women, by Maude Casey

Staff Pick

Casey’s unsettling book juxtaposes—and questions the nature of—fiction and fact for a moving consideration of the women inmates of the Paris Salpêtrière psychiatric hospital. The official documentation of photos, case histories, and diagnoses reduces the women to the fulfilled expectations of hysteria—contractions of the limbs, paralysis, rhythmic chorea, and “violent emotions,”  while, by contrast, Casey’s invented narratives detail the experiences of individuals variously born in poverty, abandoned by fathers, given up by mothers, abused by employers, and—literally—inscribed with the name of the hospital by the doctors who exhibited as much as studied them. And who never cured or released them. Unlike Casey who, in giving them voices and endowing them with a skilled novelist’s lyrical, rhythmic language—“when I broke every plate in the furrier’s house, the sound glittered like the sea”—has arguably done both, even as she also shows that this 19th-century malady exists on a continuum with martyred saints, burned witches, and today’s chronic fatigue patients.

City of Incurable Women By Maud Casey Cover Image
ISBN: 9781942658863
Availability: In Stock—Click for Locations
Published: Bellevue Literary Press - February 22nd, 2022

Aurelia, Aurélia, by Kathryn Davis

Staff Pick

Davis opens her haunting memoir with “Time Passes,” and as this homage to Woolf’s To the Lighthouse reflects, her book is at once a meditation on art, an exploration of a marriage, and an effort to shore up the slippery banks of memory. Written with the clarity and force of a lucid dream, these myriad short chapters land variously in Brigadoon, the tales of Hans Christian Andersen, the Buddhist Bardo, Beethoven, camping trips, high school, and more, before each returns Davis—perhaps fortified by the excursion to a past self, perhaps not—to the central trauma of her recent widowhood. But whether delving into key moments that shaped her or examining the shock of new loss, Davis writes in sharp, often breathtaking prose that pushes the boundaries of understanding —a stranger’s  voice “registered not on my ears but on my frontal lobe,” a ghost stands “in a pillar of light you saw without your eyes the same way I heard the lake without my ears”—and packs a visceral punch:  “there is the moment you step off the edge of the cliff before you hit the ground….this moment can last a second or it can last a lifetime”

Aurelia, Aurélia: A Memoir By Kathryn Davis Cover Image
ISBN: 9781644450789
Availability: In Stock—Click for Locations
Published: Graywolf Press - March 1st, 2022

Very cold People, Sarah Manguso

Staff Pick

Manguso’s first novel is made of so many fine, incremental observations that you may not notice the larger coming-of age story that’s taking shape—making it all the more jolting when it arrives. As narrated by Ruthie, a girl growing up in the fictional New England town of Waitsfield, daily life is a series of mine fields, which, if successfully negotiated, will lead to release from the class-bound rules and the diet of shame (her “birthright”) her outsider parents raise her on, even as she pursues the ordinary milestones of birthday parties, best friends, crushes, first dates, and drinking. Equally ordinary, however, are the girls’ physical and emotional abuses by male teachers and relatives—experiences that shatter Ruthie and her friends in different ways. Like Manguso’s deft nonfiction chronicles of illness, lost friends, and journaling, her fiction hones language to a laser-sharp edge, whether Ruthie is noticing a nightgown’s “cold little fireworks show” of sparks, noting how “the background of my life was white and angry, with violent weather,” or hoping that a friend’s high school pregnancy would ensure “that her father wouldn’t want to go near her anymore.”

Very Cold People: A Novel By Sarah Manguso Cover Image
ISBN: 9780593241226
Availability: Special Order—Subject to Availability
Published: Hogarth - February 8th, 2022