From the author of Blackfishing the IUD, a darkly hilarious novel about familial trauma, chronic illness, academic labor, and contemporary art. In the tradition of Rabelais, Swift, and Fran Ross—the tradition of biting satire that joyfully embraces the strange and fantastical—and drawing upon documentary strategies from Sheila Heti, Caren Beilin offers a tale of familial trauma that is also a broadly inclusive skewering of academia, the medical industry, and the contemporary art scene.
One day Iris, an adjunct at a city arts college, receives a terrible package: recently unearthed letters that her father had written to her in her teens, in which he blames her for their family’s crises. Driven by the raw fact of receiving these devastating letters not once but twice in a lifetime, and in a panic of chronic pain brought on by rheumatoid arthritis, Iris escapes to the countryside—or some absurdist version of it.
Nazi cows, Picassos used as tampons, and a pair of arthritic feet that speak in the voices of Flaubert’s Bouvard and Pécuchet are standard fare in this beguiling novel of odd characters, surprising circumstances, and intuitive leaps, all brought together in profoundly serious ways.