In The House upon the Dirt Between the Lake and the Woods

Matt Bell. . Soho Press, $25.95 (320p) ISBN 978-1-61695-253-2
This debut novel from up-and-coming Bell (Cataclysm Baby) is a dark, intriguingly odd fable about what it means to be a father. The narrator (no character is given a proper name) takes his new bride to a secluded house in an area populated only by wildlife, including an overly symbolic she-bear. The carefully wrought prose takes its cues from magical realism: “Beneath the unscrolling story of new sun and stars and then-lonely moon, [the woman] began to sing some new possessions” to furnish their rustic abode. Things get stranger still when the man consumes his still-born son’s body. The couple struggles to conceive again, until one day the woman brings home a young child dubbed “the foundling.” The man can’t accept the boy and, haunted by his dead child’s ghost, descends into madness. The sketchy narrative and characters, however, interest Bell less than large-scale themes: the oedipal competition between a father and son for a mother’s love; threatened masculinity; and, more elliptically, man’s impact on the environment. This challenging, boldly experimental attempt at myth-building may resonate with equally ambitious readers, but offers fewer rewards to those looking for narrative pleasures. Agent: Kirby Kim, William Morris Endeavor. (June)
Reviewed on: 03/11/2013
Release date: 06/18/2013
Paperback - 312 pages - 978-1-61695-372-0
Compact Disc - 978-1-62460-512-3
Ebook - 160 pages - 978-1-61695-254-9
Compact Disc - 978-1-4821-0132-4
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