cover image The Fifth Wound

The Fifth Wound

Aurora Mattia. Nightboat, $17.95 trade paper (270p) ISBN 978-1-64362-148-7

Mattia flouts genre conventions with a fierce debut about love, trauma, and the publishing industry’s gatekeepers. The narrator, Aurora, a trans writer who lives in Brooklyn, misses Ezekiel, a friend and lover from college, and casts their relationship in mythopoetic terms (“Heathcliff, it’s me,” she addresses him in her narration). Mattia suffuses the narrative with a flood of memories, references to tortured love songs by Townes Van Zandt (the “foremost voice” in Aurora’s head), and threads of erotic text messages. Before Aurora travels to Austin to visit Ezekiel, her narration veers into her recollections of self-harm. The descriptions are graphic and unflinching, as is her account of injuries to her surgically created vagina, which she also renders with poetic allusions (“A wound is a mouth without a tongue”). As Aurora continues to consider a reunion with Ezekiel, she lashes out at rejections by agents and editors who haven’t grasped her work (“Your writing is as striking, original, and weird as it comes. But it’s also delicate, and makes me slow down as a reader, which is rare,” one agent writes). Here, Aurora’s biting voice is undeniable: “There is nothing more boring than explaining yourself to someone who thinks they want to know you.” Lovers of experimental fiction will find what they’re looking for. (Mar.)