cover image Open Throat

Open Throat

Henry Hoke. MCD, $25 (192p) ISBN 978-0-374-60987-0

Hoke (The Book of Endless Sleepovers) gives voice to a Los Angeles cougar in his playful latest. Its provocative opening line sets the tone: “I’ve never eaten a person but today I might.” The narrator admits they don’t understand people, observing a group of hikers engaged in what the reader will recognize as a BDSM scenario involving a couple and a man dressed as Indiana Jones. During the day, the cougar hides unnoticed under the Hollywood sign. After dark, they venture into town. Their concerns are immediate—hunger, thirst, survival. Their relationship to their environment is sensual, with sights of running mice, the taste of a possum, or the sound of footsteps. The cougar longs for community, and Hoke sketches them as a quintessential outsider as a fire forces them out of their haunt and they form a surprising bond with a girl they call “little slaughter.” The economical prose reads like poetry, with enjambment in place of punctuation and frequent paragraph breaks. By turns funny and melancholy, this is a thrilling portrait of alienation. Agent: Jim Rutman, Sterling Lord Literistic. (June)

Correction: An earlier version of this review used the incorrect pronoun to refer to the novel's narrator.