cover image Death by Landscape: Essays

Death by Landscape: Essays

Elvia Wilk. Soft Skull, $16.95 trade paper (320p) ISBN 978-1-59376-715-0

Novelist Wilk (Oval) brings together memoir and her literary criticism and reportage in this superb collection. The essays “have been decomposed again and again, recycled and used as soil for new seeds, new ideas,” she writes, and her fiery intellect touches on ecology, dystopia, the female experience, virtual reality, and fiction writing. The title piece uses Margaret Atwood’s short story of the same name to explore a genre of “ecosystems fiction” that aims to remove the distinction between “human and nonhuman,” while in “Funhole,” Wilk juxtaposes two novels—As She Climbed Across the Table by Jonathan Lethem and The Cipher by Kathe Koja, both of which have plots about a “woman fall[ing] in love with a black hole”— with Anne Carson’s telling of the story of Joan of Arc and the writings of Susan Sontag to investigate the limits of interpretation and what’s knowable. In “Ask Before You Bite,” Wilk does some gonzo journalism in the vampire larp scene, and things complicate as she goes “from larping a larper to larping” and finding “an experience of being yourself and not-yourself, in which you and your character coexist but remain distinct from each other.” Taken together, the essays are elegant and powerful. This one packs a punch. Agent: Cynthia Cannell, Cynthia Cannell Literary. (July)