cover image Beautiful Mutants and Swallowing Geography

Beautiful Mutants and Swallowing Geography

Deborah Levy. Bloomsbury, $16 trade paper (208p) ISBN 978-1-62040-675-5

The two picaresque novels collected in this volume—which are also the first two published novels from Man Booker Prize–shortlisted Levy (Swimming Home)—glimmer with dazzling flashes of fantasy and surreality. Beautiful Mutants (first published in 1988) is the tale of a Russian immigrant named Lapinski and her efforts to get by in a soulless modern London populated by the displaced and deprived. A subtle but scathing critique of Thatcher-era economic and social policies, the novel includes as its characters a profligate money-marketeer who sneers at the dispossessed, a llama in the London Zoo who advises an unemployed young man to “be a self-starter, be profit motivated,” and an employee at a frozen hamburger plant who, when she loses her hand in a meat machine, muses how “customers will buy my flesh in a sesame bun with pickle. They will sit in buses and not know that we have all started to eat each other.” In Swallowing Geography (first published in 1993), a restless young woman named J.K. goes on the road with her 1936 Smith Corona typewriter to record the personal stories of the colorful people she encounters, and to glean from them a means for rooting her own footloose life. “To have a home,” she realizes, “is to have biography.” Although fragmented and episodic, these exercises in the literary avant-garde resonate with moving reflections on exile and alienation. (June)