A singular other world comes to life in these pages, and yet the real world is still there, each the urgent shadow, the haunting, of the other. This novel is a map to the realm of the most contemporary fiction — its keen sense of genre, its investigation of the fable, the tale, the ancient needed weirding of narrative. Blackman is a writer I will be reading for decades, a writer who will keep teaching me what it is to read.
Hex: A Novel
Alice is a motherless child, born to a motherless child, and raised with neither care nor grace. Her response to this multiple abandonment is a lifelong obsession with her best friend Ingrid, or Thingy, as Alice calls her, and a sort of fantastic narcissism wherein she figures herself as the nexus of a supernatural world she understands through a blend of mountain lore, indigenous Cherokee legend, and the dangerous idiom of the fairy-tale girl who enters the forest despite being warned.
The novel is written in blended parts and is crafted as an address to Thingy’s daughter, Ingrid the Second, who is now in Alice’s care. Alice attempts to tell Ingrid the story of her life: her friendship with Thingy; her troubled relationships with her father, a small-town sexual troubadour; her stepmother, a hard-minded business woman who treats all interactions as commerce; her marriage to her husband Jacob, a silent figure of tremendous will; and her growing suspicion that Ingrid is another girl-child around whom disaster accumulates. Simultaneously, Alice tells the child the kind of bedtime stories she herself has used to make sense of her world. For Alice, and thus in Hex, the line between fantasy and reality is nonexistent, the mountain is older than its geology, and the world a limbo in which everything that has ever happened is coming around again.
Hex is a novel about violence — the violence of the fist, of the womb, of the story. It is also a novel about language and how we use it to build a world when the one we find around us is irretrievably broken.
Hex is a tessellation of diamond-cut tales, a cruelly perfect work of narrative geometry that somehow beats with a human heart. Sarah Blackman animates the crystal lattice of this book, gives it dragon wings and a beetle shell and the unblinking eyes of a motherless girl who sees through flint and clay to the world beneath the world. Precise and riddling, Blackman’s refractive sentences split the light. They will change your angle of perception. Sarah Blackman belongs in the company of our finest writers of the irreal and all too real, writers such as Helen Oyeyemi, Rikki Ducornet, Kathryn Davis, and Jesse Ball. Hex is a great and terrible gift.
Sarah Blackman’s power is so intimate, so precise. Hex is an enchantment, a suspension between the vital heat of the body and the cold structure of story, its deliberate telling. Hex is the novel as light glimpsed through the twilit woods, the scratches on your face as you make your way toward it. Intricately Blackman tells of two women’s friendship, daughters and mothers in the stripped-down coal town of Elevation: the sublime detail of their daily lives, and the fantastical dark bloomings of their own and the land’s imaginarium. A singular other world comes to life in these pages, and yet the real world is still there, each the urgent shadow, the haunting, of the other. This novel is a map to the realm of the most contemporary fiction — its keen sense of genre, its investigation of the fable, the tale, the ancient needed weirding of narrative. Blackman is a writer I will be reading for decades, a writer who will keep teaching me what it is to read.
Sarah Blackman is a wizard at rendering the odd intricacies of the domestic sphere. Her insights are stunning, her eye is keen, and her sentences are unbudgeably right.
Mother Box and Other Tales
Winner of FC2’s Ronald Sukenick Innovative Fiction Prize
The eleven stories and one novella of Mother Box and Other Tales bring together everyday reality and something that is dramatically not in compelling narratives of new possibilities.
In language that is both barb and bauble, bitter and unbearably sweet, Sarah Blackman spins the threads of stories where everything is probable and nothing is constant. The stories in Mother Box and Other Tales occur in an in-between world of outlandish possibility that has become irrefutable reality: a woman gives birth to seven babies and realizes at one of their weddings that they were foxes all along; a girl with irritating social quirks has been raised literally by cardboard boxes; a young woman throws a dinner party only to have her elaborate dessert upstaged by one of the guests who, as it turns out, is the moon. Love between mothers and children is a puzzling thrum that sounds at the very edge of hearing; a muted pulse that, nevertheless, beats and beats and beats.
These lucid stories hearken to the spiritual and cerebral fiction of Katherine Mansfield and Joy Williams. They breathtakingly face what comes next in the world — whether terrible snout or beautiful child — hallucinating what is entirely real.
Sarah Blackman is a wizard at rendering the odd intricacies of the domestic sphere. Her insights are stunning, her eye is keen, and her sentences are unbudgeably right. An excellent debut.