Kathleen Hale has been known to stalk people from time to time. Not recently, of course, and only online. Well, mostly online.
She once tracked a mountain lion running loose in the Hollywood Hills, while pregnant with her daughter. And then there was that time she hunted eight-foot, three-hundred-pound feral hogs in Florida—all for the good of mankind, of course.
In these six extraordinary essays, Hale proves herself to be an exhilarating new voice whose commentaries on womanhood, obsession, and the Internet are both hilarious and profound. In “Catfish,” she recounts a standoff with a caustic Goodreads reviewer who writes under an alias, spurring Hale on a treacherous Instagram investigation that ends badly at the reviewer’s house. In “Prey,” she tells the troubling story of her assault at a massage parlor in the days before her fresh-man year at Harvard, sending her to seek shelter in the library, where she spends hours researching and memorizing the weak spots of various dangerous animals. Whether she’s visiting a colony of misfits in the desert who claim to suffer from undiagnosable environmental illnesses or watching the Miss America pageant at the Trump Taj Mahal in Atlantic City, Hale wields razor-sharp wit, uncommon levels of empathy, and fearless honesty, especially when turned upon herself.
Hilarious, candid, and sometimes unsettling, Kathleen Hale Is a Crazy Stalker examines the many forms that trauma can take, revises our ideas of who or what a predator can be, and introduces an arresting and madcap new voice for this strange American century.
Praise for Kathleen Hale Is a Crazy Stalker:
“Half journalism, half confession, Kathleen Hale’s fantastic collection allows readers to visit the unique, brilliant and intense place that is her mind. Her cultural tourism is written with a sensitivity and self-awareness reminiscent of David Foster Wallace and Jon Ronson. Hale writes about people who are often overlooked and mocked by elite society and her charm is that the only person she finds ridiculous is herself.”—Jesse Eisenberg, author of Bream Gives Me Hiccups
“You my ten o’clock?” a man in jeans called to us. He was standing under a metal lean-to, surrounded by meat hooks, wiping off his hands. I wouldn’t call him a handsome man. His skin looked like beef jerky, but he seemed healthy. I felt safe around him, like he would save me if a hog got its horns into my stomach, even though later he would have me sign a liability waiver that made it clear, in no uncertain terms, that I could die and that was my business.
“Is Big Mama here?” I asked.
I had spoken to Big Mama on the phone a few days prior about appropriate hunting gear. “Wear anything except booty shorts. It’s Florida, so the bugs get in,” she said. She kept calling me “honey child” and asking me to speak up because she was deaf from “all the crossbows.” I didn’t yet understand the crossbow reference. But I liked Big Mama.
“Big Mama’s not here,” the guy said, shaking his head. The look on his face suggested that Big Mama might be dead. “But I’m Joe.”
Joe led us to a locker full of guns and asked which ones we wanted. McKetta explained that she wouldn’t be hunting, just watching, because she was a vegan. “What’s ‘vegan’?” asked Joe. McKetta spent a while explaining the dietary restrictions she ascribed to, then told us that if we needed her she’d be taking pictures of the alligator heads scattered on the ground. Before she walked away, Joe had her sign another waiver. I was starting to feel nervous.
“How many waivers are there?”
“Enough so it’s not my fault.”
I stared at the guns.
“Can I talk to you about some feelings I’m having?” I asked.
I proceeded to explain to a now very confused Joe that in addition to concerns for my own safety, hog-wise, I worried that if I took off into the Floridian jungle with a gun, I might accidentally shoot myself in the face or kill McKetta. I explained that I wasn’t exactly what you might call “graceful,” or “athletic,” or “coordinated,” and had fallen over just that morning while putting on my denim overalls—and that falling over while putting on clothes was actually something I did pretty often.
Joe handed me a handgun, and I handed it back. So he suggested a crossbow, and I was like, “Are there any laws in Florida?” and Joe was like, “Not really, that’s why pedophiles go to live in the panhandle after they’re finished up with prison,” and I was like, “Whoa.”
Joe became exasperated. “Are you going to kill or not?”
I sighed. “I do want to kill, Joe, really I do.”
“Well, then pick a weapon!”
I racked my brain for other armaments, ones that would not have a chance of fatal ballistic error, but could think only of cartoonish weaponry, like swords and war hammers.
“Would a knife be too crazy?” I whispered.