Night Beastby Ruth Joffre
A stunning debut collection by an award-winning young writer, Night Beast follows haunted characters through real, surreal, and speculative landscapes to examine the darker side of humanity
A masterful collection from an important new voice in American fiction, Night Beast is a gorgeously written work of profound originality and vision. These doomed love stories and twisted fairytales explore the lives of women—particularly queer women and mothers—and reveal the monsters lurking in our daily lives: the madness, isolation, betrayals, and regrets that arise as we seek human connection.
Through this collection, readers are taken to places where the sun never sets, where cornfields rustle ominously and sleepwalkers prowl the night. In “Weekend,” the lead actors of an avant-garde television show begin to confuse their characters’ identities with their own; in “Go West, and Grow Up,” a young girl living in a car with her mother is forced to shed her innocence too soon; and in “Safekeeping,” a woman trapped inside a futuristic safehouse gradually unravels as she waits for her lover, who may never return.
With exquisite prose and transfixing imagery, Joffre explores worlds both strange and familiar, homing in on the darker side of humanity. Powerful, unsettling, and wildly imaginative, Night Beast is a mind-bending, genre-hopping debut, a provocative and uncommonly raw examination of relationships and sexuality, trauma and redemption, the meaning of family, and coming-of-age—and growing old—as an outsider.
“Lyrical . . . [and] masterful . . . Perfect for fans of Kelly Link and of Carmen Maria Machado’s Her Body and Other Parties, Joffre’s debut collection heralds the arrival of a new, exciting voice in fiction.”—Booklist
“What pure pleasure to recommend to you the debut collection of Ruth Joffre, whose stories are nimble, audacious, and far seeing.” —Kelly Link, author of Get in Trouble
“Hypnotic and elegant, Night Beast built to a resonance that resounds in me still. These stories are unforgettable, full of longing and hunger and alert tenderness. Finishing the collection was like waking from a night of disquieting and luminous dreams. I did not want this book to end.”—Anna Noyes, author of Goodnight, Beautiful Women
“Joffre joins an exciting group of women writers writing about the female body and desire. Fans of Carmen Maria Machado, Daisy Johnson, and Leopoldine Core will find a welcome new voice here. Joffre’s fearlessness to dive into the murky waters of longing makes this an original and startling debut.”—The Masters Review
“Captivating . . . A cri de coeur for sympathy and understanding. This is an auspicious debut.” —Publishers Weekly
“Ruth Joffre’s stories are composed of equal parts brightness and secrecy. She turns the lights on all around her characters yet still permits them their mystery, so that beneath their sharp lines and vivid colors one senses something considerably darker and more enigmatic. They face you not like constructions on a page but like people in the world.”—Kevin Brockmeier, author of The Brief History of the Dead
“Ruth Joffre is a fearless and startlingly talented writer. In these stories you’ll find the quiet horror of Mary Gaitskill and the reality-bending mischievousness of David Lynch and Kelly Link. You will leave this book gratefully unsettled.”—Benjamin Percy, author of Red Moon
“So many of the characters in Ruth Joffre’s stories are, literally and figuratively, sleepwalking through ‘some dark and frightful dream that our minds had conjured,’ and it’s a testament to Joffre’s meticulous and abundant talent that she can guide the reader through these constrained and inhospitable spaces. No matter how dark the stories become, her language, so precise and beautiful, shines a light so that you can go deeper into these worlds, where no one else has ever been. A wonderful debut.” —Kevin Wilson, author of The Family Fang
“The force of Night Beast is seismic; I was startled to read a first book so daringly original. Ruth Joffre’s dissident, imperiled characters are intricately drawn and deeply surprising. While working in the tradition of Djuna Barnes, Isak Dinesen, Ursula K. Le Guin, and Mary Gaitskill, Ruth Joffre manages to be sui generis, a singular young writer reconfiguring the possibilities of fiction at the dawn of —please gods—a dazzling career. There is nothing like her. And there never was.” —Alice Fulton, author of Barely Composed
One of the Lies I Tell My Children (#5)
If they do not clean their room, pretty soon it will be declared a health hazard and systems will be installed in and around the area to prevent the spread of slime mold from the air conditioner to the attic. In the mornings when they get dressed for school my children will have to pass through a decontamination chamber, where I will scrub them and disinfect them, and where they will ask, in their weary voices, “Is this really necessary? The slime mold is our friend.” At night, its black, iridescent fingers will feel around the surfaces of the room, eventually creeping its way onto their pillows and their sheets, and they will encourage it with the sugar water and the potato chips they deliberately smear over their faces. In the beginning, the slime mold will be wary of the offer and retreat every morning when the alarm goes off and I come knocking on their door; then gradually it will grow comfortable with the arrangement and grow stalks inside their nostrils, which will be jellied and metallic, giving the appearance of nose rings or other piercings. When summer arrives the children will have no reason to go outside and will hide in their room, feeding their new mold pet, giving it swathes and patches of their flesh for it to stretch out and grow spores. One day, the mold will take over, and what were once children will become host beds for the oozing, aromatic fungus creeping up between their toes; and because I love them and know how much they love to be dirty I will hook them up to saline drips with glucose and allow the mushrooms to grow in the recesses of their body. It will be a slow process, occurring gradually over weeks and months, and necessitating a great deal of patience and understanding from me. Eventually, when school starts, my children will not be able to get out of bed, so I will stand over them, wishing I could see their hair under all the fungus. I will reach my hand out to stroke them, and in their strange unicellular way the slime molds will reach back, like flowers to the sun.