Sontag

We watched the HBO documentary on Susan Sontag last night, and I found myself getting angry with her. She talks about truth in a way that feels false, then circles around and comes at it from another direction. The way I struggle with meaning. What does it mean? Why does it have to mean anything? Why am I so consumed with meaning? Can’t the bat be the bat without signifying anything else?

Two years ago, I felt like I was having a spiritual crisis. And I kept interrupting my own crisis to ask if I even believed in the spirit. And if so, what did it look like? And where was it kept? And then I developed a concept of the center. My center. The center of me. And I knew where it lived and how it held itself. And that was alright for awhile, until I started to worry if what I meant by center was what I meant by spirit. It was like bad code – round and round again. Finally, in despair, I decided my dogs are as close as I get to understanding anything sacred, and I should just fucking relax and be more like them. Joyful with my full attention. Hungry with intimacy. Stretch. Growl. Sprint. Greet. Nurture. Dog spirit! And then this weird thing happened: my spiritual crisis ended.

But what did it mean?

Is it enough to watch the light move through the windows, across the trees, down the fence line? Is it enough to let things mean or not mean and get out of their way? Is it enough to hold the book, and think? Or do I also need to find myself convicted?

I feel like Sontag’s life would have been different if she’d been more honest. If she’d accepted that the critic, the intellectual, is time stamped by her own criticism. Sontag’s son said she was afraid to be extinguished. And that’s what happens, he added; we’re extinguished.

If that were true, they’d never have made this documentary a decade later. And I wouldn’t be watching it, angry with her. We keep secrets at our peril. They aren’t a fire inside us as much as a plague. A contamination. I don’t believe the truth needs to be said to be true. I don’t think it needs meaning to be different from what is. Meaning, and the thing aren’t even necessarily a contradiction.

The girl parsing out her spirit.

What makes you most alive?

Work? Love?

Are you most alive when you’re exhilarated? When you’re in the midst of some thrilling adventure? Or are you most alive just there, sitting with one leg crossed over the other, noticing the way the hedgehog’s wheel rattles, or the furnace kicks on, or your shoulders ache?

What does the question indicate, except that you’re alive at all? Isn’t it enough to be alive at all? Be angry with her. Seek meaning. Get tired of yourself. Let the bat be the bat. Don’t even mention what kind of bat it is. Its truth can be its own.

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Jill Malone

Jill Malone grew up in a military family, went to German kindergarten, and lived across from a bakery that made gummi bears the size of mice. She has lived on the East Coast and in Hawaii, and for the last seventeen years in Spokane with her son, two dogs, a hedgehog, and a lot of outdoor gear. She looks for any excuse to play guitar. Jill is married to a performance artist and addiction counselor who makes the best risotto on the planet.

Giraffe People is her third novel. Her first novel, Red Audrey and the Roping, was a Lambda finalist and won the third annual Bywater Prize for Fiction. A Field Guide to Deception, her second novel, was a finalist for the Ferro-Grumley, and won the Lambda Literary Award and the Great Northwest Book Festival.

Giraffe People

Giraffe People

Between God and the army, fifteen-year-old Cole Peters has more than enough to rebel against. But this Chaplain’s daughter isn’t resorting to drugs or craziness. Truth to tell, she’s content with her soccer team and her band and her white bread boyfriend.

And then, of course, there’s Meghan.

Meghan is eighteen years old and preparing for entry into West Point. For this she has sponsors: Cole’s parents. They’re delighted their daughter is finally looking up to someone. Someone who can tutor her and be a friend.

But one night that relationship changes and Cole’s world flips.

Giraffe People is a potent reminder of the rites of passage and passion that we all endure on our road to growing up and growing strong. Award-winning author Jill Malone tells a story of coming out and coming of age, giving us a take that is both subtle and fresh.

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A Field Guide to Deception

A Field Guide to Deception

In Jill Malone’s second novel, A Field Guide to Deception, nothing is as simple as it appears: community, notions of motherhood, the nature of goodness, nor even compelling love. Revelations are punctured and then revisited with deeper insight, alliances shift, and heroes turn anti-hero—and vice versa.

With her aunt’s death Claire Bernard loses her best companion, her livelihood, and her son’s co-parent. Malone’s smart, intriguing writing beguiles the reader into this taut, compelling story of a makeshift family and the reawakening of a past they’d hoped to outrun. Claire’s journey is the unifying tension in this book of layered and shifting alliances.

A Field Guide to Deception is a serious novel filled with snappy dialogue, quick-moving and funny incidents, compelling characterizations, mysterious plot twists, and an unexpected climax. It is a rich, complex tale for literary readers.

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Red Audrey and the Roping

Red Audrey and the Roping

Occasionally a debut novel comes along that rocks its readers back on their heels. Red Audrey and the Roping is one of that rare and remarkable breed. With storytelling as accomplished as successful literary novelists like Margaret Atwood and Sarah Waters, Jill Malone takes us on a journey through the heart of Latin professor Jane Elliot.

Set against the dramatic landscapes and seascapes of Hawaii, this is the deeply moving story of a young woman traumatized by her mother’s death. Scarred by guilt, she struggles to find the nerve to let love into her life again. Afraid to love herself or anyone else, Jane falls in love with risk, pitting herself against the world with dogged, destructive courage. But finally she reaches a point where there is only one danger left worth facing. The sole remaining question for Jane is whether she is willing to accept her history, embrace her damage, and take a chance on love.

As well as a gripping and emotional story, Red Audrey and the Roping is a remarkable literary achievement. The breathtaking prose evokes setting, characters, and relationships with equal grace. The dialogue sparks and sparkles. Splintered fragments of narrative come together to form a seamless suspenseful story that flows effortlessly to its dramatic conclusion.

Winner of the Bywater Prize for Fiction, Red Audrey and the Roping is one of the most memorable first novels you will ever read.

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