Please, literary gods, let the Stacey D'Erasmo momentum continue. Her first novel Tea was a NYT notable book of 2000. Her second novel, A Seahorse Year, was named a best book of 2004 by Newsday and the San Francisco Chronicle and it won a Lambda award and a Ferro-Grumley award. Now, her third novel, The Sky Below, was published yesterday, and tomorrow it will appear on the cover of the NYTBR with a glowing if roundabout review. (Too much about boxes.) This follows a starred PW review, which was more succinct and more straightforward about the protagonist's being gay:
A luminous novel crafted in meticulous detail with shimmering language, D'Erasmo's third book tells the story of Gabriel Collins... An obituary writer for a half-assed tourist newspaper in post-9/11 Manhattan, Gabriel is also an artist, creating still lifes from found and stolen objects. Gabriel's lover, Janos, a wealthy financier, hopes that Gabriel will abandon his marginal life and move in with him, but Gabriel steadfastly refuses, even when a health crisis threatens to undo him. An impulsive trip to Mexico leads him to a hardscrabble commune where he finds a belated clarity. The descriptions of Gabriel's artwork and his daily struggles comprise a dizzying trip through metaphor and expression, the undisputed centerpiece of which is the dazzling, complicated narration in vivid prose. This is a demanding and immensely satisfying novel, and certainly one of the better New York artist novels in recent memory.
I can't wait to read it, especially because it plays off Ovid, according to her interview with Time Out New York:
... a book about money and Manhattan, The Sky Below is hugely fanciful, frequently riffing on Ovid’s visions of human transformation. Mythos suffuses D’Erasmo’s language: Bob Dylan sounds “like a sarcastic tree stump,” drafts “skitter” around a chilly Greenpoint apartment “like ice fairies.” In some of the story’s more surreal moments, Gabriel himself seems to be turning into a bird.
Then again, maybe those are cancer symptoms. The novel consistently fudges the line between the fantastical and the quotidian: A literalist could read Gabriel as a victim of illness-induced hallucinations, whereas to a fan of Greek myths or Marvel Comics, he could literally be a bird-man. D’Erasmo followed Ovid’s lead there. “In The Metamorphoses,” she says, “these things happen—someone turns into a tree, or someone turns into a bird—but it happens in this world, with these bodies, and you feel the flesh of it, and you feel the bark of it, and you feel the mortality of it. I wanted everything in the book that was slightly magical or transformative to have that feeling.”
D'Erasmo will read January 14 at City Lights in San Francisco and give at least three readings in New York: January 21 at McNally Jackson, February 19 at Housing Works, and April 19 at KGB. Support her.