#5: Things That Are: Essays by Amy Leach
|Not Actual Size|
First of all, Things That Are – published by one of my favorite independent publishers, Milkweed Editions – is a beautifully crafted little thing that just about fits in the palm of your hand. (If your hand is larger than a child’s but smaller than, say, Andre the Giant’s.) Its pages are filled with these fantastic pen-and-ink illustrations by artist Nate Christopherson that are perfectly suited in their weirdness to Leach’s prose. The essays (I guess that’s what they are, even though they read more like the strangest dream journal you could put together) are all oddly poignant and plainly stunning little vignettes about the natural world surrounding us. Leach uses words describing animals and plant life that you swear aren’t real, only to discover, to considerable glee, your linguistic and ecological ignorance. (There’s a great glossary in the back with words like “argle-bargle,” “whimwhams,” and “radish ministers.”) There’s something about the way all of her sentences come together that feels comfortable and almost euphoric, as if we’re shrugging our way into an old coat on the coldest day of the year. Each essay unfolds as if from the lips of an odd, old-tymey storyteller sitting at the edge of the firelight – you know all these things to be true, but you’ve just never heard it all put so eloquently.
For example, from Please Do Not Yell At The Sea Cucumber, Amy elucidates on the 24 eyes, “hanging down on stalks,” of the brainless box jellyfish:
…maybe, in fact, the brainlessness of the box jellyfish is a direct consequence of its tremendous powers of sight. Perhaps neither the animal nor the prophet has been invented who could process so thorough a vision. It is disquieting enough to be hyperacute or hypersensitive; perhaps being both would very soon melt your brain and leave you quiescent, hanging transparently in the giant dancing green waters of the world.
|Illustration by Nate Christopherson from Things That Are|
One more thing: this here marks the first ever Book Catapult contest, such as it is. If you can provide me with the most-clever, oddly accurate, hilariously whimsical definition for the following word or term taken from Amy Leach’s Things That Are glossary, I will personally send you a pristine copy of Things That Are. How’s that sound?
The phrase: leguminous exoplanet
Send your definition to firstname.lastname@example.org and I will select the finest entry & send the winner a hardcover copy of Amy Leach’s Things That Are (Milkweed Editions.)
Buy Things That Are from your local independent bookstore. <– Follow that link to see my Indie Next list blurb (which sounds a little like what I wrote here) AND hear Amy Leach read one of her stories, set to music. It’s a multi-media extravaganza over at Indiebound!