Duplex: A Novel

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Overview

?Utterly compelling . . . Davis writes with a stunning brilliance, creating fractured worlds that are both extraordinary and routine.? ?The Boston Globe

?A coming-of-age-meets-dystopian-fantasy-meets-alternate-reality novel, or maybe an Ionesco-meets-Beckett-meets-Oulipo novel . . . The world [Duplex] describes has gone cuckoo while its characters? anxieties remain stubbornly, drably, daringly familiar.? ?Tom Bissell, Harper?s Magazine

 

?Enchanting . . . Hums beautifully ...

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Overview

“Utterly compelling . . . Davis writes with a stunning brilliance, creating fractured worlds that are both extraordinary and routine.” —The Boston Globe

“A coming-of-age-meets-dystopian-fantasy-meets-alternate-reality novel, or maybe an Ionesco-meets-Beckett-meets-Oulipo novel . . . The world [Duplex] describes has gone cuckoo while its characters’ anxieties remain stubbornly, drably, daringly familiar.” —Tom Bissell, Harper’s Magazine

 

“Enchanting . . . Hums beautifully to its own rhythm. It’s a series of dreamlike, often erotic, images and interconnected plot lines that . . . swell to create an intoxicating atmosphere.” —Slate

 

“For fans of the fantastical, Davis’s writing style is a glass of ice-cold water in today’s desert of conventional fiction.” —Star Tribune (Minneapolis)

“[I fell] in love with Davis’s writing . . . I’m grateful for every word . . . When you are lost in the uncanny woods of this astonishing, double-hinged book, just keep reading, and remember to look up. Kathryn Davis knows right where you are.” —Lynda Barry, The New York Times Book Review

 

“Reading this book is a blast . . . Duplex is a traditional love story tucked inside an adult fairy tale, wrapped in science fiction . . . Thankfully, the laws of quantum mechanics do not power Duplex’s magnetism. Instead, it is Davis’s beautiful prose, her psychological awareness.” —Rosecrans Baldwin, NPR, All Things Considered

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Editorial Reviews

The New York Times Book Review - Lynda Barry
When I finished Duplex I had the unshakable feeling that I'd only read half of the book, and the other half was still in there and if I wanted to finish it, I'd need to read it again. I wasn't wrong. By then I'd fallen in love with Davis's writing, what it did to me, that combination of horror and excitement that spilled out of the book, into my past, into the now, into everything around me. The novel is packed with ordinary things…and extraordinary things…and…things that fall somewhere in between…[Duplex] wormholes through the real and unreal in a way that is always compelling even if it doesn't make immediate sense to the top of the mind, the human experience always recognizable even in a world that feels like a much-needed nightmare version of Brigadoon.
Publishers Weekly
Davis’s previous novels—most recently The Thin Place—blur the lines between magic and the mundane, and in this otherworldly novel those borders are eroded, with oddly mixed results. At first glance, Miss Vicks’s grade-school class seems normal enough: there’s delicate Mary, hyperactive Eddie, would-be writer Janice, and rich-kid Walter. But Walter is also a sorcerer, dealing in souls, who seduces Mary away from Eddie. And their suburban street, caught in the mysterious “Space Drift,” seems to eschew the laws of physics. The new neighbors are robots; Miss Vicks walks her dog through a dreamscape; Mary’s child, “Blue-Eyes,” may be a monster; and the beach where Janice plays is home to “Aquanauts,” strange sea creatures with eyes as “large and lustrous as plums.” The book is less a novel than a dream, less populated by characters than by fantasy variations, less an experiment in genre than chaos, and Davis can’t be faulted for her ambition, nor for prose that makes the sky seem like something you’ve never seen and makes robots’ speech utterly quotidian. But where there is no gravity, there can be little pressure, and the result feels somewhat weightless. For all Davis’s virtuosity, readers may have a hard time getting a grip on the story. (Sept. 3)
From the Publisher
Praise for Duplex

"[I fell] in love with Davis's writing . . . that combination of horror and excitement that spilled out of the book. . . . [Duplex] wormholes through the real and unreal in a way that is always compelling even if it doesn't make immediate sense to the top of the mind, the human experience always recognizable even in a world that feels like a much-needed nightmare version of 'Brigadoon.' . . . When you are lost in the uncanny woods of this astonishing, double-hinged book, just keep reading, and remember to look up. Kathryn Davis knows right where you are." —Lynda Barry, The New York Times Book Review

"Duplex is a traditional love story tucked inside an adult fairy tale, wrapped in science fiction. . . . Thankfully, the laws of quantum mechanics do not power Duplex's magnetism. Instead, it is Davis's beautiful prose, her psychological awareness." —Rosecrans Baldwin, NPR, All Things Considered

"Duplex [is] a coming-of-age-meets-dystopian-fantasy-meets-alternate-reality novel, or maybe an Ionesco-meets-Beckett-meets-Oulipo novel. . . . The point of most speculative fiction is to create a world that elevates contemporary social anxieties to the level of nightmare. Duplex does something else. The world it describes has gone cuckoo while its characters' anxieties remain stubbornly, drably, daringly familiar." —Tom Bissell, Harper's Magazine

"Duplex is utterly compelling and hard to put down. . . . Davis writes with a stunning brilliance, creating fractured worlds that are both extraordinary and routine. . . . [Davis blends] elements of mythology, horror stories, and fairy tales, some so eerily skewed even the Grimm brothers couldn't have imagined their twists and turns. There's a trace of a Faustian bargain and Alice's trip down the rabbit hole, as well as hints of allegory. . . . Unforgettable." —The Boston Globe

"Time is bending, and robots are moving in next door, in a new novel . . . by a specialist in the banal fantastical." —New York Magazine

"Peculiar, enchanting. . . . This off-kilter world in which humans, robots, and Bodies-without-Souls all coexist hums beautifully to its own rhythm. It's a series of dreamlike, often erotic, images and interconnected plot lines that don't so much build to climax as swell to create an intoxicating atmosphere. . . . [Duplex is] a reminder that the momentum gained from shifting back and forth between possibilities—not the actual going through the door—is the movement that propels us forward." —Slate

"Duplex stuns. . . . Davis exploits the no-man's land between the strange-but-real and the truly bizarre in sentences and paragraphs so striking they deserve to be memorized. . . . [Duplex] hums with hot blue electricity." —San Francisco Chronicle, "Writers' Favorite Books of 2013"

"You're unlikely to encounter another fall release brimming with as much imagination as this coming-of-age story by the author of The Thin Place and Versailles. Featuring young love, robots and soul-zapping sorcerers, it's novel in both senses of the word." —Chicago Tribune

"Davis' previous novels have been described as 'hallucinatory' and 'dreamlike,' and Duplex is no exception. For fans of the fantastical, Davis' writing style is a glass of ice cold water in today's dessert of conventional fiction." —Star Tribune (Minneapolis) 

"Davis is unlike any writer you are likely to read. . . . For Davis, suburbia is a place where the mundane disguises a phantasmagoria of strange characters and events. . . . Fascinating." —The Kansas City Star

"[Davis's] landscapes change shape with cinematic speed. . . . The whole is breathtaking to read and reread." —St. Louis Post-Dispatch

"Kathryn Davis might possibly be one of the most constantly overlooked great novelists around. The type that can make you think that even though you've had your fill of coming-of-age novels, maybe you have room in your life for one more. If that's the case, Duple xis really the book you must seek out." —Flavorwire, "10 Must-Read Books for September"

"An astonishing, peculiar experience, reading Davis, like being pricked all over so that every bit of the strangeness of this book can seep into you. The kind of writer who makes me want to corner strangers on buses, so I can read whole paragraphs to them. This book is haunting me." —Kelly Link, The Millions, "A Year in Reading"

"Part of the genius of Duplex is that Davis doesn't push any alternate agenda. A wide range of interpretations feels welcome, and at the heart of the book is the lifelong story of Mary and Eddie, told with care and in beautiful sentences. . . . We read because Davis has created a world with language unlike any other, and also like our own." —The Rumpus

"Kathryn Davis's surreal, mesmerizing fiction is perfect darker fare." —The Barnes & Noble Book Blog

"Imagine a narrative voice with the attention to detail, reverence for landscape, intelligence, and spirituality of Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson, William Wordsworth, or John Ruskin. . . . Duplex felt less like a story and more like a forest of images and metaphors, something to be wandered through rather than followed to a conclusion. . . . If the storyteller is good enough, she can ask readers everything and take readers anywhere." —Bookslut

"Duplex is an eerie and lucid nightmare. . . . In the style of Ursula LeGuin and Rudyard Kipling, Davis has given a creepily similar/dissimilar dystopia, and when the reader is able to parse whats familiar and what's not, she can also identify the dystopian elements of her own existence. . . . An enchanting read, a Wonderlandesque adventure." —Bustle

“A wildly imaginative tale of dualities. . . . [Duplex] is an intricately fashioned, wryly stylized, through-the-looking-glass novel of forewarning about the essence of being human, endangered souls and ‘ancestral memory,’ and how stories keep us afloat.” —Booklist, starred review

“[Duplex] is less a novel than a dream . . . [with] prose that makes the sky seem like something you’ve never seen and makes robots’ speech utterly quotidian.” —Publishers Weekly

“A world that is not our world but that is recognizable, consistent and strange. . . . This book will please and surprise.” —Kirkus Reviews

“With every sentence she writes, Davis freshens the senses. Her novels achieve a tone that’s unlike anyone else’s, creating an atmosphere you don’t so much interpret as breathe.” —Kevin Brockmeier, author of The Illumination

Kirkus Reviews
Literate science fiction, its deadpan tone controlled, which examines life in a future that may or may not be dystopian. Davis' (The Thin Place, 2006, etc.) seventh novel is hard to summarize. A terrible catastrophe has occurred, but perhaps it's so long ago that it no longer means much to those alive in the now that the book inhabits. The story begins on a suburban street. Ships called "scows" are visible overhead. We meet Miss Vicks, Mary, Eddie, a sorcerer named Walter (aka "Body-without-Soul") and a snarky teenage sibyl named Janice--but does she know the past or predict the future? Fortunately, in this future present, people have not lost their sense of humor; they still have irony. The point of view assumes that this strange world--time seems to pass, space seems to have extension--where the quotidian and the menacing mix, where some grow old and die while others, the robots, do not, is consistent. It has an identifiable narrative arc, following the characters who grow up and age, bear real or raise artificial children, and die. As in conventional realist fiction, not all details are essential, either to the story or the characters, but are present only for the sake of verisimilitude. Fiction can consider diverse objects and registers of experience--My Pretty Pony, robots the size of pins, trading cards stored in cigar boxes stashed in a cluttered closet, myths--submerge all in a uniform tone and so create equivalence: a world that is not our world but that is recognizable, consistent and strange. More fiction than science fiction, admirably written but not for the average reader of the genre, this book will please and surprise.
Library Journal
10/15/2013
This sixth novel from Davis (The Thin Place) opens in a typical suburban setting, with tree-lined streets and duplexes housing traditional two-parent families as well as the single, middle-aged schoolteacher Miss Vicks. But there are soon clues that we are encountering something quite different. It is mentioned that one of the duplexes houses a family of robots and that Miss Vicks is dating a sorcerer known as Body-Without-Soul. What follows is a strange and mesmerizing tale that is simultaneously an exploration of 20th-century American social mores and dark surrealist fantasy. The central characters include Miss Vicks and her students Mary and Eddie. Explored in unexpected ways are our anxieties about love, sex, parenthood, and aging. While it's unclear whether the surreal elements of the novel are meant to be allegorical or taken literally, in the end it doesn't matter. VERDICT Fans of Neil Gaiman and dark adult fantasy and adventurous readers of literary fiction will find Davis's offering a compelling read.—Christine DeZelar-Tiedman, Univ. of Minnesota Libs., Minneapolis
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781555976538
  • Publisher: Graywolf Press
  • Publication date: 9/3/2013
  • Pages: 208
  • Sales rank: 195,079
  • Product dimensions: 5.96 (w) x 8.36 (h) x 0.76 (d)

Meet the Author

Kathryn Davis is the author of six previous novels, most recently The Thin Place. She is the senior fiction writer on the faculty of the writing program at Washington University.

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