“Avant-garde, middle-class-in-flight” is the way Kathy, modeled on experimental novelist Kathy Acker and the heroine of this penetrating debut novel from biographer and memoirist Laing, thinks of herself. Unlike Acker, who died at age 50 in 1997, this Kathy is age 40 in 2017 and is getting ready to marry her boyfriend. As the tale toggles back and forth between Rome and Manhattan, present and past, Laing (The Lonely City)—who laces her narrative with phrases subtly quoted from Acker’s texts—fantasizes about how the author might have reacted to the age of Twitter (“her scrying glass”), Facebook, Instagram, and information overload. Kathy’s thoughts—which are the novel’s sum and substance—are like those of an Acker character: moments of self-consciousness and anxiety aswirl with gloomy reflections on recent historical events including the Trump presidency; Brexit; nuclear proliferation in North Korea; the Grenfell Tower fire in London; the white supremacist march in Charlottesville, Va.; and so on. The world that Kathy moves in is, like that in Joyce’s Ulysses, full of touchstones for intimate memories and reveries. Laing’s novel can be read as an account of one individual’s personal odyssey through a turbulent era defined by “fire and fascism,” searching for peace. As in her nonfiction, Laing trenchantly depicts the life of the creative mind. Agent: PJ Mark, Janklow & Nesbit Assoc. (Sept.)
Beautiful and strange, Olivia Laing’s Crudo is an urgent, compelling, funny and moving tale for our times.”
Laing's experiment, and it's a good one, is to describe the worldher world, between May 17 and September 23, 2017as precisely as she can... [
Crudois] a short, entirely readable, and lovably eccentric book.”
Nick Hornby - The Believer
A spitfire of a story with a fervent narrator and a twist: The book is written in the voice of punk feminist author Kathy Acker performed in a mash-up with Laing's own, as she considers marriage (with equivocation) and the absurdity of current events circa 2017.
A narrative written with immense vitality and, miraculously, the lightest of touches... It's a subversive love story that shouldn't work, but does.
Deborah Levy - Wall Street Journal
Crudoseduces from the very first sentence. Laing as Acker is not a literary deviceit is literary detonation... Crudois a hot, hot book.”
Crudocould turn out to be a novel that we pick up years from now to remind ourselves how these times felt... Love may not be original, but this funny, fervent novel is.”
Alexandra Schwartz - The New Yorker
[A] single moment in modernity, deconstructed by the savagely entertaining, Acker-inspired voice of Laing.
Laing...dunks you into the narrative and its fast-moving waters. It's only once you get to the end that you realize you've been holding your breath.
Crudo] manages to capture the delirium and anxiety of carrying on through [this] turbulent period with searing clarity.”
Laing's book is truly exciting and, crucially, right on time.
Johanna Fateman - 4Columns
Equal parts brilliant and bewildering
Sharp, witty, and totally engaging. Crudo is a brilliant novel.”
Written at a war-mongering time of rising nationalisms, the vitality of Olivia Laing’s questioning love letter to life and to art will blow you away.
The diffuse literary form of Crudo is ridiculously good…Olivia Laing has probably the most art- and texture-savvy, sensitive ear of anyone writing today.”
Reading Olivia Laing’s short, sleek novel Crudo is like seeing the (very) recent past through a wall of mirrors. Laing adopts fragments of Kathy Acker’s writings and life to arrive at a narrative style that’s readable, shockingly new, and surprisingly tender. I didn’t want it to stop.”
Chic, compassionate, crabby, perspicacious, and marvelously playfulCrudo is a huge-hearted novel that conveys the weight of the world with the lightest touch.”
Written with bristling intelligence... [
Crudois] about the longing to escape our ossified selvesto become, if only for moment or within the pages of a novel, someone wilder and more radically free. And in staging that longing so directly and so honestly, Olivia Laing makes Crudoher own.”
New York Times Book Review
Breathless and gripping... [
Crudo] traps the first summer of Trump and Brexit like a fly in amber.”
[A] pretzel twist of form and meaning... Laing strikes some terrific chords in this novel.
Dwight Garner - New York Times
Like the foodstuff for which it is named, Olivia Laing's
Crudois weird, intense, served in a small portion, and totally delicious... Beautifully written and artfully focused.”
Rebecca Mead - The New Yorker
Laing's To the River was short-listed for the Ondaatje Prize; The Trip to Echo Spring, for the Costa Book Award; and The Lonely City, for the National Book Critics Circle Award. So her debut novel should be a winner. In summer 2017, commitment-averse Kathy wrestles with her decision to marry even as right-wing populism, climate-changed waters, and tempers over Trump and Brexit are rising.
The political and personal chaos of the summer of 2017 as it tumbles through the consciousness of a writer named Kathy.With this brief, breathless experimental novel, Laing (The Lonely City, 2016, etc.) has left the world of literary nonfiction behind and planted an explorer's flag in an unusual, individual destination somewhere on the continent of fiction. The narrative begins with Kathy's arrival in England on a plane from New York. She is met by her fiance, who we will eventually learn is also a writer, 29 years older than she. At this early point in the story, there is also another man in her life, but this turns out to be no big deal—that kind of plot is not the focus here, though Kathy will at some point get married and, at some time after that, will actually fall in love. A focus at least as prominent as this "love story" is creating a record of the ongoing avalanche of terrible news that characterizes this time in the age of Trump and Brexit, the threat of war with North Korea, various terrorist incidents, murders of innocents, Steve Bannon's resignation, etc. Another major concern is the overlap of the narrator with the character of the late transgressive feminist writer Kathy Acker. Since the real Kathy Acker died in 1997, this Kathy can't be that Kathy, but on the first page of the book, she is credited with writing Acker's books, and lines from Acker's work are woven through the text and footnoted at the end. This Kathy is close to that Kathy in body and spirit. "The best thing about breast cancer was the double mastectomy, lop them both off she said, I'd always hated them. Hair cropped, skinny, flat-chested, she was a lovely dickless boy, a wrinkling Dorian Gray, finding her jewels....She was indeterminate and oversexed, a hot chrysalis, and if she'd had a dick you better believe it would be perfect, at least as good as David Bowie's." To enjoy this book, you have to stop trying to understand it. If you can, you may well experience a warm sense of recognition at the absurdity and impossibility of trying to carry on a life in these times.Mysterious, bizarre, frustrating, weirdly smart, and pretty cool.