You would think that I would get bored of repeating the claim that small publishers are more adventurous, risk-taking and genre-busting than their larger counterparts.
Well, I'm not.
Grey Matter Press sent me a copy of Seeing Double while we were discussing Libreture, to simply get it out there. I was initially skeptical, since it wasn't my usual read, but felt obliged to at least read it.
You know how you sometimes get too comfortable in a familiar genre and need a book to come along that kicks you out of your comfort zone? Well, this was mine.
With Seeing Double, author Karen Runge, and the independent publisher, Grey Matter Press, have created a novel that we should all expect to see nominated when Award season comes round again. This title is the epitome of true publishing: bringing exciting new work to readers.
Seeing Double is a poetic tale of emotional and physical damage.
"This chemistry of heaven that we make in hell.
I want you to hurt me like you love me like you hate me."
Karen Runge has created something that reminds me of Eimear McBride's A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing and David Cronenberg's Crash.
We fall into the world-weary lives of a newly-married ex-pat couple. These 'foreigners as lonely strangers' in a culturally different world, are a pair exploring and expanding their sexual and psychological desires in the sweltering heat of an unnamed South-East Asian country.
Their disdain for niceties and their disregard for the pain of others makes Seeing Double a difficult read. The author explores sex, pain, abuse, assault, desire, trauma... and the relationships, even love, based on all those things.
But, it's important to note that it is never gratuitous. Each sentiment, sentence and word is carefully etched into the page. A difficult read, but an important one. This is a novel for grown-ups. I don't say adult, since that may suggest titillation. This is a hard but rewarding read. A disturbing tale that touches on physical horror, but resides in the psychological.
"I didn't bite. I wanted to. I know it crossed my mind. How easy it would be to bring my teeth together in that moment. Feel the burst, tough nd turgid between my teeth. Tense. Exploding."
The novel is broken into four parts, Spring, Summer, Autumn, and Winter. The summer sex, exploration, and freedom juxtaposed with the winter of separation, pain and death.
The setting in a tropical country is important too. The feeling of being unwelcome, of not fitting in, of being apart, adds to the sense of displacement and paranoia. Parts of the story remind me of Under the Skin, directed by Jonathan Glazer and starring Scarlett Johansson. The weird in the truest sense.
Indies Strike Again
A quick glance at almost any award nomination list will tell you that independent publishers are punching well above their weight in almost every genre.
It is clear that larger publishers have lost any sense of literary curation and are now chasing their tails and the big names.
We should look to smaller publishers like Grey Matter Press for our undiscovered authors.
In the e-mail sharing Seeing Double with me, the editor described Karen Runge:
"She’s up and coming, and I believe her talent will one day take her to the “came” level. Maybe this novel will help."
Well, based on this novel, I'd say she's already there.
Thank you to Karen Runge for writing this and to Grey Matter Press for sharing it with me.
Seeing Double by Karen Runge will be published on the 25th of July, 2017 and will be available from the Grey Matter Press shop and other retailers.
Seeing Double in my Libreture Library.