Lacey Timberland Library tonight!

Yesterday I was in Portland. Tonight Kelley and I will be in Lacey at the Timberland Library, 7:00 pm.

This one is special. Yes, I’ll be reading from So Lucky, as I’ve done a few times, but afterwards, still on stage, Kelley and I will have a conversation in which Kelley asks me questions we haven’t discussed beforehand. I have no idea what Kelley will ask. The thing is, when Kelley asks me a question I don’t dodge it. So things could get interesting. We’ve only done this once before, in Boston, and we had a truly amazing hour of conversation.

Then the audience gets the chance to ask questions, too—of both of us. Then we’ll sign books. Bring them if you’ve got them, otherwise buy from Browser’s Bookshop who will have stock on hand.

So join us! Bring your children and parents, friends and teachers, pets and service providers. Bring everyone. The more the merrier!

Meanwhile, to whet your appetite, here’s a link to a list of responses to So Lucky.

Powell’s City of Books tonight!

I’ve been having a great time and fab crowds at the So Lucky events. Tonight I’ll be in Portland, at Powell’s City of Books, 7:30 pm. I’ll be reading, talking about the book, and then having a conversation with the audience which, if recent experience is anything to go by, will probably encompass everything from empathy to rage to academia to avoidance behaviour to writing to origin stories to, well, life the universe and everything.

Join us! Bring your friends, family, and and random strangers! And their friends and medical professionals. And maybe cats if you’ve figured out how to get them to not steal the show. The more the merrier!

Meanwhile, here’s a new interview from Pacific Stand to keep you amused.

Elliott Bay Books tonight!

I had a fantastic time last night at the So Lucky launch, and will be doing much the same thing tonight at Elliott Bay Book Company, Seattle, at 7 pm.

Join us! Bring your friends and family and neighbours. And their friends. And maybe dogs if they’re quiet. The more the merrier!

Meanwhile, here an interview and two reviews to keep you entertained.

Seattle Review of Books
On Twitter Griffith has helped start #criplit, a series of hashtag conversations for, and about, disabled writers. They’ve covered a number of topics, including advice and information about including disabled characters in your fiction.

This is one of those before-and-after issues, where you — if, in fact, you were like me and less aware of these issues before starting the book — start evaluating every other book based on these criteria. Because once your eyes are open, the lack of disabled characters seems downright strange, held up to the world we live in. Fiction should reflect us and who we are, and when we notice instead that it reflects our prejudices or default assumptions, it is up to us to challenge them.

Lambda Literary
The world of Nicola Griffith’s So Lucky is governed by ableist misconception and ignorance, but also marked by hope and human connection. Magic realism is freely employed and crisp, clear language evokes the natural surroundings of the Atlanta in which Mara Tagarelli moves. Miz Rip, the kitten chosen because she fights, is a compelling addition. It’s a narrative that at once informs, confronts, puzzles and engages.

Disability Visibility Project
The term ‘autobiographical novel’ is in the synopsis on your blog with the word ‘autobiographical’ crossed out. You have MS and so does the protagonist, Mara Tagarelli. What were the challenges of writing a main character who has MS that was grounded in lived experience without relying on your own story?
As I said earlier, this book felt urgent to me. I wanted readers to tackle it in one sitting, for it feel like a spear-thrust—hard, fast, and very pointed. But I also wanted Mara to learn some of the lessons I learnt about MS and being disabled. I wanted to show what it’s like to go from physically strong, lithe, and athletic to visibly physically impaired—moving through all the stages of denial, invisible illness, rage, despair, community, and so on—but without taking the 25 years it took me to learn those things. So one challenge was compressing all that into a single year.

Another challenge was that Mara is diagnosed 25 years after I was. The MS landscape has changed dramatically in that time.

But the biggest challenge is the ‘autobiographical’ label.

Phinney Books tonight!

Today is So Lucky publication day, and I’m celebrating by doing the launch at our local bookshop, Phinney Books. Reading, conversation, signing, then off to the pub next door for a party! Join me—bring your friends, family, neighbours, and their friends and family and neighbours, too. Because parties need people! And books need beer!

Meanwhile, here are a couple of interviews and a Big Idea piece to hold you until you can get your hands on the book:

Crosscut
Mara is fiercely straightforward but almost comically unaware at times of her intimidating effect on other people.
Yeah, it’s one of her flaws. She thinks she sees everything so clearly. And of course, she doesn’t. Nobody does. And it was weirdly freeing to write her. She just does things and says things, convinced of her own righteousness and she doesn’t always have a clue how she’s landing. And, of course, she was the head of this massive organization, and she thought that she was totally understanding and knew everything and was really clear-minded about everything. And then she finds out, the first day she’s diagnosed, that she hasn’t really thought about that and clearly she’s not very good at this. And then there’s her temper. So, we begin to see her. As she realizes her physical vulnerability, I think readers see more and more her actual flaws as well. They’re deeply entwined.

Hazlitt
Tobias Carroll: In the afterword to the novel, you talk about the fact the writing of this book came as a surprise to you. Where were you in the midst of working on another project when this emerged?
Nicola Griffith: Well, I think of this as sort of nested avoidance behavior. I was about halfway through the sequel to Hild and I started to do a PhD. And then I got halfway through my PhD, and started to do this novel. And then, I finished the PhD, and now as soon as all this publicity stuff is done I’ll be returning back to Menewood the sequel to Hild. And I got a little stuck on Menewood, so I did a PhD. And I got a little stuck on my PhD, so I did a book and then I finished. So that’s one way to look at it. And the other, of course, is that I actually wrote a version of this book a very long time ago. And sold it. It was a novella and I sold it and I decided before it was published to pull it from publication, because there was something about it that made me unhappy. I wasn’t pleased with it at all. Have you ever heard of the term narrative prosthesis?

The Big Idea
I usually know years in advance what book I’m going to write next. But sometimes when you’re far away and thinking of something else a book will leap out from behind the sofa and shriek, SURPRISE! Then look hurt when you’re beating it about the head and yelling, Don’t. Ever. Do. That. Again!

That’s what happened with So Lucky.

In mid-2016 I was happily working on Menewood, the sequel to Hild, when I got accepted as a doctoral candidate. It was an amazing opportunity so I went for it. I had to set aside Menewood because though I’m guessing some people could write a huge book set in the 7th century and a PhD at the same time, I’m not one of them. But I worked fast and by mid-December I had a draft of my thesis. I sent it to my supervisor, who would get back to me in January.

So now I had three weeks with no pressing project and no one nagging me for stuff. I know! I thought. (Be wary, very wary of that phrase…) I’ll write that magic realist story…

Tomorrow is soon…

So Lucky is out tomorrow in the US as an FSG Original in print, digital, and audio editions (narrated by me). Handheld Press are publishing the UK print and ebook editions on November 22. But see below for the audiobook link.

Tomorrow I’m reading at Phinney Books, on Greenwood Ave, Seattle, where there will be ASL interpretation. And Wednesday I’m at Elliott Bay Book Company. You can order signed books from both stores. Or see below.

Meanwhile, here’s what people are saying so far (with links, where available):

“This genre-violating story begins straightforwardly then slides into a hallucinatory exploration of the body, reality, and identity. It is disorienting, destabilizing, and game-changing. I have never read anything like it.” — Riva Lehrer, award-winning artist, and author of Golem Girl

“All too often, stories glide past issues of the body…but what happens when our relation to our own body turns adversarial? Successfully disguised as a page-turning thriller, So Lucky is also a deep meditation on marginalization, vulnerability, and resistance.” — Karen Joy Fowler, author of We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves

“The narrator of Griffith’s new novel, after her award-winning Hild, is head of an Aids foundation in Georgia. Shortly after breaking up with her wife, she discovers she has multiple sclerosis: “Sufferer. Victim. Was that who I was now?” With great insight and power, Griffith chronicles one woman’s fight to maintain her independence and grit [and] the plot twists into a sophisticated thriller.” — Jane Ciabattari, BBC Culture

“Nicola Griffith’s So Lucky is compelling reading, a tour de force … that describes an autobiographical experience of disability from Day One with a relentlessness that can parallel disability itself. It is intense, sad, and dramatic, combining mystery, romance, terrorand hope. Just like life itself.” — Steven E. Brown, Co-Founder: Institute on Disability Culture, and author of Movie Stars and Sensuous Scars

So Lucky fires a gritty, scary, wrathful, sometimes blisteringly funny broadside at the monsters of ableist culture.” — Maria Dahvana Headley, author of The Mere Wife

So Lucky is somehow both a tense psychological thriller and a subtle character portrait… Nicola Griffith is an essential writer, and here she is at her most personal, political, and perfectly unputdownable.” — Robin Sloan, author of Sourdough

“In Nicola Griffith’s So Lucky, Mara is stalked by a phantom. The phantom threatens her work, her relationships—nothing less than her identity. This angry, funny, cleverly-written piece … ushers in a new wave of disability story.”  — Susan Nussbaum, author of Good Kings, Bad Kings

Griffith’s lean, taut prose, and her willingness to delve deeply into Mara’s fears, transforms So Lucky into a story about what we all share: an unpredictable life filled with vulnerability and need for community.” — Kenny Fries, author of In the Province of the Gods

“This book is a body-slam of empowerment, a roar so sustained and compelling that it cannot be ignored […] Griffith demonstrates that when a story is necessary it sometimes emerges in a form difficult to categorize, but impossible to ignoreSo Lucky is a tough, accomplished novel, a book that readers didn’t know they needed.” — Katharine Coldiron, Arts Fuse

“The way that Nicola Griffith navigates the nuances of disability feel more real than anything I’ve read … It is real and raw. Griffith doesn’t pull any punches just to seem more approachable for a nondisabled reader and even among what little fiction writing about disability by disabled writers there is, this is still a rarity.” — Kim Sauder, Crippled Scholar

Buy here:

“I need it, so I’ll have to build it”: So Lucky playlist

https://open.spotify.com/embed/user/nicolagriffith/playlist/3sD2Bq87jAu2tflOcNV6a1

So Lucky is about a woman, Mara, realising that she needs a community—other disabled people—that for her doesn’t exist yet. It’s about how she finds her people and then begins to discover and help shape a new culture.

“I need it, so I’ll have to build it” is where the queer community began in the 60s and the feminist community in the 70s. Both accelerated in the 80s. The HIV+ community did it in the 80s and 90s. The disabled community are doing right now.

Having no established community to lean on in times of need is terrible; it is alienating, Othering, and enraging. Finally finding your people and beginning to create a life, a history, a path, plan, and sense of purpose together, though? That is blazing joy. So few people get to be part of the building blocks of a culture. So many of us are born into a sense of belonging and history, and never get to really find out our own perspective on the world. We might change part of the way through our lives, but, generally speaking, any path we may follow is already well-trodden, ready-made and lined with relevant music, books, films, fashions, and documentary history.

But when you get to build the art and culture that doesn’t already exist, the art you create is fuelled by the emotional journey: the alienation and the homecoming, the fear and excitement, the rage and joy. It is rich with the delight of discovery, of making, of connection; the warmth of belonging and building your own hearth. But there’s always the thread of dissonance running through the whole, the sense that the world you’re conjuring is fragile, and that monsters lurk just outside the warmth.

In the UK in the 80s the lesbian feminist community went through this. It was an incredible time; the music and art that flowered from it is part of what made me (and certainly made my music: I fronted a band, Janes Plane). The sense of breaking rules—political, legal, social expectations of good behaviour—made our lives feel sui generis. So when I began to write about a woman entering a different phase of life as newly disabled, I reached for that sense of DIY culture.

It helped that I’d already been thinking about this music as part of my participation in the Visible Girls project (and now the new Visible Girls: Revisited exhibition put together 36 years after the original). I’d already begun to put together a playlist. This music is what I played, and added to, while writing So Lucky. Music of another culture’s flowering nearly 40 years ago seemed to fit.

Gloria, Patti Smith
To hear a woman singing about instant lust for another woman unshrouded by polite formulations of love and hearts and flowers was exhilarating.

African Reggae, Nina Hagen
I listened to this a lot when I was wasted on hash. I never really paid attention to the lyrics, but listening now the song strikes me as about the hypocrisy of western attitudes to weed, a commentary on cultural appropriation and misogyny. But that’s secondary. The importance to me was the sound.

Big Muff, John Martyn
I saw John Martyn live in 1980: just him, solo, on stage. He was dazzling. Again, this is a song about drugs, and the smooth, lubricated distance from reality you can achieve while still trying to get away, break free from a harmful habit and old ways of behaviour.

Exodus, Bob Marley
Why this one? I don’t know, exactly. Some combination of group journey, becoming conscious, taking change into one’s own hands and leaving the old ways for better ways (again). It has a driving sense of movement: unhurried, unstoppable, implacable.

Israelites, Desmond Dekker (with The Rumour and Akrylykz)
This is a sly cultural mashup and reminds me of my own brief musical career. Roland Gift (later of the Fine Young Cannibals) played sax for the Akrylykz and then formed his own band, the Righteous Brothers (really). My band, Janes Plane, supported them once.

Heard it through the Grapevine, the Slits
What I love about this song is how the sinister, droning bassline turns a Marvin Gaye song into a threat. Perfect for So Lucky which is ripe with threat.

Tyler, UB40
There are so many UB40 songs (UB40 is the name of the card unemployed people had to carry to sign on for their fortnightly welfare assistance; I had one) I could use. This one, sadly, could have been written recently for the #BlackLivesMatter movement. It speaks to the rage against the mortal danger of systemic oppression, which of course is something Mara, the narrator of So Lucky, is beginning to encounter for the first time.

Headache for Michelle, Au Pairs
The shape and spine of this song is emblematic of the new music women were making. Instead of the driving heart of the piece being two men on bass and drums, it is two women: a fat-sounding, relaxed but authoratative bass balanced by politically and melodically powerful lyric and vocals.

Ho Pet Hinny Hinny, Friggin Little Bits
This is an almost perfect exemplar of music that came from queer northern female experience, performed, recorded, and distributed by women. FLB offer a working-class queer female perspective in the kind of close harmony so common to embattled and Othered communities. Shared music is one of the fastest and surest ways to build group cohesion—ask any religious congregation—and the brilliant flashes of humour here are common, again, to communities used to being misunderstood.

O Superman, Laurie Anderson
Anderson was the Tilda Swinton of the 80s art world: alien enough for her audience to feel as though she has something to say to those who don’t belong, cool enough to be admired by everyone else, and surreal enough to remain intriguing. So much of what Mara goes through feels surreal but I wanted the text to be hyper real and precisely engineered with absolutely nothing wasted; and very clear, very pointed, calling out what is. Very Laurie Anderson, in other words.

Reasons to be Cheerful, Part 3, Ian Dury and the Blockheads
Dury had polio; he sings from experience. Here, I’ve always assumed he’s talking about fatigue and depression, listing reasons to stay alive and get out of bed in the morning. There are times when Mara really needs to find reasons to stay in the world, and not give up and pull the covers over her head. (If you want to hear Dury angry about disability issues, listen to him sing “Spasticus Autisticus.”)

Papa’s Got a Brand New Pigbag, Pigbag
This song was a favourite during my snorting amphetamine years. It reminds me of Mara’s favourite drug, modafinil, which is just a smooth, high-tech (and legal) version of speed: it keeps you going, going, going.

Feeling Good, Nina Simone
This song is one of the best musical expressions of relief, joy and freedom I have ever heard. It’s about stepping into another life, to begin again, remade, to move ahead under your own control and go your own way. It is a song about finally stepping out from under the burden of others’ control and others’ demands and expectations. This song is on almost every playlist I have ever built.

Voice of the Exiled, Sweet Honey in the Rock
I know this song is not about disability, but even if I’d tried, I could not have written a better song for So Lucky: “They cut off my voices so I grew two voices.” Yes. One has to be indomitable because it’s that or die. Find your voice and cry into the void, find your people, and be heard. Community is strength. Community is life.

If the embed code at the top of the post is screwed up, you can listen to this playlist on Spotify.


This playlist will appear on www.powells.com on June 5, 2018.

Readings 5/15 and 5/16!

So Lucky is out in exactly one week and I’m doing readings and talks at a bookstore near you! Well, near you if you live in Pacific Northwest. I’m sticking close to home for this one.1

All events are free, unless otherwise stated.

  • 5/15, Phinney Books, 7:00 pm. Seattle, WA: Reading, signing and launch party—drinks at the pub next door afterwards!
  • 5/16, Elliott Bay Book Company, 7:00 pm. Seattle, WA: Reading, signing, audience Q&A—and, y’know, probably drinks at some bar close by afterwards.
  • 5/22, Powell’s Books, 7:00 pm. Portland, OR: Reading, signing, audience Q&A.
  • 5/23, Timberland Library, 7:00 pm. Lacey, WA: Staged interview and conversation with Kelley Eskridge.
  • 5/29, Whatcom Community College’s Heiner Theater, 6:30 pm. Bellingham, WA: Village Books’ Chuckanut Radio Hour, Tickets $5, includes $5 off purchase of a book.
  • 6/07, Eagle Harbor Book Company, 7:00 pm. Bainbridge Island, WA: Reading and signing.

All spaces are accessible for the mobility impaired. Mostly. That is, you can get in with your wheelchair to all of them, but one or two leave a lot to be desired in terms of either a) distance to walk, or b) the bathrooms, which are not always up to code and so occasionally difficult (though not quite impossible) to access with a wheelchair.

Even if you can’t be there in person you can preorder copies of So Lucky from any of the bookstores, and I’ll personalise them when I’m there and they’ll be shipped to you the next day.

Phinney Books 7:00 pm

Launch event! This is our local store with our local pub, 74th St Alehouse, right next door. We’ll go there afterwards. All welcome! It’s on Greenwood Ave, a small friendly space, and level entry with a deliciously light, easy-to-handle door—so distance is no problem if you can find street parking close by, or if you live in the neighbourhood, or if you’re getting a ride or using the bus (bus stops within a block in both directions). Several chairs at the front will be set aside for those who need them—just tell someone when you arrive.2 There’s no screen and no CART captioning but I can bring a couple of access hardcopies of the readings and points I’ll be making. (It won’t help with the Q&A, though. I’m sorry.) The sound system is a low-power Bluetooth system, but it should be adequate. ETA: HSDC will be providing ASL interpreters, and I’ll bring a couple of access copies. The bathroom’s problematic: level entry, but very tight manoeuvring and, if I recall correctly, no grab bars. The pub next door is also no-step access, but it’s a slope, and the door’s not the easiest in the world to open (I always have to get someone else to do it). The bathrooms are on the same level but, again, not particularly access-friendly.

If you can’t be there, order a print copy that I’ll sign and personalise for you that night and they’ll ship it to you the next day. And if you’re a fan of audio, use Phinney Books’ site to buy and download the audiobook. (If you use promo code LISTENUP you’ll get 20% off.)

For more information and to preorder, check out Phinney Books’ website.

Elliott Bay Book Company 7:00 pm

The other launch event! This is a much larger space, in Capitol Hill, with level access—if you use the wheelchair lift. The lift needs a key, and so a staff member has to operate it. There’s a bell by the lift on the street. Push it, and someone will come. I’ve had to wait a couple of minutes before, so don’t despair, they will come. If you have mobility issues some of the distances involved in order to avoid the stair are a bit daunting. EBBC have microphones, and plenty of seating and the bathrooms, on another level, are wholly accessible. I’m encouraging Deaf readers to attend the Phinney Books event where there’ll be ASL interpretation. Meanwhile, please send me email via the contact form or ping me on Twitter. I’m also talking to EBBC about putting access information on their website.

Again, if you can’t be there, order a print copy and I’ll sign and personalise it for you that night and they’ll ship it to you the next day.

For more information and to preorder, check out EBBC’s website.

More

Later this month I’m in Portland, at Powell’s, on the Peninsula at the Lacey Timberlake Library, and in Bellingham doing the Chuckanut Radio Hour for Village Books. In early June I’ll be on Bainbridge at Eagle Harbor Books. I’ll talk more about those events closer to the time.


1 I toured three times for Hild: in the US for the hardcover, in the UK for the hardcover, and in the US again for the paperback. This time I want to get back to my real job—actually, y’know, writing—more quickly. So local only.
2 It’s always helpful BUT NOT NECESSARY to let the bookshop know ahead of time about this, just in case we need to save an unusual number.