What We’re Up To This Month:
When I recently mentioned to writer Tania James that Maud Casey will be reading in Easton this month, she said in response, “Ah, amazing, Maud’s so brilliant.” The exchange made me wonder what “brilliant” means, exactly, when the term is applied to writing and to writers, particularly by other writers. But I've spent the last few weeks reading through Maud’s oeuvre in preparation for the event, and I think I understand what Tania meant.
There are books where the plot is the engine—the kind of novel that keeps you up all night reading, dying to know what happens next. But plot isn't the point of Maud’s fiction. Instead, she’s interested in atmosphere, and in interiority. You can see her thinking on the page about the shape of a story and the texture of consciousness. Not only is her writing beautiful, it pushes the boundaries of what a novel can do.
Her latest, City of Incurable Women, reimagines the “hysterical” women of Paris’s famed nineteenth-century Salpêtrière mental asylum. It plays with different perspectives and voices. It weaves medical photographs and documents (some real, some fictionalized) into the narrative. In Maud’s words, it “runs parallel” to the historical record, rather than attempting to correct it. Read it the way you eat chocolate—slowly, one piece at a time, letting it melt on your tongue.
City of Incurable Women is a Talbot County Free Library Book of the Month, with eight print copies ready for check out, plus e-book and audio book available on demand (no waiting, no charge) on Hoopla for anyone who has a library card from an Eastern Shore Library. It’s also available for sale via the Academy Art Museum (special thanks to our friends at the Ivy Bookshop in Baltimore for making copies available). Maud’s talk will begin at 6:00 on October 28, with a reception beforehand at 5:00—enjoy a drink, get your book signed, and gather with other lit-minded neighbors. I hope to see many of you there!