"Her sickness starts with a tingling, a current from some strange electric cloud that can be sensed, but never seen. She feels it looming as she rises from the bed. She feels it humming through the floorboards, through her feet, and through her legs."
"A poetry of the body these words—a meticulous meditation. With a full control of voice and tone, Meghan Lamb captures the complexities of illness, on relationships, on memory, on the disappearing self, the lonely isolation of an altered state. A serious and elegant book." —Sean Lovelace, author of Fog Gorgeous Stag
"Silk Flowers is incisive, intimate, ethereal yet physical, capturing the disconnect between lovers, a disconnect that appears to travel deep into each one of them and then manifest in mysterious, unbidden ways. Sharply written, structured in an almost unsettling his/hers dichotomy, this is a novel that will make the reader ponder the distances between and within." —Dao Strom, author of We Were Meant to Be a Gentle People
"The seemingly affectless language of this short, serrated novel hides rages and terrors just looking for the chance to do in a nice reader like you. Silk Flowers is the sort of novel a better mother would've warned you about." —James Tadd Adcox, author of Does Not Love
Meghan Lamb holds an MFA from Washington University. She currently lives in St. Louis with her partner, Jason Pappariella. In addition to this book, she has a novella (Sacramento, from Solar Luxuriance) and a chapbook (Dear Theresa, from dancing girl press) to her name.
She wrote this book during a nine-month period wherein her left leg mysteriously stopped working. She was diagnosed with a peroneal neuropathy and told that her nerve would regenerate eventually.
An unnamed woman develops an idiopathic illness that causes electric shocks to travel through her body, leading to seizure-like reactions. After several rounds of futile visits to various specialists, she recedes into a mostly helpless, wasting condition. Her husband attempts to care for her at home but eventually must hire a visiting nurse. Woven into this narrative are childhood flashbacks, mostly centered on the woman’s relationship with her mother and the man’s relationship with his father. The woman’s illness also becomes a breeding ground for the latent discontent that lurks in the couple’s relationship. It will all come to a head, of sorts.
Lamb’s writing here is in top form—elegant in its spareness yet also rich in vivid, well-placed phrases. There is a scrupulousness to her prose that indicates a writerly dedication to precise word choice and the necessity of sentence-level concentration. Her narratives are atmospheric, as if suffused with ambient light, but can take a sharp turn to the weird or grotesque, like a David Lynch scene. Lamb’s most recent book, Coward, was less to my liking than pretty much all of her previous work. But this earlier (2017) chapbook has already obliterated most of my misgivings about that book, the subject matter and structure of which, to my mind, did not play to Lamb’s strengths. Instead, this novella here (sadly out of print) reinforces my impression that she is the contemporary torchbearer of a literary lineage that includes such writers as Anna Kavan, Marguerite Duras, and Janet Frame, all of whom she claims as influences. Given that these three are among my favorite writers, as well, it is a reading thrill to see their brilliant legacy so organically incorporated into the work of a living writer who will likely have much more to share with the world in the future.
I breathed a sigh of relief on the first page, as I knew from the language straight away it would be a favorite just as I'd always hoped. You're in good hands with Meghan, and she leaves nothing out of place in this slim book. I've been waiting my whole life to read Silk Flowers (or, at least the last several years as it went through the book equivalent of "production hell.") All worth it, for the ultimate beauty of this strangely crafted little novella.
Jackson read it to me in three sittings, while driving back and forth from the Central Coast to Sydney, Australia, to look at flats & then move into one. I would like very much to reread it myself soon in one sitting, but was glad to finally pick it up off my endless TBR shelf. The shift in narrative voice across the novella from woman to man is so deft, as are the dips into past (for both characters). A close study of a partnership tinged with unwellness, mental disorder, and personal ghosts. Unpacking the emotional lives and distressing histories of both of these characters, while visiting them in their current situation, was a privilege and a special treat only Meghan could have afforded her reader.
Meghan Lamb is a singular writer, and one I hope to keep reading all my life. While you'll certainly pick up hints and influences throughout her writing, in my opinion there is no other contemporary writing quite exactly like her -- or this book -- out there to be reading right now. I'll never be able to do her justice in a review, but I feel so incredibly excited to be reading her work as it comes out rather than 100 or 200 years from now, when I feel certain that people (if, you know, humanity is still a thing then) will still be interested in her writing.
What an intense emotional feat. Lamb always writes things that manage to pierce through all the social pretense and get to the marrow of what it means to be living and relating to others. I'll be meditating on this novella for quite some time.
This short novella, less than 100-pages, is beautifully written. I felt that it read like poetry despite having a story line more like a novel. The author's prose was unique and moving, likely inspired by her own battle with an unknown illness. I certainly empathized with the fear and uncertainty that an illness can bring to one's life. For me it was a quick read, I did not want to put it down as I wanted to learn the outcome of the story. For those looking for a piece you could read in one day, this would be a great candidate. I look forward to reading more pieces by this author in the future.
The thanatoptic (not just visual) stuff comes vitiatingly harder and faster than that in Ariel but is powerful in its aesthetic specificity. The focal triptych nature is sad. When it doesn't work (for me) it doesn't work (for me) in interesting ways.
I started reading this the day it came in the mail and could hardly put it down because I was so terrified. Highly recommended if you are interested in stories about illness, dis/ability, relationships, and/or childhood.