China Blue, Bridge Eight Press, 2021
Reflections on China Blue appear in this Littsburgh interview.
… and a review
Advance Praise for China Blue
“Catherine Gammon’s kaleidoscopic and complex novel China Blue is both gorgeously and fluidly written and immovably fixed by the boundaries of human suffering. Taking place in the shadow of the Vietnam War and during the American destabilization of El Salvador, China Blue assembles its montage from the jagged lives of women and men entrapped by addiction, poverty, and sexual obsession. Gritty, sorrowful, clear-eyed, and vivid, China Blue is a powerful book, and one of uncompromising originality and integrity.” —Lynn Emanuel, author of The Nerve of It, Noose and Hook, and Then, Suddenly—
“A haunted dream of a book—by turns poetry, philosophy, love story, always beautiful, enigmatic, strange—China Blue is a fiery declaration of all that is inexpressible about desire and loss and the need to find a home in a world in which even the most solid and real of things feel often less than completely solid or real. “The sky is paper. The wind is up. The trees are rasping.” And Catherine Gammon brings this world to life like a demon.” —William Lychack, author of Cargill Falls and The Wasp Eater
“Catherine Gammon innovates a stark and filmic fiction in her remarkable China Blue. Read this unnerving and haunting book! A shape-shifting narrative of intersecting and cascading voices and warped secrets. Characters abuse, comfort, appear, and disappear in the cold. “My innocence is my wickedness. I go dancing on the graves.” “I. He. You … Every voice the mind.” A hallucinatory ride through Joycean streams of consciousness that catapult a child-woman anti-heroine into a girl-child’s sex-abused desire. Unable-to-love floundering men come and go from her unable-to-love mother’s bed and table. Small town winter-beach denizens, homeless vodka-warmed escapees, nowhere-to-go-but-anywhere runaways. A bus ride away, New York City acquires these unraveled threads. A once-upon child who would have controlled if only she had mastered magic, or known what was real in the invisible. Her “I will not pity you” to an abuser. Her vagrant mother, their home like sand. And maybe a return. A discomforting, poetic novel of what is and is not, from an author who can hold what is lost on every page.” —Margo Berdeshevsky, author of Before the Drought and Beautiful Soon Enough
“China Blue’s characters drift away, are lost, and return as ghosts of themselves, but while the facts of their stories may sometimes seem phantasmatic, the hurt here is harrowing and unquestionable. If you’re looking for a novel that is unsparing in its depiction of dysfunction and abuse but still elegant and empathetic, you’ve found it.” —Gabriel Blackwell, author of CORRECTION and Madeleine E.
Sorrow, a novel, Braddock Avenue Books, 2013
Reflections on the origins of Sorrow appear in Necessary Fiction’s Research Notes series for August 2, 2013.
Sorrow was a finalist for the Northern California Book Awards.
Some generous words of advance praise:
“Sorrow is a devastating, gorgeous. impossible, unstoppable book–powered by unbearable desire, murder, a stunning turbulence of language and story. The real triumphs of this novel are Anita, Magda, Danny, Tomas, Cruz, people you will never forget even though tragedy, abuse, and circumstance did their best to render them invisible. A tour de force.”
– Eve Ensler, author of The Vagina Monologues and In the Body of the World
“What Sorrow illustrates with such dark and devastating beauty is that the heart that is forced out of innocence into terrible knowledge will one day utter its grief, and when it does, the sound, like its source, will be unimaginable. One of the many astonishing things about Catherine Gammon’s novel is the exacting emotional and psychological candor with which it is written. Never does the book blanch for the sake of false comfort; never does it allow the reader to dodge harrowing truths, those truths humanity most urgently needs to confront. It is a work of profound courage and integrity.”
– Kellie Wells, author of Fat Girl, Terrestrial.
“Think of a female Dostoevsky. Think of a female Raskolnikov. Gammon’s modern turn on the classic tale takes us into the mind, heart and soul of a woman who has been the victim of sexual abuse in childhood; but, in so doing, she illuminates the dynamics of power and redemption to which we are universally subject. Sorrow is a stunning page-turner and unforgettable.”
– Toi Derricotte, author of The Black Notebooks and The Undertaker’s Daughter
Novel: Isabel Out of the Rain
Praise from the jacket, 1991
Catherine Gammon is that rarest of entities, a gifted prose stylist with vision and high moral purpose. Her work is intense, penetrating, and about as ephemeral as the Himalayas. Brilliant is a term at risk of fading from overuse; we must all be careful not to devalue it any further by declaring a new writer of brilliance every other week. With that in mind, I hereby spend one of my extremely limited stock. Gammon is a brilliant writer, and an important one.
Catherine Gammon’s novel has the mesmerizing quality of rain—
Illusive yet intensely physical,
Haunting yet somehow comforting,
Familiar yet consistently brand new.
It melts time.
It washes away that which is not true.
It’s a marvelous book. Its life and its range take my breath away.
From Publishers Weekly
Gammon crafts a solid psychological mystery with Oedipal undercurrents that arise from a mist of confusion and nightmarish flashbacks—of Vietnam, of sexual abuse—becoming clear only at the finish. Sometimes the prose in this first novel is thick, asking more questions than it answers. But the conclusion strikes with force owing to its stealthy, veiled approach.
Copyright 1991 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
Fiction from the 1970s, early stories of loss and obsession, voices from another century, another planet, voices exploring themselves, both innocent and haunted, a time capsule, message in a bottle from a forgotten present, memory of the future. Or simply a collection of stories, an old collection, early successes and failures, the young writer this older writer used to be.
Beautifully reviewed at Grab the Lapels by Jennifer Vosters.
Provincetown Arts revew by R.D Skillings
Recent Journal Publications
“Agency,” Orca: A Literary Journal, November 2021
“In the future perhaps he will have another chance,” Vol. 1 Brooklyn, August 1, 2021
“Buffalo,” The Blood Pudding, Issue 6, July 2021
“Dangerous,” Always Crashing 4, June 2021
“Ursula and Will,” The Missouri Review, Winter 2020
“Eudora Loved Her Life,” Cincinnati Review, Fall 2019
“Invocation,” New England Review, Spring 2018
“Juliet in the Temple Kitchen,” The Collagist, October 2017
“Juliet and Brother John,” The Collagist, April 2017
“Her Life As A Nomad,” Storyscape, November 2016
“In Absence,” Kenyon Review Online, December 2015
“What Is Romeo?” The Collagist, November 2015
“Kafka Writes to Romeo / Romeo Writes Back” in Artifice, Issue 4 (November 2011). And check out Artifice’s playful inquiry into apocalypse.
Fiction available on other sites:
None of This Is Real, by Miranda Mellis
Fat Man and Little Boy, by Mike Meginnis
Beautiful Soon Enough, by Margo Berdeshevsky
Bald New World, by Peter Tieryas Liu
Zen and the White Whale, by Daniel Herman
The Hidden Lamp, ed. by Florence Caplow and Susan Moon