As part of our Women Galore programming, the WD Book Club will be reading Sea Monsters, by Mexican-American author Chloe Aridjis.
One autumn afternoon in Mexico City, seventeen-year-old Luisa does not return home from school. Instead, she boards a bus to the Pacific coast with Tomás, a boy she barely knows. He seems to represent everything her life is lacking–recklessness, impulse, independence. Tomás may also help Luisa fulfill an unusual obsession: she wants to track down a traveling troupe of Ukrainian dwarfs. According to newspaper reports, the dwarfs recently escaped a Soviet circus touring Mexico. The imagined fates of these performers fill Luisa’s surreal dreams as she settles in a beach community in Oaxaca. Surrounded by hippies, nudists, beachcombers, and eccentric storytellers, Luisa searches for someone, anyone, who will “promise, no matter what, to remain a mystery.” It is a quest more easily envisioned than accomplished. As she wanders the shoreline and visits the local bar, Luisa begins to disappear dangerously into the lives of strangers on Zipolite, the “Beach of the Dead.”
Meanwhile, her father has set out to find his missing daughter. A mesmeric portrait of transgression and disenchantment unfolds. Sea Monsters is a brilliantly playful and supple novel about the moments and mysteries that shape us.
“Chloe Aridjis’ Sea Monsters is easily her best novel. Strange, lyrical and filled with the dark wonder of youth, it is a sharp and mesmerizing book, with hints of Bolaño and Luiselli. A girl flees her happy Mexico City existence to the surreal beachside hangout of Zipolite, a zone replete with punks, goths and Ukrainian dwarves. A sense of danger and the waning of adolescence permeates each page. Sea Monsters is a remarkable novel that hovers in the air long after finishing.” –Mark Haber, Brazos Bookstore
“Unexpected trips, Quixotic quests, haunted searches, and mysterious communities: there’s a whole lot going on in Chloe Aridjis’s new novel. It begins with a young woman venturing westward, which sets into motion a series of surreal events proceeding along an unpredictable path.” –Vol. 1 Brooklyn
“Aridjis is deft at conjuring the teenage swooniness that apprehends meaning below every surface. Like Sebald’s or Cusk’s, her haunted writing patrols its own omissions . . . The figure of the shipwreck looms large for Aridjis. It becomes a useful lens through which to see this book, which is self-contained, inscrutable, and weirdly captivating, like a salvaged object that wants to return to the sea.” –Katy Waldman, The New Yorker
“A coming-of-age story set . . . in the Mexico in which Aridjis grew up, in which the language is precise, strange, evocative and wise. It’s language as it really ought to be . . . The novel poses far more questions than it answers, and it does so accurately and beautifully.” –R. O. Kwon, The Guardian
Chloe Aridjis is a Mexican-American writer who was born in New York and grew up in the Netherlands and Mexico. After completing her Ph.D. at the University of Oxford in nineteenth-century French poetry and magic shows, she lived for nearly six years in Berlin. Her debut novel, Book of Clouds, has been published in eight languages and won the Prix du Premier Roman Étranger in France. Aridjis sometimes writes about art and insomnia and was a guest curator at Tate Liverpool. In 2014, she was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship. She lives in London.
As always, Book Club members (meaning you just show up) will enjoy a 10% discount on the next book club title and on every item they’ll ask for at the bar during the Book Club meeting.
Let’s meet up and talk Literature.