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tigergray

tigertales

Tiger Gray writes serious and seriously twisted LGBT speculative fiction. Often Tiger's stories include complex treatments of intersectionality and incorporate the experience of being Othered. The extremes of human behavior and questions about morality often play in to Tiger's tales. Tiger also co-owns Hard Limits Press, a company focused on multicultural novels not for the nervous. If you're yearning for a novel with a cast of minority characters in primary roles, check out the offerings on the company webpage. Pronouns (a work in progress): they/ze/he
SPOILER ALERT!
The Dogs of Babel - Carolyn Parkhurst

This book is beautiful. Its imagery is rich and captivating. Lexy, the main character's wife, makes masks for a living and this whole book is one long masquerade.

It also contains one of the most poignant and realistic treatments of mental illness I've ever read. I identified with Lexy very strongly and have been in her position many times. As she spirals further and further in to her inner nightmare she acts out impulsively, in rage, in sorrow, never truly comprehending her own actions. She is mercurial, childish, and desperately trying to carve something resembling a normal life from the featureless clay that is her own existence.

Lexy makes masks, fantasy creatures, celestial bodies, larger than life animals not, perhaps, in order to act in service to some trite literary device (don't you see, we all wear masks or some such nonsense) but in order to gain control over the chaos. If she can look at the world as an endless carnival, then it loses its teeth and she can feel as if she's imposed some order, taken away the fear, shed light in the dark corners. When we're children and we're afraid of the bad guy in a movie, our parents often tell us, don't worry it's just a mask.

Paul, the husband Lexy leaves behind after falling to her death, is a sympathetic character. His struggle with grief is authentic, including his increasingly bizarre fixation on getting the family dog, Lorelei, to talk. What I like the most about his narration is that it shows what it is like for the relatively sane partner to live with someone who is seriously mentally ill, and going without treatment for that mental illness. His exhaustion and his anger are communicated well, and yet I always understood why he and Lexy were together.

The other aspect that I enjoyed is that Lexy is, in the beginning, presented as the Manic Pixie Dreamgirl archetype, but the rest of the book is all about the dark side of that archetype. Instead of their lives playing out like a movie where the quirky girl helps the stick in the mud to lighten up, it turns out that such spontaneity and changeableness often comes with a price, that it grows from something dark that invades every part of a person's being and life. Rather than Lexy just existing to whirl through Paul's life, fixing his problems, Lexy is her own person with her own problems.

The mystery such as it is, isn't really the point of the story in that you could never call this a detective novel or anything of the sort. Still, when Paul figures out the "incongruities" of Lexy's death, it makes sense and it's satisfying to know how it all plays out in the end. For example I loved when [Paul called the psychic hotline and finally got Lady Arabelle, the woman who last spoke to Lexy and the woman he's been trying to reach night after night. (hide spoiler)]

The only part I feel ambivalent about is [when Paul goes to meet up with the Cerberus society (hide spoiler)] I thought it was almost too weird for the story as told up to that point. However, looking back on some of the opening images in this novel, I think ultimately it does fit in contrast to some of the nigh divine things from when he and Lexy first meet and go on their week long date. [I'm still happy the author didn't kill the dog