January 18, 2016
Spring Books Preview: You Too Can Have a Body Like Mine by Alexandra Kleeman
by Zeljka Marosevic
There are an infinite number of ways to begin a novel. As a reader, one encounters countless examples of how this might be done, but most versions share certain obvious characteristics, namely the writer’s efforts to introduce you to setting, character, plot.
But some novels, the best ones, have altogether different intentions. Alexandra Kleeman’s instantly acclaimed debut novel You Too Can Have a Body Like Mine (which Melville House UK will publish on April 28th 2016) is one such book. It opens with a question that takes you not so much into the heart of the novel, but right into your own heart, immediately dissecting you, rearranging you from the very first page.
A novel about hunger, dispossession and above all, what it feels like to have a human body, You Too Can Have a Body Like Mine is, as Ben Marcus puts it, “the literature of the future.”
Is it true that we are more or less the same on the inside? I don’t mean psychologically. I’m thinking of the vital organs, the stomach, heart, lungs, liver: of their placement and function, and the way that a surgeon making the cut thinks not of my body in particular but of a general body, depicted in cross section on some page of a medical school textbook. The heart from my body could be lifted and placed in yours, and this portion of myself that I had incubated would live on, pushing foreign blood through foreign channels. In the right container, it might never know the difference. At night I lie in bed and, though I can’t touch it or hold it in my hand, I feel my heart moving inside me, too small to fill the chest of an adult man, too large for the chest of a child. There was a newspaper article about a man in Russia who had been coughing up blood; an X-ray showed a mass in his chest with a spreading shape, rag edged. They thought it was cancer, but when they opened him up they found a six-inch fir tree embedded in his left lung.
Inside a body there is no light. A massed wetness pressing in on itself, shapes thrust against each other with no sense of where they are. They break in the crowding, come unmade. You put your hand to your stomach and press into the softness, trying to listen with your fingers for what’s gone wrong. Anything could be inside.
It’s no surprise, then, that we care most for our surfaces: they alone distinguish us from one another and are so fragile, the thickness of paper.
You Too Can Have a Body Like Mine by Alexandra Kleeman
FORMAT: PAPERBACK ORIGINAL
ON SALE: April 28, 2016
Zeljka Marosevic is the former managing director of Melville House UK.