Pity The Beast
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Following in the footsteps of such chroniclers of American absurdity as Cormac McCarthy, Joy Williams, and Charles Portis, Robin McLean’s Pity the Beast is a mind-melting feminist Western that pins a tale of sexual violence and vengeance to a canvas stretching back to prehistory, sideways into legend, and off into a lonesome future.
Millennia ago, Ginny’s family ranch was all grass and rock and wild horses. A thousand years hence, it’ll all be peacefully underwater. In the matter-of-fact here and now, though, it’s a hotbed of lust and resentment, and about to turn ugly, because Ginny’s just cheated on her husband Dan with the man who lives next door.
Out on these prairies, word travels fast: everyone seems to know everyone’s business. They know what Ginny did, and they know Ginny isn’t sorry. She might not be proud of what she’s done, but she doesn’t regret it either. To be honest, she enjoyed the hell out of it, and as far as Ginny is concerned, that should be the end of the story. Problem is, no one else seems able to let it go. The community can’t bear to let a woman like Ginny off the hook. Not with an attitude like hers.
With detours through time, space, and myth, not to mention into the minds of a pack of philosophical mules, Pity the Beast heralds the arrival of a major new voice in American letters. It is a novel that turns our assumptions about the West, masculinity, good and evil, and the very nature of storytelling onto their heads, with an eye to the cosmic as well as the comic. It urges us to write our stories anew—if we want to avoid becoming beasts ourselves.
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