With Lionesses, British-American novelist Lucy Ellmann is writing one of the most surprising books of the fall.
Editions du Seuil
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Editions du Seuil
In recent years, several cobblestones have gained media attention. The goldfinch by Donna Tartt, for example. Or City on fire by Garth Risk Hallberg, Lighting by Eleanor Catton, 4 3 2 1 by Paul Auster and 22/11/63 by Stephen King.
But in a few days, we’ll also start talking a lot about Lionesses, by Lucy Ellmann. Another pavement, which this time has more than 1100 pages. And that takes place entirely in the mind of a stay-at-home mom in Ohio spending most of her time looking after the children – she has four -, cooking and running the house. In short, a most ordinary woman, whose thoughts will follow one another in a single sentence. That’s it, not a dot anywhere. Only commas and the phrase “the fact that”, which comes up everywhere and all the time like a mantra: “… the fact that words pop up in my head like that all the time, and damn, the fact that I must make the dough for the cinnamon rolls, the fact that … “Yes, a long tirade of several tens of thousands of lines which is likely to destabilize more than one reader!
“It took years to texturize, nuance and structure the flow of consciousness of this woman,” says Lucy Ellmann, who responded by email. I have never stopped enriching him. I also updated it (I started this novel before Trump’s presidency began, and that too had to be incorporated). I added 30,000 more words to the final version. My editors forgave me. Among friends, what are a few thousand words? “
Rabies, a powerful fuel
At the origin of this monumental work, however, there were only two words: rage. “Much of that which feeds Lionesses comes from loathing and sorrow for my homeland, explains Lucy Ellmann. America is now a pariah nation with totally negative global impact. I am troubled by the apparent passivity of its citizens. They seem to suffer from some kind of moral paralysis, starvation, presumably caused by drugs, junk food, television, click traps, poor education, cultural poverty, politician lies, chronic anxiety and obscene self-absorption. Not to mention pollution (air, soil, water, food, clothing), which can now wreak havoc on mental functions. In a way, this book is a farewell to America. ”
“I also wanted to write about consciousness, both human and animal,” continues Lucy Ellmann. What goes on in the minds of others is the essence of fiction. It’s fascinating, but impossible to guess – it’s hard enough to figure out what’s going on in our own heads. Lionesses is an approximation of what it might be. “
What will be, will be
From money problems to the cancer she’s battled, to correcting homework, her eldest daughter’s mood swings, the raccoons that prey on garbage, her fear of guns, characters from The Little House On The Prairie, the weather, or the words she can’t stand, the narrator trains her thoughts at breakneck speed and ends up chaining us to our seats.
“For me, the biggest challenge was to keep it all in mind,” says Lucy Ellmann. This is the case with any novel, but this one is particularly large, tangled and complex. For the past few years its editorial staff have claimed twelve hour days, and I was physically and mentally exhausted when I finished it. At that point, after seven years of working in my “dungeon,” I finally showed it to my husband, Todd McEwen, who is not only a great writer, but a great publisher. I knew I had taken a risk with this book and was worried that a lot of people might not like it. I wasn’t at all sure what it would be like to read this story. So Todd’s enthusiasm was a huge boost. Since then, I have been fascinated by the reaction of readers. I was also delighted to learn that Claro wanted to translate it into French. What an honor! “