Lake of Urine: A Love Story.
This is an extraordinary book. It is dazzling in its breadth, in its seemingly endless styles and attitudes, in its sheer, niggardly actualisation. The fact that it exists at all in the 21st Century is astonishing. I feel like it has been burped up from the last decades of the previous century, a motherless child with an awful lot of busy, chatty uncles, nudging each other out of the way and getting pipe smuts all over the crib.
It’s a Cinderella story where we spend most of our time rooting for the monstrous matriarch because of course you would. Emma Wakeling, this iron mother, is a beautiful grotesque. Her story is by turns funny, horrific, exacting and heroically degrading. Emma’s leverage into the world of the book as a semi-pro masturbatrix is funny and reasonable within the terms of the story: she’s a sociopath who, like internet clickbait, has learned “this one weird trick”. She is a dark heart of this novel, devouring it whole, while her daughter, the pragmatic and practicable Norambole is chased down and brought to heel.
Don’t worry about Norambole though. This is still a fairy tale and she is our principal girl. She is also competent, clever and the only person capable of viable communication in the book. She is a candid Candide, a prolix Pollyanna: more sinned against than Cinderella.
My mother also appears in the text as Phinoola Quigg the permanently suspicious and always quizzical Irish mother. Or perhaps it is the author’s Irish mother or possibly all Irish mothers. Regardless of her provenance Phinoola is a fine comic creation and a delicious treat.
The book is riddled with alarming and vivid imagery: I can’t shake the depiction of a grimacing Pastor riding his flaming coach and horses back home, his matchstick silhouette spindle-thin in the fire. The book is full of these extraordinary moments. You can see this story: it springs up in your hands like a pop-up book, or one of Emma’s gentlemen callers.
This book is a Southern Gothic satire of the modern world set against a back-ground of burger flipping and fringe scientific experimentation. The author appears occasionally in the guise of mad tinkerer, Seiler, a scientific empiricist with tunnel vision and an indifference to humanity in pursuit of his goals. I can think of no finer portrait in prose of the man who wrote this book.
Guillermo Stitch is a profoundly gifted writer. His tenacity, patience and invention are stunning. There’s a world in these pages, a world as rich and strange as any that I’ve encountered in literature, and as well realised. This book is a proper, dip-in-able old fashioned story where you will want to scribble in the margins and dog ear the pages and read it in the bath and smother in hot dropped butter. It’s a luxury product, something you need to soak up. It’s not an easy book, its rough terrain and heavy weather, but it is worth pursuing to the undoubtedly bitter end. I fucking loved it. And I’ve read it twice.