Black Lawrence Press
November 6, 2017

Welcome, Gayle Brandeis!

This month we are celebrating the titles that we’ve acquired in the past six months. These manuscripts came to us through our open reading periods and our 2017 Hudson Prize. Today we bring you Gayle Brandeis, author of the poetry collection Many Restless Concerns: The Victims of Countess Bathory Speak in Chorus (A Testimony), due out in late 2019.

Have a manuscript you think we’d like? During our November Open Reading Period we are looking for poetry (chapbooks and full-length collections), short fiction (again, both chapbooks and full-length collections), novels, novellas, nonfiction (CNF, biography, cultural studies) and translations from German. Also, our Big Moose Prize for the novel is currently open to early bird submissions.

gayle blue wallThe Author

Gayle Brandeis is the author of Fruitflesh: Seeds of Inspiration for Women Who Write (HarperOne), and the novels The Book of Dead Birds (HarperCollins), which won the Bellwether Prize for Fiction of Social Engagement, Self Storage (Ballantine), Delta Girls (Ballantine), and My Life with the Lincolns (Henry Holt), which received a Silver Nautilus Book Award and was chosen as a state-wide read in Wisconsin. She has two new books in 2017: a poetry collection, The Selfless Bliss of the Body (Finishing Line Press) and a memoir, The Art of Misdiagnosis: Surviving My Mother’s Suicide (Beacon Press). Her poetry, essays, and short fiction have been widely published and have received numerous honors, including a Barbara Mandigo Kelly Peace Poetry Award and a Notable Essay in Best American Essays 2016. She currently teaches at Sierra Nevada College and the low residency MFA program at Antioch University, Los Angeles.

 

On writing Many Restless Concerns: The Victims of Countess Bathory Speak in Chorus (A Testimony)

When my daughter was a teenager, she asked for several books about notorious women. I thumbed through one of her encyclopedias about women pirates and serial killers and the like and discovered Erzebet Bathory, a 16th century Hungarian countess who was accused of killing up to 650 girls and young women. I had never heard of Bathory before, and found myself haunted by this story. With some research, I discovered that much had been written about the Countess herself, but little had been written about her victims. I started to think of all those silenced girls and young women, and decided I wanted to give them voice. It felt like an act of justice.

I was pregnant at the time with my youngest child (my kids were born in 1990, 1993 and 2009), and at some point, writing about torture and murder felt like an unsavory endeavor while new life was forming inside me, so I set the project aside. Then my mother took her own life one week after the baby was born, and I was consumed with the need to write about that, to write about her.

I felt lost creatively after I finished my memoir (The Art of Misdiagnosis: Surviving My Mother’s Suicide, to be published by Beacon Press this month). It was the hardest, most necessary book I had ever written, and I wasn’t sure any other writing project could ever be as meaningful. Then the ghosts of Bathory’s victims started to whisper to me again. I re-dove into the project, and it felt so powerful to move from writing about my own pain, my own loss (and finding my own redemption in the process) to writing to find a sort of restitution for these long-silenced voices. I am so grateful for my time with these ghosts and so grateful to Black Lawrence for giving them a home.

 

Excerpt

They say she bathed in our blood. They say it brightened her complexion, our iron and salt scouring her skin of impurities, a bleach better than arsenic. They like to imagine her body a luminous petal in all that crimson—hundreds of us bled for her beauty; scores of us drained so she could glow.

Perhaps if this were true, we wouldn’t still hover above her castle. Perhaps if our blood had seeped into her skin, we could have flowed directly into her heart, dampened its savage thirst. But our blood was ignored–swabbed from marble floors, left to sink into hard packed soil. Our blood–our dear and wasted blood–our blood has trapped us here.

***

You want to know how we died.You want to hear about the spikes, the nakedness, the teeth marks on our flesh. That’s all everyone wants to know, the harsh circumstance of our death. First, we want you to know how we lived. That we lived. That we were girls before we were prey. We weren’t nameless, faceless, worthless. We were alive. We were alive.

We were alive.

 

Tagged: , ,