Author Event: Kim O'Neil and Jac Jemc
Join us at City Lit Books for readings with Kim O’Neil, author of Fever Dogs, and Jac Jemc, author of The Grip of It.
Kim O’Neil’s debut collection Fever Dogs is a fictional biography of three generations of women. It begins at the turn of the twenty-first century with Jean, a young woman at an impasse. Romantically adrift, in a dying profession, she decides that to make herself a future, she must first make herself a past. To deal with a violent history, Jean’s mother has violently erased it. Starting from a bare outline that includes an unspoken death, a predatory father, and a homeless stint, Jean reconstructs the life her mother, Jane, might have lived. But origin stories can never completely cover their tracks: like Jean’s story, Jane’s cannot be told apart from that of her own mother. What follows is a set of stories spanning nearly a century in response to questions which the narrator wishes she had asked her mother and to which she has disjointed answers at best. In the absence of answers, the narrator, in various points of view, invents them. As the stories progress backwards in time, the footholds in fact grow fewer–and the shift to fabulism greater. But in her attempt to unravel her mother's origin and her own, Jean finds that the stories she invents--like the dogs who run through them as witnesses, allies, and objects of desire--serve as well as any other in the makeshift task of authoring a life.
Jac Jemc's The Grip of It is a chilling literary horror novel about a young couple haunted by their newly purchased home. Touring their prospective suburban home, Julie and James are stopped by a noise. Deep and vibrating, like throat singing. Ancient, husky, and rasping, but underwater. “That’s just the house settling,” the real estate agent assures them with a smile. He is wrong.
The move―prompted by James’s penchant for gambling and his general inability to keep his impulses in check―is quick and seamless; both Julie and James are happy to start afresh. But this house, which sits between a lake and a forest, has its own plans for the unsuspecting couple. As Julie and James try to establish a sense of normalcy, the home and its surrounding terrain become the locus of increasingly strange happenings. The framework― claustrophobic, riddled with hidden rooms within rooms―becomes unrecognizable, decaying before their eyes. Stains are animated on the wall―contracting, expanding―and map themselves onto Julie’s body in the form of painful, grisly bruises.
Like the house that torments the troubled married couple living within its walls, The Grip of It oozes with palpable terror and skin-prickling dread. Its architect, Jac Jemc, meticulously traces Julie and James’s unsettling journey through the depths of their new home as they fight to free themselves from its crushing grip.
Kim O'Neil is a senior lecturer in the Department of English at the University of Illinois at Chicago and assistant director of the Writing Center. She has an M.F.A. from UC Irvine.
Jac Jemc is the author of The Grip of It (FSG Originals). Her first novel, My Only Wife (Dzanc Books) was a finalist for the 2013 PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize for Debut Fiction and winner of the Paula Anderson Book Award, and her collection of stories, A Different Bed Every Time (Dzanc Books) was named one of Amazon's best story collections of 2014. She edits nonfiction for Hobart.