One of the first books I read in 2023 was Alison Rumfitt’s novel Tell Me I’m Worthless. There’s a small subset of books I’m fond of that seem to follow a traditional narrative path, right up until the point that they don’t. Brian Evenson’s Last Days is one, as is Percival Everett’s Assumption. Rumfitt’s debut fits in here as well: it’s something of a haunted house story, but as the novel continues on towards its conclusion, it got weirder; Rumfitt moved away from the tropes of haunted house narratives to push towards something deeper and scarier about trauma and inheritance.
Afternoon Bites: James Spooner Interviewed, Alison Rumfitt’s Latest, Music and Banned Books, and More
In our afternoon reading: an interview with James Spooner, reviews of books by Alison Rumfitt and Paul Auster, and more.
Who was the first storyteller to level up the haunted house? To put it another way: tales of houses haunted by restless spirits are unsettling enough. Who was the first person to see a haunted house as a place where existence itself could become malleable? As a concept, you can see wildly different manifestations of it in Mark Z. Danielewski’s novel House of Leaves and Dan Watters and Caspar Wijngaard’s comic book Home Sick Pilots. And then there’s Alison Rumfitt’s Tell Me I’m Worthless, which also nestles a kind of relentless, indescribable horror between the four walls of a home — but also finds a way to tap into some of the most urgent themes of the present moment.
Would you look at this — it’s 2023. Even more intriguingly, there are a whole bunch of new books due out this year. 2023 is off to an excellent start, we’d argue, with a couple of books we’ve been looking forward to reading for years. This month brings with it an impressive assortment of styles, including formally inventive poetry and politically incisive tales of the uncanny. What are we most excited about? Read on to find out.