scorecardresearch Skip to main content
Word on the street | JAN GARDNER

Kiernan’s ‘Drowning Girl’ wins 2013 Bram Stoker Award

Martin Johnson Heade’s “Newburyport Marshes, Sunset” inspired Caitlin R. Kiernan. RISD Museum

Oh, the horror!

Providence author Caitlín R. Kiernan, who has been writing dark stories and novels for two decades, last month chalked up another honor. Her latest book, “The Drowning Girl” (Roc), won the Bram Stoker Award for best horror novel of the year. It is also a winner of the 2012 James Tiptree Jr. Award for best science fiction or fantasy novel that explores issues of gender.

The novel’s unforgettable narrator is Imp (short for India Morgan Phelps), a schizophrenic woman who lives in Providence with her girlfriend. “Drowning Girl” chronicles Imp’s attempt to discover the truth about an otherworldly encounter that haunts her. Imp, the daughter and granddaughter of schizophrenics, is a character whom Kiernan told Publishers Weekly in an interview last year “I care about more than I’ve ever cared about a character of mine.” Kiernan, who went on to describe herself as a “latent schizophrenic,” said the need — in the face of mental illness — to constantly examine one’s life and the nature of reality and fiction may actually sharpen one’s powers of perception. In her author’s note, she cites a great many sources of inspiration, including works of art in the collections of the Rhode Island School of Design, the music of R.E.M., Robert Frost’s “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening,” and the stories of Lewis Carroll.

Serving up a debut

For close to a decade, Ilan Mochari waited tables at Full Moon in Cambridge while he worked on his novel. Now “Zinsky the Obscure” (Fomite) is out and it bears a blurb by Lydia Diamond, the award-winning playwright who was one of his customers. The novel is narrated by Ariel Zinsky, a 30-year-old Manhattan bachelor and football fanatic who is writing his autobiography as a way of coming to terms with the world’s indifference to his childhood traumas. Like Zinsky, Mochari was born in 1975 and was raised on Long Island by a single mother who was an English teacher. Yet there are differences, too. Zinsky is an only child whose father paid for his college education. Mochari, who has a twin sister, attended Yale University with a sizable financial aid package.


Mochari will read from “Zinsky” at 8 p.m. July 25 at the Hallway Gallery, 66A South St., Jamaica Plain, as part of the Rooms Down the Hallway series. Also reading will be poet Michael Lynch and short-story writer L. Annette Binder. Wine and snacks will be served.


Swapping books

Authors tend to be a generous bunch, reaching out to aid their fellow authors. That’s the spirit behind “I’ll Read You Yours, If You Read Me Mine” from 7 to 9 p.m. July 23 at Arts at the Armory, 191 Highland Ave., Somerville. The writers — of memoir, children’s literature, fiction, poetry, and narrative nonfiction — include Alysia Abbott, Stephen Burt, Jef Czekaj, Daphne Kalotay, Pagan Kennedy, Tanya Larkin, Rishi Reddi, Grace Talusan, and Gilmore Tamny.

Coming Out

■  “My Lunches with Orson: Conversations Between Henry Jaglom and Orson Welles” edited by Peter Biskind (Metropolitan)

■  “First Sight” by Danielle Steel (Delacorte)

■  “The English Girl” by Daniel Silva (Harper)

Pick of the Week

Sam Oppenheim of Devaney, Doak & Garrett Booksellers in Farmington, Maine, recommends “Lexicon” by Max Barry (Penguin): “In this emotionally charged thriller, students at an exclusive school are taught to become ‘poets,’ masters of language who manipulate others to do their bidding through the power of persuasion and clever diction. Then an extremely intelligent recruit does the forbidden: She falls in love. This big boiling pot of action is peppered with references to T.S. Eliot, Virginia Woolf, and many other poets.”

Jan Gardner can be reached at