Cover image for Indelicacy : a novel
Title:
Indelicacy : a novel
ISBN:
9780374148379
Edition:
1st ed.
Physical Description:
161 pages ; 20 cm.
Summary:
Blake Butler, a cleaning woman at a museum of art nurtures aspirations to do more than simply dust the paintings around her. She dreams of having the liberty to explore them in writing, and so must find a way to win herself the time and security to use her mind. She escapes her lot by marrying a rich man, but having gained a husband, a house, high society, and a maid, she finds that her new life of privilege is no less constrained. Not only has she taken up different forms of time-consuming labor - social and erotic - but she is now, however passively, forcing other women to clean up after her. Perhaps another and more drastic solution is necessary? --
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Summary

" Indelicacy isn't merely a book, it's a world; a world I wanted to live in, forever . . . Arch, yet warm; aspiring and impervious; confiding and enigmatic; reposing and intrepid; Cain has conjured a protagonist who purged my mind and filled my heart." -- Claire-Louise Bennett, author of Pond

A haunted feminist fable, Amina Cain's Indelicacy is the story of a woman navigating between gender and class roles to empower herself and fulfill her dreams.

In "a strangely ageless world somewhere between Emily Dickinson and David Lynch" (Blake Butler), a cleaning woman at a museum of art nurtures aspirations to do more than simply dust the paintings around her. She dreams of having the liberty to explore them in writing, and so must find a way to win herself the time and security to use her mind. She escapes her lot by marrying a rich man, but having gained a husband, a house, high society, and a maid, she finds that her new life of privilege is no less constrained. Not only has she taken up different forms of time-consuming labor--social and erotic--but she is now, however passively, forcing other women to clean up after her . Perhaps another and more drastic solution is necessary?

Reminiscent of a lost Victorian classic in miniature, yet taking equal inspiration from such modern authors as Jean Rhys, Octavia Butler, Clarice Lispector, and Jean Genet, Amina Cain's Indelicacy is at once a ghost story without a ghost, a fable without a moral, and a down-to-earth investigation of the barriers faced by women in both life and literature. It is a novel about seeing, class, desire, anxiety, pleasure, friendship, and the battle to find one's true calling.


Author Notes

Amina Cain is the author of the short story collections Creature and I Go to Some Hollow . Her essays and short stories have appeared in n+1 , The Paris Review Daily , BOMB , Full Stop , Vice , the Believer Logger, and other places. She lives in Los Angeles and is a contributing editor at BOMB .


Reviews 3

Publisher's Weekly Review

Cain (Creature) upends fairy tale endings in her stimulating story of insidious oppression. Vitória works as a cleaner at an art museum in an unnamed large, modern city, skips meals to afford simple splurges like a nice blouse, and yearns almost compulsively for the time and freedom to write about art. She commiserates with her lazy co-worker Antoinette, who longs for a husband. When Vitória marries a rich man, she glides into a life of ease only marred by quiet clashes with her cold housekeeper. Her husband does not understand the unfocused, self-reflective observations she finally has time to write, but pampers her with everything she wants. Vitória feels naggingly unsatisfied and starts ballet lessons, where she befriends the most promising student, Dana. Vitória's sense of being stifled increases when she reconnects with Antoinette, now happily married to a poor man, and watches Dana move into professional dancing roles. She hatches a devious plot to achieve a different kind of freedom. Vitória's deadpan voice and Cain's finespun descriptions of quotidian disappointment energize this incisive tale. This novel disquiets with its potent, swift human dramas. (Feb.)


Kirkus Review

An aspiring writer finds a way to live the life she's always wanted.In A Room of One's Own, Virginia Woolf wrote that "a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction"and that sentiment echoes through Cain's (Creature, 2013, etc.) debut novel. The protagonist, Vitria, a young and bright museum cleaning woman, spends her days dreaming about writing. In the moments between scrubbing toilets and floors, she writes descriptions of paintings and notices the world around her. Soon she is plucked from her life by a rich husband and placed into another. Her new life is complete with a large house, a personal study, and a maid, who serves as a constant reminder of her own upward social mobility. Despite her good fortune, Vitria is unhappy. At one point, Vitria wonders about her good luck and how she was "saved" from a wholly different life. She writes about a glue factory where women work and horses are sacrificed: "We should memorialize the horses, remember them truthfully, and the women who have to spend their days in that way....I have benefited from a woman who never stops working, walking back from the factory in the morning and the night." She recognizes the sacrifices women make and, more importantly, the ones she no longer has to make. Deeply rooted in the literary tradition, the novel inconspicuously references works like Jean Rhys' Wide Sargasso Sea and Octavia Butler's Kindred and explores themes like class and gender. With its short, spare sentences, Cain's writing seems simple on the surfacebut it is deeply observant of the human condition, female friendships, and art.A short, elegant tale about female desire and societal expectations. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.


Booklist Review

Cain's bewitching first novel is so deeply internalized that the reader knows neither what city the solitude-loving narrator lives in nor the time frame, though candles and carriages are mentioned, nor her age and appearance. In it, the narrator reflects on her quiet life as a cleaning woman at a museum and returns home each night to her small, nearly empty apartment to write about the paintings she gazes at so intently. She doesn't even say goodbye to Antoinette, her one friend, when she abruptly leaves her job and marries a rich man. Now she has beautiful things and the freedom to look to her heart's content at the museum, but she is ill at ease with having a maid a hostile one, at that and worries about ""decadence."" Her businessman husband is dismissive of her writing and displeased by her lack of interest in social obligations. Funny and plangent, she writes, I'm afraid that I might burn everything up. Cain's concentrated, subtle, and intriguing portrait of an evolving artist resolutely rejecting gender and class roles, with its subtle nods to Jean Rhys, Clarice Lispector, and Octavia Butler, explores the risks and rewards of a call to create and self-liberate.--Donna Seaman Copyright 2019 Booklist