Graywolf Press, 9781555978471, 144pp.
Publication Date: August 20, 2019
A haunting story of guilt and blame in the wake of a drowning, the first novel by the author of Spectacle
Susan Steinberg’s first novel, Machine, is a dazzling and innovative leap forward for a writer whose most recent book, Spectacle, gained her a rapturous following. Machine revolves around a group of teenagers—both locals and wealthy out-of-towners—during a single summer at the shore. Steinberg captures the pressures and demands of this world in a voice that effortlessly slides from collective to singular, as one girl recounts a night on which another girl drowned. Hoping to assuage her guilt and evade a similar fate, she pieces together the details of this tragedy, as well as the breakdown of her own family, and learns that no one, not even she, is blameless.
A daring stylist, Steinberg contrasts semicolon-studded sentences with short lines that race down the page. This restless approach gains focus and power through a sharply drawn narrative that ferociously interrogates gender, class, privilege, and the disintegration of identity in the shadow of trauma. Machine is the kind of novel—relentless and bold—that only Susan Steinberg could have written.
About the Author
Praise For Machine: A Novel…
“Steinberg’s daring experiments with style and perspective make clear that such stock suspense isn’t the point. The narrator’s real quest is to discover whether a soul—hers, if it exists—can be saved.”—The Atlantic
“Steinberg’s beautifully structured sentences and wholly original stylistic decisions give Machine a delicate intricacy that enhances the depth of the plot.”—San Francisco Chronicle
“Stylish and innovative. . . . The semicolon is one of the most sophisticated yet poorly understood pieces of punctuation. . . . A prolific and graceful user of this oft-avoided punctuation mark, Steinberg employs it to lyrical and layered effect.”—Star Tribune (Minneapolis)
“Steinberg writes in small, interconnected, and poetic fragments. . . . Heartbreaking, eerie, and acutely observant.”—Kirkus Reviews, starred review
“What makes [Machine] so thrilling is Steinberg’s artistry with form; she fractures narrative into its fundamental parts. Steinberg writes prose with a poet’s sense of meter and line, and a velocity recalling the novels of Joan Didion. The result is a dizzying work that perfectly evokes the feeling of spinning out of control.”—Publishers Weekly, starred review
“Otherworldly, and every-other-line sublime, Machine reads like the text messages Laura Palmer might send back from the Black Lodge. It’s a timely reminder of why our culture remains haunted by dead girls, and of the different ways we find to drown them.”—Bennett Sims
“Machine is an astonishment. . . . Another breakthrough for modern fiction.”—Sam Lipsyte
“Susan Steinberg is a conventions-defying, form-innovating wizard of a writer, and I already can’t wait to reread her newest book, Machine. Unique, astounding, and terribly and splendidly moving, this novel is a revelation.”— R. O. Kwon