Welcome to day one of the We, Monsters blog tour. This tour was organized by Melanie over at Grab The Lapels ( you should totally check them out. They focus on reviewing books written by female authors.), and we're thrilled to kick it all off!
In the novel We, Monsters (2014, Numina Press) by Zarina Zabrisky, clinical psychologist Dr. Michael H. Strong receives a manuscript from a woman he’s never met. She calls herself Mistress Rose, and she wants him to publish the notes of her life and experiences as a dominatrix. Dr. Strong feels certain that Mistress Rose is no longer alive, but he is intrigued by her story and analyzes its contents. Dive into a world of sex, psychology, reality undone, and a past so mysterious you may not believe it...
An Excerpt from We, Monsters:
For our traditional Sunday dinner I made Luke’s favorites, Ukrainian vareniki (small dim-sum-like pockets stuffed with potatoes or cheese), his mom’s secret seven-ingredient lasagna, and an apple pie with vanilla-custard ice cream.
“Feels like Christmas, Honey,” said Luke after dinner.
He was comfortably slumped in his favorite place: the sunken green armchair in the living room, an open bottle of beer in one hand, the remote in the other, the Economist on his lap, and a football game on. I sat on the carpet by his knee. Our cat Potemkin, a miniature female tabby with delusions of grandeur and a short stub for a tail, settled by his other knee and pretended to doze off.
“Good game,” I said. “Honey?”
“Honey, I’m working on a new book.”
“You want to hear what the book is about?”
“It’s—it’s about sex workers.”
“Did you hear me?”
“Sure. Your book… I’m listening…”
I stood up and screamed into his ear, “Sex!”
That got his attention. Both Potemkin and Luke stared at me. Luke’s round, water-grey eyes and fluffy, pinkish eyelashes hadn’t changed throughout our fifteen years together, and although he’d lost most of his dull orange curls, he, as always, reminded me of a little boy—over six feet tall—about to go on a roller-coaster ride, curious and frightened at the same time.
“What?” he said.
“Honey, I am writing a book about sex workers.”
“God! Prostitutes. About prostitutes…” I said. “A book.”
“Okay. Weird. And?”
I wanted to tell Luke that I had spent the whole winter in a freezing library trying to capture that last chapter, that I’d developed carpal-tunnel pain browsing the Web, that the facts I had learned about escorts were the most useless facts ever—for instance, I had discovered that clients often threw cheesecakes at working girls—that I had to write this novel, that I’d been having nightmares every night, and so much more. Instead, I said: “Ehh… It’s kind of hard to explain, but basically I need to do some research. I mean… hands-on research.”
“What, you want to be a hooker?”
“No, Honey. Just a temporary job, a dominatrix. At a dungeon. Bondage, spanking, that kind of stuff. No actual sex…”
My husband drank some beer and then looked at the bottle as if the answer was spelled out on its green label. Then he looked up at me. Potemkin was looking at me, too. Together they made a tough jury.
“Why, again, are you doing it?”
I should have told him: “Because of my past.”
Like a maniac with a razor, the past kept chasing me. It raged in my nightmares and in my daydreams. I would get up, have my oatmeal, and move on. But ignoring the past is ignoring a bomb—no, a nuclear reactor. Ignore it and it might explode.
I could never have told Luke any of that; I didn’t know it myself.
Instead, I said, “I told you…material for my book. Why, are you prejudiced?”
Beyond anything, Luke, the former captain of the Tufts football team, valued freedom, justice, and independence. We had assigned shifts for changing diapers and taking garbage out. I was free to go out on Saturday with the neighbors for a girls’ night out—if I gave him a week’s notice.
Luke stared at his bottle again. I picked a sliver of a cheese cracker from the bluish carpet; the house needed vacuuming. Potemkin scratched behind her ear with her hind paw for what seemed like an eternity. Finally, Luke cleared his throat.
“How about you write about parenting? Lisa just got her book published, you know. Or children’s stories, you know, like the stories you tell Nick—about a little crocodile—”
“Sure. Those are good. I mean, why hookers?”
“Don’t call them that.”
I stood up and walked to the window. The street looked empty at first, but then I saw Vanessa, our neighbor, in her eggplant kimono, dragging an oversized green recycling bin out into the street. I forgot it was garbage night. I sighed.
“I don’t know what’s in your mind,” Luke said. “I know you, though. You’ve already decided everything. You’ll do what you want no matter what I say. Go ahead, it’s your life.”
“Yeah, but it’s your life, too. I want you to be okay with it!”
“Like, can I be? Really? But—What am I going to do, divorce you?” He sighed, too. “You’re a grownup, a free person in a free country. Can I watch my game now? And would you mind bringing me another beer?” (1)
I got him a beer from the fridge and started to take empty beer bottles and Diet Coke cans out from the kitchen. It was my garbage shift.
(1) From clinical psychologist Dr. Michael H. Strong: Luke’s reaction demonstrates the unvoiced conflicts in this marriage. He is in denial or rationalizing; it is possible he has been unfaithful and his guilt is now absolved in the unconscious by his understanding attitude towards his wife’s research. He also “buys” himself more freedom in the future—Rose’s transgression will justify his own inappropriate or questionable actions and behaviors. Couples often enter into unspoken agreements of this sort; for example, “I will close my eyes to your infidelities, and you will forgive my shopping addiction.”
To buy We, Monsters click here
Zarina Zabrisky is the author of short story collections IRON (2012, Epic Rites Press), A CUTE TOMBSTONE (2013, Epic Rites Press), a novel We, Monsters (2014, Numina Press), and a book of poetry co-authored with Simon Rogghe (forthcoming in 2014 from Numina Press). Zabrisky started to write at six. She earned her MFA from St. Petersburg University, Russia, and wrote while traveling around the world as a street artist, translator, and a kickboxing instructor. Her work appeared in over thirty literary magazines and anthologies in the US, UK, Canada, Ireland, Hong Kong, and Nepal. A three-time Pushcart Prize nominee and a recipient of 2013 Acker Award for Achievement in The Avant Garde, Zabrisky is also known for her experimental Word and Music Fusion performances.
Tomorrow, hit up The Book Cove to follow the tour and read about Zarina's concerns regarding women and publishing, what defines "erotica," and why it's so important to her that she transcend being known as a "woman writer"