Cold temps, hot reading

Stepping away from the wilder outdoors, here’s a strange but domesticated book recommendation, providing a helpful excuse to avoid that frigid winter wind. Barn 8 is Deb Olin Unferth’s most recent–and most brilliant–writing so far. She takes us on a crazy romp through the industrial layer-hen world, for an unbelievably compulsive fiction read. Along with a story that follows fairly conventional rules for keeping readers flipping pages, she manages to pull our attention well beyond our navel-gazing selves.

For writers, Olin Unferth tosses in a gamut of unconventional experiments that provide grist for study. In one unrepeated ‘creative non-fiction interval’, she offers this:

“The Gallus, the wild jungle fowl of the early Eocene, or “pre-chicken,” tore along the ground through the trees. The ice swelled and receded, and the Gallus split into species and subspecies, constellations of them spreading and splintering, until a mere nine thousand years ago, when a band of her descendants, Gallus gallus domesticus, began to travel the world with the great explorers looking for more than their world had to offer.

At last, around 1600 CE, T. Rex’s pretty little niece stepped off the boat onto the wet sand shores of North America.”

Not only does Olin Unferth take us back in deep time, she pushes her narrative well forward, and her vision of that future is worth your attention. An activist manifesto without a single ‘should’–this treatise is truly a treat.

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