Ari Figue’s Cat–a précis


And some good mini reviews on LibraryThing:

I really dislike trying to write these things, but painted into the corner–the need for something straightforward to secure a potential review–I think I nailed it!

Ari Figue’s Cat is a search for the meeting points between imagined and real identities. The protagonist, who may or may not be named Jacob, sees a young woman on a commuter train, dabbing at what appears to be self-inflicted burns. When he later sees this same woman from his widow making a snow angel, he becomes obsessed with the contradiction between what he imagines her to be, and her elusive, untouchable reality.

The same theme is carried through for the other characters. The style and structure of chapters reflect the characters who appear in them, from apparent conversations with an invisible therapist, to dreamlike and magical, to straight forward narrative story telling. This is a book that would appeal to those searching for something outside of Establishment Literary Fiction: an experimental novel that does not eschew evocative description and beautiful prose.

Ari Figue’s Cat can now be pre-ordered in digital from from Smashwords.

Ari Figue’s Cat: blurb from review

This review will be released in the summer issue of Forward Reviews, by Barbara Nickels.  Still in editing stages for now, but here are a few lines.

An experiment in poetic prose, nonlinear scenes, and even font style, …

Ari Figue’s Cat is Jacob Russell’s deep, perplexing novel of finding love in the least
likely of places,.. its complexity will either enthrall or completely alienate readers. But for those who enjoy experimental literature, this book will entertain.

Overall, a very positive review. This is an honest appraisal. It’s not Establishment Literary Fiction. I would have been mortified had she thought it was. It seems that the reviewer found it a challenge, and a satisfying one. I couldn’t be more pleased.

Ari Figue’s Cat can now be pre-ordered in digital from from Smashwords.

Last Stages


of what became Ari Figue’s Cat.
from March, 2010

I have a work-in-progress. Fiction. Working title: Found Things. Closing in on 100,000 words, so by volume, I guess it’s a novel. Or would be if I could stop rewriting draft after draft and finish it. I began work on it a month or so after finishing my first novel—in 2001. Nine years and counting. My last run at it was going pretty well, but I wanted to get back to poetry. I would start to write and find myself scribbling out notes for poems. The notes began to turn into poems Sometime in November I put the novel aside. Have written almost 100 new poems since—and happy for it. How could I not be? Never been so productive in my life. But I can’t say I’ve stopped looking back, stopped thinking about the unfinished novel.

It’s more than leaving something undone. I’ve abandoned cartloads of stories and poems without a moment’s regret. This is different. it tugs at me, nags; I go to sleep thinking about it and wake up ready to to dive back into it. Then I write another poem, and realize that, as much as I’d like to resolve this, I don’t want to put the poetry aside.

A few days ago I realized that if and when I did get back to it, I would have to do a major revision, right from the beginning. The main character is way too passive. I’ve been holding something back, I thought. As though I was courting sympathy on his behalf, as though I wanted readers to like him! This was a deeply satisfying idea—to make him driven (he already is, but so far, with no clear object or motive). Driven, manipulative, self deceived.

Now I’m thinking that’s still not enough. Yes, I want to finish it. No, I don’t want to write a ‘novel.’

I really don’t.

Not anymore. Not the sort of novel this keeps turning into. And playing with the characters isn’t going to change that.

Why not write it over. As poetry? Something no less radical.

It’s how it began

There are chapters now that read like conventional short fiction. I meant them to stand in contrast to their surrounding context. They do, but the difference is not stark enough. The contrasts are superficial, stylistic, fail to penetrate to the level of language itself, fail to push at the boundaries of poetry and prose. most disturbing of all, fail to challenge the hegemonic authority of narrative, its power to harness every other element–space and time itself–to the task of fulfilling the mimetic desires of the reader.

What is the pleasure—or the point—of limiting our efforts to what we know we can do?

Finished now. Proofs waiting for release of this book, May 25. Did I do it? How far did it fall short? Will there be another?

PDF and Mobi-(for Kindle) digital prepublication copies available at SMASHWORDS.

Ari Figue’s Cat

Ari Figue’s Cat


Reposting this pre-review of my novel from Goodreads.

We cannot know both the reality of the Snow Angel and the trajectory of our desire. The one will erase the other, opposite poles of attraction we cannot hold together. But somewhere, (who cannot believe it will be so!) we may hear a Voice that will lead us to some greater freedom, from the prisons of memory, to visions of the Peaceable Kingdom, lead us on a Winter’s Night, t, even to the Left Side of the World, and grant us the gift of a new name.
So it was for Jacob, who first saw the angel on the Frankford El, and where she fell in the snow–a photograph, a note, an address to the house of Nacht. What could he do, but follow the signs? Ah, but there will be fire to pass through if you are to meet the messenger, with riddles, like koans that have no end. Follow the cat. Run your finger over the alphabet–feel where his teeth have left their marks, close your eyes, draw pictures in the dark, let your fingers tell the story, like reading brail, that it may unfold, not in words, but out of the unfathomable silence of the body.

Paperback, 233 pages
Expected publication: May 25th 2015 by Deep Sett Press

Jacob Russell’s Ari Figue’s Cat does what few novels do: grabs you and won’t let go, without resorting to the cheap gimmicks New York agents rave about (explosions, long lost siblings, incest, and other soap opera tactics).

The Cat is the multiplicity of consciousness, a la Schrödinger, but Russell never lets the scale of his art’s inquiry overshadow the simple humanity of his characters; each is painted delicately and humanely– appropriate, as the author is also a painter.

This book provides no easy answers; if it had, I would not have read it. It is the kind of art we have always needed: questioning, beautiful, full of soul.
Robin Dunn