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.
“In Indelicacy we meet a woman who spends time studying landscape paintings and then walking inside the landscapes where she lives. She looks at a landscape then moves inside another, and as we read it begins to seem that the landscapes in paintings and in fiction are eerily the same. In a deeply pleasing way, reading this novel is a bit like standing in a painting, a masterful study of light and dark, inside and out, freedom and desire. Amina Cain is one of my favorite writers. I loved reading this book.” —Danielle Dutton, author of Margaret the First
“Indelicacy is a novel like the tolling of a great bell. It will move your heart. Amina Cain’s writing is the rarest kind: it creates not only new scenes and characters, but new feelings.” —Sofia Samatar, author of Winged Histories
“To read Amina Cain’s Indelicacy is akin to donning magnifying spectacles that distill a woman’s past into modern reality, these lucid and uncanny lenses remaining on the eye far beyond her pages.” —Josephine Foster, musical artist
“Amina Cain redefines strangeness and freedom in this beautiful and unusual novel that resembles fairy tales and ghost stories but feels intensely contemporary.” —Alejandro Zambra, author of Multiple Choice
“Acutely observed, Indelicacy is an exquisite jewel box of a novel with the passion and vitality found only in rare and necessary works such as The Hour of the Star and The Days of Abandonment. Through this timeless examination of solitude, art, and friendship Amina Cain announces herself as one of the most intriguing contemporary writers of our time.” —Patty Yumi Cottrell, author of Sorry to Disrupt the Peace
“With simplicity and wisdom, Amina Cain’s Indelicacy strips away the clutter of the modern novel, leaving only her narrator’s concentrated attention and yearning. As a tribute to the history of its own form, Indelicacy manages to expand our ideas of both the classic and the contemporary.” —Tim Kinsella, music-maker and author of Sunshine on an Open Tomb
“I was spellbound by Amina Cain’s Indelicacy, partly because it is a lucid novel about human relationships, the soul, art, and change; partly because it is an intelligent yet raw tale about what ruptures are required to grow room for oneself; partly because of its witty juxtaposition of good and bad; but mostly because it is deeply original, like nothing I’ve ever read before.” — Gunnhild Øyehaug, author of Wait, Blink
“Amina Cain’s diligence, patience, and clarity of vision are unparalleled. This is a writer profoundly aware of the impact and import of silence. Her sentences echo long after they’ve landed on the page. Keep your eyes peeled for Indelicacy.” —Azareen Van der Vliet Oloomi, author of Call Me Zebra
Amina Cain’s Creature brings together short fictions set in the space between action and reflection, edging at times toward the quiet and contemplative, at other times toward the grotesque or unsettling. Like the women in Jane Bowles’s work, Cain’s narrators seem always slightly displaced in the midst of their own experiences, carefully observing the effects of themselves on their surroundings and of their surroundings on themselves. Other literary precursors might include Raymond Carver and John Cage, some unlikely concoction of the two, with Carver’s lucid prose and instinct for the potency of small gestures and Cage’s ability to return the modern world to elementary principles. These stories offer not just a unique voice but a unique narrative space, a distinct and dramatic rendering of being-in-the-world.
“Amina Cain is a beautiful writer. Like the girl in the rear view mirror in your backseat, quiet, looking out the window half smiling, then not, then glancing at you, curious to her. That is how her thoughts and words make me feel, like clouds hanging with jets, and knowing love is pure.” — Thurston Moore
“To be among Amina Cain’s creatures is to stand in the presence of what is mysterious, expansive, and alive. Whether these distinctly female characters are falling in and out of uncanny intimacies, speaking from the hidden realms of the unconscious, seeking self-knowledge, or becoming visible in all their candor and strangeness, they move through a universe shaped by the gravitational pull of elusive yet resilient forces—the yin-dark energies of instinct and feeling that animate creative life. It’s here that the intuitive reach of fiction meets the reader’s own quest for understanding, through the subtle beauty of living the truth of one’s experiences in the most attentive and unadorned way possible.” — Pamela Lu
Question: “If you had to think of a motion you’ve made more than any other in your whole life, what would it be?” Response: “I don’t want to be a motion.”
In her debut collection of fifteen short stories, Amina Cain makes ordinary worlds strange and spare and beautiful. A woman carves invisible images onto ice, a pair of black wings appears in front of a house, and a restless teacher sits in a gallery of miniature rooms.
“Neurologically, touching and being touched, whether that’s brushing up against some kind of stalk-like, goldeny things in a tundra or being politely nudged into the back-seat of a Buick Le Sabre, is how a body locates itself in the softest kind of time. For bodies that have experienced a proprioceptive disturbance, touch thus becomes a way of re-building the nervous system. I’m fascinated by the way Cain does this–builds a nervous system–as an act of narrative. For example, when a person, in the deep part of her book, is at their most vulnerable, blurting out banal things to the person they are desperately, secretly in love with and then saying things in their head like “you stupid bloody idiot, why, why, why did you say that?” or somehow stumbling into a forested area above a busy road, on a day when everything else has totally gone to shit they are, by deep chance, met. Something comes towards them and doesn’t go away.” — Bhanu Kapil
Out of print.