In brief: Lost Cat; Lake of Urine; LEL – review

Mary Gaitskill’s missing pet prompts an essay on love; an absurdist adventure from Guillermo Stitch; and Lucasta Miller’s biography of Letitia Landon, the ‘female Byron’

Lost Cat
Mary Gaitskill

Daunt Books, £8.99, 120pp (paperback)

Award-winning novelist Mary Gaitskill pivots towards memoir in this book-length essay, bringing rigour and candour to bear on her instincts and emotions. It’s loosely strung around her search for Gattino, a kitten she reluctantly rescues in Italy and brings home to the US, where he promptly vanishes. As winter bites, she leaves trails of food and falls prey to magical thinking, even psychics. Gattino’s disappearance stirs up anxieties about other relationships, too, and the complexities of coping with her difficult late father and of taking two young inner-city siblings under her wing soon become part of an arresting meditation on the nature of love.

Lake of Urine: A Love Story
Guillermo Stitch

Sagging Meniscus Press, £12.99, 214pp

Urine, you should know, is the favourite daughter of Ms Emma Wakeling. The other is named Noranbole and both are of marriageable age. So far, so Jane Austen? Only if you were to splice regency romance with Cold Comfort Farm and The Silence of the Lambs, then transpose the whole caboodle to a claustrophobic, snow-smothered rural landscape and indeterminate present day. The result is a bracing and bizarre escapade powered by some electric prose that is by turns bawdy, grotesque and droll.

LEL
Lucasta Miller

Vintage, £11.99, 416pp (paperback)

Letitia Elizabeth Landon was the toast of literary London during the 1820s and her international fans included Edgar Allan Poe and the German poet Heinrich Heine. Then, in 1838, she was found dead in west Africa. The circumstances were suspicious, shunting her into the margins, where she languished until her renown was no more. Only in the past 20 years has her work begun to be revisited, but the woman herself remains a mystery. Lucasta Miller’s fine literary detective work yields a riveting, tantalisingly ambiguous portrait of a poet whose confessional voice and savvy celebrity make her only more intriguing to modern readers.

To order Lost Cat or LEL go to guardianbookshop.com. Delivery charges may apply

Contributor

Hephzibah Anderson

The GuardianTramp

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