Kathe Koja has contributed the chapter on ‘Maquettes’ for the forthcoming Lund Humphries book about my work. I was cock-a-hoop when she agreed to participate in the project.
Kathe has an innate understanding of the arcane mysteries of puppetry, honed and polished throughout the creation of her just-published novel, Under the Poppy (Small Beer Press) the setting for which is a Victorian brothel where puppets (called ‘les mecs’) are a significant presence. For over two years Kathe and I have been e-mail correspondents united by a shared enthusiasm for the wilder shores of the puppeteer’s art and anything to do with simulacra and automata. It’s been a blast to witness her creative process. She has an extraordinary narrative gift, is skilled in description and has an unerring capacity to create utterly believable voices for her characters. I enjoy reading her books aloud (as I also do with the dialogue-rich novels of Jane Austen) getting to play all the characters in the process. But only whenever I’m alone! For what seems like far too long I’ve been aching to read Under the Poppy, and yesterday my copy finally arrived.
I’m already deep into the book, and I’m probably going to have to ration my daily fix because I don’t want it to end. I shan’t write any more about it here until I’ve finished reading, but I have to say that after such a long time waiting for it, this book is emphatically not the disappointment it might have been given how eagerly I’ve anticipated it.
Once the manuscript had been dispatched to the publisher, though with the puppets of ‘The Poppy’ still charging her batteries, Kathe was already in the zone and on top of her game in puppet-related matters when we asked her to write the maquette essay. The moment was right, as with her novel out of the way she had a little time to focus on the project for us. She agreed to write the piece within our deadline, and it thrills me to my core to know it rode the coat-tails of the creative energy that had fuelled Under the Poppy. Those we’ve entrusted with a preview of Kathe’s chapter have been blown away by it.
Today I set up the book to photograph it, adding the skeleton marionette at the last moment as a stage-prop. I wish Amazon had delivered the novel to me a week ago. The photograph would have made the perfect Artlog post for Halloween!
“This book made me drunk. Koja’s language is at its poetic best, and the epic drama had me digging my nails into my palms. It’s like a Tom Waits hurdy-gurdy loser’s lament come to life, as sinister as a dark circus.”
Cory Doctorow, BoingBoing