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A Pretty Mouth Paperback – October 1, 2012
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From the Inside Flap
Praise for A Pretty Mouth:
"All too infrequently do I encounter a new voice as delightful, compelling, and intelligent as that of Molly Tanzer. Or, for that matter, an author with such a range. But here, in A Pretty Mouth, is that shining gem that keeps me sorting through the rubble. If this is only the beginning of her work, I can hardly wait to see where she's headed!" --CAITLIN R. KIERNAN, author of The Drowning Girl: A Memoir
"A Pretty Mouth is a fine and stylish collection that pays homage to the tradition of the weird while blazing its own sinister mark. Tanzer's debut is as sharp and polished as any I've seen." --LAIRD BARRON, author of The Croning
"If Hieronymus Bosch and William Hogarth had together designed a Fabergé egg, the final result could not be more beautifully and deliciously perverse than what awaits the readers of A Pretty Mouth. Molly Tanzer's first novel is a witty history of the centuries-long exploits of one joyfully corrupt Calipash dynasty, a family both cursed and elevated by darkness of the most squamous sort. This is a sly and sparkling jewel of a book, and I can't recommend it enough--get A Pretty Mouth in your hands or tentacles, post-haste, and prepare to be shocked, charmed, and (somewhat moistly) entertained!" --LIVIA LLEWELLYN, author of Engines of Desire
"Molly Tanzer is a prose Edward Gorey, decadent, delicious, and ever so slightly mad." --NATHAN LONG, author of Jane Carver of Waar
"This is form and content and diction and tone and imagination all looking up at the exact same moment: When Molly Tanzer claps once at the front of the classroom." --STEPHEN GRAHAM JONES, author of The Last Final Girl
"Had the nineteenth century really been like this--with the flounces and corsets and blood and tentacles and whatnot--we'd all be dead by now. Un- lucky us, but lucky you, Dear Reader, as you are alive to read this book." --NICK MAMATAS, author of Bullettime
"The stories and short novel in Molly Tanzer's impressive debut collection move steadily backwards through English history, from an Edwardian resort to a Roman encampment, stopping on the way for the nineteenth, eighteenth, and seventeenth centuries, all in the interest of tracing the main trunk of the notorious Calipash family tree all the way to its roots. It's a family linemarked by its excesses of sensuality, cruelty, and sorcery, and in excerpting the exploits of its storied members, Tanzer demonstrates her facility with a variety of voices and styles, from Wodehousian farce to Victorian erotica to Restoration class comedy. Each of the narratives collected here stands and succeeds on its own terms, but taken together, they add to a whole greater than the sum of its parts, in which the recurrence of key motifs in a diversity of settings creates the sense of a family living out its doom generation after generation. Tanzer is an ambitious writer, and she is talented enough for her ambition to matter." --JOHN LANGAN, author of The Wide, Carnivorous Sky and Other Monstrous Geographies
"A Pretty Mouth is many things; erudite, hilarious, profane, moving, learned, engaging, horrific, terrifying, and profound. Molly moves through the multi-forms of prose like a shark in wine-dark seas, rife with allusion, deep in emotion, and sometimes giving you a little salty-mouth. A fantastic collection and not one to be missed." --JOHN HORNOR JACOBS, author of This Dark Earth
"Molly Tanzer's A Pretty Mouth is a spectacular book, rad and weird and fun. With winks to P. G. Wodehouse, Robert E. Howard and the Cthulhu Mythos of H. P. Lovecraft, it showcases the work of a woman who delights in writing. She writes very well indeed! This is a book I will return to, for to read it is such a naughty pleasure." --W. H. PUGMIRE, author of The Twisted Muse
"I am a bit bashful about being titillated by Molly Tanzer's naughty debut, A Pretty Mouth, but I must admit it in order to write this blurb. While having segments that are hot and sexy, it is also a dark and disturbing tale with a wicked sense of humor and compelling chracaters. I blush just thinking about it and might have to go read it again!" --ALAN M. CLARK, author of A Parliament of Crows and Of Thimble and Threat: The Life of a Ripper Victim
"It's been repeatedly said we're enjoying in a new golden age of weird and fantastic fiction. We are, and this lady is one the gifted magicians whose literary creations are keeping the bonfire burning brightly!" --JOSEPH S. PULVER, SR., author of The Orphan Palace
"Tanzer lifts the skirts of Victorian hypocrisy for a full Monty view of perverted hijinks and fun." --MARIO ACEVEDO, author of Werewolf Smackdown
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First, for the uninitiated, a quick definition of weird fiction: “A certain atmosphere of breathless and unexplainable dread of outer, unknown forces must be present; and there must be a hint, expressed with a seriousness and portentousness becoming its subject, of that most terrible conception of the human brain — a malign and particular suspension or defeat of those fixed laws of Nature which are our only safeguard against the assaults of chaos and the daemons of unplumbed space.”
That’s how H.P. Lovecraft, the master of the uncanny dark, defined the genre for which he’d be forever known. Many modern writers exploring the genre have in fact used Lovecraft’s literary universe (now in the public domain) as a sort of gruesome sandbox for their own delightful tales.
One of the most exciting voices at play in that universe is that of Molly Tanzer. Her 2012 collection A Pretty Mouth is a delightful blend of subtle, unnerving horror and historically contextualized debauchery, substituting excesses of the flesh for the violence more commonly found in such tales.
Consisting of four short stories and a novella, A Pretty Mouth gives us in reverse chronological order a multi-generational look at the Calipash family, a noble English house with dark and twisted predilections and pedigree.
The Edwardian-era “A Spotted Trouble at Dolor-on-the-Downs” details the aid an industrious valet renders Alastair Fitzroy, the 27th Lord Calipash, whose sister has become addicted to the secretions of an unusual cephalopod. “The Hour of the Tortoise” is a kinky Gothic exploration of patriarchal repression of intelligent women and the lengths to which they are driven by this marginalization.
Incest, black magic and blurred identities are just some of the themes of the slyly narrated “Infernal History of the Ivybridge Twins.” Then in the titular novella, the stereotypical story of prep-school life is turned playfully on its head, as Tanzer explores the mischief of Calipash twins in 17th century using an inventive mixture of period language and modern slang. The final tale, “Damnatio Memoriae,” is a tongue-in-cheek sword-and-sandals tale of Romans in first-century Britain that shows us the founding of the bizarre Calipash clan.
Tanzer expertly weaves period-accurate language and cultural elements with mischievous mores and hints at cosmic darkness. Every story is wickedly wonderful and you’ll be left wanting to learn more about the debauched and gifted Calipashes.
A definite recommendation for anyone who likes there horror on the weird and Lovecraftian side.
Part novel, part short story collection, part genealogy of the cursed Calipash family, Molly Tanzer effortlessly shifts gears from Wodehouse parody to sword-and-sandal epic, and from ribald comedy to gruesome horror to titillating smut, all without ever losing her fantastic authorial voice. This delightfully unclassifiable debut is one of the finest books I've read in years, and is like nothing else you've ever read, I promise.