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Kind Mirrors, Ugly Ghosts

Published by Archway Editions
Distributed by Simon & Schuster

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About The Book

The first major book from a longtime legend in underground literature; known by citation and word of mouth, but only now emerging with a work that will earn a broad audience.

Kind Mirrors, Ugly Ghosts is why I want to read. There are few books at all that expand the exploration of family, outsider sex, animal love, therapy and surreal vision and even fewer writers who do it as well as Claire Donato. My mind and heart are thankfully changed forever.”
—JAMIE STEWART of Xiu Xiu and author of Anything That Moves

Kind Mirrors, Ugly Ghosts moves and feels like a novel of ideas, yes, but also a lookbook of Rorshachs; a concept cookbook for famished phantoms; a fragmentary tour de force a la Duras. On every page, it lines the mind with vibrant space, as extraordinary in its candor about desire, artifice, and intimacy as it is with wordplay, wit, and social theory. “Death is a mirror of time, and life is not as heavy as it seems,” Donato writes, beckoning us forward through the void of realism as might an imaginary friend we thought we’d lost—or should I say ‘guardian angel’?”
—BLAKE BUTLER, author

"In Claire Donato's fiction, I am both looking in and being looked at. The depths of desire are on display, laying bare the complexity and the ugliness that often comes with it."
—MOLLY SODA, artist

"Claire Donato's prose is at once playful and masterful, charming and haunting—I loved these short stories with huge imaginations."
—CHELSEA HODSON, author of Tonight I'm Someone Else

"Love is a source of radical questioning whose only enemy is indifference. Claire Donato’s fever dream of a novel goes toe to toe with today’s anomie, stretching our only resource left, language, so we can navigate a 21st century landscape of violently changing relationships, with one another, with the natural world, and with our bodies."
—JAMIESON WEBSTER, psychoanalyst and author

In the disquieting stories of Kind Mirrors, Ugly Ghosts, a fractaled Claire Donato contemplates grief and disgust in heterosexuality, deconstructing the romance myth and the illicit fantasies which reflect our haunted selves. These fictions are populated with Lynchian characters, draped in memory and the subconscious mind, who imagine their way out of the painful limits of their world: a turtle retreats into its shell and becomes a real girl. A porn addict turns into a baby boy in the arms of his barren cyber-girlfriend. And a digitally-marred depressive joins forces with the ghost of Simone Weil to kill a chicken.

Donato’s fictions are precise and cutting, seamlessly integrating a vast knowledge of art through sharp criticism and a history of cult traditions: Donnie Darko, Wings of Desire, Daisies, and Twin Peaks and artists including Clarice Lispector, M.F.K. Fisher, Sibylle Baier, and The Velvet Underground.

Kind Mirrors, Ugly Ghosts concludes with "Gravity and Grace, the Chicken and the Egg, or: How to Cook Everything Vegetarian", a novella-in-vignettes that frames cooking as an entrypoint to light, awareness, and connection. With associative lyricism and a preternatural ability to gaze into the void with tenderness, Donato relays an indescribably strange perception of our world, in which maniacal grief turns to a gleeful protest before becoming, against all odds, a love letter to what remains.

Cover photo:
Jimmy DeSana
Contact Paper, 1980
Vintage C-print
© the Jimmy DeSana Trust
Courtesy of the Jimmy DeSana Trust and P·P·O·W, New York

About The Author

Claire Donato is the author of Burial, a fiction novella, and The Second Body, a full-length collection of poems. Her work has been included in numerous anthologies, and recent writing has appeared in The Brooklyn Rail, Fence, The Chicago Review, Forever, BOMB, The Elephants, DIAGRAM, and GoldFlakePaint. She also contributed an introduction to The One on Earth: Selected Works of Mark Baumer. In addition to writing books, Claire makes music, illustrates, and has a 35mm photography practice. Currently, she works as Acting Chairperson of Writing at Pratt Institute, where she received the 2020-2021 Distinguished Teacher Award. She lives in Brooklyn with her cat Woebegone.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Archway Editions (November 7, 2023)
  • Length: 250 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781648230394

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Raves and Reviews

"Love is a source of radical questioning whose only enemy is indifference. Claire Donato’s fever dream of a novel goes toe to toe with today’s anomie, stretching our only resource left, language, so we can navigate a 21st century landscape of violently changing relationships, with one another, with the natural world, and with our bodies."

—JAMIESON WEBSTER, psychoanalyst and author

"Claire Donato's prose is at once playful and masterful, charming and haunting—I loved these short stories with huge imaginations."

—CHELSEA HODSON, author of Tonight I'm Someone Else

"In Claire Donato's fiction, I am both looking in and being looked at. The depths of desire are on display, laying bare the complexity and the ugliness that often comes with it."

—MOLLY SODA, artist

Kind Mirrors, Ugly Ghosts moves and feels like a novel of ideas, yes, but also a lookbook of Rorshachs; a concept cookbook for famished phantoms; a fragmentary tour de force a la Duras. On every page, it lines the mind with vibrant space, as extraordinary in its candor about desire, artifice, and intimacy as it is with wordplay, wit, and social theory. “Death is a mirror of time, and life is not as heavy as it seems,” Donato writes, beckoning us forward through the void of realism as might an imaginary friend we thought we’d lost—or should I say ‘guardian angel’?”

—BLAKE BUTLER, author

Kind Mirrors, Ugly Ghosts is why I want to read. There are few books at all that expand the exploration of family, outsider sex, animal love, therapy and surreal vision and even fewer writers who do it as well as Claire Donato. My mind and heart are thankfully changed forever.”

—JAMIE STEWART of Xiu Xiu and author of Anything That Moves

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