the book of webs
Juniper Prize for Fiction
Published by: University of Massachusetts Press
428 Pages, 5.50 x 8.50 x 1.20 in
- Published: March 2023
Word spreads from one recovering self-inflicted eye surgery patient to the next of a mystical book capable of overturning the Burlingtonian empire.
Captivating and devious, the book of webs is constructed out of misremembered fragments, conflicting histories, and secrets whispered in the darkness. The insurgents tell of an enemy so powerful it owns the air, dictates reality, and has even managed to co-opt their thoughts. Their only hope is to conspire with the uprisings of their bodies: slips of the tongue, excretions, tics, bad hair days, and, most importantly, their dreams.
In this darkly comic and inventive debut novel, Jesse Kohn introduces a network of shape-shifters and misfits. A militant priestess broods over orphaned angel eggs. A post-punk band animates a messianic homunculus made of belly button lint. A failed dream journalist goes on a terrible first date to heaven. Each misadventure is a chapter in a book devised to oppose the despotic order of their enemy—the book of webs.
"Kohn’s strange and ambitious book dances in the space between dream and nightmare, following a group of renegades and weirdos at odds with a repressive regime . . . There’s a trickstery story-about-a-story-about-a-story out into infinity about this book, and it asks, somewhere in its swirl, what is it to imagine a different world?"—The Boston Globe
“Operating somewhere on the brilliantly defamiliarized spectrum of Calvino, Erickson, Galeano, Lispector, Markson, the author of the book of webs seems determined to lead the reader into a hall of mirrors, a fever dream in which interlocutors enchant us into questioning that crowd-sourced phenomenon we call reality. Innovative, metafictive, whimsical, deep, this novel augurs the advent of a major writer.”—Edie Meidav, author of Another Love Discourse
“What a wonderfully strange and singular novel is Jesse Kohn's the book of webs. Be prepared to be lured in by the multitude of voices and visions and the ‘web’ that this book claims to be. In truth, the book of webs is more of a rabbit hole, a labyrinthian trapdoor to the eternal, a carnival ride that is both amusing and darkly disarming. Not a usual first book by any means. Not a usual book by any definition of the word. Kohn should be celebrated by this venture into the never-before. What lies ahead in this young writer's future is only what Kohn himself might imagine.”—Peter Markus, author of When Our Fathers Return to Us as Birds
“An assured, original piece of work. One of the best debut novels I've read in a long time.”—Carole Maso, author of Mother and Child
“In the book of webs, Jesse Kohn has written an extraordinary, epic novel, one that parodies storytelling itself. Breathtaking in its ability to balance satire and sincerity, humor and horror, politics and pathos, Kohn's sentences are entire worlds. ‘The sooner you learn to forget everything you ever read about what a book is, the better off we'll all be,’ Kohn writes and the book of webs is precisely that: a proposal for what the novel might be, reminiscent of the work of Kafka, Cervantes, Saramago, and Gogol. A magical, menacing debut.”—Lindsey Drager, author of The Archive of Alternative Endings