Dixie Stammers, a potter, and her son Judas, live in an unusual community in an unnamed southern state. When Judas is a teenager, the art world falls in love with Dixie when it is discovered that not only are her pots mechanically perfect spheres, they are also identical, despite the fact that they are made entirely by hand, without benef...
Dixie Stammers, a potter, and her son Judas, live in an unusual community in an unnamed southern state. When Judas is a teenager, the art world falls in love with Dixie when it is discovered that not only are her pots mechanically perfect spheres, they are also identical, despite the fact that they are made entirely by hand, without benefit of a wheel, measuring device, or any other tool. Fame and fortune puts a strain on Judas’s relationship with his mother, in part because he is an only child and never knew his father, but also because he is afflicted with a port wine stain that covers the entire left side of his body, including his face.
Pathologically shy (or maybe just pathological), the teenaged Judas retreats into a world of anonymous sexual encounters at a roadside rest area, although what he really longs for is a relationship with one of the boys at the private school he attends. This Academy was founded by Judas’s ancestral grandfather, a nineteenth-century coal magnate named Marcus Stammers who due to a tragic accident, closed his mines and transformed them into a nature conservancy, which is overseen by the Academy. Driven by both lust and a desire to understand his mother, Judas dives deeper into his family’s history, and the Academy’s, until he uncovers a series of secrets that causes him to question everything he thought he knew about his world.
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“An astonishing work of emotional wisdom . . . Peck has galvanized his reputation as one of the most eloquent voices of his generation.”
—The New York Times
“The prose is so unobtrusively graceful that it may take you a while to notice how beautiful it is ... Peck is as piercing on old age as on youth, as comfortable writing about women’s bodies as about men’s.”
—The New Yorker
“You'd think it has been done before but it really hasn't—the perfectly crafted, haunting and heartbreaking, raw, funny, unblinking yet merciful art novel.”
—Marlon James, author of Man Booker Prize-winning A Brief History of Seven Killings
“Dale Peck’s Night Soil, a portrait of the artist(s) as mother-and-son, is a feat of storytelling. Faulknerian in its mythmaking, Delany-esque in its candor, Peck’s novel chronicles the queer, complex family history and present education of (birth-)marked narrator and insider-outsider, Judas 'Jude' Stammers. Vivid, multilayered and carnal, this novel never fails to surprise.”
—John Keene, author of Counternarratives
“Night Soil is a novel about art, genius, capitalism, and the uncomfortable, full of the pleasures of the unbeautiful and the broken, from the only genius I know who could write it and live. An incisive, shrewd meditation on just what marks the limits of the human heart, and why.”
—Alexander Chee, author of The Queen of the Night
“Dale Peck’s intriguing, challenging Night Soil blends parable and queer coming of age story. American history gets told as dynastic drama. It is a genealogical narrative that then drops open like a trap door into the history of consciousness. This is a compelling contemplation of the weird and human as well as a vigorous exploration of literary form.”
—Darryl Pinckney, author of Black Deutschland
“I’ve long thought nobody writes queer coming-of-age tales of love and longing like Dale Peck. We've been waiting a decade for another novel and Night Soil delivers on every level and more. This is a parable for a dead modern world that's built shakily atop an undying past, a mysterious family history where the personal and the political continually raise the stakes, and a lyrical modern mythology only a mind like Peck's can produce. Art, nature, race, gender, sexuality, all of it is reexamined in this fiction 2018 and onward cannot afford to skip. Riveting, mesmerizing, haunting—the novel is so lucky to have Dale Peck back.”
—Porochista Khakpour, author of Sick: A Memoir
“Dale Peck has written a brilliant, beautiful, provocative novel about art, society and human consciousness itself. In it he retraces many of the concerns that first made his name, while extending them into daring new realms. Peck has proven once again why he is among the most gifted of writers in the country.”
—Calvin Baker, author of Grace
“Night Soil is a desperately funny, intensely smart novel that begins with a highly cloistered life—a young man growing up in the shadow of his mother's eccentric genius, and his family's equally eccentric boarding school—and grows into a story about the darkest secrets hidden in American landscapes. This was my first encounter with Dale Peck's fiction, and it made me want to go back and read everything he's written.”
—Jess Row, author of Your Face in Mine
“If I could pick one contemporary to write a novel about art and obsession, and families and obsession, and language and obsession, and cleanliness not being next to godliness but to very near something sinister, that person would be Dale Peck. And now he’s gone and done it. Read it and writhe.”
—Rebecca Brown, author of The Gifts of the Body
“Night Soil is not like other books, not like any other books, not at all. It’s excessive, preposterous, oddly-angled, exuberant, compulsive, stubborn, unseemly, unforgiving, indifferent to convention. You’re either going to love it or you’re going to hate it. I know where I stand.”
—Jim Lewis, author of The King Is Dead
“A remarkably layered and nuanced novel that explores many themes simultaneously—the relationship between a single mother and her son, the repercussions of slavery and racism in America, the abuse of our natural environment, the search for a paternal role model—all through the life of a singularly unique gay character.... Peck has done it with nuance and authenticity.”