Reading & Writing

Among the Dead and Dreaming by Samuel Ligon


I recently finished reading an exciting, sharply written novel that made me remember, even in my five-month postpartum, sleep-deprived and mommy-brained state, just how much I love reading. It’s called Among the Dead and Dreaming, it’s by Samuel Ligon, and you should go buy a copy immediately.

(Before I continue with my recommendation, I should tell you: Sam Ligon was my professor in grad school. My thesis adviser, actually. One of my favorite teachers of all time and a super-cool human being who would hate the fact that I just hyphenated “super-cool.” You might think that this–except, perhaps, for his hatred of hyphens–would mean that my reading of his book is completely biased and that you shouldn’t listen to anything I say about his work. You would be wrong. Because I respect him too much to lie about his work. If I didn’t like this novel, I would simply refrain from writing about it.)

So. Among the Dead and Dreaming.

I think what impressed me most about this book is the incredible balance between prose and plot. The story is told by a large number of first-person narrators, each of whom maintains a distinctive voice whether he or she is a central character or only chimes in once. It begins with the deaths of Kyle and Cynthia, and follows the aftermath of their passing alongside the story of Nikki (Kyle’s girlfriend at the time of his demise) and Burke, the psychotic brother of her long-dead ex. At times the narrative style, broken into so many monologues, is downright poetic, with input from characters such as Nikki’s dead mother and Cynthia’s unborn fetus. Then again, as the tension heightens, it’s almost pulp fiction–really really really well-written pulp fiction. I don’t want to give away any of the plot, so I’ll just tell you that it will pull you through it, and you might be impressed by some of Sam’s syntactical footwork along the way.

If you’re looking to read something intense and darkly romantic, read this book. If you enjoy smart prose, read this book. If you don’t mind reading a book by someone who eschews hyphenation whenever possible, even though certain phrases obviously benefit from a hyphen, read this book.

You should probably buy it, too. Give my professor his royalties, you know?


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