Indelicacy: A Novel (Paperback)

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Indelicacy: A Novel By Amina Cain Cover Image

Indelicacy: A Novel (Paperback)


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Staff Reviews

Maybe the most telling way to describe “Indelicacy”: when I googled the author, it turns out she is American. I was shocked. It doesn’t have a trace of the commonplace American contemporary sensibility of most published novels these days. This novel has a quiet maturity, of a different time and place but none in particular. And to use the yet again controversial word -- it’s feminist. To me, the main character epitomizes this catch-all phrase, and refreshingly so. Yet there are other female characters who show completely different life views and decisions that I, and the main character, respect as well. That’s feminist. Cain hits the nail on the head for women, with all their self-doubt, and with an even stronger inner will, who will not be defined, navigating some big questions: Can you ever really transcend the class you are born into? Who owns you? What makes someone weird? The protagonist loathes society’s small-mindedness but forges ahead. I loved this book.

— From Gena


"Cain’s small but mighty novel reads like a ghost story and packs the punch of a feminist classic." The New York Times Book Review

A haunted feminist fable, Amina Cain’s Indelicacy is the story of a woman navigating between gender and class roles to empower herself and fulfill her dreams.

In "a strangely ageless world somewhere between Emily Dickinson and David Lynch" (Blake Butler), a cleaning woman at a museum of art nurtures aspirations to do more than simply dust the paintings around her. She dreams of having the liberty to explore them in writing, and so must find a way to win herself the time and security to use her mind. She escapes her lot by marrying a rich man, but having gained a husband, a house, high society, and a maid, she finds that her new life of privilege is no less constrained. Not only has she taken up different forms of time-consuming labor—social and erotic—but she is now, however passively, forcing other women to clean up after her. Perhaps another and more drastic solution is necessary?

Reminiscent of a lost Victorian classic in miniature, yet taking equal inspiration from such modern authors as Jean Rhys, Octavia Butler, Clarice Lispector, and Jean Genet, Amina Cain's Indelicacy is at once a ghost story without a ghost, a fable without a moral, and a down-to-earth investigation of the barriers faced by women in both life and literature. It is a novel about seeing, class, desire, anxiety, pleasure, friendship, and the battle to find one’s true calling.

Amina Cain is the author of the short fiction collections Creature and I Go to Some Hollow. Her essays and short stories have appeared in n+1, The Paris Review Daily, BOMB, Full Stop, Vice, the Believer Logger, and other places. She lives in Los Angeles and is a contributing editor at BOMB.

Product Details ISBN: 9781250785718
ISBN-10: 1250785715
Publisher: Picador
Publication Date: February 9th, 2021
Pages: 176
Language: English

"Indelicacy is a short book but it feels brilliantly expansive to read. Cain writes beautiful precise sentences about what it means to wander through this luminous world." —Jenny Offill, author of Dept. of Speculation and Weather

Eyebrow raising, tantalizing, and unforgettable . . . Indelicacy makes you think about creativity, friendship, and the nature of time . . . It transported me to a different part of my life." —Elisabeth Egan, The New York Times Book Review

"Cain’s small but mighty novel reads like a ghost story and packs the punch of a feminist classic." The New York Times Book Review (11 New Books We Recommend This Week)

"This novel is a celebration of writing, and women’s writing in particular . . . Cain makes a compelling argument for the spiritual necessity of creative freedom." —Rhian Sasseen, The Paris Review (Staff Pick)

"Indelicacy . . . is a work of feminist existentialism, or existentialist feminism—searching, like Lispector, and lucid, like Camus." —Martin Riker, The Paris Review Daily

"This sparse, elliptical novel finds new complexities in the familiar conflict between creative independence and the lures of traditional domesticity . . . stripped of all inessential details, the narrative has the simplicity of a parable—one whose images lodge themselves uneasily in the mind." The New Yorker

"Indelicacy . . . is a thing of real delicacy, with a fine, distilled quality to the writing, every word precisely chosen, precisely placed. . . . there’s a slyness to Cain’s writing that cuts through, and makes the tale increasingly engrossing. By the end, you walk in step with her heroine as she finds her own path towards freedom." --Holly Williams, The Guardian

"The experience of reading Amina Cain’s novel Indelicacy is kind of like that of meditating on a painting. Like a painting, the world . . . is stripped down . . . Cain has made a new thing with Indelicacy." Kate Durbin, Los Angeles Review of Books

"Cain’s writing feels otherworldly . . . Indelicacy is stripped down like the chalk-lined set of the Lars von Trier movie Dogville. . . This is all in keeping with the world of Indelicacy, where wonder and fear vibrate alongside each other." Nathan Scott McNamara, Los Angeles Review of Books

"While the book features vulgarities . . . its language and fragmented structure are gauzy and fine . . . The real magic of Cain’s slim novel lies in its restraint and precision . . . with its soft atmosphere and appreciation of the unspoken, the book evokes the filmmaking of Sofia Coppola, Joanna Hogg or Claire Denis." Alina Cohen, The Observer

"Indelicacy is a quiet stalking of inspiration, a very delicate approach." Abby Walthausen, The Believer

"This beautiful volume presents a compelling and unexpected take on women’s fulfillment in love, work and the world. Feminist and meticulous, Indelicacy is fresh, graceful, and gratifyingly daring." —Karla Strand, Ms. Magazine

"I read [Indelicacy] slowly, in a kind of reverie, wanting to savour every page. It is so exquisite and precise that I felt I wanted to read it constantly, to live inside it . . . A completely absorbing, luminous account of a woman inhabiting her life and creativity." —Megan Hunter, author of The End We Start From

"Amina Cain’s slim, precisely wrought debut novel reads as a fresh consideration of what it means to be a female artist." —AVClub

"The story of a marriage is generally meant to impose order on the novel, to subordinate each moment to a larger design. In Indelicacy, this story finds itself subordinate to other forms of female pleasure and desire: friendship, sex, dancing, writing, daydreaming." —Sarah Resnick, Bookforum

"Bewitching . . . Cain’s concentrated, subtle, and intriguing portrait of an evolving artist resolutely rejecting gender and class roles, with its subtle nods to Jean Rhys, Clarice Lispector, and Octavia Butler, explores the risks and rewards of a call to create and self-liberate." —Donna Seaman, Booklist (starred review)

"Cain upends fairy tale endings in . . . this incisive tale . . .[Indelicacy] disquiets with its potent, swift human dramas." Publishers Weekly

"A sort of ghostly arthouse Cinderella . . . Cain’s prose vibrates with fear and wonder. This is a novel I read three times slowly, basking in each phrase." —Nate McNamara, Literary Hub

"Deeply rooted in the literary tradition, [Indelicacy] inconspicuously references works like Jean Rhys' Wide Sargasso Sea and Octavia Butler's Kindred and explores themes like class and gender. With its short, spare sentences, Cain's writing seems simple on the surface—but it is deeply observant of the human condition, female friendships, and art. A short, elegant tale about female desire and societal expectations." —Kirkus Reviews

"To read Amina Cain is to enter tide pools of the mind. On its surface, her fiction is quiet, lovely, contained, but sit with any passage and that which seems still uncoils and comes alive. The reach of her fiction is an invitation to peer deep into our inner worlds." —Alissa Hattman, The Rumpus

"Cain . . . works with insight and finely crafted writing, making Indelicacy perfect for fans of Virginia Woolf and Michael Cunningham." —Cindy Pauldine, Shelf Awareness (starred)

"I developed a kind of synesthesia when considering Cain’s writing . . . Indelicacy is graceful and incisive." —Anne K. Yoder, The Millions

"Though Indelicacy does not announce itself as autofiction, it shares with autofiction what I find to be the most fundamental aspects of the genre: the act of writing becomes inextricable from the story being told." --Natalie Bakopoulos, Fiction Writers Review

"What would a Vermeer look like painted by its subject? Measured, intense, precise, explosive, sensual, violent, mesmerising." —Joanna Walsh, author of Break.up

"In Indelicacy we meet a woman who spends time studying landscape paintings and then walking inside the landscapes where she lives. She looks at a landscape then moves inside another, and as we read it begins to seem that the landscapes in paintings and in fiction are eerily the same. In a deeply pleasing way, reading this novel is a bit like standing in a painting, a masterful study of light and dark, inside and out, freedom and desire. Amina Cain is one of my favorite writers. I loved reading this book." —Danielle Dutton, author of Margaret the First

"To read Amina Cain's Indelicacy is akin to donning magnifying spectacles that distill a woman's past into modern reality, these lucid and uncanny lenses remaining on the eye far beyond her pages." —Josephine Foster, musical artist

"With simplicity and wisdom, Amina Cain's Indelicacy strips away the clutter of the modern novel, leaving only her narrator’s concentrated attention and yearning. As a tribute to the history of its own form, Indelicacy manages to expand our ideas of both the classic and the contemporary." —Tim Kinsella, music-maker and author of Sunshine on an Open Tomb

"Acutely observed, Indelicacy is an exquisite jewel box of a novel with the passion and vitality found only in such rare and necessary works as The Hour of the Star and The Days of Abandonment. Through this timeless examination of solitude, art, and friendship, Amina Cain announces herself as one of the most intriguing writers of our time." —Patrick Cottrell, author of Sorry to Disrupt the Peace

"Amina Cain's diligence, patience, and clarity of vision are unparalleled. This is a writer profoundly aware of the impact and import of silence. Her sentences echo long after they’ve landed on the page. Keep your eyes peeled for Indelicacy." —Azareen Van der Vliet Oloomi, author of Call Me Zebra

"Amina Cain redefines strangeness and freedom in this beautiful and unusual novel that resembles fairy tales and ghost stories but feels intensely contemporary." —Alejandro Zambra, author of Multiple Choice

"Indelicacy is a novel like the tolling of a great bell. It will move your heart. Amina Cain's writing is the rarest kind: it creates not only new scenes and characters, but new feelings." —Sofia Samatar, author of Winged Histories

"I was spellbound by Amina Cain’s Indelicacy, partly because it is a lucid novel about human relationships, the soul, art, and change; partly because it is an intelligent yet raw tale about what ruptures are required to grow room for oneself; partly because of its witty juxtaposition of good and bad; but mostly because it is deeply original, like nothing I've ever read before." —Gunnhild Øyehaug, author of Wait, Blink