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“Like an experimentally inclined Annie Proulx, Saterstrom tersely renders the effects of social violence on individual lives . . . the effect is shattering and transcendent.”—Modern Times Bookstore newsletter In lyric, diamond-cut prose, Selah Saterstrom revisits the mythic, dead-end Southern town of Beau Repose. This time, the story follows a strung-out American teenager i “Like an experimentally inclined Annie Proulx, Saterstrom tersely renders the effects of social violence on individual lives . . . the effect is shattering and transcendent.”—Modern Times Bookstore newsletter In lyric, diamond-cut prose, Selah Saterstrom revisits the mythic, dead-end Southern town of Beau Repose. This time, the story follows a strung-out American teenager influenced by heavy metal, inspired by Ginger Rogers, hell-bent on self-destruction, and more intelligent than anyone around her realizes. She is forced into rehab and private school, and her life, at least on the surface, changes course, eventually leading to theology studies in Scotland. But as the feverish St. Vitus’s dance of her adolescence morphs into slow-motion inertia abroad, an illness brings her home again—to face the legacy of pain she left behind and to find a way to become the lead in a dance of her own creation. An heir to William Faulkner and Toni Morrison, Saterstrom soars above the traditional boundaries of the American novel with “exquisite, cut-to-the-quick language” (Raleigh News & Observer) that makes her novels “impossible to put down.” Spare, raw, and transcendent, Saterstrom’s unflinching examination of modern-day Dixie and contemporary adolescence lights up the dark corners of the American experience. Selah Saterstrom is the author of The Pink Institution, a debut novel praised across the country for “letting gusts of fresh, tart air blow into the old halls of Southern Gothic” (The Believer). A Mississippi native, she is currently on the faculty of the University of Denver's Creative Writing Program. Visit her website at www.selahsaterstrom.com.


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“Like an experimentally inclined Annie Proulx, Saterstrom tersely renders the effects of social violence on individual lives . . . the effect is shattering and transcendent.”—Modern Times Bookstore newsletter In lyric, diamond-cut prose, Selah Saterstrom revisits the mythic, dead-end Southern town of Beau Repose. This time, the story follows a strung-out American teenager i “Like an experimentally inclined Annie Proulx, Saterstrom tersely renders the effects of social violence on individual lives . . . the effect is shattering and transcendent.”—Modern Times Bookstore newsletter In lyric, diamond-cut prose, Selah Saterstrom revisits the mythic, dead-end Southern town of Beau Repose. This time, the story follows a strung-out American teenager influenced by heavy metal, inspired by Ginger Rogers, hell-bent on self-destruction, and more intelligent than anyone around her realizes. She is forced into rehab and private school, and her life, at least on the surface, changes course, eventually leading to theology studies in Scotland. But as the feverish St. Vitus’s dance of her adolescence morphs into slow-motion inertia abroad, an illness brings her home again—to face the legacy of pain she left behind and to find a way to become the lead in a dance of her own creation. An heir to William Faulkner and Toni Morrison, Saterstrom soars above the traditional boundaries of the American novel with “exquisite, cut-to-the-quick language” (Raleigh News & Observer) that makes her novels “impossible to put down.” Spare, raw, and transcendent, Saterstrom’s unflinching examination of modern-day Dixie and contemporary adolescence lights up the dark corners of the American experience. Selah Saterstrom is the author of The Pink Institution, a debut novel praised across the country for “letting gusts of fresh, tart air blow into the old halls of Southern Gothic” (The Believer). A Mississippi native, she is currently on the faculty of the University of Denver's Creative Writing Program. Visit her website at www.selahsaterstrom.com.

30 review for The Meat and Spirit Plan

  1. 5 out of 5

    Chad

    The Meat and Spirit Plan by Selah Saterstrom is a brilliant, brutal book. It is a coming-of-age novel, but unlike one I’ve ever read. Imagine Kathy Acker writing the Little House on the Prairie series, and you’ll gain a vague glimmer of Saterstrom’s unique prose. Her novel simultaneously produces feelings of horror and beauty, for in the main character’s world there is no separation between these two elements. For example, after the main character (readers never discover her name) moves from Mis The Meat and Spirit Plan by Selah Saterstrom is a brilliant, brutal book. It is a coming-of-age novel, but unlike one I’ve ever read. Imagine Kathy Acker writing the Little House on the Prairie series, and you’ll gain a vague glimmer of Saterstrom’s unique prose. Her novel simultaneously produces feelings of horror and beauty, for in the main character’s world there is no separation between these two elements. For example, after the main character (readers never discover her name) moves from Mississippi to Glasgow, she experiences reoccurring dreams where she’s in the same room with a butcher. Some nights the butcher slaughters animals like cows or pigs, but other nights he hacks women and children. The narrator muses, “…I never know what I will find in the butcher’s room. Sometimes a cow, sometimes a pig, sometimes a person. When it is a cow or pig I feel calm during the day. When it is a person I feel hysterical.” These passages read like Brueghel paintings that have come to life: violent, terrifying, but also beautiful. Saterstrom has created a captivating narrative, one deeply connected to the South. She has conjured a world where Ginger Rogers, Derrida, and The Blue Lagoon people cohabit the same spaces. Her sentences are immaculately structured, and if you read slowly, you’ll find yourself learning humorous, horrifying information about her characters and narrative with each passage. The Meat and Spirit Plan is an original, mesmerizing account of a young woman’s intellectual and sexual awakenings. I can’t recommend it enough.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Sarah Etter

    i wrote about this as part of gabriel blackwell's one note series at small doggies. i wrote about this as part of gabriel blackwell's one note series at small doggies.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Darshan Elena

    At its start, The Meat and Spirit Plan made me feel nervous, anxious even. The unnamed narrator's telling of her life is both subtle and brutal. Intimate violence seemed to define her childhood and adolescence, and readers were made its witness and survivor. The narrator describes her first experiences of sex with such dispassion that she too seems its witness, not its participant. I felt intense sensations of fear and familiarity, first in relation to my own childhood and adolescence and second At its start, The Meat and Spirit Plan made me feel nervous, anxious even. The unnamed narrator's telling of her life is both subtle and brutal. Intimate violence seemed to define her childhood and adolescence, and readers were made its witness and survivor. The narrator describes her first experiences of sex with such dispassion that she too seems its witness, not its participant. I felt intense sensations of fear and familiarity, first in relation to my own childhood and adolescence and second in relation to my experiences as a college student and embodied spectator of Larry Clark's Kids: I was both on screen and in the audience. The narrator's invocation of feminist sexual identities of the college set was sheer brilliance, as was the evolution of her critical consciousness. I felt as those I was aging alongside the narrator, learning to name, recall, theorize. In the end, I loved this novel, including the discomfort it inspired.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Jessica

    this book says a lot in a very measured way - a series of scenes or vignettes that are sometimes more poetry than prose which stack on top of each other to form a narrative centered on a character who is pretty fucked up but you want to love her because that's really what she needs. i think this book has a lot of potential for re-reading to glean the tidbits i'm sure i passed over the first time.

  5. 5 out of 5

    anon

    Reading The Meat and Spirit Plan by Selah Saterstom was like receiving an I.V. drip of bong water, pig placenta, T-bone steak, Anthrax (the band), bile, mayonnaise, mop water, ice, sex enzymes, unsalted crackers, pancreatic discharge, valium, Jack Daniels and Jell-O made from the flesh beneath toenails, but with the letters of the alphabet soup I.V. drip all beautifully scrambled and missing the letters E, N and S, and administered tenderly. Now kindly undo these straps!

  6. 4 out of 5

    Tex Gresham

    You ever look back on your life and try and piece it all together and all you're left with are these fragments that add up to something but maybe not the thing you thought your life added up to? That's what this book is like. Selah Saterstrom crafts a portrait of a young woman trying to transcend from who she was into who she wants to be. Yes, the book is brutal and abstract and doesn't seek to make you comfortable. But it's fucking beautiful. The moments are all condensed down to an essence tha You ever look back on your life and try and piece it all together and all you're left with are these fragments that add up to something but maybe not the thing you thought your life added up to? That's what this book is like. Selah Saterstrom crafts a portrait of a young woman trying to transcend from who she was into who she wants to be. Yes, the book is brutal and abstract and doesn't seek to make you comfortable. But it's fucking beautiful. The moments are all condensed down to an essence that leave you feeling like you've just remembered something you've forgotten until just now––sometimes that's a good thing, but a lot of times it fucking sucks to remember. It's an odd book, poetic and rich. Don't be discourage. Walk along the roads Selah crafts in these pages and I promise you'll end it all being glad you took the first step.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Val Killpack

    A wry celebration of disparity This text embraces the coming-of-age story and takes it into new territory. Growing up is not just about finding the self, but it is about establishing a relationship between the "meat" and the "spirit," or in other words, about resolving the mind/body problem: trying to create a sense of a unified and whole entity, while the body is changing and the mind (spirit) is changing. This text is about process, and to evaluate this process, it steps outside the subject to A wry celebration of disparity This text embraces the coming-of-age story and takes it into new territory. Growing up is not just about finding the self, but it is about establishing a relationship between the "meat" and the "spirit," or in other words, about resolving the mind/body problem: trying to create a sense of a unified and whole entity, while the body is changing and the mind (spirit) is changing. This text is about process, and to evaluate this process, it steps outside the subject to look through and at the subject, but still from the position of the subject. It is an objective look at subjectivity in first person point-of-view. Perhaps it represents the confusion and disassociation that result from trauma. Coming-of-age is shown here as psychological trauma--and the body/mind separation that results. The subject becomes a witness, removed into a safer place, a place without feeling. The section titles say something in themselves: "Headbanger's Ball" juxtaposed with "Religious Studies," then "The Slaughterhouses of Glasgow," "Magic Tricks for a Hospital Setting," and "The Life of Ginger Rogers, by Ginger Rogers." Why the heavy-metal chapter titles? Maybe something about the rawness of the narrator's early life experience. And the violence. Clashing against everything, and needing to scream, but being unable to, so doing it vicariously through music. Catharsis. The titles correspond with her action, "I incised some narrow lines into my palms and between my fingers" (43). The separate passages--the fragmented nature of the form this text is presented to us in--this represents memory. It resembles recollections told to a therapist over a period of time--or a journal written after the fact, maybe. The "Religious Studies" section illustrates an attempt at college life. She is in a period of seeking, and immersed in an institution. The highly-structured environment may not work for her in a long-term way, but it has opened her into a new awareness, perhaps, at least in some small way. "The Slaughterhouses of Glasgow" shows her expanding out into a multi-cultural world. A certain violence still pervades this section, but it is not only matter-of-fact, like earlier in the book, but maybe even wry, humorous, or even slightly celebratory of the disparity she again finds herself immersed in. Instead of music, she finds expression in art, and sits in front of it, rather than talk or write her thesis: "Then I sit in front of it when I'm supposed to be at University library writing my research thesis" (143-144). A slaughtered ox that represents so much for her--this metaphor is so colourful. "Magic Tricks for a Hospital Setting" transitions the narrator into a space of healing. She must look at her problems of metabolising/digesting her past. "The Life of Ginger Rogers, by Ginger Rogers" projects her experience into a setting of film. She becomes the film star--her only name in the book--and a surreal art film with a multi-cultural cast brings together her experience thus far. This film incorporates everything, such a variety and scope, and it contains the element of acceptance, rather than a pushing away, a clinging to, or an ignoring of experience. This so-called film finds a new language that includes all languages. Ginger Rogers becomes birth, life, old age, sickness, and death. The end.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Max

    My feelings on this book are rather mixed. I absolutely did not like, in fact quite possibly hated, the first portion of the book. The narrator was completely unrelatable and uninteresting, defined by nothing more than sex and drugs. The portions about her life in college both in the South and in Scotland were somewhat better and had some interesting stuff I could relate to a bit more. The last few sections of the book, however, were not very good. Once the narrator goes to the hospital, the plo My feelings on this book are rather mixed. I absolutely did not like, in fact quite possibly hated, the first portion of the book. The narrator was completely unrelatable and uninteresting, defined by nothing more than sex and drugs. The portions about her life in college both in the South and in Scotland were somewhat better and had some interesting stuff I could relate to a bit more. The last few sections of the book, however, were not very good. Once the narrator goes to the hospital, the plot feels less interesting, and the mystery of the "night nurse" that isn't is never resolved, which is unsatisfying. The final section was utterly useless and didn't resolve anything. The front flap claims that the protagonist will make a plan for her life, but this wasn't really in evidence at all. I did not find the way the book was written to be particularly interesting. It seems to be a sort of journal/stream of consciousness narrative, but I found the way it was divided up to be arbitrary and not work very well. Over all, while I didn't hate this book completely, it was mainly because the middle of it was somewhat interesting and it was overall a short read. This definitely did not inspire me to read any of the author's other works, and I'd advise against reading this one if you can avoid it (I could not).

  9. 4 out of 5

    Robert

    I'm obviously in the extreme minority with how I feel about this book, so I thought it might be worth a revisit. I tried to get into this book again and found it excruciating. Flat sentences without breaks drills boredom into my eyes. I can't stand how this book is structured, it's like someone telling you an uninteresting story they themselves are bored with. It really does feel like reading the same page over and over, the main character is a tumbleweed of sex and bad decisions. It's a pet pee I'm obviously in the extreme minority with how I feel about this book, so I thought it might be worth a revisit. I tried to get into this book again and found it excruciating. Flat sentences without breaks drills boredom into my eyes. I can't stand how this book is structured, it's like someone telling you an uninteresting story they themselves are bored with. It really does feel like reading the same page over and over, the main character is a tumbleweed of sex and bad decisions. It's a pet peeve of mine to repeat words in close proximity. I feel it's kind of lazy, and the words usually lose power with each repetition. This book does that a lot. There were a few passages that I liked, but they are lost in the mire. This book feels like a poetry book trying to be a novel, mid transformation the book has died trying to twist itself into something its not. As a poetry book the narrative would have more impact with a tighter structure. As a novel it's too detached and abstract, pretentious even, with its beautiful gems hidden under expositional padding or diluted by arbitrary detail.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Allison Floyd

    In a word, eh. This book definitely has its moments: "...we can't all be stars or the night would be as bright as day." Actually, my favorite part was the very end, so maybe if she'd continued from there...Or maybe not. Maybe this book is just way too high concept for proletarian me. Or maybe the air of detachment--while I realize it's probably supposed to be symptomatic of the shock the narrator is experiencing throughout a seemingly endless series of brutal events--made it difficult, with rare In a word, eh. This book definitely has its moments: "...we can't all be stars or the night would be as bright as day." Actually, my favorite part was the very end, so maybe if she'd continued from there...Or maybe not. Maybe this book is just way too high concept for proletarian me. Or maybe the air of detachment--while I realize it's probably supposed to be symptomatic of the shock the narrator is experiencing throughout a seemingly endless series of brutal events--made it difficult, with rare exceptions, such as the beautifully rendered scene in which she goes on a crying jag after the death of her mother, to feel anything but detached. I've seen this done to harrowing effect before--Cruddy is a really good example--but for whatever reason, here it mostly read like a particularly poetic shopping list. I couldn't convince myself there was any reason--other than the natural outrage at what the narrator suffered--I should find this voice especially compelling or care. I love the cover, though.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Peter

    I was looking forward to reading this book after being impressed by Selah Saterstrom's debut, The Pink Institution. The Meat and Spirit Plan didn't disappoint. In fact, it's grittier than Pink Institution - something that I appreciate when it's done well - and feels like it goes deeper into Saterstrom's studies in depraved deep South characters. I must admit, toward the middle of the book, the sexual abuse heaped upon the lead character starts to drag and become redundant and reductive, but only I was looking forward to reading this book after being impressed by Selah Saterstrom's debut, The Pink Institution. The Meat and Spirit Plan didn't disappoint. In fact, it's grittier than Pink Institution - something that I appreciate when it's done well - and feels like it goes deeper into Saterstrom's studies in depraved deep South characters. I must admit, toward the middle of the book, the sexual abuse heaped upon the lead character starts to drag and become redundant and reductive, but only become the point has already been made: this intelligent girl's life is made terrifying by the people she's forced to live among while growing up. We can only hope for better once she leaves town... I'll stop there. As far as I'm concerned, this book makes me hopeful for the future of American fiction. Here's to more like it...

  12. 4 out of 5

    Kira Henehan

    This is one of those books where the subject matter was of far less interest to me than the writing itself; I did NOT want to read anything to which the phrase "coming of age" could be applied and I did NOT want to read about the South and I did NOT want to read about drug abuse. I read it anyway, start to finish, because the writing and structure were, respectively, beautiful and innovative. It's a brutal story; where The Pink Institution gives a sort of general intro to the world of the truly This is one of those books where the subject matter was of far less interest to me than the writing itself; I did NOT want to read anything to which the phrase "coming of age" could be applied and I did NOT want to read about the South and I did NOT want to read about drug abuse. I read it anyway, start to finish, because the writing and structure were, respectively, beautiful and innovative. It's a brutal story; where The Pink Institution gives a sort of general intro to the world of the truly degenerate south, this one narrows the focus to one voice living through it. Both books are beautiful objects as well.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Nate Jordon

    I picked this up last night and couldn’t put it down, subconsciously compelled to read this amazing book from cover to cover in one sitting. Using compact, witty, and cathartic vignettes, Saterstrom transports the reader into the heart and mind of the nameless narrator, where the female heroine exposes her darkest secrets as if it’s a ritual, a rite of passage, as we follow her through childhood to early adulthood. The succession of scenes act as snapshots, the flashbulbs exploding in the mind l I picked this up last night and couldn’t put it down, subconsciously compelled to read this amazing book from cover to cover in one sitting. Using compact, witty, and cathartic vignettes, Saterstrom transports the reader into the heart and mind of the nameless narrator, where the female heroine exposes her darkest secrets as if it’s a ritual, a rite of passage, as we follow her through childhood to early adulthood. The succession of scenes act as snapshots, the flashbulbs exploding in the mind leaving the reader in awe.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Thaisa Frank

    A tough, lyric and wildly original short novel by Selah Saterstrom written outside the tedious box of American fiction. I'm sure a lot of people would like to call this a coming-of-age story, but graphic images of butchery and Rembrandt's Anatomy Lesson create a subtext that is a meditation on visceral life, the body itself. The book is sad without being self-pitying (particuarly images of the fictional narrator's early home life) and wildly funny (particularly about postmodernist studies in Sco A tough, lyric and wildly original short novel by Selah Saterstrom written outside the tedious box of American fiction. I'm sure a lot of people would like to call this a coming-of-age story, but graphic images of butchery and Rembrandt's Anatomy Lesson create a subtext that is a meditation on visceral life, the body itself. The book is sad without being self-pitying (particuarly images of the fictional narrator's early home life) and wildly funny (particularly about postmodernist studies in Scotland). A great read. It held me all the way.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Sara

    The poetic voice was so painfully strong and controlled that it almost killed me. Somehow, within this poetic and fragmentary structure, there was a narrative. There was also a strong sense of setting, and even plot twists and turns on occasion. Really impressive. I would like to read it again, but I need to leave it alone for awhile. The material is so cutting that at points it is truly nauseating. In short, this book is unbelievable and not to be read lightly.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Jac

    I really enjoyed this book. Super quick read. Think 3 train rides. Saterstrom does an swesome job of keeping the reader moving through the text, while still keeping it really open and not providing all the answers. The narrative mode allows for lots of fun and surprising stuff to go on stylistically.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Leilani Clark

    I knew a girl who grew up in Mississippi listening to heavy metal, smoking pot, dropping acid, getting wasted, but all the while she was super smart and thinking about everything as it was happening. Selah Saterstrom tells this story in this dark, poetic book about life on the inside of a slaughtered ox girl.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Derek Fenner

    What a great read. Structurally there was some Stein, maybe a hint of Flannery O'Connor with a ton of dashing one-liners that read with a poetic magnitude generally reserved for poems. I'll be picking up her first novel for sure. There's also this need to think of Poppy Z. Brite that won't let me leave this little review alone.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Kaylyssa Quinn

    My favorite parts were the sad-funny, raunchy, straightforward segments. Could have done without some of the more abstract language/sections when the rest of the book was so easy and pleasurable to read. In a weird way I found this book extremely realistic and relatable. I would definitely recommend this book, despite its minor imperfections.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Alex Ambard

    The Meat and Spirit Plan is told through a series of vignettes. The disjointed form establishes a meter while providing the reader with unexpected details, discoveries, and thematic recognition. This felt like the most honest coming of age story since On the Road. The Meat and Spirit Plan is unlike anything you've read before and it's absolutely life changing.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Stephanie

    Not for everyone, but I liked Saterstrom's spare novel. For a change, an experimental novel style that doesn't totally jettison any idea of plot and still allows for an emotional reaction to the main character's trajectory. Smart.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Dawnelle Wilkie

    An amazing, eclectic, smart, funny, brutal novel from a hugely talented writer. It's experimental and fabulous; like poetry that puts on prose pants and dances around the room. A quick read that makes you jump on-line and order her first book as soon as you finish it.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Joshua

    just read it tonight; it's astonishing: brutal, hilarious, brutal, wonderful, and so so good. You need it.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Gary McDowell

    JWM says it's "brutal." Cool.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Carmen

    This is one of the best books I've read in a long time.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Nick

    This book contains: cheap booze, cheap sex, cheap drugs, and absolutely stunning prose.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Erica

    Gut-wrenching and beautifully written, this book is not for those who dislike abstraction and occasional metaphysical forays in fiction. Selah Saterstrom is rad.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Renee

    American gothic: an engaging hard-to-put-down read.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Kate Sweeney

    Uneven, but the second half rocked hard.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Jessey Nickells

    I couldn't put it down. This book was an interesting mix of rights of passage most girls have passed through and a way of thinking that leaves the reader in a constant state of intrigue.

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