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Alana Noel Voth

Alana Noel Voth never writes on a full stomach. Her story collection, Dog Men, is now available from Tiny Hardcore Press. You can also find her on Twitter.

Blurbs

"Dreamy, dark, heartfelt, and all-the-way alive, Alana Noel Voth's DOG MEN goes right down to the place where damage meets desire and comes up shining."

– Paul Lisicky, author of Famous Builder, The Burning House and Unbuilt Projects

"DOG MEN is a collection proving that desire is as dangerous as it is unstoppable. Alana Noel Voth plays at the intersection of the erotic and the vulnerable, the frightening and the enlightening. Her stories move inside the electricity of first love, the shiver of the paranormal, the complicated bonds of family, the allure of the stranger. Her protagonists feel real, long-inhabited: fighters, moving through treacherous landscape with limited information, battling their own darker impulses, trying to do the right thing in a world with no moral center. DOG MEN will stay with you."

– Sera Gamble, Writer, Executive Producer and Show Runner, Supernatural

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Dog Men

Trigger Warnings

11/08/14

How real do we want our stories to be? These days, readers go in with their eyes open. We know how the writer plays the reader, how we by turn relax our guard, suspend our disbelief, pull back, check and recheck. We know we’re being taken for a ride — fuck it, if we bought a book, we’ve paid to be taken for a ride. But how far can we trust the author?

Reading Dog Men felt like walking on a melting ice sheet, everything slippery underfoot, liable to crack apart. Voth plays with images and snatches of song, with cultural scraps and genre tropes, like she’s making a jaggy, unpredictable landscape — cityscape, in fact — these stories are nothing if not man-made. Violence erupts instead of happy endings. References are scattered through the trailer parks and litter-blown streets — Georges Bataille, David Bowie, Pulp Fiction.

Plots occasionally break apart, or break down to reveal the tender longing of the heart. Just when I thought I’d fixed the writer’s motivations, they’d shift. Voth seems aware of every potential resonance within her work. Stories like “Reservoir Bitch,” with a protagonist that bleeds (literally), sweats and struggles, and an ending subtly and strongly underplayed, really got under my skin. By the end of the book, I was ready to believe in the fallen saint of Black Tina — a whore who “carries a knife in her bag.”

At times, these stories are hard to read. Voth is not afraid to make us confront the dark, weeping underbelly of the worlds we live in. These stories linger in your guts — I caught echoes of them every time I watched the news, read about rape or persecution, the powerful subjugating the vulnerable.

Willing to write gritty, hard-edged reality and swirl it with supernatural flair, Voth’s writing is supple and relentless. She doesn’t let the reader off the hook easily. She’ll show you the submerged, unarticulated desires of the collective unconscious — however trashy and shallow — and force you to confront your complicity as a reader, and as a human being.

The action here is deep and meaningful — characters make difficult choices, and endure the consequences. Not many writers would have you feel genuine, wrenching pity for the plight of a brain-eating zombie, or the most beautiful man in the world, or a loser who works in a porn shop. But there’s nothing straightforward here — nobody is exempt from the hard pinch of life. “Everyone was a piece of meat in this world.”

The stories are sex-soaked — hustlers, porn shops, trysts that are messy and hot and explicit. People risk everything for sex (“love was holy”) — their reputations, their bodies, their lives. And the sex is not straightforward. This is as about as far from vanilla as I can imagine. Sex with an edge. Failed sex, masochistic sex, salty, painful, difficult and real.

Dog Men disturbed me. Darker than Tarantino, bleaker than fairy tales, Voth’s characters are united in suffering. In here are souls who have slipped through the cracks of contemporary America: people who suffer for who they love, how they look, what they want.

Some of them learn to transcend — flying zombies, a loving hustler, a suicidal beauty. But these are not easy stories. They compel, they demand from the reader. The rewards are: fragments of beauty, scattered through the book; moments of underplayed humour; a faint, warm glow underlying the darkness, that you might recognise as hope of redemption.

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