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AT SKYLIGHT: ROBIN MCLEAN in conversation with BRIAN EVENSON

Pity the Beast (And Other Stories)

Millennia ago, Ginny’s family farm was all grass and rock and wild horses. A thousand years hence, it’ll all be peacefully underwater. In the matter-of-fact here and now, though, it’s a hotbed of lust and resentment, because Ginny’s just cheated on her husband with the man who lives next door.

When a crowd of locals—including Ginny’s bitter sister Ella—turn up to help out on the farm, a day of chores turns into a night of serious drinking, and then of brutal, communal retribution. By morning, Ginny’s been left for dead. But dead is the one thing she isn’t. With a stolen horse and rifle, she escapes into the mountains, and a small posse of her tormentors gears up to give chase—to bring her home and beg forgiveness, or to make sure she disappears for good?

With detours through time, space, myth, and into the minds of a pack of philosophical mules, Pity the Beast heralds the arrival of a major new force in American letters. It is a novel that turns our assumptions about the West, masculinity, good and evil, and the nature of storytelling onto their heads, with an eye to the cosmic as well as the comic. It urges us to write our stories anew—if we want to avoid becoming beasts ourselves.

Robin McLean worked as lawyer and then a potter in the woods of Alaska before turning to writing. Her story collection Reptile House won the 2013 BOA Editions Fiction Prize and was twice a finalist for the Flannery O’Connor Short Story Prize. She now lives and teaches in the high plains desert of central Nevada at Ike’s Canyon Ranch Writer’s Retreat, which she co-founded.


Brian Evenson is the author of over a dozen works of fiction. He has received three O. Henry Prizes for his fiction. His most recent book, Song for the Unrav- eling of the World, won a Shirley Jackson Award and was a finalist for both the Los Angeles Times Ray Bradbury Prize for Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Specu- lative Fiction and the Balcones Fiction Prize. He lives in Los Angeles and teaches at CalArts.

Praise for Pity the Beast:
‘Not since Faulkner have I read American prose so bristling with life and particularity.’ —J.M. Coetzee

‘Robin McLean writes scenes that feel as vibrant, terrifying, and wondrous as your most adrenalized memories. Her country is never merely the backdrop for human dramas but a living, breathing entity, alive with the poetry of mules and skittering stone. Pity the Beast is a thrilling ride and McLean's world feels so real that every cloud and creature in it casts a shadow.’ —Karen Russell

‘Pity is in short supply in Pity the Beast, but compassion is not: set in the kind of country in which ploughs break against hidden rocks and running water is a girl sprinting with a bucket, it’s a revenge narrative that never loses sight of the power of empathy, a love song to all of those animals domesticated for our support, a startlingly open-minded meditation on good and evil, a how-to manual on survival in the wilderness, a primer on how to negotiate all of the blind and ruthless violence we’re forced to face in a world formed by trauma, and a passionate celebration of those small comforts that can and do get us through.’ —Jim Shepard

Event date: 
Wednesday, November 10, 2021 - 7:30pm
Event address: 
1818 N Vermont Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90027
Pity the Beast Cover Image
$25.95
ISBN: 9781913505141
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: And Other Stories - November 2nd, 2021