Revenge of the Scapegoat (Paperback)
An absurdist comedy about the violence we inflict on one another. Beilin explores inherited traumas, weird art, reproductive health, livestock, and how we can break cycles of misery with a surrealist flair while still remaining firmly rooted in reality. Dark but never overbearing, funny but never flippant, strange and biting and, ultimately, a rather hopeful satire.— From Jai's Picks
In the tradition of Rabelais, Swift, and Fran Ross—the tradition of biting satire that joyfully embraces the strange and fantastical—and drawing upon documentary strategies from Sheila Heti, Caren Beilin offers a tale of familial trauma that is also a broadly inclusive skewering of academia, the medical industry, and the contemporary art scene.
One day Iris, an adjunct at a city arts college, receives a terrible package: recently unearthed letters that her father had written to her in her teens, in which he blames her for their family’s crises. Driven by the raw fact of receiving these devastating letters not once but twice in a lifetime, and in a panic of chronic pain brought on by rheumatoid arthritis, Iris escapes to the countryside—or some absurdist version of it. Nazi cows, Picassos used as tampons, and a pair of arthritic feet that speak in the voices of Flaubert’s Bouvard and Pécuchet are standard fare in this beguiling novel of odd characters, surprising circumstances, and intuitive leaps, all brought together in profoundly serious ways.
"The author lands on an infectious and perfect blend of cultural criticism, wry writing advice ('Don’t bother writing a character since people change'), and magnificently weird storytelling. Belin’s account of reemergence manages to be both hilarious and deeply moving." —Publishers Weekly, starred review
“[T]hough the narrative is, at times, profoundly strange, it’s never hard to follow. Most impressive, perhaps, is the darkly comic strain that persists throughout the novel; though the narrative involves childhood trauma, domestic abuse, addiction, medical exploitation, and the Holocaust, Iris’ wholly unique voice makes for a very funny work. This wide-ranging, idea-driven novel leaves the reader with much to think about, deftly provoking questions about the nature and ethics of trauma and contemporary art. A fresh, funny, and striking experimental work with surprises at every turn.” —Kirkus
“Revenge of the Scapegoat made me bounce-laugh so hard my cheeks and belly kept jiggling while reading the pains. The pains that are so impossible and absurd that Caren Beilin writes them as full characters with their own interior agency. I’d never thought of our pains having their own lives, but I see it now, and hopefully I’ll be able to live with my various physical and emotional pains in a better way. Thank you, Caren.”—Steven Dunn
“Revenge of the Scapegoat flares from voided nipples and fooled feet, a blameful explosion of the novel, all those families of sentences, their normative violence and hurt metaphors, their Freud and Flaubert—gone kablooey, thank god! I have been desperate for a book so hotly pink-gold with righteous emasculation, with the comeuppance of the beat poets, a book of such loudly jointed parts. Caren Beilin has written the scapegoat’s anti-anthem. The trick is never stand for it. Lip-sync while fleeing fast. Lie flat in a field and feel your heart effulge.” —Joanna Ruocco
“Animated with the moxie and wit of Acker and Tillman, Caren Beilin is one of the most bizarre and fearless writers of her generation. Revenge of the Scapegoat is a surreal take on the tendency people have to damage those we claim to love and the way parental cruelty renders the world unrecognizable.” —Catherine Lacey
“What does it feel like to be held responsible for a world you have no power over? A wildly original, darkly funny, occasionally unsettling story of burden, patriarchy, art, escape, and cows that step on your heart if you lie down in their field. A surprise in plot, image, and phrase on every page. Revenge of the Scapegoat is unlike anything you’ve ever read.” —Josh Cook, Porter Square Books
“Loved every second of it—Beilin is one to read more of and keep an eye on.” —Meghana Kandlur, Seminary Co-op Bookstores