Emma Glass’ debut novel ‘Peach’ is possibly one of the strangest books I have ever read. Strange in the sense that it is unimpeachably and consummately unique. Unique, because it takes, what is truly, a horrific event and narrates it in a style that is disturbingly and inescapably moreish. Needless to say, there is a reason why Glass saturates her pages with sibilant, fricative and plosive words. In this unsettling poetry-cum-prose novella, Glass creates a sickening cocktail of words and phonetics that readers just can’t get enough of. You read one chapter, and then you want another one and another one and another one; captivated by the book’s lexical trail of gross confectionaries.
That said, trying to summarise this brilliant book is somewhat of a challenging feat for me. On the one hand, it is about sexual assault: a violent recount of a college girl’s rape on her way home from her boyfriend’s house and the subsequent trauma that seeps into every aspect of her life. That is the face value of the book. On the other hand, it is about the gross and deeply uncomfortable relationship between food and everything we see and do. That is its subtext. Across 112 pages, Glass takes aspects of human experience and transforms them into things that we consume. Flesh, for example, is meat. Fat is custard. Talcum powder, cake icing. The list goes on. In this squelching, gurgling, sizzling, sploshing novella, everything is made just that bit more sinister through these unsettling and dream-like associations.
In creating these associations, Glass makes everything strangely more graphic and life-like. Typically, I’d refer to these associations as metaphors or examples of hyperbole. But somehow, I don’t think these phrases quite do justice to how dreadfully believable they are. Generally speaking, metaphors serve the purpose of augmenting: to create for us, what normal language cannot quite describe. In Glass’ novel, however, the choice of language doesn’t augment anything. It just confirms and corroborates what we already know. For example, when Glass refers to flesh as meat, she is merely articulating the notion that beneath our complex cultures, convoluted psyches, intelligent languages and complicated habits, we are simply meat. Just meat. Meat that can move and stretch, walk and talk, think and create. But we are just meat. Once you have got your head around this alarming truth, everything loses structure and meaning, and in this weird and wonderful short story, everything we know collapses into one great big blob.
If you’re looking for a challenging read, then I couldn’t recommend this book any more. It is a clear example of how versatile and transformative, Literature is and can be. Indeed, in this dream-like, poetic-prose novella, Glass demonstrates, in remarkable fashion, that Literature has no bounds.
words by James Glover