When an author publishes a book with Coffee House Press, he or she is asked to provide an artist statement. Some of these are just too beautiful to keep to ourselves. Norah Labiner’s Let the Dark Flower Blossom comes out in May. Her haunting artist statement is enough to capture any reader’s attention.
This is a story about a murder. It is a book about violence. Let the Dark Flower Blossom is a book about readers who love mystery. It is a book about the pull of a closed door. It is about the staircase down to the cellar. About that moment of realization when you solve the crime just before the detective walks into the library brandishing a candle and a hand mirror to reveal the true identity of the killer. It is about the small pleasure of being right, and the tremendous thrill of doing wrong.
It is about you, certainly.
It is about me, I suppose.
It is about a typewriter.
It is a book about writers who will do anything—lie, steal, kill—to get the perfect story. It is full of the things I love: haunted houses, dogs, cats, clocks, dark birds, ghosts, girls, poetic injustice, jam, and jealous gods.
Let the Dark Flower Blossom was written on a portable typewriter; and the violence with which each metal key struck the page is imprinted into the story. I say this not as an explanation, or even an apology, but because it is a good thing for you to know. It is good to know how a book comes into being.
There is a secret at the heart of the book. There is a monster at the heart of every novel. Lurking in the woods; in the garden; turning a spoon in a china cup; reading the newspaper for stories of dead girls and lost children. A monster who mines tragedy; who digs with a shovel; who chops with a hatchet; who is looking for bones; who is always looking for a story.
The writer is the monster.
This is the secret.
Or maybe it isn’t.
Maybe the secret is far worse.
Let the Dark Flower Blossom
This is a book about readers and writers. It is just the kind of story that you like. The good will be rewarded and the bad will be punished. There are sleeping dogs; and merciless cats in the doorways. The line from a favorite misremembered poem is never far from your thoughts; and you like it all the better for having made it your own. It is not wrong that you prefer your own version of the story. It is not wrong; but it is not entirely right. This is a book about right and wrong. This story was written on a manual typewriter; it was written for you. It was written for girls in torn stockings and serious men with eyeglasses. It was written for malcontents, misanthropes, and the very best of the lonely hearts. It is a story about the dangers of storytelling. This is the explanation. This is a book about monsters. Here come the monsters. Here comes the apology: I’m sorry. I really am. I am sorry that I had to kill the girl, but that is how the story had to go.