Barbara Comyns (author of The Vet's Daughter) is the inaugural author published by Dorothy, a brand-new press "dedicated to works of fiction or near fiction or about fiction, mostly by women." Brian Evenson writes about reading this remarkable novelist at The Rumpus:
Who Was Changed and Who Was Dead was the first book I read by British novelist Barbara Comyns. I knew nothing about Comyns at the time: I picked up the novel exclusively because of the title, which struck me as promising and intriguing.
In fact, the book turned out to be a great deal more than that: it was downright astonishing. Beginning mid-flood, with ducks swimming through Grandma Willoweed’s drawing room windows “quacking their approval,” Comyns’ narrator quickly moves on to “[a] passing pig squealing, its short legs madly beating the water and tearing at its throat, which was red and bleeding,” and then the sun comes “out bright and strong and everywhere became silver.” That last fact is a good thing if you side with one of the book’s several astonished children, but bad if you’re Old Ives the handyman, superstitiously convinced that the sun will draw the moisture back into the sky. Inside the house, maids pin up their skirts and try to make breakfast while wading red-legged through the water, laughing and screeching. Meanwhile, the bodies of drowned peacocks eddy round the garden, the hens in one shed commit suicide by falling from their perches into the water, and the hens in the other shed fatalistically sit “on their eggs in a black broody dream until they were covered in water. They squarked a little; but that was all. For a few moments just their red combs were visible above the water, and then they disappeared.”All of that happens in the first two paragraphs of the book. [continue reading]