Gabriel Smith presents Brat, in conversation with Kiara Barrow

 
Tuesday
June 4th
6:30pm
 
McNally Jackson Seaport
4 Fulton St.
RSVP Required — see below
 

From a provocative new literary talent, a hilarious and haunted novel featuring an unlikable protagonist grappling with grief, inheritance, and the ghosts of his past. 

“Messy with glitched realities and body horror, Brat breathes the same thrillingly claustrophobic air as Inland Empire and Ubik. It’s a skin-shedding ouroboros of grief and laughter, and the most brain-melting British debut I’ve read in ages.” —Ed Park, author of Same Bed Different Dreams

We meet our ill-tempered protagonist—the story’s titular “brat”—at a low moment, but not yet at rock bottom. The Gabriel of the novel is mourning the death of his father as well as a recent breakup and struggling to finish writing his second book. Alone and aimless, he agrees to move back into his parents’ house to clear it out for sale. Here, the clichés end.

Gabriel has trouble delivering on his promises: as the moldy, overgrown house deteriorates around him, so does his own health, and large sheets of his skin begin to peel from his body at a terrifying rate. In fragments and figments, Gabriel takes us on a surreal journey into the mysteries of the family home, where he finds unfinished manuscripts written by his parents that seem to mutate every time he picks them up and a bizarre home video that hints at long-buried secrets.

Strange people and figures emerge—perhaps directly from the novel’s embedded fictions—and despite his compromised state (and his more successful brother’s growing frustration) Gabriel is determined to try to make sense of these hauntings. Part ghost story, part grief story, flirting with the autofictional mode while sitting squarely in the tradition of the gothic, Brat crackles with deadpan humor and delightfully taut prose.

Gabriel Smith’s arrival heralds the next generation of fiction writers—formally inventive, influenced by the rhythms of the internet, and infused with a particularly Gen Z sense of alienation. Irreverent and boundary-pushing, but not for its own sake, the novel that follows is muscular yet lyrical, riddled with paradox, and told with a truly rare and compelling clarity of voice. Brat is a serious debut that refuses to take itself too seriously.

“Gabriel Smith’s prose is like if Joan Didion and Shirley Jackson took Xanax and used the internet. Brat is a sharp, eerie, confident debut about grief, memory, art, and so much more. Smith is a major new talent.” —Jordan Castro, author of The Novelist


Gabriel Smith is an author living in London. A winner of the 2023 PEN/O. Henry Award, his fiction has appeared in The Drift, New York Tyrant Magazine, and The Moth. He was mentored by the late Giancarlo DiTrapano of Tyrant Books.

 

 

 

Kiara Barrow is co-editor of The Drift and a senior editor at Penguin Press.

 

 

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