The Novelette Line > THE SPECIFIC GRAVITY OF GRIEF by Jay Lake

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Cover image by Kyle Cassidy

This is the trade paperback version of Jay Lake's novelette. The story, although fiction, parallels Jay Lake's own battle with cancer. Fifty percent of proceeds will be donated to the Clayton Memorial Medial Fund.

"[Lake's] a prolific and seriously pull-no-punches blogger who has spent much of the past few years writing about his ongoing battle with cancer, which gave birth to The Specific Gravity of Grief. Characterizing this book is in itself a bit of a challenge: It’s fiction, but it’s about a writer named Jay Lake who writes like the real Jay Lake and is also fighting cancer. In other words, it’s all but impossible to read Specific Gravity without taking into account that the story contains a large infusion of brutal first-hand reality. (The cover art maintains this blurring of fact and fiction, being a portrait of Lake himself shot by photographer Kyle Cassidy.)  The book is an extremely human story told through images and recollections and lists and flashbacks, and honestly, because it’s not very long, to say more is redundant. You know it’s about cancer. You know it’s going to be tough. And you know it’s about things that matter. The Specific Gravity of Grief isn’t a long book, and it’s not a fun book or a kids’ book, and with its subject matter, it’s the sort of book that makes it difficult to say, “Hey, I really liked it!” even if you did. It’s a good and powerful read in both big ways and small ways, and I’m glad that Lake has both the skill and courage to write it in his unique voice."    


"Cancer is a vile mistress for many in life. "The Specific Gravity of Grief" is a combination of novel and memoir from Jay Lake as he combines his own experience with cancer into a novel which he relays as a life not quite his own, but telling his story. "The Specific Gravity of Grief" is a thoughtful take on the cancer story and the grief that follows the loss to the disease; highly recommended."   

     —The Midwest Book Review

"Apparently Jay Lake recently went through cancer treatment, which inspired this novella drawing heavily on his experiences and emotions.  One of the viewpoint characters is in fact "Jay Lake" although he's not identical with the author.  The story, which doesn't have a traditional plot, involves the reactions to diagnoses of cancer in both an adult and a child and examines the turmoil and sometimes contradictory feelings experienced by the patient in one case, and the parents of the stricken child in the other.  There is some reference to cancer as a kind of entity in itself, but much of it borders on the surreal and although the book is labeled a dark fantasy, it seems to me much more of a mainstream story.  Whatever the category, the feel of the story is genuine and moving and it's one of the more impressive pieces I've read by the author."     

     —Don D'Ammassa, Critical Mass

"Brutal and honest and darkly will move you and scare you and you will be missing something special if you don’t read it."    

     —Kelly McCullough, author of SpellCrash 

"We tend to clothe cancer in pretty words, to hide its savage nature from our innermost, frightened hearts. In The Specific Gravity of Grief, Jay Lake uses pretty words to clothe cancer in the rags of fear that it deserves."   

     —Brenda Cooper, author of Reading the Wind

"Jay Lake has imagined a life devastated by cancer, in not one, but several ways. He has written into the darkness. People always say to young writers, ‘write what you know.’ But the truth is that we write about the big things in our lives that we don’t know. We write to figure out what things mean. What shape they have. This is a way of measuring cancer. It doesn’t measure millimeters of tumor, but it does attempt to measure the emotional scope of disease. It is a kind of rehearsal for a play no one wants to star in."  

     —Maureen McHugh, author of China Mountain Zhang

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