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Radiant Days

Available May 2012


Kirkus:  Starred Review


A 20th-century teen artist and 19th-century French poet Arthur Rimbaud transcend time and place in this luminous paean to the transformative power of art.  In September 1977, 18-year-old Merle leaves rural Virginia to attend the Corcoran School of Art in Washington, D.C.  Her drawings catch the eye of drawing instructor Clea, who initiates a romantic relationship with Merle. Overwhelmed by the sophisticated urban art scene, Merle drifts out of school. When Clea drops her, a homeless Merle desperately spray-paints her signature sun-eye graffiti across the city until she encounters a mercurial tramp who mystically connects her with the visionary Rimbaud, in the bloom of his artistic powers at age 16. Incredulous over their stunning time travel, Merle and Rimbaud recognize they are kindred spirits who live to create. Hand deftly alternates between Merle’s first-person, past-tense story and a third-person account of Rimbaud during the Franco-Prussian War of 1871-72, laced with excerpts from his poems and letters. Suffused with powerful images of light, this intensely lyrical portrait of two androgynous young artists who magically traverse a century to briefly escape their equally disturbing worlds expands the themes of artistic isolation and passion Hand first introduced in Illyria (2010).   An impressive blend of biography and magical realism.

Publishers Weekly:  Starred Review


Hand (Illyria) returns with a surreal tale of art’s ability to transcend time. In 1978, Merle Tappitt, a talented painter and graffiti artist, is kicked out of art school (where she had been having an affair with a teacher). Merle takes to the streets of Washington, D.C., and runs into a legendary, now homeless guitarist, Ted Kampfert, who points her toward a  lockhouse by a canal where she can spend the night. Meanwhile, in 1870, 16-year-old poet Arthur Rimbaud sets out for Paris, also bedding down in a lockhouse. The next morning, Merle and Arthur awake together in 1978. Merle and Arthur, both gay, form a mystical bond, time-slipping between their worlds, each influencing the other to produce great art. Hand’s descriptions of art and poetry as they are being made are breathtaking—“In front of me was a whorl of black and red, emerald vines and orange flame, a shifting wheel of shadowy forms like those cave paintings drawn in charcoal”—and her troubled, beautifully drawn characters make the heart ache.

Botson Globe:


 Elizabeth Hand’s new novel, “Radiant Days,” is a stunning meditation on art and living authentically. That the two protagonists turn out to be gay is beside the point Merle Tappitt is a 17-year-old art student from Appalachia studying at the Corcoran School of Art and spray-painting her tag, “Radiant Days,” all over 1970s Washington, D.C. Arthur Rimbaud (yes, the real French poet) is a teenage budding wordsmith living in 1870s France. Their narratives and lives intersect when both encounter a mysterious vagabond. First Arthur time travels to Merle’s D.C., for one magical night. Then Merle is swept into Paris long enough to witness history.  Merle and Arthur are not in love, but they are soul mates. He helps her recover from an affair with a married, female art professor and to discover a philosophy of art. “Whatever is broken is beauty, for you and me; whatever is scarred. That’s how this world was made, by destroying the old one,” he tells her. Through their eyes, readers catch glimpses of Paris, D.C., and an art world in transition. “Radiant Days” is not a read-with-the-TV-on kind of novel — it requires attention. But it’s a book that will appeal to mature readers, aspiring writers, artists, actors, dancers, or really any teen who would appreciate the story of artistic self-actualization and the message that “if you create something truly great, there’s no need to look back — because it will remain, and live on its own, without you.”



Toward the end of Elizabeth Hand’s book Radiant Days, there is a scene in which a young painter named Merle mourns the passing of a short-lived friend. “… there is something far sadder than never meeting someone you’ve only glimpsed from far away,” she narrates. “And that is to meet someone just once, and not know until afterward that it was the most important night of your entire life, and that it will never happen, again.” This brief, ecstatic joy, followed by pangs of loss, is at the heart of Radiant Days, a slim novel about the meeting of two artists: Merle, a painter from rural Virginia, living in the city for the first time, and the poet Jean Nicolas Arthur Rimbaud, who has become unstuck in time to go from the French countryside of 1870 to 1970s Washington, D.C. The book bounces between the individual experiences of these artists --- Merle’s introduction to the art world through a beautiful but married teacher, Rimbaud’s boredom with provincial life and repeated attempts to run away from home to strike out on his own --- before bringing them together for one, radiant day.  In the process, it touches on what it means to be an artist or a poet, and the different ways these disciplines inspire each other to see the world.  One of the brilliant coups of Radiant Days is Elizabeth Hand’s intentional juxtaposition of Rimbaud with the punk rock scene of 1970s Washington, D.C.  Hand is able to communicate not just the significance of Rimbaud’s poetry in our world, but also the ways in which this decadent vision can transmute ordinary objects into the sublime: a beauty and interconnectedness beyond the detached and framed landscapes with which we are often asked to view the “natural” world.



Elizabeth Hand continues to plumb the souls of creative teens in her new novel, Radiant Days. As she did so brilliantly with Shakespearean plays and complex family dynamics in Illyria, Hand now turns to art and poetry in a whirlwind look at the lives of two starving artists separated by time: Corcoran School of Art student Merle in 1978 and outlaw poet Arthur Rimbaud in 1870s France. Their separate passions for painting and words overwhelm every facet of their lives, sending Merle into a tailspin after a disastrous love affair and Rimbaud onto the road to Paris in search of intellectual freedom. The twist here is that on one spectacular night, when everything seems to go wrong, Merle and Rimbaud are brought together. The magic that happens is not their meeting however, but what it inspires each of them to do and how it fills them later with memories that become powerful purposes.

Both Merle and Rimbaud are fierce in their desire to live lives less ordinary. Rimbaud however, as fans of his writing are aware, was bolder in thought than most teens and insistent upon making a mark to the point of attaining literary immortality. The fictional Merle has enormous talent but struggles with the courage to embrace her art fully and suffers from a self-destructive streak that pulls her away from her studies and onto the streets. Merle wants so much but is not sure how to get it and feels weighed down by the more prosaic needs of food and shelter. The bitter end to her romance and the loss of her precious sketchbook is enough to push her over the edge. The second part of the book begins when she has very nearly hit bottom and that is when Rimbaud arrives in her life.

This collision of destinies involves the arrival of a third character in the plot, a musician who carries with him a hint of mythology that Hand artfully weaves through the brasher moments of Merle and Rimbaud's adventures. The theme of "one wild night" beats through the plot, a reminder that sometimes you have only one chance to choose the road not taken, and only one opportunity to be brave enough to grab the life you dream of. This is something Arthur Rimbaud was clearly born knowing and gifts to Merle in the hours they share.

While reading Radiant Days, it becomes clear that what elevates Hand's work above that of her peers and makes her one of the strongest writers for teens today is the gorgeousness of her language. Readers of her adult mysteries and sly fantasies will have learned to expect nothing less but for teens navigating a sea of interchangeable and forgettable paranormal titles, the images and emotions Hand conjures up will likely startle and shock. In the voice of Arthur she writes: "People want poetry to be a nursemaid. I want to be a murderer and a thief. Art should be... ugly, and hurt so you can feel it. That's what makes it powerful."
By showing Arthur Rimbaud as a modern day hero on par with the significance of Kurt Cobain, or Jack Kerouac before him, Hand shows that nothing is beyond her literary reach. Radiant Days is a most startling achievement.

School Libtrary Journal

Merle Tappitt, 18, is an art student from the hills of Appalachia living in Washington, DC, in the late 1970s. Talented and inexperienced, she is seduced by her married art instructor not long after she starts class at the Corcoran School of Art. Clea becomes Merle’s muse, and the gifted teen’s sketchbook is soon brimming over with portraits of the older woman. When Clea breaks up with her and her apartment building is set for demolition, Merle abandons painting and drawing for tagging, spray painting her “Radiant Days” logo throughout the city. In alternating chapters, readers are introduced to a young Arthur Rimbaud, the French poet who lived from 1854 to 1891. (The poet’s impassioned words and deeply felt emotions have influenced generations of writers, artist, and musicians, including Patti Smith, Bob Dylan, and Jim Morrison.) With the help of a washed-up musician who may or may not be a Greek deity in disguise, Arthur and Merle are able to enter one another’s worlds and spend time together. Hand writes in an ambitious, erudite style, and her narrative will hold the attention of thoughtful, sophisticated readers. It is about self-actualization and coming of age as an artist, but readers yearning for a typical romance will most likely be disappointed. However, those who choose to follow Merle and Arthur’s story to the end will be transported by the poetic language and magical encounters. 


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Available Dark

Available February 2012

In this brilliant sequel to Hand's acclaimed literary thriller Generation Loss ...a flash of incandescence counters final threats of death, and the all encompassing darkness is leavened by a glimmer of hope. Stunning.
Booklist , Starred Review

Hand has described Cass Neary, the protagonist of 2007's Generation Loss, as "your prototypical amoral speedfreak crankhead kleptomaniac murderous rage-filled alcoholic bisexual heavily tattooed American female photographer." It's to the author's credit that Neary, who almost makes Lisbeth Salander seem like a model of mental stability, engages rather than repels in this stunning sequel.
Publishers Weekly, Starred Review


Advanced Praise for Availble Dark

"Fiercely frightening yet hauntingly beautiful, with a startling heroine you'll never forget, Available Dark shimmers with gorgeous writing even as it scares the dickens out of you. I've long been a fan of Elizabeth Hand's amazing books, and once again she proves why she is truly a writer's writer, her prose so glowing it makes all the rest of us jealous."
Tess Gerritsen, New York Times bestselling author of The Silent Girl

"Available Dark is a skin-blistering crime novel, as edgy and black as dried blood on a moonlit night.  The frigid Scandinavian setting is a perfect backdrop for the horrific overlap of heavy metal and black arts, sorcerers and curses, and one woman's search for a long lost lover."
Robert Crais, author of The Sentry

"Photographer and aging NYC punk rocker, Cass Neary is one of literature's great noir anti-heroes.  Ferocious, aching with compassion and cruelly brilliant, Available Dark is a sinful pleasure."
Katherine Dunn, author of Geek Love

"I hate modern fiction, it usually sucks. Available Dark is the exception to my rule, it is wonderfully depressing-the locations, the characters, the mood, the murders; it's so well written-- it reads true. I can think of no higher compliment."  
Legs McNeil, co-founder of Punk magazine

"Available Dark thrums with the resonance of a Black Metal bass line. Buy this book!"
Darcey Steinke, author of Suicide Blonde

"Elizabeth Hand's Available Dark is a tense, compelling and beautifully written look into the shadows and the secrets they hide. Her protagonist, Cassandra Neary, has the gift and curse of seeing evil without flinching, and she pulls the reader along as she seeks out answers even though every step threatens her survival."
Christopher Farnsworth, author of Blood Oath

"Available Dark is dark stuff indeed. Elizabeth Hand takes us on a dangerous and drug-fueled trip through a world of art fetishists, death metal bands, and Nordic blood cults. This book disturbs and delights."
Paul Doiron, author of The Poacher's Son

"Given the public’s current fascination with gritty Nordic crime fiction, expect this novel to break out onto best sellers lists. "
Library Journal

"Cass Neary, introduced in Hand's compelling "Generation Loss" (2007), is forever society's outsider, a borderline sociopath but with an undeniable charisma. Available Dark is a stunning look at a woman forever teetering on the edge."
Florida Sun Sentinel


Marilyn Stasio

The scariest person in Elizabeth Hand’s thriller AVAILABLE DARK (Thomas Dunne/Minotaur, $23.99) is its heroine, Cassandra Neary, a post-punk photographer who flamed out after a brief career on the Lower East Side in the down-and-dirty 1970s. These days, Cass is fueled by alcohol, speed, black metal and self-loathing. But she’s still a cult figure, famous for her book of photographs, “Dead Girls,” and respected for her discerning eye for transgressive art — a talent that lands her a job in Helsinki, authenticating grotesque photographs inspired by Icelandic legends for a client who collects “murderabilia.” Hand could never get away with this stuff if she weren’t such a strong writer. Her studies of artists and musicians are something fierce, and there’s a deadly beauty to her bleak rendering of the Nordic landscape.

Available Dark Elizabeth Hand. Minotaur, $23.99 (256p) ISBN 978-0-312-58594-5

Now made in the USA: Nordic crime fiction. In the spirit of Stieg Larsson’s “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo,” New York-born author Hand follows up her 2007 thriller “Generation Loss” with the return of anti-heroine Cass Neary, a tattooed, Maine-dwelling, drug-addicted photographer who grabbed fame in the East Village punk scene. Now, she’s wanted by the police for questioning about a murder. Jumping at an opportunity to get away, Neary heads to Helsinki. As the dark Nordic forest thickens, so does the plot. Larsson fanatics may be unable to resist.

A Bookpage Review by Barbara Clark

"brilliant and acute, shot through with glimpses of humanity that may come to inhabit your dreams."
Read more: www.bookpage.com

Available Dark Elizabeth Hand. Minotaur, $23.99 (256p) ISBN 978-0-312-58594-5

Hand has described Cass Neary, the protagonist of 2007's Generation Loss, as "your prototypical amoral speedfreak crankhead kleptomaniac murderous rage-filled alcoholic bisexual heavily tattooed American female photographer." It's to the author's credit that Neary, who almost makes Lisbeth Salander seem like a model of mental stability, engages rather than repels in this stunning sequel. Neary, whose crowning professional achievement is a book of photos aptly entitled Dead Girls, is still suffering from the events depicted in Generation Loss that made her a suspect in a Maine homicide. Norwegian collector Anton Bredahl, an admirer of Dead Girls, offers Neary a tidy sum to fly to Helsinki to give her opinion on some photos he's thinking of purchasing. She finds herself blown away by the photographer's technique, notwithstanding the grim subject matter-corpses. The bloody aftermath of the assignment places Neary in grave danger as she confronts a significant figure from her past. The scenes of violence advance the plot while helping the reader to understand Hand's uncompromisingly compromised main character. Agent: Martha Millard. (Feb)

Available Dark Elizabeth Hand. Minotaur, $23.99 (256p) ISBN 978-0-312-58594-5

Hand’s latest novel picks up right where Generation Loss leaves off: hungover and with a fresh scar beside her eye, washed-up punk photographer Cassandra Neary runs from a possible manslaughter charge to Finland, where a sleazy collector of disturbing photographs wants her to authenticate a pending purchase. After Cass confirms that the stunningly beautiful but macabre photos are legit, the photographer is murdered, and Cass takes off again. Fueled by crystal meth and Focalin, she looks for Quinn, her first love, in Reykjavík, where he survives by selling classic vinyl LPs and disposing of bodies for Russian mobsters. Quinn is also mixed up with a group of Odinists who are heavily into black metal music and Norse mythology, and Cass is soon caught up in a dark, twisted tale. VERDICT The millions who devoured Stieg Larsson’s “Millennium” trilogy will not flinch at Hand’s dark subject matter. Like Lisbeth Salander, Cass Neary evokes sympathy and admiration despite her tough exterior. Given the public’s current fascination with gritty Nordic crime fiction, expect this novel to break out onto best sellers lists.

CHARLOTTE OBSERVER: read the review on www.charlotteobserver.com

CLEVELAND.COM: Elizabeth Hand's 'Available Dark' is controlled writing, with a nimble plot
By Karen R. Long, The Plain Dealer: read the review on www.cleveland.com

WASHINGTON POST Book World: Elizabeth Hand’s ‘Available Dark’ revisits the world of Cass Neary
By Art Taylor: read the review on www.washingtonpost.com

MORNING SENTINEL Bushnell on Books: "Available Dark" a graphic mystery, dark chocolate stars in "Desserted"
By Bill Busnell: read the review on www.onlinesentinel.com


The Rejectionist

Chasing Ray

From Sweden: The English Book Shop

Book Notes: Black Metal Playlist for Available Dark at Largehearted Boy

Read publishers Weekly Profile "Elizabeth Hand Two of a Kind"

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Winner of the World Fantasy Award

"A story of love and magic that will scintillate and haunt you long after you close the cover and turn off the light."
Francesa Lia Block

"Extravagantly, willfully romantic. No one is better than Elizabeth Hand at convincing us that great magic is possible in the real world we live in."
John Crowley

"The subtlety and raw ache of the prose, and the realistic portrayal of artistic lives, triumphantly heralds Hand’s arrival into youth fiction."
Booklist, Starred Review

"In this enchanting fantasy with a romance far more taboo than the current spate of paranormal pairings, Madeline and Rogan are 14-year-old first cousins and deeply in love...The edgy subject matter, explicit but not gratuitous, relegates this novel to mature readers, but it’s beautifully written, rich in theatrical detail and intensely realized characters."
Publishers Weekly, Starred Review

"This intense, sensual and bittersweet love story unfolds in hauntingly lyrical prose and should appeal to mature teens."

Click here: About ILLYRIA 


Illyria Elizabeth Hand. Viking, $15.99 (144p) ISBN 978-0-670-01212-1

In this enchanting fantasy with a romance far more taboo than the current spate of paranormal pairings, Madeline and Rogan are 14-year-old first cousins and deeply in love. Their great-grandmother was a famous actress and although her descendants have become increasingly staid, these two cousins have inherited her talent. One day, after making love for the first time, they discover, hidden in the attic of the family’s ancestral mansion, “a toy theater, made of folded paper and gilt cardboard and scraps of brocade and lace,” where, each time they visit it, the scenery and lighting have changed, among other curiosities (“Snow was falling. Not everywhere. Only behind the proscenium, on the tiny stage itself”). The cousins are cast in a high school production of Twelfth Night, one that shares the magic of the toy theater. Rogan, as Feste the clown, seems inspired but increasingly wild. It soon becomes clear that his love for Madeline is doomed to disappointment, if not tragedy. The edgy subject matter, explicit but not gratuitous, relegates this novel to mature readers, but it’s beautifully written, rich in theatrical detail and intensely realized characters. Ages 14–up. (May)"

BOOKLIST Starred Review
Illyria Elizabeth Hand. (Viking 978-0-670-01212-1).

Growing up in 1970s Yonkers, Maddy and Rogan were called the “kissing cousins” of the Tierney clan. In a secret attic space, they find a toy theater, complete with lighting and stage effects that appear like magic, but no actors or audience. As their discovery stirs within them the desire to create, Aunt Kate, mysterious and unnaturally beautiful, brings their abilities to a boil. Determined to restore the family’s long-abandoned theatrical heritage, Kate pushes Maddy and Rogan to nurture their gifts in the school’s production of Twelfth Night. However, Rogan’s wild nature is ever at odds with his haunting, melodious singing voice, and Maddy’s glamour, no doubt the gift of their great-grandmother, an ingénue of the stage, shines dimly in the brilliance of Rogan’s fey charms. Winner of the World Fantasy Award, Hand’s slim novella is sublime and daring; she makes no mystery about the nature of the 15-year-old cousins’ relationship. It’s as sweet, sexual, obsessive, and devastating as any other first love. YA readers are entrusted with a narrative of burgeoning and squandered talent, unapologetic incest, familial decline on par with that of Faulkner’s Compson family, and a hard-won ending that’s, at best, tenuously hopeful. The subtlety and raw ache of the prose, and the realistic portrayal of artistic lives, triumphantly heralds Hand’s arrival into youth fiction.
Courtney Jones

Hand, Elizabeth ILLYRIA

Growing up in a large, eccentric, extended family in Yonkers in the late 1960s, two first cousins exist in their own private world. Born on the same day, 15-year-old Rogan and Maddy are the youngest children of identical twin brothers and great-grandchildren of a famous actress. The “kissing cousins” routinely tryst in an attic room, where they discover a toy theater that foreshadows their future. With his fey appearance and mesmerizing voice, Rogan’s tormented, a bit dangerous and afraid of nothing, in sharp contrast to the bright, devoted and supportive Maddy. Their latent dramatic talents emerge when they star together in the school production of Twelfth Night, but their overly close relationship triggers parental intervention, forcing Maddy to choose between the wayward Rogan and a possible acting career. Maddy tells their tender story in the past tense, recalling the passion, isolation and urgency of their relationship and its repercussions many years later. This intense, sensual and bittersweet love story unfolds in hauntingly lyrical prose and should appeal to mature teens. (Historical fiction. 14 & up)


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Cass Neary made her name in the 1970s as a photographer embedded in the burgeoning punk movement in New York City. Her pictures of the musicians and hangers on, the infamous, the damned, and the dead, got her into art galleries and a book deal. But thirty years later she is adrift, on her way down, and almost out. Then an old acquaintance sends her on a mercy gig to interview a famously reclusive photographer who lives on an island in Maine. When she arrives Downeast, Cass stumbles across a decades-old mystery that is still claiming victims, and into one final shot at redemption.

"Brilliantly written and completely original, Hand’s novel is an achievement with a capital A.”
Booklist, Starred Review   (read full review )

"Take a weird trip into a deep pit of moral decay!"
Cleveland.com (more)

"Hand's terse but transporting prose keeps the reader turning pages until Neary's gritty charm does, finally, shine through."
Entertainment Weekly (more)

"Generation Loss" has been rightly compared with the sort of crime fiction turned out by the late, great Patricia Highsmith ... Hand expertly ratchets up the suspense until it's at the level of a high-pitched scream near novel's end."
Journal Sentinel (more)

“Intense and atmospheric, Generation Loss is an inventive brew of postpunk attitude and dark mystery. Elizabeth Hand writes with craftsmanship and passion.”
George Pelecanos

"A lucid and beautifully rendered tale of an aging and damaged punk photographer's journey from the safety of the streets of New York into the wilds of Maine. Great, unforgiving wilderness, a vanished teenager, an excellent villain, and an obsession with art that shades into death: what else do you need? An excellent book."
Brian Evenson

"Cass Neary, the battle-scarred shutterbug of Elizabeth Hand's incendiary literary thriller "Generation Loss" ... is a marvel, someone with whom we take the difficult journey toward delayed adulthood, wishing her encouragement despite grave odds."
Los Angeles Times


BOOKLIST, starred review
Hand, Elizabeth. Generation Loss. Apr. 2007. 296p. Small Beer, $24.95 (1-931520-31-6).

Hand, mainly known for sf/fantasy stories, veers off in a new and exciting direction, drawing on but going well beyond the crime genre. Three decades ago, Cassandra Neary was an avant-garde photographer whose book, Dead Girls, was published to acclaim. But her hard-driving lifestyle, in concert with the rapid collapse of the counterculture, led to a downward spiral. Salvation appears in the form of an editor who offers her the chance to interview a reclusive photographer, Aphrodite Kamestos. But when Cass arrives at the photographer’s private island, she finds that Kamestos had no idea she was coming. Rather than turn around and go home, Cass decides to use the opportunity to find out what she can about Kamestos, uncovering a few shocking secrets and one old mystery in the process. Hand combines elements of the traditional amateur-sleuth mystery with a visceral story of personal redemption, and her pulsating prose smacks us in the face with frank, fascinating discussions of sex and drugs and with staccato dialogue peppered with expletives. The utterly compelling protagonist, whose self-loathing competes with her hatred of life to see which can beat her into submission first, wins us over almost in spite of herself. Brilliantly written and completely original, Hand’s novel is an achievement with a capital A. — David Pitt

Generation Loss related Multimedia!

Read Nicholas Rombes, author of Continuum's 33 1/3 volume THE RAMONES and NEW PUNK CINEMA, on Generation Loss in his blog, Digital Poetics.

Download an exclusive mp3 of the first chapter of GL - read by Elizabeth Hand - HERE >>(37.5 Mb file)

Also as podcast - HERE >>

Lizhand interview on Youtube - HERE >>

GENERATION LOSS will be coming out in April 2007 from Small Beer Press, with Harcourt's trade edition available next year. Preorder your copy from Amazon.

Read an excerpt from Generation Loss here.

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