S T R A W B E R R Y F I E L D S
“The writing in this novel is haunting. Plum uses the beauty of her prose to record indelibly the unbearable destruction of beauty we Americans are perpetrating through the history we are living. She has created a style that values what is being lost with the accuracy of inconsolability.” Peter Dimock
“Few American books have as truly global a perspective as Hilary Plum’s second novel, which ranges over remarkably disparate territories with exemplary economy of means, and holds together not only aesthetically but also as a vision for our times. As multi-vocal as it is constrained, Strawberry Fields balances the sensual with the cerebral, the human body in the world with the human imagination perceiving it therein. And in so doing it achieves the seemingly impossible virtue of being a political book without a hint of polemic.” Youssef Rakha
“In Strawberry Fields, Hilary Plum’s crew of journalists move like restless flies from one battlefield to another, demonstrating the struggle against (and implication with) the logic of late empire: how a contested truth splits into fragments, and cannot be made whole. But Plum knows how to assemble the shards so that we recognize in them the image of our own burning world, where the murder of five American veterans takes its rightful place in an international constellation of violence, recrimination, and environmental degradation. As Plum’s investigators burrow into text and memory, her scrupulous prose—full of mingled lyricism and irony—places her in the tradition of Danilo Kiš and Roberto Bolaño: writers who, despite the constant risk of despair, commit themselves to beating against the current of an ever-widening river of blood, fighting upstream to find the source.” Sam Allingham
“Strawberry Fields is the story that goes on behind the protests, the press releases, the police reports, the news clip of the nameless victim weeping. It claims nothing so naïve as the truth, but seeks instead the ever-expanding multiverse of truths—the truths that are laid bare by the fact of their subjects’ suffering and the ones that those of us on the other side of the newspaper or television screen experience only as we pointedly do not experience them. Hilary Plum is an unflinching skin, an unblinking eye, a brave and ardent voice speaking from the singular I to the great chaotic we that screams and bursts and blooms and starves all around her. This is a book that is hard to hold because it is about what, in our shared nature, we cannot contain. Our curiosity. Our cruelty. Our sorrow. Our love. The world that Plum relentlessly explores is our world. We cannot deny it. All its devastating beauty, all its impossible truths. We need this book—you and I—for a long time, this is what we have needed.” Sarah Blackman
Winner of the Fence Modern Prize in Prose
April 24, 2018
Excerpt at the Fanzine
Excerpt at the Wrath-Bearing Tree
Interview on “The Sound of Applause,” Ideastream, Cleveland
Q&A with Andrea Lawlor at the Blog // Los Angeles Review of Books
Essay in the Brooklyn Rail, “Narrating Forgetting”
“The Point of the Leak is to Imagine the Flood”: A conversation with Caren Beilin at Fence
“[O]ne of the most astonishing reading experiences to be had in recent years. ...
[W]hy, precisely, does Strawberry Fields succeed where other novels and projects have failed? Because it does succeed—excessively so. Partly it’s because of Plum’s impressive ability as a writer. ... The real reason Strawberry Fields succeeds, however, is that it speaks to the recent shifts in how we read. We read news at all hours of day and night, articles scattered across many different outlets, with subjects varying from political to scientific to downright stupid... Strawberry Fields evokes this bloated and dreamy news intake in an unprecedented manner. Its range of reference spans the Irish Civil War to the assassination of Osama bin Laden, but nothing is wholly determinate, which means some surely invented chapters have the feeling of actual events. ...
All this is to say that Strawberry Fields is postmodern in the best sense of the word. Some experimental fictions can feel, on days when we are perhaps least forgiving of current events, just irrelevant in their airy spheres of language, but Plum fragments her writing to bring in the rest of the world. ... Strawberry Fields exerts power. It takes this literary trend, the transposition of news into fiction, and delivers it with sufficient force to finally meet growing demand. It should not be ignored.” —Andrew Hungate, Zyzzyva (July 2018)
“The vision that the novel’s unorthodox formal structure serves, then, is ethical... In its purposeful discontinuity, the novel assumes the task of bearing witness to the impediments obstructing the truth, as well as the hardships endured by those living in a world where truth seems so obscure. While America’s 21st century military adventures and inattention to suffering most prominently contribute to perpetuating such conditions, these are not the only sources of venality and corruption surveyed by Strawberry Fields, and the ultimate barrier to human flourishing is the more general human capacity to regard the lives of others as dispensable, collateral damage to the pursuit of power and control. ...
If Strawberry Fields deflects some of our attention away from the usual interest in plot and character, its formal arrangement deftly reinforces its ethical ambitions. In fact, it would be more accurate to say that the ethical content itself emerges from the formal design Plum has used. Strawberry Fields may be one of those rare novels in which what the novel wants to “say” is virtually indistinguishable from the way it is said.” —Daniel Green, Full Stop (July 2018)
“We need novels like Strawberry Fields and writers like Hilary Plum to help guide us through these unhealthy literary and political times in which fictions masquerade as truth, where truth is demanded of our fictions, and in both instances, we still believe truth is something we can measure, capture, distill, commodify. ... Plum asks the reader to do what many systems novels have asked, which is for us to question the machinations of power, but through polyphony, she subverts the genre by also asking the reader to connect with the emotional truths in the margins of these conflicts. ... Plum resists the genre’s tendency towards polemics, gifting us with something that is at once a mirror for our own ugliness but an elegant lyric for our times. ... Strawberry Fields gives us sight. And in being able to see, perhaps you, I, and everyone we know can come out of the margins, and act.” —Drew Pham, Consequence (August 2018)
“[If] you, as do I, might like a novel that doesn’t just describe our malevolent times but replicates their dizzying and dismaying profusion of bad news and hostile intentions, sans happy-face band-aids, then Strawberry Fields is for you.” —Peter Molin, Time Now (August 2018)
“Though writing about an evil can't prevent it, I have to believe the writing itself adds some other good, some justice for the evil’s survivors. Writing’s power to represent twenty-first century Earth’s myriad hells, and its utility in doing so, is the question to which Hilary Plum’s Strawberry Fields applies its significant intelligence. ... As you recognize our world in Plum's, you will answer this question for yourself: What good can you do? Or maybe more importantly, what good can we do?” —Tom DeBeauchamp, The Collagist (October 2018)
“In Hilary Plum’s Strawberry Fields, myriad memorable protagonists report on tragedies from hotspots around the world with vivid language… A bleak but well-rendered picture of global destruction. The novel moves through many of the major crises of the early twenty-first century… Plum used real reporters’ impressions of the crises that her fictional equivalents navigate. Her narrators are outside observers; her lyrical first-person writing is plausible as their work… The subject matter is universally dark, but also very realistic, making Strawberry Fields work as a thinly fictionalized version of global chaos.” —Jeff Fleischer, Foreword Reviews (May/June 2018)