I'm a Fan, Sheena Patel & Selene Beaujolais
by Kim Kent
3 weeks ago
It would surprise no one to know that I’m a fan of books that make me feel a little bit insane. Novels whose voice—the quality that’s responsible for imparting a feeling of pleasant insanity, or [insert other sense of disorientation from any number of novels we’ve read together]—imparts more of an impression than its actual plot elements. But last spring I read a paperback with a hot pink cover that produced such a visceral reaction in me, like a sudden bout of sea sickness, and because I could not attribute the reason for my reaction at the time—had I even read it, or, had I actually eaten it? Chewed it glue and all, and so what I was actually feeling in the pit of my stomach was that of half-digested paper, ink, saliva?— I didn’t know what to do with it, so I cautiously placed it back in my stack of unread books, letting it gnaw and growl at me for the better part of a year.
To start, I should say Sheena Patel’s I’m a Fan is a work of fiction that will make you feel insane, but it’s unlikely it will try to please you. That’s simply not the point. It’s a hungry novel—one that moves with the weight of a slippery, seeking tongue. Immediate, obsessive, powerful, and lapping up the now of being alive now— making for a disorienting, uncomfortable, darkly hilarious experience that mirrors the experience of being caught in the mouth of the Internet so dizzyingly I could feel the pull of the novel even when I placed it face down across the room. I was caught between wondering why I would want a novel to do this to me, and being amazed at how it could. Patel’s novel’s power is in the experience of reading it—a novel that can only be read from inside the pink, wet ridges of its mouth, and so when we’re finally cut loose, it feels less like finishing and more like being dropped from the jaws of a living animal. And that feeling, more than anything, is what felt so compelling to me: it’s messy, and full, and partially digested, but if we (as I do) want our novels to take us over then surely I’m a Fan does just that.
The man I am obsessed with makes wine. I have been known to refer to him as my boyfriend. [Soon, you’ll see what I’m doing here, but just in case you think I’m not serious, I am]. While we all know how to recognize unhealthy obsession [insert one million memes and hot girl novels and TV shows], let’s, for a moment, think about the benefits of being caught up in an obsession: it makes you feel alive, or at least lively, it enables you to feel connected to something outside yourself, imagined or real, it lets us define (or redefine) our values, plus, sometimes obsessions are just plain fun. Plainly put, the Séléné Beaujolais Cuvée Printemps (100% Gamay) is a fun wine, and we’re obsessed with it. It’s lively, berry-full, and juicy. This bottle, the very first vintage of Spring, is almost savory too, like raisins plucked from a fancy cheese board in the south of France; it’s a wine that would be perfect to share with friends at an effortless, chill, but exceptionally Beautiful, dinner party I assume people in other cities are always going to, or simply to drink alone while reading in the bath or bed.
Sheena Patel is a writer and assistant director for film and TV who was born and raised in North West London. She is part of the poetry collective 4 BROWN GIRLS WHO WRITE and was named as one of the Observer’s “Best Debut Novelists of 2022.” I’m a Fan was longlisted for the Women’s Prize, shortlisted for the Dylan Thomas prize and the Jhalak Prize, and won the British Book Award in the Discover category. It is a novel I stalked on the internet long before it came out in the U.S. (hence my hot pink copy) but it was published in 2023 in the US by Graywolf.
Sylvere Trichard took over his grandparents’ vineyard in Blancé in the heart of the Beaujolais region of France, and he began making his own biodynamic wine in 2021. This is his third vintage of Cuvée Printemps (the first vintage of spring): 100 % Gamay that undergoes semi-carbonic maceration for about a week before finishing in fiberglass and cement before bottling. It’s a bottle that’s meant to be for the now.