Sea Monsters By Chloe Aridjis with Cascina Fornace Desaja
For the past few years we’ve been on a journey. Not one with a clear beginning or end, but one that tracks our obsessions, moods, atmospheres of mind and season: Reading as if roaming a shoreline, “aimlessly, purposefully, and in search of digressions.” And while this journey has mostly felt mercurial, unspecified—rarely do I know what I am in the mood for until I am consuming it—occasionally, a pattern emerges so clearly that I can not help but follow its thread to the very end. And so it is from the other side of this thread end that I write this, firm in my insistence that this month’s novel, or more so this month’s author, is the only thing that could pull us from our wintry “landscapes of perhapses”and launch us, properly, into the “half troubling, half magnificent” landscape of Spring.
To read Sea Monsters is a bit like finding yourself “stuck halfway through a dream.” A dream both “melodious and dis-quieting” where “the truth of things” is both highly subjective and wildly strange. On its face it’s a novel about growing up, about longing and desire, and the power of imagination— that “insistent yet invisible” force. It is also about looking, too closely sometimes, which makes it, very much, a novel about love, though not in the way you may expect. Not only is Chloe Aridjis the only author we’ve repeated for Book Cru, she’s the only author we’ve returned to again, and again for the last three years. And now that we’ve come to the end of this thread—or the end of her three novels— I feel as though some part of this long journey must have been worth it. At the very least, I feel more awake.
I drank three large sips, the last of an already opened bottle, of Cascina Fornace Arneis while reading Sea Monsters, and then, as if in some manner of a spell, I felt myself lusting after it for days. I wanted more. Which is to say I loved it, or loved the idea of how it had tasted. A perfect “union of brine” and fruit: pineapple crusted in salt, peach pit, lemongrass, and thyme. Beguiling, really. And when I got to drink it again, weeks later, I was thrilled to find that my inner picture of it held up to my outer one—even if it wasn’t exact: it’s an electric wine, with depth. Or, exactly what I needed.
Chloe Aridjis is the author of Sea Monsters, Asunder, and Book of Clouds— all three of which have been Book Cru selections over the years, inadvertently but perfectly timed with our reading selections for the late winter/ early spring months. We hope she writes another novel soon so we have something to read this time next year.
Cascina Fornace is the project of two brothers Enrico and Emanuele Cauda in the village of Roero in Piedmont Italy. The brothers farm three hectares on the steep, hilly slopes above the Tanaro River where their grapes grow rich with the sun and develop a deep minerality from the cool, breezy air. This Arneis macerates for five days on the skins before fermenting in stainless steel and then aging in Amphora for five years.