On reading: Headcheese by Jess Hagemann

Title: Headcheese

Author: Jess Hagemann

From the back: The day that Lorrie “accidentally” cuts off her little toe, she discovers what it’s like to be able-bodied and not want that body.

After Bartholomew loses his left arm to a Sunni sniper, he’s inspired to start a new kind of church―one where both amputation and sex are types of performance art.

Trice, a prosthetics engineer, receives the assignment of a lifetime when he’s asked to rebuild his son’s crippled frame.

Haunted by the memory of his dead wife, George must take the ultimate measure to excise her ghost. For good.

From sexual fetish to the clinical diagnosis of Body Integrity Identity Disorder, Headcheese makes the first cut, peeling back the epidermis to peer inside the minds and hearts of 26 people navigating the topography of flesh.

The gist: This book…

… it’s taken me a few weeks to let it sink in, to feel like I’ve digested it.

This book…

… it’s such an original novel – filled with illustrations (stunning) and insights (unusual, sometimes bizarre, sometimes brutal) into the lives of a selection of people and their relationships with their bodies.

This book…

… feels something like a cross between a Louis Theroux documentary and a Chuck Palahniuk novel, and yet it’s neither of these things – it’s a Hagemann novel and it’s fantastic.

It’s such a strange read – it felt like reading a non-fiction book, or watching documentaries on Vice. It’s both beautiful and horrific. It made me curious about things I hadn’t realised I was curious about. It delved into thoughts and feelings that were simultaneously uncomfortable and fascinating.

I wouldn’t normally comment specifically on the format, but I bought a paperback copy and given the excellent illustrations by Chris Panatier (the cover art was a significant factor in me picking up this book in the first place), and the ‘players list’ I’m glad I had the hard copy to flick through and admire.

Headcheese is hard to define. It is shocking, challenging and fascinating. It’s beautiful and brutal. And it’s one of a kind.

Favourite line: “humankind, by the way, only pretends to have evolved past truth to altruism”

Read if: You want an original, unusual, raw read, that blurs the lines between documentary and fiction.

Read with: An inquisitive mind, and occasionally a strong stomach.

Get it: Headcheese by Jess Hagemann

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