As is the case with all avid readers, I’ve given much thought to the Eternal Question: What do you read? Depending on who’s asking, the answer is various degrees of impossible. How do you succinctly unpack the multitudes that make up your shelf of favorites to the innocuous face (or not-so-innocuous if you’re at, say, a book conference) across from you? Answer: You do not do it succinctly. You in fact carry on and on and on.
And yet there comes a time when you’ve seen your questioner aggressively eyeing the cheese plate over your shoulder one too many times, just as you’re just getting to the good part of explaining why Kelly Link is one of the exceptions to your realism bubble. There comes a time when you must attempt to distill your predilections down to their essence.
In my case, then, it is the domestic sphere: the teeming underbelly of families and marriage, of courtships and hateships (to borrow a phrase from Alice Munro). Or, to put it another way: whatever you call the subject matter of Panio Gianopoulos’ writing; that’s what my reading preference is.
I first came across Panio’s writing in the FiveChapters archives (surprise!) and a few paragraphs in to “Luxury,” I’d felt an immediate affinity. His writing possessed an uncanny sense of the maleness of men, of the femaleness of women, and a brutal commitment to our inevitable faults. “Luxury” apologizes for none of the confounding morals of its characters and slows down only to steal your breath with the precision of its sentences (“After three months of enthusiastic sex, we began to smack the word love around like agitated badminton players. Two months later, she bullied her way into my one-bedroom apartment. Two months after that I purchased her friend.”)
When Panio sent me the first draft of A Familiar Beast, my initial fascination with his unscrupulous-yet-sympathetic men and women was reinforced tenfold. It wastes no time pulling you in two different directions as Marcus struggles in the undertow of his affair, the context of which should be unforgivable, and yet! You’ll see. It’s a subtle, beautifully wrought piece of writing.
In the wake of an affair that has cost him his marriage and career, Marcus is a lost man. Desperate for reprieve from his loneliness and regret, he accepts an invitation to go to the outskirts of North Carolina and visit Edgar, an old high school classmate burdened with mysterious troubles of his own. In Edgar’s beautiful, empty home, their separate sorrows draw Marcus into a series of unnerving situations, culminating in a proposed deer hunt. Marcus agrees, despite his inexperience and aversion to killing, and as the hunt draws closer, he must confront the violent prospect with a candor and recognition that have, until now, evaded him. Elegant and darkly moving, A Familiar Beast is a haunting tale of a man’s search for redemption.
“Elegant, erudite and witty, this extremely well-observed and surprisingly suspenseful story offers more insights into love and human relationships than most authors manage in works three times as long.”
—Adam Langer, author of author of Crossing California and The Thieves of Manhattan
“Impressively taut and meticulously drawn. As we follow Marcus from reckoning to something like redemption, Gianopoulous’ wisdom and humanity light up this darkly comic, bittersweet journey. Here is a gifted writer in full control of his craft—and impact. A Familiar Beast is a perfectly-executed shot through the heart.”
—Jean Nathan, author of The Secret Life of the Lonely Doll: The Search for Dare Wright
“A Familiar Beast is superb. Always engaging and often provocative, it follows the gut-tightening travails of a man hollowed by his own infidelities. With elegant prose, unforgettable scenes and Philip Roth-like psychological insights, Panio Gianopoulos’s debut novella marks the arrival of a bright and gifted writer.”
—Jim Lynch, author of Truth Like the Sun and The Highest Tide
“A Familiar Beast is a swan song to love and lovers, and with its devastating wit and tender bitterness it kills the easy, common hope for meaning, significance, and, ultimately, redemption. Panio Gianopoulos writes as elegantly as ‘the line of a woman’s neck as she arches to show you her indifference.’ And the reader will understand that all we are left with is the ability to hurt and kill what we thought we loved.”
—Stefan Kiesbye, author of Your House Is on Fire, Your Children All Gone
The reason you’re here is a very good one. Buy this remarkable little novella, and in the meantime, read “Luxury.” When you’re done with that and you’re hankering for more Gianopoulos, read what may be the most endearing essay ever about Spiderman, “Arachnophilia,” originally published in Tin House. Next up, “Confessions of a Boy Toy,” an essay on how Panio met and eventually married his wife, an actress you almost certainly had a crush on growing up, which appeared originally in The Bastard on the Couch.
There are only 200 launch packages this go-round, so don’t dilly-dally. It’ll be available on the site here after launch closes on November 12th and at various retailers, but they won’t be signed, and you want a signed one. Believe you me. Panio is the real thing. And have I mentioned yet how beautiful this book is, and how lovely it feels in your hands? It’s beautiful. It feels damn good in your hands. You don’t want to miss this one.
Thanks for supporting A Familiar Beast. Please click on the applicable package below and you will be taken through checkout and through the e-book download (if applicable). If you’d like to order more than one launch package, you can change the quantity in the next screen. Books will be mailed out next week and the thank-you notes will arrive a few weeks after that. All launch packages are $16.00 plus $4.00 shipping and handling; if you’re not signed up for PayPal, not a big deal. Proceed as a guest and you can pay with a credit card. Sadly, we cannot process international orders at this time. Quantities are limited to 200; after that, the book will be available on the site for retail price.
LAUNCH CLOSED on November 13th. Thank you to all who participated! The book is now available through our store.