Brian Evenson recommends Juan Cardenás’s Ornamental (Coffee House Press, 2020)

It's always hard to publish a book in a pandemic, but the first translation into English by an unknown Colombian author is particularly hard.  Ornamental didn't get the attention it deserved. Cardenás's novel is about volunteers for a trial for a recreational drug that affects only women and about the doctor behind it.  It's a book about economies, pleasure, addiction, the libidinal economy, and the intersection of all those things within late capitalism.  It's a scathing critique that reads swiftly and smoothly, with a crisp, precise style, and a book that feels remarkably apropos at the moment as we watch a society collapse and change because of a few choices made by those who want to profit. Plus, the clinic in which the experiments take place use specially trained spider monkeys as a security team.  Beautifully translated by Lizzie Davis, this is a deeply weird and wonderfully potent novel.

Brian Evenson is the author of over a dozen books of fiction, most recently Song for the Unraveling of the World. He lives in Los Angeles and teaches at CalArts.