"We have extensive accounts, typed out neatly: 'They took me into a dark room and started hitting me on the head and stomach and legs. I stayed in this room for 5 days, naked, with no clothes.'"
Angela Woodward's novel Ink tells the story of the two women who spend their days doing that neat typing. Sylvia and Marina, both single mothers, work in a suburban office building, transcribing tape recordings of witness statements describing detainee abuse at Abu Ghraib. Their ordinary preoccupations—problems with the soap in the restroom, the motives of Marina's new love, Mr. Right, and Sylvia's worries about paying for her son's show choir costume—are a mundane backdrop to the violence represented by the transcripts. Woodward layers essayistic explorations of the history of ink and writing materials into the women's tale along with the story of the unfinished masterpiece of a French poet, and a writer's notations about her daily commute and the lake behind her house. Then a new crime is revealed. Ink is an illuminating meditation on what it means to bear witness.
Angela Woodward is the author of the novels End of the Fire Cult and Natural Wonders. Natural Wonders won the Fiction Collective Two Doctorow Innovative Fiction prize in 2015. Rain Taxi called it "a wide-ranging meditative book that is by turns delightful, clever, and heartbreaking." Woodward's short fiction has won the Pushcart Prize and been anthologized in Dzanc Books' Best of the Web. She has published stories and essays in many journals, including the Kenyon Review, Ninth Letter, Los Angeles Review of Books, and American Chordata.
Like Tokarczuk's Flights, Woodward's crisp, clean prose moves quick-paced through place and time, weaving together a narrative from multiple threads: Angela Woodward's Ink is an engrossing, multifaceted narrative that questions how we witness, how we document, and ultimately how we understand life in all its manifestations, from humdrum to horror.
~Jesi Bender, author of The Book of the Last Word and Kinderkrankenhaus
Angela Woodward's novel Ink shows us how, even when the evil is shocking—in this case the torture of detainees in Abu Ghraib prison—the mechanisms by which it's processed and received can render it banal. It is by reverse-engineering this muffling through collocation of the testimonies with office politics, workaday busyness, Netflix thrillers, and histories of the materials of writing that Woodward un-disappears the ink. Reflecting on the 'failure' of Francis Ponge's Soap, this novel curses all cleansers, all fresheners, all distractions, all entertainment, willing our national stains to set. Reading this book...it's like I'd forgotten novels could be provocative.
~Joe Sacksteder, author of Make/Shift and Driftless Quintet
Angela Woodward's Ink is a glorious melding of essay and novel, outrage and understanding. Think: Sebald, later Gerald Murnane, Lydia Davis. Brilliant, empathetic, and above all a pleasure to read.
~Gabriel Blackwell, author of Doom Town and CORRECTION
Angela Woodward's Ink mines the relationship between the word as witness and the nightmares buried beneath our words. This is a novel that marries politics and poetry in the profoundest sense.
~Hannah Lillith Assadi, author of Sonora and The Stars Are Not Yet Bells
Ink is thoughtful and meandering, but also precise and sharp. Based on the real events and testimonies of Abu Ghraib, this layered narrative still turns its subject inside out, wrapping ordinariness into acts of violence. Brutal and surreal, Ink juxtaposes extreme and mundane events in its story of two women hired to transcribe horrors.
Ink is a novel determined to be different, like a piece of free-form jazz in which a talented musician/composer plays solos that sometimes point to common themes, sometimes seem like random if engrossing flourishes, and sometimes find a more conventional groove. It succeeds... in connecting the prose and the passion, exalting both.