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Sterling Karat Gold: A Novel (Paperback)

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Sterling Karat Gold: A Novel By Isabel Waidner Cover Image

Staff Reviews

Wow, I was taken aback by the brilliance of this book. I love when the surreal and absurd helps us make sense of the very real social problems around us. Isabel Waidner has accomplished that in spades. [Adrienne]

— From Sterling Karat Gold


Like Franz Kafka’s The Trial for the post-truth era, at once “surreal, polemical, and fun” (The Telegraph).

Sterling Beckenbauer is plunged into a terrifying and nonsensical world one morning when they are attacked, then unfairly arrested, in their neighborhood in London. With the help of their friends, Sterling hosts a trial of their own in order to exonerate themselves and to hold the powers that be to account.

Sterling Karat Gold, in the words of Kamila Shamsie, is “a madly brilliant and deeply sane novel that reveals surrealism as possibly the most effective way of talking about the political moment we find ourselves in.” In it, Isabel Waidner concocts a world replete with bullfighters, high fashion, DIY theater, the Beach Boys, and time-traveling spaceships. The acclaimed winner of the 2021 Goldsmiths Prize for fiction that breaks the mold and extends the possibilities of the form, this novel explores the phantasmagoric nature of contemporary life, especially for nonbinary migrants, and daringly revises how solidarity and justice might be sought and won. Sterling Karat Gold couldn’t be a better North American introduction to a writer with an irresistible style and unforgettable vision.

About the Author

Isabel Waidner is a writer based in London. They are the author of Sterling Karat Gold, We Are Made of Diamond Stuff, and Gaudy Bauble. They are the winner of the Goldsmiths Prize 2021 and were shortlisted for the Goldsmiths Prize in 2019, the Orwell Prize for Political Fiction in 2022, and the Republic of Consciousness Prize in 2018, 2020, and 2022. They are a co-founder of the event series Queers Read This at the Institute of Contemporary Arts, and they are an academic in the School of English and Drama at Queen Mary University of London.

Praise For…

“That Waidner delivers such moral clarity with nonstop wit and invention makes their novel not just an admirable achievement but a pleasure to read.”—Matt Bell, The New York Times Book Review

“Waidner’s novel is actually a strange collage, which performs much the same function as the performance art series that Sterling organizes: It destabilizes the notion of reality and conjures a ‘counternarrative’ to our oppressive sense of normality. . . . A rollicking good time.”—Charlie Jane Anders, The Washington Post

“[Waidner's] explosive sensibility and style are as far removed from mediocre prose and middle-class manners as you can imagine. This alone is reason to read them.”—Bernardine Evaristo, The New York Times Book Review

“This novel is part Franz Kafka, part Hieronymus Bosch, and part Monty Python, but mostly it’s completely sui generis. And it succeeds on every level a novel can. Dizzying, unsettling, and extremely smart.”Kirkus Reviews, starred review

“[A] daring masterpiece, messy and bizarre, yet precise and witty and brainy as something by an AFAB David Lynch, or a nonbinary Valerie Solanas or Kathy Acker born into an era that would actually listen to them. An era that needs this kind of wild and brilliant conjuring.”—Michelle Tea, LIBER: A Feminist Review

“Waidner’s refreshingly absurdist third novel . . . is a topsy-turvy journey across Camden Town from the point of view of a nonbinary migrant, a Kafkaesque adventure that encompasses bullfighters, footballers, time-traveling spaceships, and a high-drama trial.”—Michelle Hart, Electric Literature's “Most Anticipated LGBTQ+ Books of Spring 2023”

“[Sterling Karat Gold] is strange, powerful, witty, kaleidoscopic and well, a bit deranged in all honesty . . . in only the best of ways.”—Karla J. Strand, Ms. Magazine

“A dizzying blend of ordinary and strange—[Sterling Karat Gold is] full of time travel, spaceships, and the everyday dilemmas of contemporary life.”—Laura Sackton, Book Riot

Sterling Karat Gold's power comes from the wide-ranging creativity and openness of Waidner’s mind and their challenge not to leave art alone, daring us not to either. Daring us to trust our imagination, because the imagination is a weapon, too. So, too, is humor, which is why, in Waidner’s hands, the world the imagination creates is also funny. And so, too, is love—which abounds between Sterling and their friends.”—Jennifer Kabat, 4Columns

"[A] piece of winged originality."—Ali Smith, The Guardian (UK)

“Fearless, clever, and blazingly original, Isabel Waidner’s latest is a riotous parable of resistance in the key of Hieronymous Bosch. Sterling Karat Gold advances its searing indictment of injustice and hypocrisy with equal parts wit and guts—all the while honoring the joys of queer friendship and fashion-forward time travel. There’s nothing else like this in the world.”—Megan Milks

“Revelatory. This novel is a portal into our own world and the queer, migrant resistance that urgently reshapes it. It is an intervention into all the forces that keep us apart, and a call for us to use whatever means possible—including time travel—to stay together.”—Joss Lake, author of Future Feeling

“In neon, polyester, in ALL-CAPS-BLAZING-QUEER AESTHETICS, Waidner delivers a novel in which fiction finds itself refreshed—kitsch, urban, a kind of collage, assemblage. A glittering queer futurism that moves from album covers to spaceships, from bullfights to detention centers, Sterling Karat Gold interrogates whiteness, capitalism, and nationhood in language as witty as it is intelligent, as spoken as it is written. This novel made me homesick—I bought pastel trackies within the week.”—Lars Horn

Product Details
ISBN: 9781644452134
ISBN-10: 1644452138
Publisher: Graywolf Press
Publication Date: February 7th, 2023
Pages: 192
Language: English