IF MY BOOK: The Grip of It, Jac Jemc

Welcome to another installment of If My Book, the Monkeybicycle feature in which authors shed light on their recently released books by comparing them to weird things. This week Jac Jemc writes about her latest novel, The Grip of It, just published by FSG Originals.

If The Grip of It were a room, it would be full of furniture, but it would still echo.

If The Grip of It were a weapon, it would be a garrote, easy to secret away, a cinch to disguise as something else, cutting, a surprise attack every time. No one threatens with a garrote. They use it only when they know exactly what they want to get rid of.

If The Grip of It were a glass of water, it would still taste a little like whatever was last served in it.

If The Grip of It were an office job, it would be the one where no one ever knows what exactly it is the person does, only that they’re always very busy and shouldn’t be disturbed.

If The Grip of It were an old picture album found in the attic of your house, one person’s face would be scratched out of every photo.

If The Grip of It were a song, it would be a children’s playground rhyme at half-speed.

If The Grip of It were a rumor in your family, it would be the one where your grandmother says, “Did anyone ever tell you about Aunt Cathy?” and you would say, “You mean the one where her husband killed her and put her in the trunk of his car and took her to a gas station and told the attendant his crazy wife was inside and could he please use their phone?” but your grandmother would say, “No, that was our cousin. I mean your Aunt Cathy whose husband burned their house to the ground with her and the children in it and then someone made a movie about it,” and you would ask what the movie is called, but your grandmother can’t remember.

If The Grip of It were an allergen, it would be cottonwood pollen, beautiful, delicate, stealthy, misleading, a nuisance.

If The Grip of It were a constellation, it would be Cassiopeia, chained to her throne, hanging upside-down when the sky turns around the earth.

If The Grip of It were a child’s scribble, it would look like a bat, even though the child insists it’s a bird.

If The Grip of It were a string instrument, it would be a piano, and everyone would keep saying, that’s really more of a percussion instrument, but no one would really feel that strongly either way, until the host would finally stand from the table and say, “Who wants ice cream?” and everyone would say they do and avoid eye contact until it arrived.

If The Grip of It were an afternoon walk in the woods, then something just rustled in the bushes.

If The Grip of It were a tragedy, it would be one that happened just after something good.

If The Grip of It were a street, it would be brightly lit.

But if The Grip of It were a dark hallway, you’d get all the way to the end, flip the light and realize someone is standing right in front of you. You’d try to scream, but no sound would come out. You’d stumble backward, trip and fall, crab-scramble back onto your feet, and the old man would remain silent and still. You’d get the door open and run to your car. You’d start the engine and wonder where you can go when home is no longer safe.


Jac Jemc is the author of The Grip of It (FSG Originals, 2017). Her first novel, My Only Wife (Dzanc Books) was a finalist for the 2013 PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize for Debut Fiction and winner of the Paula Anderson Book Award, and her collection of stories, A Different Bed Every Time (Dzanc Books) was named one of Amazon’s best story collections of 2014. She edits nonfiction for Hobart. Find out more at jacjemc.com, or follow her on Twitter at @jacjemc.

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