• GC Ramey

An Appeal for the Recovery of Kate Jennings’ Snake (Graduate Essay)

I was introduced to Kate Jennings during a graduate course on forgotten books at the University of New Orleans. After reading various works that had, for one reason or another, fallen out of print, the final project was to discover a lost book of the 20th century and then to construct an argument for why the book should be recovered. Initially my search brought me to several interesting titles, but due to a delay in shipping times, I was unable to get a hold of them. With very little to go on, and my time dwindling, I utilized an online resource suggested for the class called Neglected Books. The website was a collection of blog entries that highlighted various books that had, as the site’s name suggests, been neglected. Under each entry a brief review was included, and then if applicable, a link to any copies that might still be for sale. I browsed the database, without much more than a vague concept of what I might want to accomplish with the project. After a few days of this, and with a deadline approaching to make my decision, an in-class discussion led me to an important revelation that added not only clarity to the project, but also a sense of purpose. In this conversation I was reminded of the fact that of those authors whose works had been forgotten in the 20th century, many of them were women. Suddenly I felt compelled to, at the very least, attempt to recover a female voice, instead of just adding another male figure to an already male-saturated world.

With this conviction firmly in place, the search began again. Eventually I came across an entry that showed a simple book cover that featured a faded and unflattering illustration of a snake. I nearly passed up the unattractive book, but then noticed that the author was a woman named Kate Jennings. I read the brief review that Neglected Books offered, which spoke of how unusually short the book was, summarizing it as “a tight short novel about two people who come at their marriage from very different directions,” and felt an increasing curiosity for how such a small novel might uniquely deal with the somewhat common premise of marital woes (Neglected Books).

After finding that Snake was offered online through Open Library, I quickly read through the first paragraph, and was impressed by its initial pages. Jennings opens the novel in a way that left me immediately interested in characters that I did not yet know, compelling me to read on. She begins by saying, “Everybody likes you. A good man. Decent. But disappointed. Who wouldn’t be? That wife. Those Children. Your wife. You love and cherish her… She is your wife, she despises you… She emasculates you with the sure blade of her contempt” (Jennings 3). I was so struck by this opening that I couldn’t put the book away. As I read through chapter after chapter, I was convinced that I had never read something that blended the striking imagery of poetry with the purposeful and well-paced storytelling of prose in such a way. The writing felt both experimental and uniquely personal, as if I was reading the intimate thoughts of someone’s diary. As my appreciation for the novel grew, so did my affirmation that I had found the right book. And so, that night I read the whole thing in one sitting, and then ordered a physical copy the next day.

Shortly after completion of the initial stages of research, I hit a logistical barrier. Information about the work, its creation, and what caused its demise seemed too sparse, with nothing more than a few reviews being readily available. Despite a growing fondness for Snake and the powerful voice of its author, it appeared that I would not have enough material to properly support an argument that Jennings’s novel deserved to be recovered. Eventually I managed to come across what seemed to be contact information for the author on a website dedicated to her work. I composed a quick email describing the nature of my endeavor and asked for an opportunity to ask a few questions about the book, assuming that it would either be an old email address, or that she would not respond. I was surprised the next morning to find a very generous email from Jennings, claiming that she’d be happy to provide me with more resources and any information that I would find helpful.

One of those resources, a little known book written by the author Erik Jensen, documented the making of Snake and its eventual fall out of print, which proved to be exactly what I had been missing. This as well as Jennings’ personal advice to me on the publishing industry and even my own writing, led me to see her and this project as more than just a class assignment, but rather a unique opportunity for me to grow as a student and a writer. By taking the time to share what she did, Jennings not only provided me with the supportive material needed for the project, but possibly more importantly than that, she further convinced me that she was exactly the type of person that deserved to be recovered.

Snake, the first novel by the Australian writer and poet, was published in 1996, seventeen years after Jennings moved from Australia, where the book is set, to take up residence in New York City. The novel, which depicts the intensely dysfunctional marriage between Rex and Irene— the models for whom were Jennings’s own parents— as they attempt to raise their children on a farm in rural Australia. Jennings’ story has a gritty realism that dives headfirst into a swirling sea of poetry disguised as prose. In just 157 short pages Jennings manages to carefully spin literary gold with a story that is universally relatable in both its themes and its eventual sadness.

The common familiar sense of reality that Jennings depicts—simplistic in style, yet ripe with emotional vulnerability—allows the book to speak to those of past generations as well as those of generations to come,. The book, however, has since fallen out of circulation, and although it has had an American reprint, it has once again slipped back into obscurity, robbing audiences of the beauty of subtlety that makes Jennings’ work brilliant. Despite this, the novel does deserve another opportunity to thrive in a changing landscape that is now better suited to receive her work. Due to some progressive societal shifts, more accepting attitudes, particularly about the work of female writers and experimental writing styles , now is the right time for Jennings’ book to be recovered.

Kate Jennings grew up on a farm just outside of Griffith, in a small town in New South Wales (Jensen Ch.1). Kate, known as Cathy by her family, followed her literary instinct early, realizing her calling to be a writer at the age of fourteen. Jennings explains, “School compositions . . . were great big adventure compositions where a girl did very well for herself, going around the world, having adventures. And I would make people sit down and listen to me” (qtd. in Ch., 1). She says her success in writing came from her mother, “who influenced me the most and the one who I did not like the most” (qtd. in Perlman). Despite a lifelong fractured relationship with her mother, Edna (a name the daughter says she refuses to say aloud), Jennings says that her mother would read to her “Longfellow and CJ Dennis, people like that.” This early introduction to literature is where Jennings says, “the words came from” (Perlman). As she grew, she took those early literary influences and pursued her education at the University of Sydney, finding success, and graduating with honors. Around this time she became known for her active stance in women’s rights circles, championing left-wing movements and feminism in a time when much of Australia refused to take women’s rights seriously (“About”). One major benchmark in her life, both professionally and personally, came as she delivered a powerful speech before a Vietnam Moratorium march in the 1970’s. In the speech she rallied women to, as Erik Jensen says in his book On Kate Jennings: Writers on Writers, “arm themselves and rise up against men” (Ch. 3).

Jennings eventually left her homeland and settled in New York City, in part to pursue her career, and in part to escape the turmoil of her home life. She says, “People do come to New York to seek fame and fortune, but many more come to hide” (Jensen Ch. 2). Through this act of hiding in the city, Jennings advanced her craft and secured jobs writing for several print sources, and eventually worked as a speech writer on Wall Street— something that inspired her eventual second novel, Moral Hazzard.

It was during this period of life that Jennings met her husband, New Orleans native Bob Cato. Cato was a famed photographer and graphic designer, known for his work at Columbia Records, where he won Grammys for his collaborations with Bob Dylan and Barbara Streisand, and was said to have, “[helped] turn the record album into an important form of contemporary art” (Jensen Ch. 4). The couple married in 1987 and enjoyed a happy marriage until Cato died of complications from Alzheimer’s disease in 1999 (Ch. 4).

Although Jennings had a steady career of full-time writing before Snake—working mostly in the medium of nonfiction, poetry, and essays—it was while writing Snake that she discovered her voice in fiction (eventually leading to a second novel, Moral Hazzard). Snake began as a poem that she could not quite get right. Jennings says, “When I started Snake, I intended to write a poem, but it wasn’t working. I’d been reading Jamaica Kincaid’s Annie John, a short novel in which the prose is so devastatingly exact that the voice that comes through is shocking in its purity. I was off and running. Or, to be more exact, writing and rewriting” (“On Writing Snake”). The inspiration of Annie John, and the realization that she could tell her story better in prose, forced the poet into the world of fiction and led her to discovering what would become her trademark style (Jensen Ch.1). The novel was originally to be called, “Goodbye to the Farm,” an ode to the difficulty with her mother that she faced during her childhood, and only later changed to the name Snake—which was a recurring motif that symbolized various forms of malice (Ch. 2). In 1996, a few years before her husband’s death, and after several sharp rejections, Jennings’ found a publisher, Ecco, and Snake was released (Ch. 4).

Upon its release, Snake received high praise and positive critical attention. The New York Times said that it was “clearly the work of a powerful imagination” and that “American readers will feel themselves fortunate to make the acquaintance of a writer like Kate Jennings” (Shields). Publishers Weekly praised her style, saying that she wrote with “lean, startling prose,” ending the review by stating, “This snake of a novel is lethal and fast-moving— and so spare it will leave readers wishing for more.” Ian Donaldson, former professor of English at Cambridge, had a copy of the book sent to him by Erik Jensen. After reading it in a single sitting, he said of the book, “The great Australian novel? Yes, I’d agree, it certainly warrants that sort of ranking… I love its sparseness, its brevity, its ability” (qtd. Jensen Ch. 1).

One common theme seems to be present in each of the critical reviews of the book, both positive and negative: its length. Carol Shields spent the entire opening paragraph of her New York Times review talking about just that. Shields says, “It is impossible to ignore the fact of the novel’s size. This new book from Kate Jennings, an Australian writer now living in New York, is very, very lean” (Shields). Shields is right; the book is barely 157 pages, and although those pages are filled with 77 chapters, some of those chapters are no bigger than a paragraph or two, making the narrative look more like quick snapshots from a family photo album than portions of a full-length, cohesive novel. It might seem odd at first to write in such sparse bursts. Shields even warns that most of the time, “novels this skeletal run the risk of showing their flaws” (Shields). Some, with that logic in mind, may even disregard it as ineffective, or lazy, yet, when reading through Snake, one becomes keenly aware of the tremendous impact of each chapter, each paragraph, and each word, to the point that it's nearly impossible to discredit the well-planned artistic vision that Jennings accomplishes within the brevity of her story. The truth is, Jennings says more in a single sentence than other more exhaustive (and long-winded) authors say in an entire book. Each word has a weighted value of depth to it. Each line is crafted with exact precision, and every paragraph is saturated with intentional meaning—both overt and well-hidden—for the purpose of telling a story that far surpasses the 157 pages of brief text. In her own brilliant way, Jennings does more with less, and that economy of text is perhaps one of the most compelling things about Snake.

This would appear to make Kate Jennings a minimalist. Most of the time her descriptions are straightforward, with no time to spare or waste a word. She often describes things in simple, easy-to-understand sentences that are void of unnecessary additions, making clarity a top goal. An example of this is visible in a scene with Irene and Girlie: “When [Girlie] went to retrieve the book, it was gone. Every day for months she expected Irene to remark on the book's absence; her guilt became a brace that bit her whenever she relaxed. Irene never said a word” (Jennings 102). Although Jennings is depicting the lack of communication between mother and daughter, her narrative remains so basic and brief that readers might miss it. By simply adding, “Irene never said a word,” Jennings is speaking about Irene’s distance in a very subtle, but effective way. Besides this, Jennings also manages to compare things without the pretentious stylings that one might expect from a poet, choosing to say things simply, but somehow managing to do so without losing any beauty in her language. One instance of this can be seen when Irene is considering her marriage to Rex. Jennings writes, "Fate had been cruel to marry her to a farmer. Such a dull, mean, ordinary existence! She chewed on the injustice of it like a dog with a piece of hide" (Jennings 79). To compare Irene’s discontentment to that of a dog chewing on “a piece of hide” not only gets the point across, but it vividly appeals to the cultural setting of rural Australia in a clever way. Later in the book, Jennings uses this technique again by saying, “[Girlie] was captive to her mother's every mood, quivering to them like a tuning fork," a quick, yet effective way to describe Irene’s control over her daughter (110).

Jennings says of her writing, “There are too many words in the world…It’s got to be exact” (Jensen Ch. 2). This respect and value of each word is the reason that her novel is so profound, as well as small. She did not simply run out of things to say and shorten the book as a result, but instead, labored to find better ways of saying all of the things that she needed to, ruthlessly cutting out anything that didn’t fit in the process. The editor of Snake once had to “wrestle the manuscript off her,” saying to her, “If you keep at it any longer, there won’t be any book left” (Ch.2). The result of her work is a precise, succinct tale that says exactly what it needs to say, and nothing more.

Despite this straightforward simplicity, diving deeper into the rich meaning within in the pages of Snake shows that Jennings’ poetic master plan blankets every inch of the novel, although sometimes that plan is hidden in plain sight. An example of this can be seen in a scene where Rex’s talent for killing snakes is described. Jennings begins the narration simply by saying, “Rex was adept at decapitating snakes with his shovel.” The sentence is a statement of fact and appears at first glance to hold no deeper layer of meaning aside from referencing the books titular symbol, the snake. From here though, Jennings leaves the straight-forward narrative behind and reveals more of her poetic background, taking the description further, saying that after the snake would die, and its body stopped moving, Rex would hang the skin at the irrigation channel which was, “singing with insect life,” and there the guts would become, “slickly iridescent, scales dimming, until only flimsy skin remained to be snagged by the wind…” (Jennings 86). The shift from factual statement to visually stimulating evocation leaves a tangible image in the reader’s mind that is hard to forget, but considering that the motif of the snake runs rampant in its pages, the inclusion of Rex’s ability to effectively destroy snakes is something that does not seem added only for the benefit of imagery. While Jennings does not spell the answer out for the reader, she leaves enough information (even hinting that Irene shared similar qualities to that of a snake), allowing the reader to piece together their own interpretation, something that happens often in the pages of Snake.

Another example of this masterful weaving between prose and poetry comes when Boy makes a disturbing discovery underneath the fleece of a recently sheered sheep. Jennings says, "He took a stick and poked experimentally at the fleece, as if expecting the sheep to reconstruct and run off. He lifted an edge, revealing something that resembled the padding placed under carpet to give it spring. The padding moved, swarmed. Maggots” (72). Jennings begins with simple narrative and from there takes the dry skeletal foundation, breathing more and more artistic life into it as the quote goes along. In this case Jennings not only holds the tension between the two differing styles of narration, but within the latter lines she creates movement, and then takes it away in one powerful word—Maggots, causing the reader to sense the decay of not only the fleece, but also the symbolic decay of the entire family.

Besides just Jennings’ intelligent way with words, her artistic intentionality reveals itself in ways that are every bit as powerful—specifically the layout of the book. Every decision made, precise and purposeful. To read the book in a single sitting, which is certainly doable, showcases how carefully crafted these elements of the book are. Jennings lays out her book into four unequally weighted parts. The main content of the story, section three, which is where the bulk of the story takes place, is book-ended by two small introductory parts (25 pages total), and an equally brief part that closes the narrative (only 3 pages). Together the three shorter sections effectively act to add clever foreshadowing and uneasy resolution. Besides their disproportionate weight, what makes the sections of the novel truly interesting is that Jennings experiments with a different point of view in these from the one used in the main content of the story told in part three. The opening section, which appears to be a sympathetic letter to Rex, is narrated in a condoling second person, while the concluding section keeps the second-person perspective, but finishes the story in a more intentional somber tone. This choice highlights not only the polar opposite feelings the narrator has toward Rex and Irene, but also the same feelings Jennings herself has toward her own parents. The main section of the book, though, is told in a close third-person perspective. The narrator here takes the time to offer details not only about the married couple, but of the entire family. Jennings mentions that although Irene and Rex dominate the majority of the story, she viewed each member of the family as a protagonist in their own right, and the perspective choice chosen drives this point home (“On Writing Snake”).

The story itself is one that may be familiar to most. Jennings depicts a theme as universal as any—family conflict. Snake is very simply the story of a wife, her husband, their kids, and the difficulties that naturally arise over the course of two decades. This, in essence, is a look at the uncensored reality of the family dynamic as a whole—rife with conflict and trouble, but Jennings takes her characters deeper than trouble for trouble’s sake. She examines the root of conflict, as well as the root of human short comings, and the disparity that lies between fulfillment and discontentment in a way that is both sad and strangely inspirational. The reason for this is that Snake, as Jennings said herself, is the story of “what happened” and, therefore, the conflict examined is not just simply a broad survey of suffering, but instead, a look back at the direct events that shaped her (Ch. 2).

While Jennings claims that not everything included is personal history, and instead some of it is fabricated or altered, the autobiographical influences are so prevalent that Jennings mentions that members of her own family are not sure what is real and what was made up for the story (Perlman). The principal characters though, the mother, Irene, and the father, Rex, appear to be cloned versions of Jennings’ own parents, without much exaggeration. Originally though, she did paint her mother out to be the “Wicked Witch,” but in revisions, she softened the edges and created a truer—yet still sinister— composite of who the woman was (Jensen Ch. 2).

The story begins with trouble. On the first page Jennings leaves this abrasive description of Irene’s feeling toward Rex: “She is your wife, she despises you. The coldness, the forbearing looks, the sarcastic asides are constant. She emasculates you with the sure blade of her contempt” (Jennings 3). The following pages are not much better, although Irene seems to be optimistic toward marriage early on. Even so, any hopes of positivity from Irene quickly evaporate as she is sobered to the reality of life on a farm. Even before they enter their new home, Rex notices a loose step and says in a responsible tone, “I’ll have that fixed in a jiffy.” Irene’s response is one of annoyance. The narrator says, “She brushed the feeling away, but it re-formed, hovered, settled, like a mantle of flies on a hot day” (32). And those flies would never leave, becoming a subtle at first thorn in her side that slowly pierces her deeper and deeper as the years move slowly by.

Her husband, Rex, who openly admits to having no real idea about women, does not help her discontent, and even seems to remain willfully ignorant of it. This ignorance matches his introverted, stoic approach to life, something that Jennings hints at as being typical of Australians during an interview with Elliot Perlman. In that interview she says, “[It is] this very familiar Australian [thing] — no words, no speaking no stories, no nothing” (Perlman). His silence, and inability to confront his feelings, are things that her own father struggled with. The muteness of Rex, as she calls it, meets Irene’s growing bitterness with a passive volatility, creating an immovable barrier to love. As the years progress, that barrier fractures them completely. With no hope of reconnecting something that was never truly whole, the depressing fate of the couple seems inevitable.

Jennings remains consistent to her cause of depicting what happened. Her pursuit of truth confronts the reality that is the common practice of accepting perpetual discontentment in marriage. Like many do, Irene and Rex move forward in misery, and thus, Jennings follows them. The couple eventually has children, and, unsurprisingly, that fact does not aid in reuniting the two under a common banner, and instead only complicates an already unstable home life. If their names are any indication at all—a daughter named "Girlie" and a son named "Boy"— Irene shows sharp signs of postpartum depression and emotional detachment. As her first born, Girlie, nurses, Irene recalls a distant memory in which she found a cat that had just given birth to a kitten. The narrator describes the cat’s interaction with the kitten saying, “Instead of turning maternal, she had become angered. She swatted at the kitten as it were a mouse, swatted again, and realizing that it wasn’t able to run away, devoured it” (Jennings 36). Despite occasional moments of loving interest—especially toward her son, Boy— this memory of the cat killing her own kitten is nearly prophetic, as Irene struggles to maintain normal levels of compassion and care for her children, forcing them to endure a strange mixture of passive neglect, and strange intimacy which leaves them deeply damaged (Shields).

As a result of her precise craftsmanship and intensely personal subject matter, Snake's initial success was not much of a surprise; however, its quick demise was. Despite such early praise from noteworthy sources, the book fell out of print, not once but twice. A reissue in 2001 had Jennings excited about the opportunity to see her first novel find a new audience. Sadly, the book was hit with mixed reviews the second time around and disappeared from shelves almost as quickly as its initial print run did. Upon this second publication, writer and scholar Jessica White lamented the book's simplicity, saying, “Perhaps if it was longer and the characters had more complexity, I would have enjoyed it more" (White).

So, with literary quality obviously present in the book and some high praise, at least initially, why exactly did the novel fail? Jennings speculates that perhaps it is the same feminist background that she came from—the one that she still is fully active in—that contributed to her book’s failure. She says that her treatment of her mother in the book, the character of Irene, was not well received by some female readers, and that they thought it was a detriment to the cause of feminism to have a character with virtually no redeeming qualities and who is so, “unfeeling” (Ch. 5). She later stated in an interview with The INC Blot that it was important for her to not “write a feminist tract”. She elaborates by saying, “this was a time when feminists were presenting mothers as nurturing and women in general as somehow innately morally superior. Arrant nonsense, of course. Some mothers are good, some middling, some appalling” (“On Writing Snake”). In a vacuum, this speculative argument has merit, but considering Jennings’ pursuit of what she calls “angry truth,” her depictions of Irene do not seem unfair or challenging to feminism, nor does it rob Snake of a strong female archetype (Jensen Ch. 1). Jennings, as the author, is exercising her voice and her viewpoint of the neglectful abuse she endured at home. To silence her voice just because it displays one woman as “unfeeling” is nothing more than suggesting that her perspective of things is invalid or wrong. Jennings’s novel should be valued, and her story should be heard, and her mother’s cruelty be brought to account. Even so, a closer look internally at the book actually resolves the issue, as it reveals that the heroine in the story all along is the peripheral character (and as some speculate, narrator of the story), Girlie. After the mistreatment that she’s endured at the hands of Irene, her strength to persevere, and eventual escape to pursue her love of writing, suggests that she is the strong female character the critics are looking for. When read with the autobiographical elements in mind, the fact that the real Girlie, Jennings herself, made it out of her dysfunctional childhood and made it as a writer, transforms the story into a tale of overcoming. By understanding Girlie’s strength, it’s easy to see that Irene’s inadequacies, even in their most brutal depictions, does not make the text any less feminist, but instead adds a strong comparative layer to highlight what makes Girlie, as a woman, special.

Apart from the issue of the novel’s perceived view of feminism, Erik Jensen claims that there are several other reasons that “Snake failed to find an audience,” particularly that it “never had a good cover,” and that, “its subject was unfashionable” (Ch. 5). The cover’s unimaginative darkened image of a coiled snake was not only too hard to see up against the dark background of the cover, but its plainness felt as unfashionable as Jensen said critics found the subject matter to be. While these criticisms may have contributed to the failure of the book, the real issue with it may have been, as Jensen says, “It was too small.” Jensen adds that books are like yogurt, “the shelf life is fourteen days and then they are gone.” The fact that Jennings’s book was so small made that already short shelf life virtually nonexistent. “Snake is too small. Little books are pushed out into the world and then they die. A midwife would call it failure to thrive” (Ch. 5).

It seems that Kate Jennings’ gift is also her curse. The main thing that makes Snake so effectively powerful is the very thing that caused its failure. To change her style—to beef the book up, so to speak—would change the novel completely. More than likely it would destroy the beauty of the simple poetic prose and the precision of the text, which would be a worse fate than its current relative obscurity. Jennings wrote an article for Prospect Magazine about the value of short novels, titled “Less is More.” In it she describes her own writing, saying, “My career probably would benefit if I could fatten up my books, but I can’t… the fact of the matter is that I’m a compulsive, unsentimental winnower in all areas of my life. A champion chucker-out” (Jennings, “Less is More”). For Jennings, changing who she is as a writer is not an option, but still, maybe there is hope for Snake.

Nearly eighteen years have passed since the failed re-issue of Snake, and over that time society has vastly and dramatically changed. With the rise of social media and increased speed and accessibility to the internet, culture has shifted to a fast paced, more-for-less mindset. A study from the Microsoft Corporation says, “People now generally lose concentration after eight seconds,” which clearly highlights the “effects of an increasingly digitalized lifestyle on the brain” (McSpadden). With audiences in general preferring quick gratification with less wait time, it appears that this could be the right climate for a book like Snake to thrive, especially if it were marketed correctly— fully utilizing social media in the way that other minimalist writers, such as Rupi Kuar (who rose to fame by featuring short poems on Instagram), has done as of late.

For another example of reasonable proof that a succinct writer like Jennings could find success in today's climate, look no further than American author Jenny Offill, whose 2014 novel Dept. of Speculation found the critical acceptance and enduring audience that Snake missed. Although Offill's short novel barely reaches 194 pages (with more white space than text), it was still noted as a one the New York Times Book Review's 10 Best Books of 2014, and is written in a similar brief, yet profound style that Jennings is known for. In an interview with NPR, Meg Wolizter described the book as “sparse and experimental,” while Lucy Scholes explained in her review for The Guardian that Offill's story, "is told chronologically but piecemeal in a series of short--single paragraph in length--vignettes," both of which sound nearly identical to the format Jennings uses in Snake. The similarities continue as Roxanne Gay, author and feminist, described Offill's style in a review for the New York Times as “curious, [and] often shimmering fragments of prose," yet another example of praise that could also be said of Jennings novel. So if modern literary critics are able to see the value in this style of writing in Offill's work, a work that is similarly innovative in its use of sparse, poetic prose could also be poised to find similar critical success. At the very least, Offill's accomplishment proves the point that brevity in literature is no longer the disqualifying factor that it used to be, meaning that a recovery of Snake makes more sense now than ever. Even more encouraging is the fact that there seems to be an increased awareness and acceptance of female voices (not completely, but improving), thanks in part to social media and viral movements such as “#metoo.” The fact that Jennings has a well-documented history of advocating for women’s rights certainly qualifies her as a voice that should be heard in current literary circles.

After looking over the quality of the writing, the relevancy of the story, and the reasons why the book would succeed in a relaunch, it should be clear that society is ready to hear the story of Irene, Rex, Girlie, and Boy. Publishers will find that a quality product is there, as is an awaiting audience ready to consume the brief but powerful writing Jennings is known for. If Snake is recovered and re-published, it would be the perfect addition to literature classes at the high school and collegiate level, as well as book clubs, and other literary circles. Students of literature would find Jennings’ evocative, yet sparse style to be quite a welcome change of pace from other, more traditional novels, proving that perhaps in the case of literature, sometimes less truly can be more.

Works Cited

“About.” Kate Jennings Official Website,

Gay, Roxanne. "Bridled Vows." The New York Times, 7 Feb 2014,


Jennings, Kate. Snake. Ecco 1996,

Jennings, Kate. “Less is More.” Prospect Magazine, 20 Feb. 2003,

Jennings, Kate. “On Writing Snake.” The INC. Blot, 4 Apr. 2011,

Jensen, Erik. On Kate Jennings: Writers on Writers, Kindle Ed., Black Inc. 2017.

McSpadden, Kevin. “You Now Have a Shorter Attention Span Than a Goldfish.” Time, 14

May 2015,

Perlman, Elliot. “Kate Jennings, in conversation with Elliot Perlman.” YouTube, uploaded by

Schwartz Media, 2 May 2013


Scholes, Lucy. "Dept. of Speculation by Jenny Offill review." The Guardian, 1 Mar 2015,



Shields, Carol. “Scenes from a Mismarriage.” The New York Times, 11 May 1997,

“Snake.” Publishers Weekly, 01 Apr. 1997,

White, Jessica. "Review of Snake." Jessica White, 20 Dec 2014,

Wolitzer, Meg. "’Speculation’ Shows Good Stories Come in Small Packages, Too." NPR, 23

Jan 2014,



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