by Henry Hoke
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Pub Date 06 Jun 2023 | Archive Date 31 Jul 2023
One of ELLE's Best Summer Books of 2023, and one of i-D's Fiction to be Excited for in 2023. Named a Most Anticipated Book by Buzzfeed and Literary Hub
"Open Throat is a blinding spotlight beam of a book that I was completely unable and unwilling to put down."—Catherine Lacey.
"My favorite book of this century so far." —Andrea Lawlor.
"A fantastical, deeply moving, and original adventure." —Brontez Purnell
A lonely, lovable, queer mountain lion narrates this star-making fever dream of a novel.
A queer and dangerously hungry mountain lion lives in the drought-devastated land under the Hollywood sign. Lonely and fascinated by humanity’s foibles, the lion spends their days protecting a nearby homeless encampment, observing hikers complain about their trauma, and, in quiet moments, grappling with the complexities of their gender identity, memories of a vicious father, and the indignities of sentience.
When a man-made fire engulfs the encampment, the lion is forced from the hills down into the city the hikers call “ellay.” As the lion confronts a carousel of temptations and threats, they take us on a tour that spans the cruel inequalities of Los Angeles and the toll of climate grief. But even when salvation finally seems within reach, they are forced to face down the ultimate question: Do they want to eat a person, or become one?
Henry Hoke’s Open Throat is a marvel of storytelling, a universal journey through a wondrous and menacing world recounted by a lovable mountain lion. Feral and vulnerable, profound and playful, Open Throat is a star-making novel that brings the mythic to life.
A Note From the Publisher
“Daring and moving . . . Give this sinewy prose poem a chance and you’ll fall under the spell of a forlorn voice trapped in the hellscape of modern America.” —Ron Charles, The Washington Post
"The premise alone makes Henry Hoke's startling achievement worth the purchase . . . Philosophical and heartfelt, Open Throat is the ultimate immersion into the mind of an unlikely protagonist." —Lauren Puckett-Pope, ELLE
"One of the most unique novels I've read in years . . . I didn't know I would feel such attachment to a mountain lion when I started reading, but in Henry Hoke's talented hands, they become an instantly memorable and endearing protagonist." —David Vogel, Buzzfeed
★ "Singular, stunning . . . [the mountain lion] finds indelible place in readers’ hearts. Hoke’s prose is a joy, as it alternatingly charms with malapropisms and stuns with poetic simplicity. Compassionate, fierce, and bittersweet, this is an unforgettable love letter to the wild." —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
"The economical prose reads like poetry, with enjambment in place of punctuation and frequent paragraph breaks. By turns funny and melancholy, this is a thrilling portrait of alienation." —Publishers Weekly
"Hoke does a fine job with his highly imaginative material, bringing the cougar to vivid life by giving him a fascinating take on the human world and his place in it. Open Throat is a treat for both animal lovers and anyone who appreciates innovative fiction." —Booklist
"I defy you to hear the premise of this sophomore novel from the always-interesting Henry Hoke and not immediately smash that preorder button . . . a playful, poignant, tragicomic delight." —Literary Hub
"Open Throat is a blinding spotlight beam of a book that I was completely unable and unwilling to put down. I am not convinced Henry Hoke isn’t a mountain lion." —Catherine Lacey, author of Biography of X
"My favorite book of this century so far! I keep putting off writing this blurb because every time I pick up Open Throat I re-read it and fall back in love with this gay-ass big cat and then I have to spend the whole rest of the day thinking about mountain lions and humans and sex and bodies and death and climate change and bad dads and NY v. LA and what is even possible in this world. Henry Hoke is a magician." —Andrea Lawlor, author of Paul Takes the Form of a Mortal Girl
"Open Throat feels like a comic book and a really good one; it feels the inside of animals, specifically one animal, a mountain lion, and with them we desire blood and I can’t tell you how it ends but I love knowing a mountain lion so much. The beauty and tragedy of all of nature is in this character. Open Throat is a fierce writing act. Henry Hoke makes it true." —Eileen Myles, author of For Now
"Open Throat is an instant cult classic and a bloody masterpiece: rhythmically brilliant, heart-wounding, and scathingly funny. I’m in love with a mountain lion and in awe of this book." —Melissa Broder, author of Milk Fed
"In this fantastical, deeply moving, and original adventure—also an unforgettable reckoning with contemporary Los Angeles—Henry Hoke introduces an animal whose life is more than just survival: they are full of longing, regret, memory, sadness, and astute observation. At the core of Open Throat sits a very precious and perishable lesson: survival is not our only job in life." —Brontez Purnell, author of 100 Boyfriends
"Henry Hoke’s narrator is the most credible animal witness to human behavior since Robert Bresson’s Balthazar. Original, fun and completely awakening, Open Throat is a devastating portrait of LA today." —Chris Kraus, author of Social Practices
"Wholly original, inventive, and surprising on every level. Open Throat affirms the capaciousness of the novel as a form. I wish more books took the kinds of chances Open Throat does." —Diane Cook, author of The New Wilderness
Available on NetGalley
Average rating from 71 members
A brilliant exploration of "otherness" as well as "humanness." A true quest novel in the classic tradition, while also being incredibly fresh and new.
Wowie, what a gem of a novel! OPEN THROAT is a poetic account of a (queer?) mountain lion's struggle to... exist, simply, in this world. Hoke takes a deeply compassionate approach---we so vividly feel the lion's longing for something else, something other. He just wants to fit in, and his efforts are rebuffed every time. He's lonely, and all he wants is a friend. This is a gorgeous novel, one I'll be pushing into everyone's hands for years to come.
Thanks to the publisher for the e-galley!
A hungry mountain lion is in the hills above the Hollywood sign of LA watching people walk along the path belong him. The reader gets to hear what the mountain lion is thinking as he makes decisions about his day, what he does to provide for his basic needs and how he interacts with people.
This is such a surprising, enjoyable book. It is written from the perspective of a mountain lion which is rarely thought of as the main character of a book. The writing style is written in the way that makes you feel like a mountain lion could have actually written it. It makes you struggle a little to figure out what he is saying just like the lion is struggling to figure out what the people are saying. There are times that you have to try to picture in your mind what items are that he is describing because he doesn’t know what they are either.
This is a quick read and I finished it in one sitting. This is unlike any book I have ever read and I recommend that everyone sit with your imagination and enjoy it.
I haven't read a novel this syntactically innovative since Little Scratch by Rebecca Watson. Here I was invited into the mind of a sentient and gabby mountain lion that's living a bit too close to human populations for me to not be continuously worried about its welfare. I was on this cat's side all the way. The language is so delightful that I happily embraced the core conceit that this cat could understand human speech and could think in words and could tell me its story. The voice of the novel is wry and witty. This is a cat full of metaphysical questions as well as apex-predator blood-lust. It's trying to make sense of this world. It's trying to survive in a borderland where the wild places for it to hunt in and hide in have been reduced to patches of thicket around the Hollywood sign. This cat has a lot to say about the human condition, and this novel is witty, innovative, and beautifully in-the-moment.
Just perfect in every way - never read anything like this and can't wait until the world gets a taste. A heartbreaking, deeply empathetic novella about attempting to understand the raging fires that engulf the modern world (both literal and figurative), the instinct to protect the vulnerable who are targeted by cruel and ignorant people, the need to connect...and eat...and survive. I can't wait to reread this.
"Open Throat" by Henry Hoke is a slim but perhaps the most beautiful novel I read this year. It's told from the perspective of a mountain lion who lives in the desert hills below the Hollywood sign. The mountain lion is queer: his lover, "the kill sharer," was another male mountain lion. The hunt becomes difficult because people seem everywhere: hiking, looking at their phones, and discussing their therapists. The mountain lion has their language and describes things the way they see them: an L.A. highway becomes "the long death," and L.A. is "ellay," the way the mountain lion hears people talk about it. This description of a few weeks, with some memories of childhood and youth, is written in fragmented prose, perfectly fitting the mountain lion's language. It flows gently and is effortless to read, even for more traditional readers.
"the hikers say things like look at that view or say things like, we have to do this more often get up here and get perspective
what they see makes them point or stop and turn and put their hands on their hips and breathe deep but the distance they love is an out of focus blur when I try to look where they're looking
all I can see is what's right in front of me"
Eventually, the action moves into L.A., where the mountain lion discovers more details about people from a hiding place below a Hollywood celebrity "slaughter's" home. I found their observation incredibly touching, comparable to meditations on human behavior, but in a very fresh way. The mountain lion is not an anthropomorphic character as if in a Disney movie ("diznee" in the lion's language ), and if I had to compare them to something, it would be almost a god-like figure, looking at us with watchful eyes, trying to understand this curious kind of species but ultimately judging us. And the judgment is not a favorable one.
I didn't expect to devour Open Throat in one sitting but that's what happened. A tale from the perspective of a hungry and thirsty mountain lion laying low and sharing observations about the humans and other beings passing through his home in a thicket in the Hollywood Hills.
The observations are true, breaking down behavior and conversations to their base essence. They're funny, scathing, sad and a little terrifying. Humans are on their phones all the time, putting sticks that glow into their mouths, talking about nothing, and most of all completely oblivious to their surroundings. I'm feeling like my next hike in the hills will be a Jaws-like experience, any rustle is going to scare the crap out of me.
Back to our mountain lion / puma / cougar. An outsider looking in, barely recognized, doing its best to survive in the harsh elements, some natural (earthquake!), most man-made (fire, decreasing habitat, the "long death" freeway). Finally seen by a kindred soul, veering into fantasy / dreamland, towards an absurd yet inevitable ending. I loved it.
My thanks to NetGalley and Farrar, Straus and Giroux Publishing for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.