In the Act - Rachel Ingalls

New Directions


In the Act by Rachel Ingalls / ISBN 9780811232043 / 62-page hardback from New Directions, published 2023


From Rachel Ingalls, the author of Mrs. Caliban, another delicious, highly improbable, and hilariously believable tale of a wife’s scorched-earth rebellion

In the Act begins: “As long as Helen was attending her adult education classes twice a week, everything worked out fine: Edgar could have a completely quiet house for his work, or his thinking, or whatever it was.” In Rachel Ingall’s blissfully deranged novella, the “whatever it was” her husband’s been up to in his attic laboratory turns out to be inventing a new form of infidelity. Initially Helen, before she uncovers the truth, only gently tries to assert her right to be in her own home. But one morning, grapefruit is the last straw: “He read through his newspaper conscientiously, withdrawing his attention from it for only a few seconds to tell her that she hadn’t cut all the segments entirely free in his grapefruit―he’d hit exactly four that were still attached. She knew, he said, how that kind of thing annoyed him.” While Edgar keeps his lab locked, Helen secretly has a key, and what she finds in the attic shocks her into action and propels In the Act into heights of madcap black comedy even beyond Ingalls’s usual stratosphere.

"Ingalls writes fables whose unadorned sentences belie their irreducible strangeness. In her grim yet playful fashion, Ingalls is concerned with the rules and conventions by which societies are organized, the violent machinations by which they are maintained. Like a good tragedian, she tends to heap up corpses at the end of her tales, and even in her quieter examinations of familial bonds she leaves readers to wonder, of her spouses and siblings, who might push whom off a cliff."― Lidija Haas, The New Yorker

"Some writers make me laugh out loud; Rachel Ingalls makes me cackle."― Ed Park, Village Voice

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