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Caren Beilin is the author most recently of a nonfiction book, Blackfishing the IUD (Wolfman Books, 2019), and a memoir, Spain (Rescue Press, 2018). She teaches at the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts and lives close by, in Vermont.

pages: 176

format: paperback original

isbn: 978-1-948980-07-4

publication date: April 2022

Revenge of the Scapegoat

Caren Beilin

Animated with the moxie and wit of Acker and Tillman, Caren Beilin is one of the most bizarre and fearless writers of her generation.” Catherine Lacey

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One day Iris, an adjunct at a city arts college, receives a terrible package: recently unearthed letters that her father wrote to her in her teens, in which he blames her for their family’s crises. Driven by the raw fact of receiving these devastating letters not once but twice in a lifetime, and in a panic of chronic pain brought on by rheumatoid arthritis, Iris escapes to the countryside—or some absurdist version of it. Nazi cows, Picassos used as tampons, and a pair of arthritic feet that speak in the voices of Flaubert’s Bouvard and Pécuchet are standard fare in this beguiling novel of odd characters, surprising circumstances, and intuitive leaps, all brought together in profoundly serious ways.

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Listen to Caren Beilin in conversation with David Naimon on the “Between the Covers” podcast at Tin House or read Sheila Heti interviewing Caren at The Paris Review.

Read the opening pages of Revenge of the Scapegoat at Lit Hub.

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“The author lands on an infectious and perfect blend of cultural criticism, wry writing advice (‘Don’t bother writing a character since people change’), and magnificently weird storytelling. Beilin’s account of reemergence manages to be both hilarious and deeply moving.” Publishers Weekly, starred review

“[T]hough the narrative is, at times, profoundly strange, it’s never hard to follow. Most impressive, perhaps, is the darkly comic strain that persists throughout the novel; though the narrative involves childhood trauma, domestic abuse, addiction, medical exploitation, and the Holocaust, Iris’ wholly unique voice makes for a very funny work. This wide-ranging, idea-driven novel leaves the reader with much to think about, deftly provoking questions about the nature and ethics of trauma and contemporary art. A fresh, funny, and striking experimental work with surprises at every turn.” Kirkus

“A surprise in plot, image, and phrase on every page.” Josh Cook, The Boston Globe, “Pick of the Week”

“This book is a wacky delight.” Lauren Groff (on Twitter)

“Caren Beilin’s prose trusts us to invest in the logic, sound, and feeling at hand. I come for the sentences, and I stay for the politics.” Leora Fridman, Bookforum

“Darkly comedic and wildly inventive, Revenge of the Scapegoat explores childhood trauma, medical exploitation, art making, and the ethics of fleeing our pasts . . . Beilin’s skills as a humorist and rule breaker are on full display on every page.” Elizabeth Hall, Full Stop

“Caren Beilin’s Revenge of the Scapegoat is a weird book, in the best possible way. The novel follows Iris, a Philadelphia-based adjunct, as she flees for the countryside after she receives a series of letters from her past, penned by her father, who blames her for a familial crisis that occurred in her teenage years. There’s a sense of gleeful rampage. ‘Bonkers’ is probably the best way to describe Beilin’s writing, which is full of madcap, often darkly funny digressions about publishing, the art world, chronic illness, complicated family dynamics, and the traumatic legacy of the Holocaust.” Rhian Sasseen, The Paris Review, “The Review’s Review”

Revenge of the Scapegoat made me bounce-laugh so hard my cheeks and belly kept jiggling while reading the pains. The pains that are so impossible and absurd that Caren Beilin writes them as full characters with their own interior agency. I’d never thought of our pains having their own lives, but I see it now, and hopefully I’ll be able to live with my various physical and emotional pains in a better way. Thank you, Caren.” Steven Dunn

Revenge of the Scapegoat flares from voided nipples and fooled feet, a blameful explosion of the novel, all those families of sentences, their normative violence and hurt metaphors, their Freud and Flaubertgone kablooey, thank god! I have been desperate for a book so hotly pink-gold with righteous emasculation, with the comeuppance of the beat poets, a book of such loudly jointed parts. Caren Beilin has written the scapegoat’s anti-anthem. The trick is never stand for it. Lip-sync while fleeing fast. Lie flat in a field and feel your heart effulge. Joanna Ruocco

“Animated with the moxie and wit of Acker and Tillman, Caren Beilin is one of the most bizarre and fearless writers of her generation. Revenge of the Scapegoat is a surreal take on the tendency people have to damage those we claim to love and the way parental cruelty renders the world unrecognizable.” Catherine Lacey

“What does it feel like to be held responsible for a world you have no power over? A wildly original, darkly funny, occasionally unsettling story of burden, patriarchy, art, escape, and cows that step on your heart if you lie down in their field. A surprise in plot, image, and phrase on every page. Revenge of the Scapegoat is unlike anything you’ve ever read.” Josh Cook, Porter Square Books

“Loved every second of itBeilin is one to read more of and keep an eye on.” Meghana Kandlur, Seminary Co-op Bookstores

“This brief novel is funny, clever, and serious by turns, yet it is always compelling. The plot, while incorporating elements of surrealism, is easy to follow, and the novel’s weirdness springs organically and logically from its thematic concerns: pain, illness, and trauma, both familial and institutional, born of intent or neglect.” Melissa Reddish, Necessary Fiction

Previous praise for Caren Beilin:

“Caren Beilin’s Spain is like a Hostel-ization of Ben Lerner’s Leaving the Atocha Station. Beilin’s protagonist isn’t in Spain on a Fulbright. Rather, she’s paying her own way at a dubious artist residency with the proceeds of a defunct relationship with an older, wealthy man. Spain is a fantastic, poetic and realistic account of travel in a post-travel world.” Chris Kraus

“Dissatisfied with the non-answers offered by medicine, Beilin seeks to understand the harm done by the IUD through philosophy, literature, and daily life. By writing the IUD through Deleuze and Guattari, bookselling, and birdwatching, she identifies it as a problem that reaches far beyond ‘women’s health’ into society at large.” Amy Berkowitz

cover art:

Female Artist, 1910
oil on canvas, 101 x 76 cm

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner (1880-1938) was a German Expressionist printmaker and painter.