Claire Donato

ISBN: 9781939460011
Fiction | May 2013
5″x7″, 104 pp., paperback
Cover art: Patte Loper, “The Sky is Burning, the Sea Aflame”

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Set in the mind of a narrator who is grieving the loss of her father, who conflates her hotel room with the morgue, and who encounters characters that may not exist, Burial is a little novel about an immeasurable black hole.

Like a 21st century Lispector, Donato grapples with ontology and trades plot for ambience; the result is an elegy in prose at once lyrical and intelligent, with no small amount of rot and vomit and ghosts.



Donato’s hallucinatory meditation on grief seems like a strange summer read, but her poetic, trance-inducing language turns a reckoning with the confusion of mortality into readerly joy at the sensuality of living. Also, it’s small and fits in most pockets, so you can bring it pretty much everywhere, which I plan on doing and highly recommend.

— “Best Summer Reads 2013,” Publishers Weekly, chosen by Alex Crowley

Donato’s debut is a dark, multivalent, genre-bending book that follows a female protagonist as she tries to come to terms with her father’s death while conflating her hotel with a morgue. Following in the lineage of such writers as Clarice Lispector, it is a meditation on the multiplicity of the meaning of words. The story is presented as a series of vignettes wherein the reader is presented with characters like the Groundskeeper—who knocks on the protagonist’s door, calling: “Housekeeping. Have you stayed in this cooler before?”—and The Voice, which “dwells in the morgue and the mind and the brain, insisting a person is never alone.” The novella is propelled by a reframing of words and a digging into their roots both etymologically and symbolically; all meditations turn groundward, and the father who is “at rest, half-dead, though very much alive and not yet buried,” is frozen again and again in the bottom of a lake. The protagonist’s musings also often open into striking cinematic moments: “‘…I cannot stand its thickness,’ she moans, and fog encloses the graveyard that encloses the deceased.” Donato has composed with unrelenting, grotesque beauty an exhaustive recursive obsession about the unburiability of the dead, and the incomprehensibility of death.

— Starred Review, Publishers Weekly

[A] harrowing, enlightened first novel. . . . dense, potent language captures that sense of the unreal that, for a time, pulls people in mourning to feel closer to the dead than the living. . . . The language is fractured at times as her thoughts slide between terse poetry and lyricism. . . . [A]n ingenious structure becomes visible below the narrator’s stream of consciousness. . . . [S]tartlingly original and effective

— Matthew Jakubowski, Minneapolis Star-Tribune

Burial is a grief-dream, an attempt to un-sew pain from experience and to reveal it in language.

— Nick Ripatrazone, HTML Giant

[A] brave novel . . . a raw and honest evocation of the personal experience and overwhelming power of grief.

— Rebekah Hall, Mixer

This is the thinking that occurs around the so-called unthinkable, what is spoken about the so-called unspeakable.

— John Madera, Big Other

[A] powerful piece of work. . . . [A]n immersive experience into the mind of the bereaved.

— Kristofer Collins, Pittsburgh Magazine

Claire Donato’s patient, immersive meditation on death and mourning designed in precise urn-like prose, Burial, fledges itself with the poise of Woolf or Loy or Carson; a kind of humming, marbled elegy for the as-yet-extant-alive, and like finding a real river in a dictionary.

— Blake Butler

In her captivating book, Donato follows grief logic into a space of defamiliarization, speaking of death, television, rooms, love, nouns and voices as if confronting them for the first time. The language loops, stepping back to move forward, always circling a mind aware of its movements. It’s a gorgeous fugue, an unforgettable progression, a telling I cannot shake.

— Heather Christle

Burial is a full and vibrant illustration of the restless turns of a mind undergoing trauma. Language here serves both as escape and as a threat, at once suspect and yet the only consolation. In Burial, Donato makes and unmakes the world with words, and what is left shimmers with pain and delight.

— Brian Evenson

Burial‘s narrator dislocates familiar language in order to present a view of the self from outside the self. Claire Donato’s assured and poetic debut augurs a promising career.

— Benjamin Moser


about the author

Claire Donato is the author of the novel, Burial, from Tarpaulin Sky Press, and the poetry chapbook, Someone Else’s Body, from Cannibal Books. Her fiction, poetry, and lyric essays have appeared or are forthcoming in the Boston Review, Encyclopedia, Evening Will Come, LIT, Octopus, and 1913: a journal of forms.