Lake of Urine Cover

Once upon a time that doesn’t make a blind bit of sense, in a place that seems awfully familiar but definitely doesn’t exist, Willem Seiler’s obsession with measuring his world—with wrapping it up in his beloved string to keep the madness out—wreaks havoc on the Wakeling family. Noranbole Wakeling, living in the scrub and toil of the pantry and in the shadow of her much wooed and cosseted sister, is worshipped by the madman Seiler but overlooked by everyone else. As lives are lost to Seiler’s vanity, she spots her chance to break free of the fetters that tie her to Tiny Village, and bolts. But some cords are never really cut. In her absence, the unravelling of the world she has escaped is complete, and another madness—her mother’s—reaches out to entangle her newfound Big City freedom. The unpicked quilt-work of a life in ruins threatens to ruin her own, and it will be up to Noranbole to stitch it all together.

Dark and funny in equal measure, Lake of Urine is a sui generis romp through every fairy-tale convention and literary trope you can think of, including the wicked stepmother, the fairy godmother, Pinocchio, an enchanted penis, the goose that laid the golden egg, binary code, marmalade art and alcoholic meat snacks you can drink. It is also a merciless takedown of self and self-importance, satirizing a society that exalts the inane, drowns out the sane and eschews the divine for the profane, and a lament for the dreadful weight of our own origins, for the heartbreaking impossibility of absolute reinvention, and the heartening tug of the ties that bind us.

Read excerpts at Entropy Magazine and 3AM Magazine.

Listen to the author’s playlist for the book, and read his accompanying commentary, at Largehearted Boy.

Hear him read an excerpt on TNBBC’s Soundcloud channel.

Litro Magazine has published Erik Martiny’s interview with the author.


“Stitch has more fun than a writer should be allowed to have…. Stitch flicks his blade around all the important things in life, isolating absurdities, nicking arteries. He deflates pretension at every turn. He throws images like tarot cards. He’s a caustic humorist with serious intent. His novel invites you to view the world as fundamentally absurd and usually awful, but also to recognize that laughter is a mighty, and cleansing, recompense. As if made for our moment, ‘Lake of Urine’ imparts a sense of old ways collapsing, and of men and women adjusting to brute new realities. One character says about a burning farmhouse, in lines that echo as if across a crevasse: ‘Take a good look, my dear. A historic moment—you can tell your grandchildren how you watched the old morality disappear one night.’”

—Dwight Garner, in The New York Times

“A biting satire on our sacred cows…. Absolutely savage…. absurdly funny…. it pokes endless fun at our basic human need; to feel important, at least to one person, but preferably to more than one…. The author delights in wrongfooting the reader as the plot shifts shapes (and time) and we reel from one delicious scene to another. If that sounds a little chaotic, then the chaos is strictly in the comedy. The novel itself is as tight as a fist. An audacious love story as well as all the other things it is, Lake of Urine thumbs its nose at any attempt to describe it coherently, but this is part of its maddening charm.”

—Anne Cunningham, in the Irish Independent

“Splice regency romance with Cold Comfort Farm and The Silence of the Lambs, then transpose the whole caboodle to a claustrophobic, snow-smothered rural landscape and indeterminate present day. The result is a bracing and bizarre escapade powered by some electric prose that is by turns bawdy, grotesque and droll.”

—Hephzibah Anderson, in the Sunday Observer (Guardian)

“The delightfully named Sagging Meniscus Press, a small independent publisher based in New Jersey, has published one of the strangest novels of the year…. Judged by the morally fastidious standards of contemporary fiction, the novel’s comic sensibility is somewhat off-colour, finding its mirth in child manslaughter, parental neglect, canine defenestration and the antics of a psychologically damaged ‘strumpet’. Readers may well wonder whether there is a satirical subtext to the throwback prose style and slightly dated repartee. There isn’t: Lake of Urine is a jeu d’esprit, best enjoyed on its own deranged terms.”

—Houman Barekat, in the Times Literary Supplement

“Stitch’s prose is mesmerising; his vocabulary is nothing short of awesome (and I mean that in the divine sense of the word) while his ability to weave whimsy and magical realism into an accented, almost anachronistically antiquated style is practically sublime. As a storyteller, Stitch seems to know what he’s doing, and the result is akin to the literary lovechild of Terry Pratchett and Salvador Dali.”

—Becky Long, in The Irish Times

“An abundance of funny, bizarre, imaginative touches.”

—Alastair Mabbott, in The Herald

“Guillermo Stitch’s Lake of Urine is a wild ride, which from the get-go sets out its terms and conditions: ‘If anybody tells you this story isn’t true they are lying. It is a true story; I am lying if it isn’t, and I don’t lie,’ reads its playful, meta-modernist opening gambit. Whatever our own normative intuitions as readers regarding what fiction should or shouldn’t be, it is hard, even after a few pages, not to surrender to Stitch’s unflinching audacity, which is everywhere on display.”

–Luke Warde, in Totally Dublin

“Lake of Urine juggles polarities. Magnifies them, to smoke out hypocrisy and depravity in our obsessions…. Stitch’s imagination is envy-inducing. Fans of Donald Barthelme’s most playful prosody, or the breakneck humor of A Confederacy of Dunces, will have to remind themselves to breathe in between those first 18 pages. (If isolated, ‘Seiler’ would be my favorite short story of the last decade.) … Like Joyce, Stitch has enough invented verbiage to expose just how much he gives a shit about offering your mind an anchor. He’s inviting you for a smelly swim aimed at exploding paradigms. Unlike Joyce, Stitch keeps you reading. He’s the hiking buddy that waits just long enough for you to catch up before bounding off again…. 2020 may not see a wilder book.”

—Tyler Dempsey, in Heavy Feather Review

“Guillermo Stitch’s Lake of Urine: A Love Story is a mind-boggling pastiche of literary tropes and analogies that take the absurdist satire to its logical extreme, replete with bizarre twists and turns on every page…. Conventional assumptions about socio-cultural and politico-economic institutions ranging from family dynamics, parenting strategies, marital unions, religion, political power, the rural versus urban divide (as foregrounded in the structural inequalities in Tiny Village and Big City), and economic liberalization, undergo a grotesque parody. The odd blend of absent-mindedness and ironic self-awareness of the characters helps sustain this brilliant tragicomedy with its dry wit and humour…. The sub-textual theme in the novel dealing with mother-daughter relationships comically inverts the conventional trope for a female bildungsroman, which generally implies a mandatory separation from the mother, by replacing it with an acknowledgement that the mother-daughter bond might facilitate rather than obstruct the daughter’s journey towards autonomous selfhood.”

—Aneesha Puri, in The Mantle

“The odd world Stitch creates is enlivened by his vibrant characters and ornate prose, which blends the archaic, grandiloquent, and lyrical along with nuggets of the idiomatic and euphemistic. Stitch neither tries to faithfully recreate our own world nor fabricate an entirely alien one. The mimetic effect is like something out of a dream, familiar and unsettling, a convincing achievement on par with the recognizable nowhere-ness of O’Brien’s The Third Policeman…. Lake of Urine is an imaginative pressure cooker, a modern Rabelaisian fairy tale that replaces enchantment with an antic version of the grotesquerie of contemporary life…. Like any successful satirist, Stitch rejoices in contortion, painful and hilarious, and his shape-shifting is aimed at breaking ‘the monopoly of established reality (i.e. of those who established it),’ as Herbert Marcuse put it, in order ‘to define what is real.’ Lake of Urine suggests that, even if the magic has gone out of this world, fiction might be able to offer a saving charm, or open a portal to a new one.”

—Lucas Spiro, in The Arts Fuse

“There’s skilful alchemy at play here…. an unconventional and iconoclastic novel.”

—Daniel Davis Wood, in Splice

“[Lake of Urine] is daring, exuberant, stuffed with satire and literary tropes from Dickens to Barthelme, Calvino to Angela Carter, and totally exhausting…. It is the dazzling pyrotechnics of language and satire that bind the book together; the quest for meaning in a world which clearly has none…. For sheer exuberance and energy alone, the journey’s worth taking.”

—Christina Sanders, in Litro Magazine

“I can’t decide whether this novel brings Voltaire or David Foster Wallace to mind, but I doubt either could do a better job of bantering about the savage human spirit than Stitch does here in 2020…. It’s dirty. It’s funny. It’s complex. It’s the kind of debut novel that most authors could only hope for. Guillermo Stitch is just the kind of writer that this year needs. Check out this book before the chaos ends.”

—Mallory Smart, in Maudlin House

“Exploring this world is an absolute delight. At every turn we encounter new depths of depravity, new heights of brilliance… and all of it is rendered in prose that is smart and squalid and layered enough to evoke—and perhaps even rival—James Joyce…. Lake of Urine is an anarchic, whip-smart ride through a world that mashes together the real and the impossible, the noble and the gaudy, the base and the divine. It is filmic, quick, dirty, and fuelled by an unstoppable energy from the first page to the last. Take a deep breath before you dive in. Once you begin you’ll likely want to finish the entire thing in one heady gulp.”

Krishan Coupland in Neon Books

“This is definitely not traditional fiction (thankfully)…. Professionally speaking, I’m not permitted to disclose what is in the lake of urine. A clue, however: Stitch’s title is not cruel.”

—Kevin Kiely, in Books Ireland Magazine

“Keeps you confused and heavily entertained…. the rare kind of demented fairytale that leads you to hope it’s the villain who has a happy ending.”

—Cole Bisson, in Broken Pencil

“Resolutely self-aware as a piece of art…. deftly delivered with skill and confidence … well worth exploring. In short, if you read one absurdist literary comedy from a debut author this year make it this one.”

—John C. Adams, in The British Fantasy Society

“Funny, dark, and entertaining on every page.”

—David Gutowski, in Largehearted Boy

“Buckle up: Guillermo Stitch’s Lake of Urine is a formally inventive and exhilarating romp, an absurdist marriage plot with notes of Bohumil Hrabal and a novel’s heft of singularity. Come for the exuberant prose; stay for the bawdy turns and twists, and be rewarded with laughter. This colorful, original tale will not disappoint.”

Sara Lippmann, author of Doll Palace

“With prose that manages to be simultaneously exuberant and remarkably efficient, and an outrageous, slapstick approach to yarn-spinning, Guillermo Stitch’s Lake of Urine reads like something Flann O’Brien might have written if he’d just allowed himself to go really wild.”

—Christian TeBordo, author of Ghost Engine

Lake of Urine is a weird and unique gem—hilarious and eerie and oddly heartfelt, full of images and bits of language that will lodge permanently in your head.”

Dan Chaon, author of Ill Will

“Enchantingly absurd and sumptuously rendered, Lake of Urine is a raucous, brazen romp through a beguilingly fantastic world. Guillermo Stitch has concocted a banquet for the senses, with surprises to savor on every page.”

Matthew Vollmer, author of Permanent Exhibit

“There’s a world in these pages, a world as rich and strange as any that I’ve encountered in literature, and as well realised.”

John Patrick Higgins, author of Every Day I Wake Up Hopeful

“Beautiful literary prose, depicting even the most grotesque details, conveys this book’s commitment to what it holds dear. Reminiscent of Confederacy of Dunces’ bawdy humor and Wes Anderson’s colorful, yet darkly whimsical cinematic compositions, Lake of Urine is a bizarre, raucous love story with ornate surprises at every turn.”

Mari Carlson

“This is the type of book I adore: intelligent, whimsically hilarious, and unapologetically bizarre. It is everything I love about surrealism and bizarro put together in one masterpiece…. When I started reading bizarro fiction, I knew what I wanted from it. Lake of Urine is the epitome of that want. Without hyperbole, I can say that it is my favorite modern bizarre novel. If you have any inclination at all toward the bizarre, pick up this book.”

Zé Burns

“This novel reads kind of like Dubliners after you’ve taken a hit of grimy, rat-poison acid and chased it with a glass of raw sewage…. If absurdism is your jam, this book surely will not disappoint you…. The novel defies categorization as well as reader expectations, and truly does take them into a place they’ve never been before, which is exactly what great satire is meant to do.”

—Jess Flarity, in Out of that World

“This book is totally Wacker-doodle-dandy to the max!… [At] its heart is a wonderful story full of love and heartbreak, exploring the everyday fears that people experience … not the silly ones about spiders … fear brought on by the birth of a child and making sure they get the right life, of being out of your depth and whether or not you’ll be the next world champion burger flipper. At least that is my interpretation and like any great piece of art there are so many different ways of seeing this story.”

—Jason Denness, in Gnome Appreciation Society

“It is rare in the book world to find a story that is truly original while also being eminently engaging…. Dark, quirky, humorous, and engrossing. This is a singular and satisfying read.”

—Jackie Law, in neverimitate

“A most curious fable…. an absolute blast to read.”

—Annabel Gaskel, in Annabookbel

“What a deliciously bizarre book!… Hyperboles and cartoonesque exultations abound alongside weird metaphors and moments of darkness, pain, and blank resignation…. Here is the type of novel that can be endlessly picked apart for its meanings…. a great addition to the modern literary universe.”

—Electra Nanou, in Book Breath

“[Stitch’s] writing is constantly surprising, and the fecundity of his language deserves all the accolades…. At bottom, amid the multifarious themes tackled in this novel, a few stand-outs are: Domestic violence, tenderness, and family trial. It is cheekily old fashioned and postmodern at the same time…. The author contemplates human relations with stark and unabashed honesty, sidelong, through the medium of parody, across a wide array of settings, all amply described, immersive, and brutally comic, the pages beset with gestures both lurid and poignant…. All around an impressive and entirely unique work of fiction.”

L. S. Popovich

pub date: 2020-07-01
$21.00 | 214 pages
isbn: 978-1-944697-94-5 (paperback)
Cover design by Royce M. Becker