Hitting Shelves #11: The Wallcreeper by Nell Zink

The Wallcreeper

The Wallcreeper by Nell Zink comes out today!

A manic, heartfelt, intellectual novel about an American couple living in Europe, The Wallcreeper is one of the best books of the year. Tiff and Stephen cheat on each other constantly, they’re horrible to each other, and they don’t seem to believe in their own marriage. But they both love birds—like the wallcreeper that they adopt together, after they hit it with a car, which causes Tiff to miscarry.

It’s hard to think of two fictional characters who are more believably fucked up, or more exquisitely codependent, or more maddening and joyful to know.

We asked the author one question.

How are you celebrating the publication of The Wallcreeper?

Nell Zink: I’m celebrating in a way so custom-tailored to the book, it could almost be penance: On October 1, I’ll be at the Second Adriatic Flyway Conference in Durrës, Albania, researching an article on waterbird hunting for the German magazine natur.

Nell Zink (photo by Fred Filkorn)

Nell Zink (photo by Fred Filkorn)

Waterbirds, especially, need Albania. Most of the eastern coast of the Adriatic is a wall of rock thousands of feet high. Ducks, geese, cranes, etc. coming over the Alps or across the sea from Africa are tired and want to sit down. Unlike other western Balkan nations, Albania has a coastal plain with big dune fields, marshes, and lagoons, still very pristine and natural – much nicer than elsewhere in Europe. It also has penniless environmental organizations and unsustainable hunting, the kind that will make even everyday animals go extinct, like squirrels in Israel and Palestine. Albanian hunters have plenty of money, because a duck peppered with lead is worth five euros on market day. You would have to grow up eating lead to want to buy shotgun cartridges for $1.25 when fishhooks are almost free. In hunting we constantly see the vicious circle of addiction and habituation at work!

Plucky Albanian environmental NGOs did something amazing in February: They obtained a two-year moratorium on hunting. If it were enforced, it would give many animal populations in Albania a chance to stabilize, and allow migrating birds to rest and eat before they fly onward. In reality – because the legislature also dissolved the bureaucracy that had done such a bad job enforcing the old hunting regulations – the hunting ban is a non-event, and it’s vital that it be extended for another two years at least, until new administrative structures and regulations are in place.

I don’t plan to tell anyone at the conference about The Wallcreeper. I’m relieved it doesn’t have a European publisher. I use the word “penance” because my friends keep asking stuff like whether the narrator is my “secret evil twin.”

Get The Wallcreeper here.

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