Keyhole Factory

by William Gillespie

List Price: $16.95
Paperback | 6.1 x 8.9, 405 pages | ISBN 9781593764463

Set in an alternate present that is a slightly, if dangerously, skewed version of our own, Keyhole Factory tracks the interwoven destinies of disparate characters up to and beyond the end of the world-as-we-know-it, brought on by a global super-virus. Beginning with a biting satire of an academic poetry conference, the novel moves on to encompass the stories of a poet-astronaut, a microbiologist contemplating an exit strategy from her high-level job designing biological weapons, a sports-car-driving killer who stages the aesthetic murders of utopian commune-dwellers, and a lone pirate radio disc jockey who may be the last person left alive broadcasting her story to nobody. Allowing form and content to shape each other, William Gillespie pries open the confusion in a moment of total crisis through a narrative web-work technique derived from deranged fiction pioneer Harry Stephen Keeler.

Part imaginative free-for-all and part deeply felt examination of isolation and survival, the individual lives in Keyhole Factory shine through the chaos in all their beauty and tragedy. With his signature wit and originality, Gillespie spins a glittering fever-dream that questions our assumptions about the way we interpret events and our relation to the planet, without ever losing sight of the underlying experience of what it feels like to be a human being in the world we live in today.

...frequently brilliant. Those willing to grapple with its complexities are rewarded with a remarkable work of fiction.


It’s useful to point out here that much literary experiment is essential playful, fun. And Gillespie’s novel, despite being about disease and the the near total destruction of mankind, has a (ever so deliciously macabre) hopeful side.


...This is an experimental novel--chunks of poetry interrupt the traditional chapters, graphics appear throughout, and a middle section is horizontal--but the pleasure of the text is fine and true...

3/14 of the most inventive and absorbing books I’ve read in the last year...


...a violent, apocalyptic story told with an arsenal of narrative tropes.


...stupendous, mind-bending...

6/14 turns bewildering and gorgeous, maddening and profound...




The author’s foray into the inconceivable digs far beneath the trusty surface of cause and effect. He parlays his scientific familiarity to create maddening illustrations showing all we know is consistently less than what we don’t.


...his vastly superior linguistic skills, mathematical mind, intelligence and curiosity combine with his produce writing of a unique richness and playfulness.

—Lucia Cordell Getsi

Gillespie works in a contemporary tradition whose foremost practitioners are members of the Oulipo, the Paris-based group of writers and mathematicians founded in 1960 by Raymond Queneau and François Le Lionnais. Gillespie’s poetry can seem as feverishly wrought as some works of Ian Monk and at other times as stylishly refined as some works of Harry Mathews.

—Doug Nufer, American Book Review

...a writer who has clearly learned his chops well.

—Eckhard Gerdes, Context

[Gillespie’s] language here is far from restrained--it is disciplined, wily, animated, resourceful, in turn nonsensical and musical, but supremely vital, dazzling to confront ("read" is not quite the verb), sculpted lines smeary with fingerprints, stunned by the audacity of their own construction.

—Joseph Dewey, Review of Contemporary Fiction

His imagination is sharp, raucous, random, and contrarian.

—Lance Olsen, American Book Review

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