THEY by KAY DICK is the pastoral horror that you've been waiting for nearly fifty years to read. Or, perhaps, They were waiting for you. Indeed, since its publishing in 1977, this slow-burning and experimental horror has been lost to time despite its author's adoring entanglement with her contemporary English literary and queer scene. That is until now.
Much like the book's long-awaited return, They will make you yearn for any release from the sweating tension. They are cloaked in mystery, not quite natural nor supernatural, and yet suffocatingly omnipresent. They are violently Philistinic, and stealthy too; ripping pages from books while you sleep or snatching paintings from gallery walls from the shadows. They are accepted by humanity slowly, almost mundanely (accentuated by Dick's maddening, terror inducing matter-of-fact syntax) and the genderless narrator is often left just outside the realm of greater context. Therein lies the horror, waiting just at the periphery of absolute knowing. But taming our narrator's implosion of anxiety? Friendship, connection, the fondness of memory, and for better or for worse, just keeping on...
This book asks: in the face of censorship-turned-total annihilation, should we first save the artist or their art? In a world of easily manipulated memory and televised propaganda, is the remembering of art and connection enough to sustain and honor us? - SAV— From Sav
Set amid the rolling hills and the sandy shingle beaches of coastal Sussex, this disquieting novel depicts an England in which bland conformity is the terrifying order of the day. Violent gangs roam the country destroying art and culture and brutalizing those who resist the purge. As the menacing “They” creep ever closer, a loosely connected band of dissidents attempt to evade the chilling mobs, but it’s only a matter of time until their luck runs out.
Winner of the 1977 South-East Arts Literature Prize, Kay Dick’s They is an uncanny and prescient vision of a world hostile to beauty, emotion, and the individual.
Lucy Scholes is a critic who lives in London, and is an editor at McNally Editions.
— Carmen Maria Machado
“It’s incredibly unusual to find a book this good that has been this profoundly forgotten.”
— Sam Knight
"Both a dystopian fable and a stealth memoir . . . Like all robust allegories, They grants the reader the freedom to imagine any number of vivid referents for the opaque."
— Melissa Anderson
“Queer, English, a masterpiece.”
— Hilton Als
"[Kay Dick] is a writer who who respects human beings even in their pettiness or confusion; who regards each of them as a worthy object of study and even tenderness, and who devotes as much space and care to the description of what one might call a thoroughly trivial person as to a creature of heroic design.”
— Vernon Fane
“Kay Dick’s mind is a delicate instrument, aware, sensitive, intelligent, alive to every shade of feeling and sensation.”
— L. P. Hartley
“The dream setting [of They] is cleverly handled, with its shifts of scene and time and its underlying air of menace.”
— Mary Sullivan
“Strong stuff, beautifully written, to make a man look behind him in fear and dread when walking down a leafy lane.”
— Philip Howard