Lili Wright on Dancing With the Tiger: “…there is such pleasure in sharing culture and sharing language…”

There is always an underneath. Whether it is turtles all the way down, the undisturbed circle of dirt below the trashcan or the dark motives that inspire a kind act, we experience ourselves as the thin barrier between now and then, between inside us and every damn thing else. Our religions are born in and live in our dual lives, our dual selves.

wright-dancing_with_the_tiger-largeIn Dancing With the Tiger, Lili Wright embraces the strange masks we wear and with which we experience our lives. Anna Ramsey, the troubled heart at the center of this novel, is watching her life unravel. Her academic credibility has crumbled and her relationship is not far behind. Offered the opportunity to escape to Mexico to bring back a mask that may save her father’s reputation (and hers), she bolts from the coming ruins of her life. She’ll find a new face to wear in Mexico, but it may come at a cost she cannot comprehend, let alone afford.

Dancing With the Tiger is a straight-up treasure hunt shot through with drugs, magic and lies, all of which have the same effect on the characters caught up in them. Reality, as anyone in the novel might identify it, is quickly unmoored. Four major characters, who have no knowledge of or acquaintance of one another, are clearly entangled in something bigger than any one of them. Wright spins an excellent page-turning tale in the tradition of ripping yarns, but laced through with both literary insights and surrealist touches. The result is unexpectedly affecting and weird.

For this reader, the “twigger,” Chris Maddox, was particular delight. A “twigger” (Wright came across the term while she was reporting) is an archaeological digger who is also a tweaker, which is to say, addicted to meth. His perceptions of the world around him are particularly peculiar, and add a great tone to the novel. Wright also does outstanding work with drug lords and ex-pats. She creates a tightly-wound character arc for all, and weaves them together with the right amount of expertise and page-turning plot points. She hits the right balance between tension and attention.

Dancing With the Tiger itself is an experience of duality, even as it speaks to the theme in all its guises. Readers looking for a treasure hunt with touches of the fantastic can jump into the page-turning yarn of treasure and terror. Bit behind the mask of a sleek thriller, there are depths and echoes of something more primitive and dangerous. Lili Wright lets us glimpse the most terrifying enemy. The mirror.

For all the glimpsing you experience in reading Dancing With the Tiger, a conversation with Lili Wright herself will put you right back on the straight, if not so narrow path. We had a grand time talking around all the major plot points in Dancing With the Tiger. We did get to the ex-pat lifestyle, and how her work in reporting inspired this book, as well as her battles with using the word “I” and making stuff up.

Behind this mask, you’ll find a web link to our “lightning round” interview for a brief, hallucinatory audio glimpse at the world of Dancing With the Tiger. You may even have time to put on your “fascinating spreadsheet” face and listen below.

Alternately, you can step behind the mask of this internet “web link” to download our in-depth conversation, or just put on your “I’m really working boss” face and listen below.

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