Set into motion by an inexplicable, traumatic and violent real-life event, Rachel Nagelberg’s brilliant first novel begins at the limits of contemporary art, as it attempts to reflect the ungraspable present. Female and philosophical, emotion flows through the book across a dense and familiarly incomprehensible web of information, from satellite selfies to awkward sex to internet beheadings and shamanic tourism in the third world. Nagelberg’s engrossing narration is littered with stunning perception: We look into the distance to be able to see what’s right in front of us. She writes without affect, and with unselfconscious acuity. That is, she writes really well.
— CHRIS KRAUS, author of I Love Dick
Nagelberg has a true gift, able to write gorgeously on the line level with unctuous images. And simultaneously, there’s a readable page-turner here. Most of us are lucky to do one of those, which is a testament to the singular talent. This book cascades beauty and meaning and truth.
— JOSHUA MOHR, author of All This Life and Termite Parade
The Fifth Wall crackles with braininess and sex. It’s hallucinatory and interactive and funny and sad and it has something incandescent to show you. Careful, you might get scorched. Come, take a look.
— STEPHEN BEACHY, author of The Whistling Song and Distortion

Excerpts of The Fifth Wall are published in 3:Am Magazine and The Brooklyn Rail.

NOW YOU CAN purchase the fifth wall from skylight books, amazon.com, David R. Godine, Publisher, or the distributer of your choice.


In this daring debut novel following in the hallowed footsteps of Black Sparrow titans Charles Bukowski and Lucia Berlin, Rachel Nagelberg, a true literary pioneer, explores the frail line between the human impulse to control everything and the futility of excessive effort to do so. When Nagelberg's protagonist, Sheila, heeds a mysterious urge to return to her family home in Berkeley, CA, she arrives at the exact moment of her mother's suicide. Faced with her own self destructive tendencies, Sheila copes by filming 24/7 while workers deconstruct the site of the suicide, her childhood home. She begins experiencing more and more frequent blackouts, finds herself hunting a robot drone through the San Francisco MoMA with a baseball bat, and resumes a violent affair with her college professor. Combining the emotional depth of Eileen Myles with a plot worthy of a David Lynch film, this readable, literary, and thought-provoking work is for anyone who questions the status quo.