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Rebecca Dinerstein Knight


“As I began to research the earliest tales of poisonings, I saw that our current common knowledge has been won at high and often strange cost. Each discovery we hold is the reward for mankind’s surviving some insane mistake. The awful bounds of botany started to look a lot like the dilemmas of desire: we learn by reaching for the wrong berry, the wrong body, the wrong lure, again and again, until a more harmonious chemistry arrives.”

The critic E.O. Wilson popularized the “biophilia hypothesis,” which he defines as a deep-seated urge to connect with living things in nature, both flora and fauna. Rebecca Dinerstein Knight’s novel Hex (2020)a startling, wickedly funny exploration of the dark side of this attraction. A campus novel in the tradition of Donna Tartt’s The Secret History, Hex follows the story of Nell, a botany student who, alongside her studies of poison plants, develops a consuming obsession with her mentor. The effects of this obsession reverberate in unexpected ways through Nell’s cohort revealing, in Dinerstein-Knight’s words “attraction, ambition, temptation, and the irresistible...[ultimately seeking] antidotes to the natural world's many toxins.” Dinerstein Knight offers a unique perspective on how she incorporated scientific writing into her novel, with unforgettable insights for lovers of nature and literature. 

“[A] swift moving, sardonic novel. . . . Dinerstein Knight paints a withering portrait of this web of toxic romances, and of the excesses of academia, while illustrating how both the heart and the mind can be broken and reshaped by changing circumstances.” 

—The New Yorker

Rebecca Dinerstein Knight is the author of the novel The Sunlit Night and a collection of poems, Lofoten. Her screenplay adaption of The Sunlit Night premiered as a feature film at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival. Knight has reviewed restaurants for The Village Voice and novels for The New York Times Book Review, and her essays have appeared in The New Yorker online and The New York Times, among others. A graduate of Yale and the NYU MFA program, Knight is the recipient of a Wallant Award for Jewish Literature. She lives and writes in New Hampshire.

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