What do you even do with a caul? That’s a question that The Decemberists frontman Colin Meloy (“July, July, Julaaaaaaay”) asked himself while reading the beginning of David Copperfield, in which David is born en caul—in his amniotic sac—and the family auctions the remnants off as a good luck totem.
The detail seeded what will be Meloy’s first adult novel, “Cascadia (Title TK),” to be published in 2025, per Meloy’s Substack newsletter, Colin Meloy’s Machine Shop. His August 10 newsletter offered one the best musings about a book-in-progress that I’ve read recently, mulling how he went from Dickens to a “post-secession Cascadia”:
The thing that really got me, though, was the offer from the bill-broker. What was he going to do with a caul? Being in the bill-broker service, I assumed he’d probably sell it off himself to another buyer at a higher rate. And I imagined a world in which the buying and selling of cauls and other cast-off human tissue was a kind of business unto itself. And then I imagined this guy, this caul-broker, existing in a world where there was greater demand for remnants of birth because of a cratering birth rate and an increased draw to superstition. This world would inevitably be suffering under the constraints of a climate crisis and an unchecked growth of capitalism, right? I mean, aren’t we already? And so Barnaby Chambers, bio-broker, was hatched in the transformed pacific northwest of post-Cascadian secession 2057. In-caul, you might say.
Bio-brokers, a boom in superstition, and anti-capitalism? Take me to your freaky future, Meloy!
While unclear if the bio-brokers will trade in cauls, other literary babes born en caul include Toni Morrison’s Milkman in Song of Solomon and the babies of the Melancon women in Morgan Jenkins’ Caul Baby. Generally (i.e., speaking non-obstetrically), coming into the world like a Popple is considered a good omen.
Legendary children’s lit agent Steven Malk brokered the book deal with Putnam, but it is not his first publishing outing. Meloy’s previous children book Everyone’s Awake, illustrated by Shawn Harris, was a neon dream, and he has also authored the Wildwood chronicles with his wife, illustrator Carson Ellis, among other titles.