Michael Aiken Reviews Monty Reid

By | 12 October 2016

Many of the ‘Contributors’ Notes’ snipe at authors who care more about the company they keep than the work they read or publish, or snipe at authors’ desire to be seen as witty or interesting. Others offer alternative historical lives for ‘Monty Reid’ (one Monty Reid or another is always the subject of the notes). But others linger on simple, prosaic observation, such as ‘There are morning glories in the garden, growing up around the tomatoes’, hinting at the real world beyond literature, but also at the real business of being a writer – to write, note, be mindful in some sense or another beyond the self or I. As well as raising questions about the (literary) value, and therefore the value of the attendant labour in creating, one’s own contributor’s notes, the plurality of the title and its component entries also invites reflection on the potential for different aspects of a single author, working to anticipate and gently deflect any expectation that this single-author book should be unified by a single voice.

Similar challenges to readers’ and writers’ expectations are issued in an equally playful way in ‘Frances Disassembles the Pop-up Book’. Reading not only as a re-interpretation of stories in a pop-up book, but also reinterpretation as an attempt to accommodate damage done to the book by a small child, it is an interesting riff on traditional values and expectations of reading – of how we’re ‘supposed’ to read. In the pop-up book there are stories modified by mechanisms that no longer fold, tears that expose the inner cogs of the book’s devices, holes that show multiple layers simultaneously, and moveable parts that seduce the reader to operate them in ways other than intended. There’s something quite Burroughsian in the sequence’s will to listen to our (inner) children, and its investigations of what can be opened up or destroyed when we ‘cut in’ to or read against/across a text:

The picket fence pops up.

The damaged animals at the window
of the unfolded house

are looking up.

At least they think it’s up.

Admiring the final catastrophe of the destroyed book (and of Jack and Jill’s calamity within their own story), Frances’ guide through the carnage observes: ‘What could we have done to prevent this, / sweetie? // What have we done / to the ones we love?’ 
Meditatio Placentae has plenty of hits and not a few misses. It’s a lively, accessible book, offering a distinct blend of imagism and philosophical questioning.

This entry was posted in BOOK REVIEWS and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

Related work: