AELAQ     Current Issue     Archives     How to get mRb  
Thirteenth Issue
Volume 7, No. 1


O Mordecai, Where Art Thou?
By Juan Rodriguez


Quebecite: A Jazz Fantasia In Three Cantos
Reviewed by Kelly Murphy

A House By The Sea
Reviewed by Ian McGillis

The Speaking Cure
Reviewed by Mark Heffernan

The Applecross Spell
Reviewed by Eleni Zisimatos Auerbach

Universal Recipients
Reviewed by Eleni Zisimatos Auerbach

Black Bird
Reviewed by X.I. Selene

A Sunday At The Pool In Kigali
Reviewed by Edward R. Smith

Song For My Father
Reviewed by Mary Soderstrom

The Heart Is An Involuntary Muscle
Reviewed by Kim Bourgeois

Another Book About Another Broken Heart
Reviewed by Poppy Wilkinson

Without Cease The Earth Faintly Trembles
Reviewed by Jessica Ticktin

fiction at a glance

After All!
Reviewed by Margaret Goldik

Moosehead Anthology #9: Career Suicide! Contemporary Literary Humour
Reviewed by Ian McGillis


Respectable Burial: Montreal's Mount Royal Cemetery
Reviewed by Margaret Goldik

Shoshanna's Story: A Mother, A Daughter, And The Shadows Of History
Reviewed by Elizabeth Johnston

Louis Riel
Reviewed by Philip Hawes

Tables For One: A Spanish Journal
Reviewed by Sarah Rosenfeld

Practice Imperfect
Reviewed by Joan Eyolfson Cadham

Ha! A Self-murder Mystery
Reviewed by Anne Cimon

Spoken Here: Travels Among Threatened Languages
Reviewed by Jill Rollins

non-fiction at a glance

Reviewed by Margaret Goldik

A Love Of Reading: The Second Collection
Reviewed by Margaret Goldik

Entering The War Zone: A Mohawk Perspective On Resisting Invasions
Reviewed by Margaret Goldik

Drive I-95: Exit By Exit Info, Maps, History And Trivia
Reviewed by Margaret Goldik

Crooked Smile
Reviewed by Margaret Goldik

Four Hundred Brothers And Sisters
Reviewed by Margaret Goldik

After Notman: Montreal Views - A Century Apart
Reviewed by Ian McGillis


Snow Formations
Reviewed by Bert Almon

In The Worshipful Company Of Skinners
Reviewed by Bert Almon

Bamboo Church
Reviewed by Bert Almon

An Abc Of Belly Work
Reviewed by Bert Almon

young readers

Emma's Story
Reviewed by Carol-Ann Hoyte

The Mole Sisters And The Fairy Ring
Reviewed by Carol-Ann Hoyte

The Mole Sisters And The Way Home
Reviewed by Carol-Ann Hoyte

Learning With Animals
Reviewed by Carol-Ann Hoyte

Sink Or Swim
Reviewed by Carol-Ann Hoyte

Suki's Kimono
Reviewed by Carol-Ann Hoyte

Peter's Pixie
Reviewed by Carol-Ann Hoyte

A Friend For Sam
Reviewed by Carol-Ann Hoyte

Sam's First Halloween
Reviewed by Carol-Ann Hoyte

Tales Of Court And Castle
Reviewed by Carol-Ann Hoyte

Think For Yourself: A Kid's Guide To Solving Life's Dilemmas And Other Sticky Problems
Reviewed by Carol-Ann Hoyte

Nellie Mcclung: Voice For The Voiceless
Reviewed by Carol-Ann Hoyte

The Speaking Cure
By David Homel
paper 330 pp.
Douglas & McIntyre 1-55365-019-0

Destructive impulses

Printer friendly         Send to a friend

New Document David Homel's new novel tries to meet the challenge that other writers-cultural voyeurs and marauders of the exotic-have tried for decades, with varying success. In this case, war-torn former Yugoslavia is the subject, and there are not a few people who would like to understand the in situ psyche of a guerilla fighter, a Vietnam vet, or a macho Serb. We guess that a society at war is in an altered psychological state, one that rationalized societies might always be in danger of drifting into out of sheer monotony. Freud tried to explain it to Einstein in his letter Why War, Louis-Ferdinand Céline sought out catastrophes to write about, Theodore Adorno and Max Horkheimer analyzed it in the Dialectic of Enlightenment, and William S. Burroughs felt it squirming in the back eddies of the American Dream. None of us, living out the healthy impulses of goodwill, believe that society could be so fragile as to turn suddenly, almost overnight, into its malevolent opposite. By now, history has produced a-well, sometimes hysterical-bulwark of opinion against destruction, so when it shows up in other cultures, or in our children, we fail to grasp its genealogy.

Homel wants to deal with this phenomenon, but the formal skills elude him. Through his therapist-protagonist, who is summoned by the Serb regime to run a distress center, we are supposed to learn about soldiers suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. It is a worthy subject for a writer who can flesh it out. Unfortunately, Alek-the-therapist has very little insight into human nature. His wife Zlata and son Goran are complete enigmas to him. The former is described too many times as having a lingering air of insatiability. She smells like vanilla, but then so does his mistress Tania (p. 110). We learn the wife is ambitious and well connected, but it is her unfathomable sexuality that really counts. "Since the fucking war started," says one of the characters, "women just haven't been the same."

The son suffers from a congenital kidney disease, and from too many descriptions of him as a disaffected teenager listening to loud music. The biggest hope that Alek has for his kid is that he'll get laid soon...Poor old Eros, tired beyond all imagining after having had so many duties to perform, must shudder when he hears that phrase. We totter into the therapist's relationship with his patient Tania, who insists on wearing her bulletproof vest while having sex. The therapist dwells on this fact for the better part of the novel, and Tania remains another mystery woman, linked to vague, dark, impalpable forces, never understood. There's a bit of lugubrious moralizing that follows-hardly distinguishable from self-pity-the typical stuff that passes these days for ethical struggle.

Although it is discouraging to hear the novelistic ideas go clunk in the author's head as you read along, the images of sex and violence-mandatory fare in film, television, and song-must be part of some giant, stagnant place in the socialized human mind. Georges Bataille imagined the ass gaining supremacy over the human head, but did he factor in the commercial aspect, and Eros's evident fatigue? As a society, we are still a long way from finding our way out of this mess, in a way that doesn't just repeat the errors of European refinement, when the brain was allowed to extend so far out of the body that it forgot it had a rear end.

Once the story leaves behind the women, Homel's novel gains a stylistic unity that is surprising after what has preceded it. One of the characters, Nenad Nedic, becomes almost interesting. But where were the editors when this manuscript came through the door? Did someone see the word Yugoslavia, think "This is a hot topic," and stamp it with the imprimatur before anyone read it through?

Mark Heffernan is a Montreal writer.