Tag Archives: Michael Redhill

A Novel Which Crafts Elements of the Human Condition | Review of “Bellevue Square” (2017 Doubleday Canada) by Michael Redhill

Bellevue

We have all viewed people with mental illnesses of some sort. And we all have had that little voice inside of us that have wondered about our own state of mind. Yet do we ever really considered mental health in regards to the human condition at all? Michael Redhill has certainly given us all something to think about with his novel Bellevue Square.

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We  all know that bad things are coming. Advice: don’t get too comfortable. Read short books, don’t see your doctor too often. Example of this: on one of my visits to my old GP, Gary Pass, I learned the name for the bony protrusions that had started to poke out of my skull. They were aneurysmal bone cysts, benign. (1997) Then Pass pronounced I had polyps. They flourished in such places as my armpits (2001, 2006, 2010). my cervix (2007), and my rectum (2012). It’s no small thing to have a half-dozen growths fried off your cervix, but I would take that over two in the fundament. Paula, my sister, called the second operation “Fire Below.” She’s been allowed, since 2007, to make fun of my aches and pains because she has a case of the brain tumours. Paula used to live in Phoenix with her husband, Chase, but now she and chase are quits and she lives alone in Phoenix, convalescing or dying. Mine years after diagnosis, the tumour has doubled in size, but she lives on. It’s inoperable. We keep our Skypes on and I have a huge data plan on my phone, which means I can talk to her while I walk down the street if I want. I’m all she has now. Our deadbeat father dies last year, and our mother alternates between Toronto and Key West, where she cures herself to kid leather six months out of the year. Once in a while she’ll go see Paula, but my mother has a life. She says you shouldn’t have to take care of your kids past their eighteenth birthdays.

Redhill has crafted a unique journey for us readers as we follow protagonist Jean Mason in her search for her doppelganger. Her unknown identical twin haunts her thoughts and she begins an obsession to find more about this person. Jean’s journey takes her through a downtown Toronto market and into a park (known as Bellevue Square) where she gets to know the regulars in order to find out more about this mysterious double.

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Pee, Dog turds, and decomposing mice are only some of the fragrances of Bellevue Square in the springtime. I’d long ago stopped noticing these undertones to the market’s stinky chiaroscuro, but it can be a challenge for first-timers, and when we walked into the park, Ian pulled his head back, as if he could save his nose from going in. “That’s  . . . fucking foul,” he said

Miriam greeted us as we entered.

“Friend of yours?” Ian asked.

“A local,” I said.

“That makes you . . . ?”

“I told you, I got to know a few people over the weeks-”

Months”

“-that I’ve been coming here.” I told him Miriam was a Turkish lady who’d  worked her corner since 1995. I told him how she was the market wet nurse. Ritt wasn’t around from what I could see, and now Cullen had been missing for the better part of a month. The last few things Cullen had talked about before he vanished had unsettled me. He claimed to have invented a drug that allowed him to upload his thoughts into a computer.

This is the first of a “triptych” of novels that Redhill is writing as part of his Modern Ghosts series. And with it he has captured an element of the human condition that; exists, is somewhat undefinable and takes on twists and turns we all at times witness yet do not discuss. This is certainly one of those reads I recommend that should be pondered over and not rushed through in order to appreciate it’s depth.

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The society of the mad contains primarily other sick people, as well as doctors and nurses. Some family if you’re lucky. I’ve learned that many people here have been here before and will return again. Out in the world they’re burning fuses, a danger sometimes to themselves or others. In here, they shamble, their legs confused on anti-seizure drugs; they wince at their thoughts; their lot in life is revealed to them over and over. They are poor and sick and shabby and hungry.

Michael Redhill has certainly crafted an element of the human condition in his novel Bellevue Square. It is a bold read and one that should be pondered over. In short, a great piece of literature.

*****

Link to Penguin Random House Canada’s website for Bellevue Square

 

A Big Brick on the Foundation of Some sort of Enlightenment | Mention of Brick: A Literary Journal’s 100th Edition

brick100_cover_final-1

We get bombarded by a flurry of messages at us every day. Most of it is some sort of marketing or attempt sway our thoughts into acting or believing a certain way. It is no wonder that we are totally exhausted by the time we are exhausted trying to filter out what is important and what is garbage to feed our minds with.  But recently I came home to something in my mail that I knew that was going to truly enlightening and engage my mind. And something that I was eagerly awaiting for months now. Yes, my copy of Brick: A Literary Journal – Number 100 came to my doorstep.

Page 9  – Notes from Our Publishers (et al.) Stan Dragland

Works of art are of an infinite loneliness and with nothing to be so little reached as with criticism. Only love can grasp and hold and fairly judge them

– Rainer Maria Rilke

Jean McKay and I kept on with Brick until issue 24. We had fun pasting up the magazine, illustrating the essays with pictures and design elements cut out of old books and magazines. I still have a fondness for the strange look of those first twenty-four Bricks. Non-designer that I am, why wouldn’t I? But the writing was always good. We insisted on that. Number 25 was edited by Linda Spalding. Under her, and then a series of other fine editors, Brick evolved into the eclectic international literary magazine it now is – properly designed! A review section graces recent issues. Back to the roots.

I never cared to love works of art and leave it at that. Like so many of the writers I read in Brick, I want love carried into criticism. I believe Rilke would be okay with that, and I`m glad Brick has printed his words in every number for forty years.

It is somehow comforting for me to learn from this edition that while I was learning my ABCs in the hinterland outside of London, Ontario, there was a ragtag team of people nearby trying to bring a smart journal of thought and discussion forward. I always have enjoyed Brick in someway and form since then finally becoming a subscriber a few years ago. The journal always highlights writers I enjoy (Anybody from Don DeLillo to P. K. Page.) But there is always an element mentioned there that gives me a “a-ha” moment too (I loved an interview published a few years ago where a photographer had taken residents of Istanbul out to the sea for the first time and photographed their emotional responses.) When Brick comes in the mail for me, I can always expect a great and fascinating read.

Page 12 Notes from Our Publishers (et al.) Laurie D. Graham

In my lifelong search for work that doesn’t feel like work, I’ve turned up a few winners: teacher of music to the young, backpackers` hostel “employee,” and anything having to do with literary journals. Journals have kept me patchily employed for – I realize with some alarm as I type this – a dozen years now. And I’ve been involved with Brick for seven of those years, which includes this last year and a bit as publisher. That’s closing in on “career” territory! Yet so often the work doesn’t feel anything like work. Instead, it feels like a close relative of writing, in no small part because Brick is made primarily by writers. And to work in the service of writing with other writers is what drew me to this gig in the first place and what keeps me doing it.

The fact that Brick is now on a serious publication but still maintains a belief that it is a hodgepodge mixtures of views and reviews is certainly appealing. Since I have become a serious subscriber seeing noted writer and poet Laurie D. Graham bring her hard work on the journal has been a pleasure.

Page 137 Things I Know Nothing About: Enlightenment by Michael Redhill

After many years on antidepressants, and finding normal unhappiness just out of reach, I decided at last to try enlightenment. My friends had been going on about it for years, but it always struck me as bunk, like Scientology or the novels of Ethan Hawke. However, after multiple courses of psychotherapy, pharmaceuticals, yogic stretching, alkaline eating, papaya enemas, and non-stop gin, I began to wonder if my friends weren’t onto something. Apart from the cost of a few seminars, enlightenment was free. There was plenty of it, and once you had it, you had it for life. And the way my friends said they felt! They was plenty of it, and once you had it, you had it for life. And the way my friends said they felt! They were light of heart and in great humour. Some repaired ancient rifts in important relationships while others made quick money in morally forward investments. All reported increased libido as well as thundering orgasms, especially in elevators.

Brick: A Literary Journal has always enlightened my mind after a long day dealing with the baffle-gab of the social media set. It is a pleasure to turn off all electronics and turn the pages of this journal. Kudos to all involved in it`s 100th edition and I am looking forward to the next 100 copies.

******

Link to Brick: A Literary Journal’s website