Sunday, April 22, 2018
Dear, Dear Leonora
I first heard about Leonora Carrington (6 April 1917 – 25 May 2011) through New York Review of Books - they were about to release one of her non fiction books and, given the synopsis, I knew I had to read it. Although I didn't read that book (yet), I was still fascinated with Carrington - who was she? What did she do? What did she find important in her life? On a whim, I finally purchased a copy of the book The Complete Stories of Leonora Carrington through The Dorothy Project and devoured it. Carrington, being a part of the Surrealist Movement among so many other things, was a writer who was before her time. Her words seduced and haunted me and all I kept thinking was, "I wish I had met her."
After reading the first story titled The Debutante, I stared at the cover's image then said, "Hmmm. Okay, then!" The Debutante is the story a young woman who befriends a hyena at the Zoo, then coerces it to take her place at a party so that she can read in her room. Complete with the hyena eating the young woman's maid and placing her face on top of hers, this story made me fall in love with Carrington -I have a bad habit of falling in love with fellow creatives. Once there, the book leads you by the hand and takes you to a world far more dreamlike and macabre than you could ever imagine. The people are mad yet they like it as they stuff themselves with food that is most peculiar. Trees will talk and rip themselves out of the ground. Corpses offer themselves to be ridden through a dense forest. Winged beings that barely resemble humans howl at the moon and drink "red". People transforming themselves into horses and back and again and back.
As I finished up the book this morning, my thoughts continued to reflect on the fact that mostly everyone in her stories were either mad or about to go mad. Yet, the madness that is portrayed does not seem to be life threatening (unless if you are a Queen) nor harmful. The madness here feels as the norm in this world - to be mad is to be understood. To be mad is to see the beauty of it all without question and if you do question, it just means that you GET IT. of course, these are my own opinions but DAMN, I love her version of madness. Her words and images are truly astounding and I feel at a loss because I will read something else rather than more of her work. However, absence makes the heart grow fonder, or perhaps it will be eaten by a large black bird.
I almost splurged and purchased every book related to her last night. I haven't done that since my introduction to Ian McEwan. Still Leonora Carrington has a place in my heart, nestled right next to Clarice Lispector, Toni Morrison, Zora Neale Hurston, Nella Larsen, Iain Pears, Edna St. Vincent Millay and many many others.
To end this review, I want to quote my all time favourite line from this book. Although I write dark fantasy, this line struck me as horrifically beautiful:
"You can't love anyone until you have drawn blood and dipped in your fingers and enjoyed it."
Leonora Carrington is my Goddess of Surrealism and Madness.