Monoceros, Suzette Mayr

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Because he wants to be in charge of his own ending.

Well I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t make a last minute decision to start Bookstravaganza at the bottom of my list.  After a long day trying to start a 20 page paper due Tuesday, I decided to abandon my personal misery for more tragic perspective in Suzette Mayr’s Monoceros.

First of all, I think naming the fantastic drag queen character after yourself is just brilliant – I can’t think of a better legacy, especially in a text that decides to take on realities of being gay in rather conservative “straight”-laced Calgary.   As a kind-of Calgary native myself, I was really interested how Mayr transformed the Calgary I know into a landscape of drag queens, secret affairs, and unspoken miseries.   Although I suppose the terminology would be to say Calgary is where I “grew up,” reading Monoceros made me realize that this phrasing is entirely inaccurate as I still have all this time held on to this sanitized “child-friendly” version of the city I know doesn’t really exist.

Mayr’s Monoceros takes on the suicide of a gay teen and its impact on his classmates and staff of the Catholic school he attended.  Mayr takes on the perspective of several characters: the boy who died; the guidance counselor; the guidance counselor’s lover, the principal; the straight-playing lover of the boy; the lover’s death-threat-spewing girlfriend; the boy’s parents; the English teacher who wanted to do more; and the odd girl obsessed with unicorns and virginity.  As a writer I admire what Mayr accomplished; the imagery she inspires is amazing, and it’s absolutely chock-full of delightful little one liners (“her clitoris coughed.”)

On the more emotional side of things, these stories are woven together into a heart-snagging tapestry that I sit back and look at trying to take it in as one piece, as one image, trying to see where society failed, where the mistakes could have been unmade.  As each thread is knotted into the other, I realize that this is a story that isn’t asking for us to find the mistakes or for us to rewrite the past with the “what-ifs.”  Instead I believe this is a story that asks us about forbidden love, to explore it like an autopsy, and discover what our own feelings are at its heart.  It’s a concept we romanticize too well.

I don’t think I am alone in believing that a story like this couldn’t be more appropriate for all of us to read now.  I feel a wincing pang when I read over the first name of the central character: the Boy Who Died.  As part of a generation who grew up with the Boy Who Lived, who grew up believing that any disadvantages could be overcome, that no battle was too immense, I realize now that stories of the Boy Who Died need also to have a place in our homes, in our schools, in all these corners that we believe to be safe and sanitized and free.

Books Read: 1

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2 responses to “Monoceros, Suzette Mayr

  1. Pingback: Monoceros, Suzette Mayr | a love for words·

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