My rating: 3 of 5 stars
There’s a difficulty for me in reviewing this, and one that I hope to address through the act of reviewing. I admit that’s a fairly Moebius-esque sentence but I hope that it becomes clearer the further I go on.
Gardner’s superb. Her writing here is very beautiful, very stunning and occasionally cut from the clearest of glass which shines a little more every time you look at it. But, when I reflect on it, and when that reflection takes days to formulate clearly, I think I realise something. I realise that I don’t think I like this book.
There’s nothing wrong with that. Every book has readers who will fall in love and readers who will collapse in horror at the first sentence, but what I do have my issues with is when people do this and don’t interrogate themselves as to why. And thus, this is my interrogation.
There were elements of this book that I loved; the narrative, spiderwebbing together, pulling images and text and breathless moments of silence into the spiralling bravery and madness of Standish Treadwell. Structurally, it’s brilliant. Short, tight chapters that fade in and out of consciousness, borderline poetic in their brevity and conciseness.
But I think the crux of my curious disconnect with this book as a whole, is the fact that I felt that when it came to it, I didn’t matter. That’s a selfish point of view for a reader to admit to, but I think it’s a vital one to realise. I want to matter to my books, to make some sort of a difference, to actualise and catalyse them, and I don’t think I ever felt like I did matter with Maggot Moon.
That’s all well and good, but what I do acknowledge is that as a conceptual whole, this book is brilliant. It’s doing things that I admire, wholly, and I can admire that. I can admire Gardner’s intense, brave, lyrical prose. I can admire the brilliant addition of the picture based narrative, paralleling the main story as a whole, adding a layer of subtle emphasis to the narrative and the reading experience. I can admire all that and I can admit that.
But I don’t think I can admit that I liked it.