MIRACULUM MONSTRUM

A Hy­brid Nar­ra­tive

Foreword Reviews - - Spotlight Debut Fiction - LETI­TIA MONT­GOMERY-RODGERS

Kath­line Carr, Red Hen Press (OC­TO­BER), Soft­cover $21.95 (112pp), 978-1-59709-607-2 Haunt­ing and eerie, Miraculum Monstrum is a fun-house mir­ror where past, present, and fu­ture bounce off one an­other. Kath­line Carr’s fem­i­nist fairy tale Miraculum Monstrum is ar­rest­ing, omi­nous, and dia­lec­tic, equal parts an emer­gent mythol­ogy, a damn­ing trea­tise, and a hor­ror story.

Set in an apoc­a­lyp­tic near fu­ture, the book cat­a­logues the trans­for­ma­tion of Tris­tia Vo­gel from a woman to a “lat­ter hy­brid,” a harpy-like crea­ture both frag­ile and pri­mal, able to sur­vive an im­mi­nent eco­log­i­cal tragedy. The hy­brid nar­ra­tive uses art, poetry, nar­ra­tion, mu­seum cu­rat­ing, and apoc­ryphal texts to ex­am­ine the con­straint and con­struc­tion of women.

It is par­tic­u­larly in­ter­ested in the spa­ces of the dis­pos­sessed, from Tris­tia’s closed med­i­cal wards to her drug-ad­dict and hooker com­pan­ions’ hov­els and un­der­passes. Tris­tia’s mirac­u­lous, mon­strous trans­for­ma­tion al­lows her to es­cape and ex­ist, how­ever briefly, in a hos­tile en­vi­ron­ment where she’s free and ul­ti­mately alone.

Tris­tia is de­i­fied in her de­hu­man­iza­tion and she emerges as a mes­sianic fig­ure for out­casts.

As hu­mans lose the sur­face and sub­merge them­selves deep un­der­ground, Tris­tia gains her free­dom. But as each party trades sun for shad­ows, free­dom for con­straint, the dire price sug­gests that there’s a toxic force in these bi­na­ries.

Sadly, as the first recorded lat­ter hy­brid, Tris­tia seems to have lit­tle to no sense of the im­por­tance of what is hap­pen­ing to her. Her time and space is lim­i­nal, the event hori­zon for a fu­ture to come, and her mes­sianic ha­giog­ra­phy is the re­sult of pos­ter­ity.

The book’s pre­sen­ta­tion of her life as ret­ro­spec­tive art show con­tin­ues its play with so­cial con­structs, in­di­cat­ing just how much our bod­ies, our en­vi­ron­ments, our his­to­ries, and our very selves are cre­ations in­formed and lim­ited by forces that are deeply per­sonal, even when they’re of­ten be­yond our un­der­stand­ing or con­trol.

Haunt­ing and eerie, Carr’s hy­brid nar­ra­tive of­fers a dar­ing, pre­scient frame. Miraculum Monstrum is a fun-house mir­ror where past, present, and fu­ture bounce off one an­other, but the dan­ger­ous work of con­struct­ing mean­ing is left for re­flec­tion just be­yond the page.

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