Lily Iona MacKenzie's Blog for Writers & Readers

MY BLOG POSTS COMMENT ON SOME ASPECT OF WRITING & READING.

The Ripening
The Ripening:
A Canadian Girl Grows Up

" A wildly inventive, consistently engaging, and amusing comic novel, but under its bright exterior lurk darker undertones and truths.... "

" A wildly inventive, consistently engaging, and amusing comic novel, but under its bright exterior lurk darker undertones and truths.... "

" Tillie’s grit and ability to face life’s challenges are inspiring, the seeds for later discovering her artist self. Tillie takes readers on a wild ride. Join her if you dare! "

Lily Iona MacKenzie Books
Curva Peligrosa
Curva Peligrosa

" A wildly inventive, consistently engaging, and amusing comic novel, but under its bright exterior lurk darker undertones and truths.... "

" A wildly inventive, consistently engaging, and amusing comic novel, but under its bright exterior lurk darker undertones and truths.... "

" A wildly inventive, consistently engaging, and amusing comic novel, but under its bright exterior lurk darker undertones and truths.... "

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FLING!
Fling!

" A wildly inventive, consistently engaging, and amusing comic novel, but under its bright exterior lurk darker undertones and truths.... "

" A wildly inventive, consistently engaging, and amusing comic novel, but under its bright exterior lurk darker undertones and truths.... "

"Fling! is both hilarious and touching. Every page is a surprise, and the characters! I especially loved Bubbles, one of the most endearing mothers in recent fiction. A scintillating read."

Lily Iona MacKenzie Books
Freefall
Freefall :
A Divine Comedy

" A wildly inventive, consistently engaging, and amusing comic novel, but under its bright exterior lurk darker undertones and truths.... "

" A wildly inventive, consistently engaging, and amusing comic novel, but under its bright exterior lurk darker undertones and truths.... "

" These fascinating characters will fill your imagination, defying expectations about aging, art, and what truly matters in life. "

Lily Iona MacKenzie Books
All This
All This

" A wildly inventive, consistently engaging, and amusing comic novel, but under its bright exterior lurk darker undertones and truths.... "

" A wildly inventive, consistently engaging, and amusing comic novel, but under its bright exterior lurk darker undertones and truths.... "

" Indicative of the title, the poems in All This range from the conventional lyric/narrative that captures an intense moment of emotion, an epiphany glimpsed briefly out of the corner of the eye, to the more experimental. "

Lily Iona MacKenzie Books
No More Kings
No More Kings

" A wildly inventive, consistently engaging, and amusing comic novel, but under its bright exterior lurk darker undertones and truths.... "

" A wildly inventive, consistently engaging, and amusing comic novel, but under its bright exterior lurk darker undertones and truths.... "

Each finely crafted poem in this powerful collection comes alive on the page while she traces the days’ journeys with a painter’s eye, a musician’s ear, and the deft pen of a poet.

Lily Iona MacKenzie Books
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Tag: Mr. Monkey

Appearances Really Are Deceiving

Francine Prose’s novel Mr. Monkey has taught me something valuable about point of view. While I’m interested in the story Prose is telling, as a writer I’m even more concerned with how the narrative is shaped. Unusual for a novel, eleven chapters each feature a different character, and some appear tangentially in other sections, offering a fuller look at many of these actors.

Appearances Really Are Deceiving

Francine Prose’s latest novel Mr. Monkey has taught me something valuable about point of view. While I’m interested in the story Prose is telling, as a writer I’m even more concerned with how the narrative is shaped. Unusual for a novel, eleven chapters each feature a different character, and some appear tangentially in other sections, offering a fuller look at many of these actors.

monkey-copyIn fact, actor is an appropriate word here to describe the various dramatis personae since the work starts by taking the reader into the production of the play “Mr. Monkey.” The first characters we meet are performers in this production. But just as actors inhabit different roles and types, so do Prose’s creations exemplify this aspect of being human. We are constantly stepping in and out of various personas throughout our days. At times we keep our more intimate self under cover, especially in our professional environments, such as the classroom or office. Other times, with close friends and family, we can reveal much more of ourselves. Yet always we are in the process of presenting a self that others can’t fully see. And so are the individuals we meet in Mr. Monkey.

As the title implies, the novel revolves around a fictional children’s play based on a children’s book. The play itself, tired from so many productions, becomes a carousel for the characters to circle on, each one connected to “Mr. Monkey” either directly, as actors and creators, or indirectly, as audience members and/or those in some relationship with individuals spinning off from the play.

Prose’s use of this structure has impressed me. She takes the reader briefly inside lives that we otherwise would not inhabit, from a young kindergartner to an aging grandfather. One would think these characters wouldn’t have much in common, but Prose skillfully shows how individuals with such far-flung interests have roots that intertwine, just as actual plants can do under ground. What might seem unrelated on life’s surface actually connects psychologically on deeper levels.

For example, Mario, a middle-aged waiter in an upscale restaurant, has been receiving free tickets to the play (Mr. Monkey) for years from the original creator. Mario loves theater, and he enthusiastically attends the various productions so he can see how original each will be in its presentation. But basically Mario’s life is provisional, his job not fully secure. He shares with many in the novel’s orbit a profound loneliness and isolation. A practicing Catholic, he agonizes with his priest confessor over guilt feelings he experiences about slights he has done to others in his daily life. Yet when a waiter serves us in a restaurant, we normally don’t wonder about his/her life outside of work, and we would be surprised to discover the various worlds that such a person inhabits. We experience this continuously in this novel.

So as a writer, I’ve learned from Mr. Monkey not just how complex we all are and how vulnerable as well, but to trust that if I focus on a small world, as Prose does here, and show aspects of a character that otherwise might go unnoticed, it can reveal universal qualities that most of us can relate to.

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