Leonora Carrington’s (1917 – 2011) weirdly wonderful novella is an odd and enjoyable one. The writer and surrealist painter was born in Clayton-le-Woods of Chorley, Greater Manchester (we mention this as we grew up in Chorley, of Greater Manchester!). Born into wealth, she was well educated but soon came to be known as a talented eccentric who fled to Paris and then Mexico.
If you read the introduction in the Penguin Modern Classics edition, Carrington was also known for her “eccentric” behaviour, although this largely comes across as overly-privileged attention seeking. However, this lady was no talentless annoyance, as this quirky, compelling, and quite fantastical novella proves. It’s a cult classic, has been described as the “occult twin to Alice in Wonderland”, and we’re celebrating it today.
The Hearing Trumpet
Released in England for the first time in 1974, this novella is about a 92 year old lady called Marian Leatherby. As a present from a relative, she’s provided with an ornate hearing trumpet which amplifies sounds for the hard of hearing lady. This, inadvertently, means she overhears her family discussing her – they’re convinced she’s doddering and past it and want to shuffle her on.
It seems she’s set for a retirement home, despite the fact she’s of sound mind, but the one she’s shuffled off to is really rather warped indeed. What then unfolds is a contemplation on ageing, the female body, and mental health (there are, indeed, some parallels with One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest to be found). So it’s pertinent, and rather prescient, in many respects, but it’s also presented in a way that involves wickedly silly, black humour that will liven up your day (kind of like Professional Moron then, eh? EH?!).
The Hearing Trumpet soon descends into a nightmarish world where the elderly are treated really badly. All the residents live in weird buildings shaped like cakes or igloos, there are strange religious ceremonies, and there’s a spooky painting in the canteen which resides over everyone as they eat. As Marian adjusts to her new life, she’s handed a book by a fellow resident that then, unexpectedly, sets off a fantastical adventure (we’re not dropping any spoilers in about that).
Yes, so this is an excellent fun novella with wacky elements but a quite poignant outlook on the nature of life, which is subtlety hinted at whilst all the hearing trumpet madness plays out. It’s an imaginative and vivid story, will certainly brighten your day, and it’s one for your bookshelf (if you have a bookshelf, if not then just leave your read copy on the floor, or something).
Carrington’s Surrealist Paintings
Looking at this stuff, it makes us wonder why our esteemed editor, Mr. Wapojif, doesn’t have a go at art. Surely, with his brain there’d be creations beyond belief?! Well, check out Professional Moron Art and then you realise why he’s confined to prison cells at the best of times. Idiot.
We sure as heck won’t be painting a landscape like the one above any time soon, though, so good on Carrington. The elusive enigma, she may well have rejected life in Greater Manchester (now why would anyone do that?), but when you have the BBC covering your antics you know you’ve achieved something. Innit.