These Our Monsters

Monday, 12 October 2020


BY EMILY
Y
OU SHOULD REALLY GET YOUR HANDS ON THIS ANTHOLOGY, if only to read the title story, These Our Monsters by Edward Carey. This short story is so good I am considering sending a copy to my long-time-ago college English professor. 

It is written in the first person plural “we” of a small-minded catholic village recounting its run-in with goblins. The village is real and so is the story:  Woolpit, Suffolk, and the legend of the Green Children. All  the stories in the anthology are british place-based folktale retellings. This one is written like an ethnography, in a poor man's regional English. The voice is the theme, and that, in my opinion, is what makes a good story. 

These we have: Adam, Aymer, Oddo, Gilbert, Hemmet, Gerolt, Roger, Hugh, John, Ralf, Nicolas, Wilkin and Watty. These we don't: Bonnacon Basilik, Chimera, Siths, Fauns, Devils, Leucrota, Ghosts and witches folk. Or either fould things in the forest. Or neihter objects they don't obey. Screaming in the houses — that we do. But not little people that are no bigger than a conker. Trees that have voices, never. Hunchedbacked longears — that we do. Childers born with two heafs, a pig with six legs, that sort of thing — no, no we do not. 


Reading diversely. I always get excited when I discover a 'Fear of the Other' story. I was born with a forked tongue,  French and English, between two communities that don't like each other. Stories like The Left Hand of Darkness, Wise Child, The Habitation of the Blessed, Tehanu, The Fated Sky, Away and Ghost Wall appeal to an aesthetic of how I make sense of the world — that humans will draw differences out of anything to make themselves feel part of something. Yet, I am aware that most of these stories — because they involve alien creatures, or are about white people persecuted a long time ago, or because they were written by white people, — do not actually bring me closer to the 'Other'. They are mere allegories. Mirrors held up at myself.



'Fear of the Other' stories appeal to an aesthetic of how I make sense of the world. Yet I am aware that most of these stories — because they involve alien creatures, or are about white people persecuted a long time ago, or because they were written by white people, — do not actually bring me closer to the 'Other'.


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“Y O U   A R E   N O T   W E L L   R E A D 
I F   A L L   Y O U   R  E A D   I S   W H I T E   A U T H O R S .”



Through academia, I could tell you all about orientalism, salvage anthropology and the damages that the boom-and-bust mentality of company towns has on Indigenous communities. This has yet to carry over in my blog readings. My studies have inspired me to seek my own roots, French, Italian and Celtic. But it can't stop there. It can't stop at myself. For my own personal growth, I also want more diverse last names on the spines of my books.


Make no mistake, I will keep sharing stories like These Our Monsters. I think they make good gifts to ill-informed relatives. It may be the only kind of writing that can get through to them. And besides, racism is our monster, so let's have some of the white folk explain it to ourselves. 



Cover: Jean Fouquet. Hours of Étienne Chevalier (excerpt). c. 1452-1460. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. 

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