Patrick Kelly's Reviews > The Hearing Trumpet

The Hearing Trumpet by Leonora Carrington
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Sep 21, 2010

it was amazing

Leonora Carrington is one of my favorite surrealist artists - I've seen a handful of her drawings and paintings in New York and Chicago. When I found out she was also a novelist, I knew I had to experience what she would bring to the written page. I set out nervously - scared my expectations would not be met or that it would be so much unintelligible drivel. However, I was (thankfully) not disappointed. The story is of an old woman whose hearing and senses are failing her. She carries around an enormous hearing trumpet to hear what people say. She is sent to a bizarre and surreal retirement home of sorts, where the buildings are shaped like shoes and cakes and ghosts fill the walls. She and her sisters form a sort of witch's coven and, as the world turns cold and they're left to their own devices, they perform a kind of alchemic ceremony of rebirth. The whole thing stinks a bit of feminism but is tempered nicely with religious and mystical symbolism. I learned a lot from this book about how to control a symbol or detail to work for the overall "image" or meaning of the work. More than anything, reading the book gives a clear example of how writing can work in ways similar to the visual arts, painting or sketching a picture of obscure birds, weird old ladies, and crumbling buildings.
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