Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Is an alien lurking near you?

The Love Monster, by Missy Marston

Looking out into the rural night sky, have you ever shuddered at the possibility of a great sparkling mechanical disk coming over the horizon?  In the middle of the night, do you eyeball your closet suspiciously? 
You don’t even need to have read Communion, by Whitley Strieber, to enjoy this book.  His 1987 book launched the ‘grey’s,those iconic little aliens with huge eyes, who popped into both our bedrooms and hapless psyches.  Who hasn’t heard about their appearing in bedrooms, abducting people for ruthless science experiments, causing memory lapses in those they visit? 

The Love Monster, by Missy Marston, looks at this phenomenon from a refreshing view point: humour.  In this weird little novel, the leader of the aliens has fallen madly in love with Margaret Atwood.  No, not that Margaret Atwood.  But he is familiar with that Margaret Atwood’s novels.  Unlike the usual emotionless ‘greys’ of pop culture, this alien is shimmering green, ardent, envious, wishing he had a bloody, beating human heart.  When he is about to set off for a nocturnal visit to her bedroom, where he will later hypnotize her into forgetting the event, the other aliens “….fuss about him like excited bridesmaids—They pinch and tuck and pet and smooth.  They stand back and assess.  The Leader takes a deep breath and peers closely at the screen, looks at Margaret, lying there sleeping.”  The Leader regrets the bad press that he and his colleagues earned from their kidnapping, probing and experimenting phase, and has learned to use a more gentle approach.

The tone of this book is initially facetious, bordering on cold and cruel.  But as the characters develop, the tone shifts.  Margaret is dealing with the conclusion of a bad marriage, where she has come to loathe the husband, yet she equally loathes the idea of his leaving her.  She also loathes pretty much everyone on the planet.  She’s an annoyingly depressed person.  If it weren’t for the fresh humour of the aliens popping in to meddle with humankind, I might have put this book down.
This unique book can’t be classified as science fiction.  It goes beyond science fiction into the realm of hopelessly idealistic fantasy, with an ironic, sometimes even Socratic ironic twist.  The love-sick alien meddles, though he worries about his motives.  Margaret’s mother comes to meddle as well, and revels in being a woman in late middle age, a time that blesses her with such invisibility that  “she can walk down the street smoking pot in full view and not even provoke a second glance.”  Missy Marston has created a story that is both highly ridiculous and heart breakingly true.

If you are the type who is uneasy about the thought of aliens and their kidnapping habits, this book could be therapeutic for you.  On the other hand, this book is worthy of literary therapy not because of the alien angle, but because it’s about a woman so mired in depression that the book is at first difficult to bear.  How she rises out of the depression doesn’t really matter.  This novel shows that life does go on, often in ways that we might think improbable, but it does go on, getting better, and that in itself is a blessing.

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