Learning to live with traumaMelia McClure’s ‘All the World’s A Wonder’ is written in the form of a play, and it combines elements of realism and fantasy to the extent that it becomes impossible to separate reality from fantasy or a dream.
Melia McClure’s ‘All the World’s A Wonder’ (2023) makes for an intriguing read for several reasons. The novel is written in the form of a play, and it combines elements of realism and fantasy to the extent that it becomes impossible to separate reality from fantasy or a dream. The multilayered narrative makes the novel thrilling rather than merely making it a difficult read. The characters are all facing challenges, and each of them is in love with unattainable individuals. At times, it seems that these lovers are not real, and it’s the trauma that makes them hallucinate about lovers that don’t exist just so that they can obsess over something. The novel is about the sufferings of struggling adults and artists.
The playwright, who is referred to by this name throughout the novel, lives with her muses. She can’t perform without them. She communicates with the dead people, and she detests her muses as much as they detest her. Yet, they are all indispensable. They need each other. The struggling actress needs her struggling playwright to write her play. The playwright needs her for her inspiration and to overcome her blocks. There is also a doctor who is haunted by his criminal past and lives with those haunted memories until they break him down. These are all young and white people with little knowledge of the outside world.
The novel is based in New York—with certain parts of it being based in Greece. But mostly, it’s about Canadians and Americans, or Canadians in America. The difference between the two countries is made very clear in the novel. Anais, who is a living character in the first half of the novel and later a muse, when she is dead and on the other side of the world, makes it clear to her lover that Canada is not America. This is a Canadian enlightening an American. She says, “Toronto’s not in the US; it’s in Canada. I mean, I know all Americans think Canada is nothing but an extension of themselves if they think of it at all, which they generally don’t.” The need to resist American influence on Canada is an important marker in many Canadian novels, and this novel is no different.
The muses seem to be dead and alive at the same time. They have their voice and own point of view, but at some point, it seems like it’s all in the playwright’s head, and she is hallucinating about the traumas that guide her writing as well as her life. However, there are also instances when she is exchanging emails with her dead muses. The line between reality and illusion is blurred, and this leads to much speculation. The playwright has been dealing with a lot of conscious and subconscious trauma, all manifested in her muses. The traumas become muses, and the muses become her traumas.
One way of looking at it is through magical realism since there is an overlap of the two worlds, and the chats with the dead seem like an otherworldly thing, but a more realistic reader will view it as a novel about young people who are trying to get by in an indifferent world. All the artists and writers are struggling to survive. They are haunted by their troubling love stories, the murder of their lovers and the death of an ordinary life. Here, the death of an ordinary life does not translate to a remarkable life. Instead, it’s a life full of guilt and broken promises.
The novel is pretty interesting, even though it’s far from being a thriller. It’s about the trauma of broken people who are trying to survive while dealing with their demons. The other world may or may not be the other world; it might just be the projection of their inner selves, which seems like an otherworldly thing. This brings us to the question of killings and crime in the novel. There is a thin line between the killings and the defence of the self, and this problematises the whole idea of crime in the novel. Even though crime has always been a polemical issue, it can still puzzle us in many ways. There are still no convincing or obvious answers to the aspect of ethical and legal killings, neither in life nor in this novel. This makes the characters criminals, too, even if they are not constant offenders.
I find it intriguing that writers and artists have suffered at every age and time. There was never enough support and acknowledgement, and art remained a redundant pastime for most people. The novelist understands this problematic relationship between artists and society and recreates the same intricacy in the novel.
All the World’s a Wonder
Author: Melia McClure
Publisher: Radiant Press