Writer, award winning journalist and film co-writer, Toronto based Marni Jackson gives her thoughts on Chris Keil’s latest novel Flirting at the Funeral.
“Matty, the character I found so charming in the early bits, evolves into a wonderful monster, whose artistry is undermined by ambition, narcissism and and living in the past. Howard became one of my favourite characters, his very droll madness, his backpack full of bricks, his phonecall to his shrink, his efforts to reach “the ruined tower”. (I love all the literary and musical allusions…’music in the bars at night and revolution in the air’…’but you don’t like music, do you’…the mixing of great songs and literature). The motif of the owl trapped in the lecture room, and the way Howard keeps coming upon animals dead and alive in frightening forms – brilliant. The ongoing historical deformities. Everyone hobbled and harnessed to partners who are ill, crippled, or drifting out of reach – people who won’t come back to London, ever. Dr. Bendt is deliciously creepy, like Dr. Evil in an Austin Powers movie with his wrinkled little dog. And the way everyone adores the “young”, who are having such fun making their little movie – when they are only following another version of Matty’s “star”, and making sure the end of the world is nicely lit.
My second favourite character is Marley, in it for the tennis and the free drinks. Very funny. All the phoning, texting, vibrating phones facilitating ever-collapsing connections. It’s a wonderfully acid, acidulous break-up album from start to finish.
As for the politics, “the government is simply the political wing of the banking system” is a dark but unflinching portrait of modern Europe, where two former revolutionaries grow up and find themselves on the opposite side of the barricades, “the side with the champagne”.
The idea of the 1975 revolution, and the Baader-Meinhof gang being concurrent, and marking the tipping-point all comes together. It’s utterly tragic, this loss of the past, the vibrancy and hope of a time that can’t, like Matty’s best performances, ever be recaptured. Tangled up in Blue, indeed.
I found the filming of a play about the bygone revolution a touch meta at times, as a well as a device for revealing the un-seriousness of the youth – but when the playwright David Leaper shows up it came into focus for me. And that unforgettable image of the police swarming him in the street, like black spiders leaping out of a trap door. Fantastic.
I really enjoyed the smart, high-wire polyphony of the dialogue and the ensemble scenes, in which people are never quite listening to one another, or connecting. Overlapping monologues, often – quite theatrical, almost David Mamet like. Something very musical in the repetition of certain phrases, and the global multilingual mishmash, that rather menacing mix of Portuguese and German…very sophisticated and modern. The descriptions of the iron-gated Anglo-Germanic Algarvian ‘compounds’ are chilling, and the glimpse of the Atlantic at Sagres, the muscular waves arriving across the ocean, so beautifully described. Some really startling and indelible images.
Glum ending! That window sash that sticks….welcome home, pal! The detail of catching the rug with the suitcase wheels – “the stickiness” of being back home, facing the same small nagging things to be fixed – or neglected. The world doesn’t run smoothly and sometimes history itself can “hang”, like a frozen cursor on the screen.
The braiding together of the themes of failed love and failed revolution is ambitious and I think works. Revolution as a YouTube moment, and love as something that might interfere with your big concert. Altogether ambitious and delicious.”Available Here