“More of an amuse-bouche” – Mouthpieces by Eimear McBride

Before you get all excited, this isn’t a new novel by Eimear McBride, but rather a nicely packaged trio of dramatic monologues and two-handers, closer to script that fiction, intriguing and excellent in its own right, but more of an amuse-bouche than the next full course. That’s no bad thing, mind; there are no bad things when it comes to McBride.

If, then, A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing gave us one young woman’s mistreatment and trauma, and The Lesser Bohemians gave us the difficulties of vulnerability and openness to another, and Strange Hotel gave us mourning and reconciliation, then Mouthpieces gives us a more abstracted overview, or overviews, of female experience. In ‘The Adminicle Exists’, a ‘female voice’ recounts her attempt to get her male partner (delusional, we assume; violent, it’s hinted) sectioned. In ‘An Act of Violence’, a woman is interrogated by ‘a voice, officious, loud, coming from all angles’ about her reaction – judged dissatisfactory – as a witness to a man’s fatal stabbing. In ‘The Eye Machine’, a woman strapped to a rostrum, channelling Laura Mulvey and John Berger, details all the ways in which she, in which women, are seen and must see, ‘because there is no out […] if [the eye] just belongs to a system of seeing which is cannot impact, interpret, depict, construe, transpose, contextualise’: they’re wild girls, meat girls, stupid girls, hairy legs, ‘Forgiven. Fucked. Forgotten.’ Mouthpieces, then, while giving voice to three specific (and significantly nameless) women, functions less as a set of narratives than a manifesto: look at how we’re trapped, manipulated, ignored, blamed, made complicit.

Mouthpieces is only forty pages long; you’d read it in fifteen minutes. But, like Beckett – and McBride is, I like to think, a latter-day feminist Becket (slash Irigaray, slash Cixous) – you’d be better off getting up and declaiming it: voicing it, feeling it burst up out of you. If there’s despair here, there’s also defiance in its articulation.

Any Cop?: The fans will eat it up; newcomers might be more bemused or confused, and in that case, I’d say go back to The Lesser Bohemians (maybe the most immediately accessible of the lot) and then circle back round. McBride doesn’t make it easy – but then, why the hell should she?

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