Wednesday, 1 April 2015
Book Review: Any Other Mouth by Anneliese Mackintosh
In the epigraph, Anneliese Mackintosh states: '68% happened; 32% did not happen; I will never tell' and this teasing game of fiction and biography that she sets in motion parched my mouth with anticipation for what was to come. It doesn’t matter whether the work that follows is a searing and amazingly frank account of a life lived in the fast lane, or a cunning character study through fiction. The writing is first rate: quick, luscious, direct. Her approach to language mirrors her protagonist’s approach to life: she charges at a thing, she doesn't shirk, she tells stories full of heart that make the spaces between people feel less vast than they sometimes might.
One of the joys of reading is in discovering different ways of living life, different responses to the challenges and joys it throws up. We most often do this by reading about cultures other than our own, and at times the more harrowing the better in this sort of reading. (See the universal love of Khaled Hosseini’s pity-porn novels of Afghanistan for one example.) But we are sadly less willing to read books that present a different view of life in our own society, or that treat with empathy subjects we would rather believe did not happen. In this searing, unflinching book, we get a first-hand view of one experience of life with Borderline Personality Disorder. It is a book that asks us to reappraise our expectations for behavior, often uncomfortably so. And that, in my opinion, is one of the things that the arts should be all about.
In its nihilistic rejection of convention and vibrant lust for life Any Other Mouth reminded me of AM Homes brilliant novel Music for Torching. But much more than this exciting, blackly comic read, it feels important too. Important, as understanding perspectives on life different from your own always are. It may be a bit of a Marmite book, and will undoubtedly provoke some anger by some people who feel the content is not always 'appropriate' but perhaps because of this, it is a book that should be widely read. Any Other Mouth is engaging, unexpected, gripping, poignant, shocking and exciting. A great read.
(Note: One word of caution: the blurb for this book doesn’t really make any sense! How do you react when you discover your boyfriend is cheating on you with his dead grandma? You don’t. It’s doesn’t happen like that! Don’t be put off, Any Other Mouth is not as ridiculous as the blurb suggests!)