In a plush New York apartment that overlooks Central Park, a lonely Playwright pounds out stage plays that make her famous, and never fail to land her in a hospital psychiatric ward upon reaching their climax. Because her plays are peopled with unreliable, tragic narrators who possess her. She calls them her muses. They shred the thin veils of self-possession and fourth-dimension time to make their voices heard.
The muses communicate with the audience—in this case, the reader— by narrating their own stories, and with their unwitting host via handwritten notes or emails. Sometimes they’re not content with that, and besides fully occupying the Playwright’s fevered mind they take over her body as well.
“According to Einstein, you need to describe where you are not only in three-dimensional space — length, width and height — but also in time. Time is the fourth dimension. So to know where you are, you have to know what time it is.” Time includes date, which for the Playwright is fluid, depending on which narrator possesses her at the moment.
They do this when they’re bored and want to go out and have fun, which the Playwright does not do; or sometimes to protect the Playwright from herself; or sometimes to harm her. She knows they’re always there, lurking in the wings or surging to downstage centre with their written demands, but she never knows when they’ll show up in person and knock her off the stage of her own existence. She does know that when she’s finished recording the story they want to tell they disappear, except in rare cases when one or another might reappear for a more benign moment. Or at least they have so far.
In the calendar time of 2013, the Playwright’s told what to write by Maxine, who has been nudging the Playwright with her story for a few years. But until now the Playwright wasn’t ready for her. Now, she is. In 1925, Maxine is an aspiring actress—young, naïve, and desperate when she arrives in New York in March of that year, but tough in unexpected ways. As her story unfolds, her voice changes from starstruck girl to mob doll. Occasionally she sounds like a trucker. She is demanding, compassionate and dangerous. She’s knowledgeable in ways she should not be, too, and at times she’s willing to carve that knowledge into her Playwright’s chest, literally.
Also in the novel’s present time, the Playwright is bent on finding out who the psychiatrist who replaced her former doctor at the hospital, is. She’s convinced this younger man isn’t what or who he says he is, and that in his case he should be the patient; she the Doctor.
In private, the new Doctor often thinks of his past in poetic images—If my younger self had known I would one day become a man who eats Greek food in the crevice of night because it tastes vaguely of happiness…— and refers to his current patients as ‘broken toys’.
The stage is set and when the curtain goes up on her novel, All The World’s A Wonder, author Melia McClure pulls us into the lives of the three main characters, a wide-ranging supporting cast, and a play-within-a-play. Over its course, the reader is transported through time and space from modern-day New York, to New York in 1925, to various residences, to a stage, to city streets both posh and mean, and in the 1990s to Greece—a place where the dark-blue Ionian Sea immersing the yellow sand of the shore looks like a healing bruise.
We begin by being watchers from the balcony—a safe place to be. But are soon coaxed from our seats into the play itself as the author skillfully uses sarcasm, wit, humour, irony, startling images and head-on collisions to expose the elements of human existence: truths and lies, wisdom and stupidity, revelations and secrets, actions and apathy, courage and cowardice. Slowly. Candles are preferable to turning on a bulb. When writing, invite the shadows to come out and play. Says the Playwright.
Maxine and the Doctor are tragic characters, battling the demons of their pasts and pushing against the boundaries of their presents. Searching for redemption of a kind. In Maxine’s words: There is something damned soothing about confessional writing, I admit. The echo of the crash heals the crash itself, or some such thing.
Many of the supporting cast support. They feed the body and nourish the soul. Cooks, true companions, healers. Our better selves. Lovers are something else.
McClure writes with precision and poetry. Precision states facts. Poetry explores emotions and rubs the raw edges together. As the characters push their way into the Playwright’s life and sometimes her body and the audience is pulled into all of their lives, both precision and poetry reveal the truths of who they, and we, are. There are times when the candles become spotlights dancing on the stage of life, shining on universal truths. You can’t go back to innocence when something hideous happens. Even at my lettuce age I know that like I know my own heartbeat, and I learned it long ago, says Maxine.
The Playwright says, It was a storm-kicked morning in November. I enjoy writing under a noisy sky—it’s like someone out in the ether is applauding my subversive life-and-death struggle.
Melia McClure’s All The Word’s A Wonder is a testament to that struggle. Love and loss. Life and death.
About the Author
Melia McClure is the author of the novel The Delphi Room and continues to delve into the eccentric as a writer, editor, and actor. As an actor, she has traversed a range of realms, from a turn as Juliet in an abridged collage of Shakespeare’s classic to the sci-fi universe of Stargate Atlantis. Melia studied writing at The Writer’s Studio at Simon Fraser University, and her fiction was shortlisted for a CBC Literary Award. Born in Vancouver, she has since travelled the world in search of the ever-shapeshifting muse.
- Publisher : Radiant Press (March 15 2023)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 304 pages
- ISBN-10 : 198927479X
- ISBN-13 : 978-1989274798
Since graduating from the Banff Centre Book Editing Program in 1996, Jocelyn has explored all facets of book-making. She is a published author of fiction and non-fiction, an editor, and the founder of two presses established to produce three anthologies that together contain the work of 66 British Columbia writers and artists. Since 2012, she has also written book reviews of children’s books for Canadian Materials Magazine. You can see more about her on her website: