My world seemed to quiver slightly after finishing Maya Merrick’s newest novel, The Hole Show. Merrick’s story reads like a fairy tale twisted inside out, or an afterschool special directed by Larry Clark, with choreography by George Balanchine, performed by a grimy Cirque du Soleil. The Hole Show inhabits the world of the urban carnival: freaks, geeks, albinos, talking dolls, and hermaphrodites.
Oh, and did I mention the dope? The booze? The novel’s pages brim with mind-altering delirium as Merrick rolls us through the 1960s and early ’70s, following four main characters whose lives collide in a final night of bacchanalian disaster. There is Hicklin, the Beckettian figure who hunches in private hideaways with his collections of things; Dolly, the Westmount albino ballerina virgin; Beau, who’s a man but wants to be a woman (since he was, it is later revealed, born with both sets of plumbing); and finally Luce, the vagabond runaway. Mix it all together, sprinkle in a little FLQ and some tanks in the background, and ka-pow: The Hole Show.
What’s good about it? Merrick’s writing, for one thing, which is lush and lovely throughout most of the book. (“Dark heads bob gently, all their tops together like the skittery skin of a midnight lake, a sheath of smoke pouring through them, from their insides out.”) At times it does feel oppressive, though, like someone wearing too much perfume in a small room. Also, Merrick’s historical references (the FLQ thing) seem a little tagged-on, but on the whole, the originality of Merrick’s voice holds fast throughout the work, in spite of the freakishness of her characters and the quirky circus of the lives depicted within.