Welcome to Tales Before Bedtime and I’m thrilled to be kicking off the blog tour for Minor Monuments by Ian Maleney.
Minor Monuments is a collection of essays about family, memory, and music. Mostly set in rural Irish midlands, on a small family farm not far from the river Shannon. The book tracks the final years of Maleney’s grandfather’s life, and looks at his experience with Alzheimer’s Disease, as well as the experiences of the people closest to him.
Using his grandfather’s memory loss as a spur, the essays ask what it means to call a place home, how we establish ourselves in a place, and how we record our experiences of a place.
The nature of familial and social bonds, the way a relationship is altered by observing and recording it, the influence of tradition and history, the question of belonging – these are the questions which come up again and again.
Using episodes from his own life, and drawing on the works of artists like Pat Collins, Seamus Heaney, John Berger, and Brian Eno, Maleney examines how certain ways of listening and looking might bring us closer to each other, or keep us apart.
What is it the binds us to others and to ourselves? If we can no longer remember, then how can remember who we are? Once we leave the house we call home, are we ever truly able to return to that place – that we have recreated in our imagination?
Minor Monuments is a thought provoking and quietly devastating meditation on family, and how even the smallest story is no minor event.
Sound intriguing doesn’t it? There is so much in this brief synopsis that drew me to this book. The enquiring look into ‘home’ and what it can mean to us. The names Seamus Heaney and John Berger also struck a cord. But it’s memory that intrigues me. How our memory effects us and also diseases that effect it such as Alzheimer’s, something that is becoming far too common place, and of course that one line that reads ‘If we can no longer remember, then how can we remember who we are?’
This is an absolutely stunning collection of writing. Ian shares so much with us and writes in such a warm, intimate and honest way. I felt in many ways that this book is about the nakedness of the end of life of someone close to us. We begin to notice things never seen before, things that then become memories that we return to over and over again. But memory is a tricky fella.
Yet as we witness John Joe’s demise there is also a sense of hope and great love. The things that only come from memories of the life that was before the disease took hold. I think the way that Ian moves from subject matter to subject matter, memory to memory avoids this feeling desperate and sad. It isn’t after all just a book about Alzheimer’s but also about processing our own grief and keeping those we love alive within our memories.
He was in the process of forgetting everything he’d ever known. He was fading out of the world, and I began to grieve long before the death was final. I wanted to record whatever it was he might say before it was too late. Not because what he had to say was particularly significant or even memorable, but because no one would ever say anything like it again.
It is heartrendingly sad in parts, but Ian writes with such beauty that it lifts the soul even so. It was like listening to someone talk who you simply can’t pull yourself away from. A wonderful conversationalist that uses words and sentences so beautifully that you almost feel you are living it right there with him.
There is so much more that I could say about this collection but I don’t want to spoil the journey for you. I urge you to read it though and I think there will be much to discuss once you do. I’m sure there is something in this book that each and every one of us will be able to connect to. My only regret is that my reviewing schedule of late has meant I had to read this much faster then I would have liked but it totally swept me away and I very much look forward to returning to the pages at a slower pace once again.
Thank you so much to Anne Cater for inviting me to be a part of this blog tour. So many wonderful books you bring to my door. 🙂
Thank you also to Ian for sharing tyour experience and memories with us.
About the author
Ian Maleney is a writer based in Dublin. Born and raised in Co Offaly, he works as a freelance arts journalist and as an online editor at Stinging Fly. He is the founder of Fallow Media, an interdisciplinary journal for music, photography, and long form writing on the internet. Minor Monuments is his debut.
This blog tour will run until July 1st. Please do check out the post by my fellow bloggers. Full details below.