BRING OUT YOUR DEAD by Grace Ingoldby


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London literary critic and journalist Ingoldby’s fifth novel, apparently the first to be published here, is an opaque affair not likely to gain her many American readers. Ingoldby sets her story in a subliminal state of mind slightly below normal consciousness, though the ostensible setting is the Pauper Asylum and Institute for Neurotics (PAIN), where patients include not merely neurotics but many dreadfully afflicted psychotics. Down in this murk, plot does not develop in any familiar manner but rather accumulates with a determined originality that borders on heavy sedation. This does not make for a stimulating read, the largely abandoned pleasures of storytelling being replaced by eggbeater thoughts of inmates responding to events they don’t really understand. Equally uninvolving is the professional woolgathering of the folks who run PAIN. Among them are Dr. Michael Swan, whom we meet sitting for his portrait, which depicts him flanked by his asthma inhaler, a copy of his paper on “Psychic Numbing,” a pestle and mortar, a primed syringe, and a hallucinatory brain slice in psychedelic colors. “Only the final triumph of science over the church is missing,” muses Ingoldby, “the artist’s suggestion that Swan’s feet rest upon a recumbent chaplain . . . . ” The story carries us about the grounds to sites where inmates work or gather: the bakery, the Wet Weather Room, the canteen, the dormitory, the soft-toy class, and the laundry, where Dorothy and Maisie wash and sew while Eddie and dull young William empty bags of wash. Following the death of Sheila Henderson, William is obsessed with funereal thoughts and drawings. While soaking us in the mental world of each patient, the novel pivots on William’s subsequent suicide and on the guilt-clouds surrounding the two deaths. Brainfagging thoughtdrifts lead to a Boschian darkness at noon. Still, the richly imagined text may prove a treat for speleologists of misty literary caverns.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1999
ISBN: 0-7206-1061-3
Page count: 188pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15th, 1999


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