Review 61: Filigree & Shadow by Mick Rooney

Filigree & Shadow
Mick Rooney
Copyright: © 2008
$18.89 Paperback
$8.43 E-Book
234 pages
ISBN: 9781409247296

I first discovered Mick Rooney’s writing last year when I reviewed his book Academy.  Mick, like me, keeps informed of the POD world and its regular developments, often covering very informative topics in his author blog which I have read religiously over the past year.  Mick kept me posted on his next book, Filigree & Shadow, published last November, but I waited so that it could be one of the first books I devoted attention to this year.  Like Academy, I knew it would be a book of historical and hypnotic proportion, and Mr. Rooney certainly did not disappoint.  He opens with a very honest author’s note which I just have to point out because, to me, it’s like that black screen and bit of silence that makes you hold your breath right before a really good movie you’ve been dying to see is about to start:

We should be honest with each other from the very beginning. I am not a storyteller. The following work makes no attempt to satisfy the modern reader’s obsessive consumption of plot and character. Go no further; I have devoured everything I could find. However, if your appetite is satisfied, and you are interested in the shape, colour, texture of words and ideas, step inside; we have much work to do.

An introduction follows, noting that back in 1995 Mick got together with a musician friend and played around with putting his stories to music for a demo tape.  Artists he’d been listening to ended up inspiring his very words, as music often does for many of us.  Just before writing this review, I was discussing with another reviewer what kind of music was recently inspiring her new writing project and the effects it can have on our characters.  Mick ends the introduction with a line that has resonated in my mind ever since I first read it a few weeks ago:

Through my work, in exploring and discovering cruelty and beauty, I have learned that there will always be music and words to accompany the cruelty and beauty in life.

The first short story in the book is called “Arcadia,” and it’s more like narrative poetry than a story at all.

Say first, then, for heaven’s sake, hide nothing, not the horror tracks of hell. Say first, then, what tortures and curses her wretched young soul. Say how it was in the beginning when hell’s fires burned unequalled.

It’s a dreamy tale of the heavens, mountains, skies, and stars.  My only qualm about it was the continuous use of the words “dwindling light” on almost every page.  “The Eternal” which follows next is just as elegiac and trance-like.  Mick has a way of keeping his sentences short and simple.  There’s not a lot going on on the page, but the places he takes you in just a paragraph or two can paint such vivid images behind your eyes.

She bathes daily in the cool water of the river. The fish do not swim away from her. They are used to her body. To them, it is just like the pebbles and rocks on the bed of the river; smooth and perfectly coloured and curved. All is calm when she bathes in the foamingwater of the fast-flowing river.

The almost stream-of-consciousness style is unique in that the unknown narrator is telling the story to the characters as if they have been unaware of their own actions…”You did this and went here and you said this.”  The narrator is almost demanding and yet with a cadence to his tale that comes quite naturally.  A genius story that I would love to hear Mick read out loud.  It definitely made me wonder what kind of music he used to record it.

My favorite in the anthology is “A Spiraling of Winter Ghosts.”  The story is just as haunting as the title suggests as Mick takes the reader in and out of reality along with the central unnamed character.  A dwarf is mauled by a circus lion and just a few pages later we are spying on two lovers in an intimate moment.  Waves crash against a light house and drown an old man.  A pendulum swings, reminiscent of Poe himself and some tale of specters he would weave.  Like the stairs on the cover of the book, each piece of the story is different, but the same, and all connected perfectly  to reveal an overall theme that almost doesn’t make any sense until you reach the last page.

There are eight somewhat lengthy stories in all.  Each could stand on their own and have been previously published at different times, but they all work together magnificently creating an overall museum of vivid images and plot lines that deserve to be called nothing but Filigree and Shadow.  Mick leaves a lot up to the reader and relies on a good imagination to cover the lack of physical action and dialogue.  The best way I can describe this book is to use some of Mick’s own words from the very beginning of the story “Children on the Hill.”

Deep into a world of dreams. Real dreams of sail and stillness. Real dreams of uncharted worlds and words. The very dreams which have pulled at the heart of me, age upon age. Deep into those worlds and words where bare thoughts emerge. For so long, they have rested there; hidden away without being born, without a glint of light, without mercy. These real dreams have finally found the light.

One Response to “Review 61: Filigree & Shadow by Mick Rooney”

  1. Shannon,

    Thanks for the great review. To answer your question about ‘The Eternal’ - We used tracks from The Durutti Column’s albums ‘Return of the Durutti Column’ and ‘Without Mercy’, very much atmospheric guitar and synth sound pictures. You can find out more about the band and their music at the wikipedia page below.

    The idea of music and writing–the manner they both intermingle–from the stage of conception through to the music I listened to when I wrote, has always had an essential place in the envoirnment I chose to creatively work in.


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