Roxanne Forbes reviews Mark Mayes “The Gift Maker


Late one night, Thomas Ruder receives a strange package. What is it? We don’t know, he never opens it. I’m still mad about this. Great job, Thomas. But his unrequited love-interest Liselotte has also been given a gift, and quickly usurps him as the more interesting protagonist. Team Liselotte. After all, she is action, he is reaction—Liselotte opens her gift, while Thomas refuses; when Liselotte embarks on her journey to see the mysterious theatre director Reynard, Thomas leaves only to follow her.

They travel to a town called Grenze (German for “border”) to attend a performance at the Sheol Theatre (She’ol, according to the Hebrew Bible, is the place where the dead go) directed by Reynard (named after the trickster fox figure in European fables). Hint hint hint. Reynard wants to play God, or perhaps he is the devil, then Thomas and Liselotte fall for his mind-control and get naked on stage and become the new ADAM AND EVE as Reynard provides a running commentary about his motives and Daddy issues. But, Liselotte said she only liked Thomas as a brother, so this part was gross to me on her behalf. How many times have you gotten totally nude and hugged your naked brother (who’s also in love with you) in front of a live audience and it was totally platonic and not-weird? Don’t worry though, she’s OK with this because their agency and personalities have evaporated due to Reynard’s irresistible allure.

I struggled with the POV of this novel—what begins as a 3rd-person-past-tense tale is intercut by chapters featuring a 1st-person-present-tense narrator. This narrator is Daumen, the eponymous gift maker, and what does he have to say? A lot, but also not a lot that we don’t know. These are basically recap chapters, where Daumen spells it all out for us in case we weren’t paying attention. It’s very “tell”-y. And a detriment to the pacing of the story. Every time Daumen showed up I was like, “God, not this guy again.” Which is kind of bad when he’s your titular character.

But there was a lot to enjoy in the novel too. An advance reader of Mark Mayes’ The Gift Maker described it as reminiscent of Wes Anderson’s film, The Grand Budapest Hotel. However, if there’s any filmic comparison to be made, Jacob’s Ladder (1990) would be more accurate—both works are grotesque fantasies with religious themes, taking place in an altered world plagued by ugly, hallucinogenic imagery. Cakes are filled with severed fingers, dwarfed doppelgängers commit murder, maggots crawl out of babe’s mouths, deformed jazz players busk the streets, a mute youth is gored to death by a wild boar out of nowhere. These moments of uncanniness and horror are great, and when I was having the most fun. A filmic adaption of this novel would be a spectacular visual feast. Unfortunately on the page, the atmosphere of dread can’t be sustained amidst Reynard’s theater tomfoolery, and too many unanswered questions swirling around compromise the admittedly poetic ending.

Read Mark Mayes’ poetry here.

June 7, 2017

The Gift Maker by Mark Mayes review

Roxanne Forbes reviews Mark Mayes “The Gift Maker“
June 7, 2017

Short Fiction by Rod Nordland

Short fiction by Rod Nordland
June 1, 2017

The Indications by Lander Hawes

Short fiction by Lander Hawes
May 30, 2017

The Mechanics of MIR14 – #3: Final List

Final Selection – Championing the Story, by Rebecca Rouillard
May 29, 2017

June Reads

These are some of the books the MIROnline team have enjoyed over the past month – we hope you enjoy them too. James
May 24, 2017

Cambridge Literary Festival 2017

Mari Vindis rounds-up the best of  Cambridge Literary Festival 2017
May 24, 2017

JJ Reads The Evening Paper by Tom O’Rourke

Short Fiction by Tom O’Rourke
May 19, 2017
live performance poetry given by Birkbeck postgraduate students and staff

Poetry Live Arts Week Special

Elinor Johns rounds up Poetry Live.
May 12, 2017

Of Aqua by Otis Elliott

Poetry by Otis Eliott
May 10, 2017

Aisha Phoenix interviews JJ Bola

JJ Bola talks to Aisha Phoenix about his debut novel No Place to Call Home
May 10, 2017

No Place To Call Home by JJ Bola

An Extract from JJ Bola’s debut novel No Place to Call Home which will be published by OWN IT! on June 22nd.
May 8, 2017

The Bricks by Kate Jefford

Short fiction by Kate Jefford
May 3, 2017

Inches Apart by Chloe Turner

Short  Fiction by Chloe Turner
May 2, 2017

May Reads

Here are some of the books the MIROnline team have enjoyed over the past month. There’s some love out there for Helen Dunmore. Enjoy! James
April 26, 2017

And this time it’s personal

Poet Fran Lock writes on the connection between poetry and therapy.
April 24, 2017

Lost Boys by Rona Laycock

Short Fiction by Rona Laycock
April 10, 2017

Equity by Josie Turner

Short Fiction by Josie Turner
April 6, 2017

April Reads

Here are some of the books members of MIROnline team have enjoyed over the past month. We hope you love them every bit as much. James
April 5, 2017

Poetry by Pascale Gillet

Poetry by Pascale Gillet
April 4, 2017

The Mechanics of MIR14 – #2: Longlisting

To the Longlist – a whittling challenge, by Tamara Pollock