Review: Metrophilias

By Lyndsey Holder

metrophiliasBrendan Connell. Metrophilias. San Diego: Better Non Sequitur (February 2010). USD $12.00. ISBN: 0974323578.

I like books. Old books, new books, hardcover, soft cover, cloth-bound. I like the feeling of the paper beneath my fingertips. I like every bit about them, from the soft swishing sound of the turn of a page to the wrinkles in the spine of a book that’s been read many times. They say you can’t judge a book by its cover, but I think that perhaps you can. How many stories begin with the discovery of an eldritch tome in the back of a tiny bookshop, a book which, when taken home and read, sends our hero on a fantastic adventure? How would the hero know to pick that book, over all of the other books, if it looked exactly like every other one? While it may be true that not all books with strangely-intriguing covers will send you on fantastic adventures, a good book understands that the medium is the message and so, the very format becomes part of the story.

Metrophilias is a book which knows the possibilities of its medium. Its cover is tastefully-simple, blending together shots of industry and decay, incorporating the pattern of small, black dots that map out the geographical locations of the cities contained within the stories, a pattern which is repeated throughout the book.

Each story in Metrophilias takes place in a different city, peeling away a layer of conformity to show us the seamy, darkly-sexualized nature that bubbles just underneath. Reading Metrophilias, I was reminded of LeSage’s Asmodeus, or The Devil Upon Two Sticks, wherein the demon Asmodeus treats the man who freed him from slavery to a vision of what goes on behind closed doors in Madrid. The absence of a supernatural force guiding us through the scenes in Metrophilias makes for a more immersive experience. We are there with the characters, unseen spectators to their bizarre fetishes, without an intermediary to guide us and add context to what we are seeing.

Although the stories are short, they are complete. Each one is beautifully written in a wonderfully poetic style. It would, I imagine, have been easy for these stories to be sucked down into a black hole of bleakness, as their subject matter isn’t exactly uplifting. Brendan Connell manages to write this in a way that transcends cynicism and moral judgement. These things aren’t right or wrong – they just are.

Sometimes, people point out something to you because they think it’s an example of how you should do things. Sometimes, they point out something that they think is abhorrent and they want you to join them in ridiculing and shaming the person who is doing it. In Metrophilias, I didn’t get the sense that Connell was doing either of these things. Instead, he seems to be simply showing us something he finds interesting, leaving us to decide how we will react to it. I appreciate this kind of storytelling – it makes me feel as though the author thinks I’m clever enough to make my own decisions.

What else can I say about Metrophilias? I adored it, from its glossy cover to its cool demeanour, from its poetry to the fire in the hearts of its characters. Metrophilias turned me into a voyeur and I am perfectly fine with that.

You can buy Metrophilias on Amazon.com for $12.00 or from the publisher’s website for $10.00.