M.J. Hyland’s Carry Me Down
Claustrophobia n. a morbid dread of confined places.
What is it about the cramped spaces of our lives that frightens us? We do not always fear what is dark and closed off. Confinement can mean safety – the womb we wish to return to, the burrow we long to hide away in, the bomb shelter. Why is it that we seek out these spaces even as we fear being closed in in others? What distinguishes a haven from a trap? Perhaps it is the possibility of escape, the knowledge that there is a way out. As long as the door is open we are content to live cooped up in our small existence – it is only when we realise we cannot leave that the walls begin to close in on us, the shades of the prison house grow stronger.
It is this distinction that lies at the heart of M.J. Hyland’s dark and unsettling new novel. Carry Me Down is a story not so much about the loss of innocence as about the act of clinging desperately to it. In a world without hope, Hyland suggests, delusion is a survival strategy, and the worst enemy is truth. Yet the line between escapism and madness is a thin one, so that sanity, in our desperate times, is a tight-rope walk between the despair of realism and the dementia of fantasy. It is a line we all walk more or less successfully; it is a balance we are all in perpetual danger of getting wrong. (more…)