The Blackbird Singularity explores the fine line between a writer’s creativity and a mind in the grip of a full-blown manic episode. The story is told from the point of view of Vince, a struggling writer, who decides to stop taking his medication when he discovers his wife Lyd has become pregnant. He longs to redeem himself from a deep sense of failure as a man and as a writer. He is convinced that withdrawing from the effects of lithium will release him from grief and help him become a better father following the death of his three-year old son.
As Vince slowly withdraws from his medication, his senses become more acute and he starts to notice signs and portents everywhere. Throughout the course of his wife’s pregnancy he becomes friendly with a blackbird who appears to communicate messages to him about his life and events that are about to unfold in the future. What follows is much more than a manic episode but an examination of grief and separation. This unexpressed grief and desire to feel connected pervades the entire novel and is rendered masterfully.
As Vince slowly descends into acute psychosis, his wife leaves him and his behaviour becomes more erratic to the point that he has hallucinations of his dead son in the attic of his house. But the reader is also left with the feeling that his behaviour and mental state is a normal reaction to an abnormal situation and Vince’s way of throwing off the trauma of his past and to begin life anew. Even though this is a work of fiction, The Blackbird Singularity had me questioning the nature of reality, physics and the ultimate meaning of life and death.
Matt Wilven has written a powerful account of a writer’s mind in the grip of mania. What the medical profession describe as bi-polar disorder (Related link: The Hero Returns) doesn’t account for the profound insights that can be gained while in this state. His exploration into the mind during mania is so convincing that this book could almost be a literary case study. Wilven is an astute observer of life as well as the metaphysics behind life and brings an intellectual understanding of quantum physics, philosophy and psychology and weaves it into the landscape of the mind. It is both strangely familiar and yet deeply unsettling. The Blackbird Singularity is up there as one of the best debut novels I’ve read in the past few years and one that will no doubt leave a lasting impression.
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