A review of Michael Healy’s “Cottage on the Bluff” in Urban Green Man (Edge, 2013)
By Derek Newman-Stille
In Michael Healy’s “Cottage on the Bluff”, a figure reminiscent of Toronto’s mayor Rob Ford intrudes into the woods with his cottage, blighting the landscape with his building and his rage-filled presence. The local Green Man is bombarded with communication signals from a culture dependent on the endless stream of data. The mayor’s cottage brings a foreign presence into the woods, and the Green Man, conscious of every change in the woods has every meaningless tweet and vapid pop song running through his head as long as the cottage is on his land.
When he seeks to try to bring the cottage down, reclaim it into the earth to remove the blemish from his landscape, the mayor and his family unexpectedly arrive, leaving the Green Man with a choice to either reveal his presence to them and risk being experimented upon or to let them die with the building. Despite the Green Man’s worries and the awareness that the mayor is a corrupt monster, his role as protector of the forest means that the Green Man needs to keep them safe.
In his attempts to rescue the mayor’s family, despite the fact that he has been bombarded with human communication, the Green Man meets a communication barrier from his own lack of familiarity with speech and the mayor’s rage-filled reaction to what he perceives as an invasion to his territory. The Green Man is forced to protect the mayor’s own children from his rage-filled random gun shots and uncontrolled violence.
Healy reveals the vapidity of modern urban communication – the lack of deeper communication and understanding when the focus is on meaningless self-indulgence and vapid self-fixation. Rather than attempting to understand the depths of communication, the mayor focuses on notions of property and protective ignorance, trying to erect barriers around himself and what he perceives as his instead of paying attention to the signs around him. Configuring his consciousness around ideas of threat he loses the potential to see actual threats around him, such as the ground beneath his cottage disintegrating.
You can explore more about Michael Healy’s work on his GoodReads page at https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7064856.Michael_Healy
To read more about the Urban Green Man anthology, visit http://www.urbangreenman.com/ .