A review of Mark Leslie’s “Hereinafter Referred to as the Ghost” in Tesseracts Seventeen: Speculating Canada from Coast to Coast (Edge, 2013)
By Derek Newman-Stille
With our youth-obsessed culture, actors generally only have a very short period in which to be celebrated for their acting career before they are viewed as “old”, “tired”, and they begin to be passed over for roles…. So, what happens when a ghost known for his great performances as other ghosts and haunting phenomena in the past starts to lose his power to change forms, his power to create a chill in the air, and his ability to fade in and out of mortal sight?
Mark Leslie’s “Hereinafter Referred to as the Ghost” explores the UNlife of Patrick Collins, a ghost who has stretched his abilities to the limit and now is experiencing his decline as one of the great haunting actors of the past. Ghosts take on a diversity of haunting roles, performing the expectations of human beings about famous historical locations, inspiring hope and imagination in human witnesses about the greater extent of reality. Patrick had been hired to perform multiple haunting roles in the past: the Flying Dutchman, Anne Boleyn, the Countess of Salisbury, taking roles as all of the great ghosts of history and adding to their mythology. But lately he has been feeling his age and losing his abilities. It hurts to transform into the shapes of other ghosts and leaves him with a massive headache, when he tries to take on female forms he ends up still looking like a man. The pain and loss of ability reminds him of the arthritis he developed late in his human life, but he persists in trying to take on big acts, wanting to maintain his reputation as one of the great ghost actors.
Patrick is losing contracts with Ghostlife Experiences, passed over for younger specters with less experience and his reputation is declining as he isn’t able to take on the roles that he used to. What is a ghost to do when the world calls for big, showy performances that his body can no longer handle?
Mark Leslie takes a critical look at changes in ability and the accommodations that accompany them. Abstracting this experience of aging and changes in ability over time onto the figure of the ghost, he invites us to look at the notion that glory is fleeting, changeable, and that as we age, we are in a continual process of mourning what we once saw ourselves as capable of doing.
You can explore Mark Leslie’s work at http://markleslie.ca/ .
Read more about the collection Tesseracts Seventeen: Speculating Canada from Coast to Coast on Edge’s website at http://www.edgewebsite.com/books/tess17/t17-catalog.html