There’s no fight to be had in Brenda Shaughnessy’s Octopus Museum. There’s no raging against the dying of the light to be had. Humanity has already lost and there can be no resistance against a telepathic Octopus society. Shaughnessy paints a world where humans had their shot and we blew it.
Thanks to Covid-19, we’re all very stressed right now. I know that’s the understatement of this (already very messy decade). But like I mentioned in my Get Well Soon review, it always feels like humanity will make it through.
Not this time.
Welcome to the Octopus Museum. All hail our cephalopod overlords (COOs)
The Octopus Museum
by Brenda Shaughnessy
[March 19th, 2019]
The Pitch: Go on a surreal museum tour about what humans used to be like before cephalopods took over the Earth.
Brenda Shaughnessy channels her fears for her children and translates it into a world where the choice has been taken from us. There are so many issues in the current world and since we were too slow to fix them, the cephalopods did instead.
With grace and a dark sort of humour, we’re shown brief glimpses of the last days of humankind through the eyes of a few survivors.
3.75 out of 5 on Goodreads
I can’t be alone in thinking about the end of the world these days. 2020 has been bleak, folks, but The Octopus Museum lets me see that there could be beauty in the end of the world. Normally in these kinds of narratives, you would see something of the fight. In The Octopus Museum, it feels prefunctory. The end has already happened.
The poems are tender, alluding to the fears and loss of a mother in this new world. It goes to the core of the human experience, stepping away from what makes us different to what makes us all the same.
What I’ll say instead is that I am part of the universe, privy to sounds parallel but unreachable, and on some other level, that I know I am alive, factually, unloving and alone.An Excerpt from “The Idea of Others” by Brenda Shaughnessy
Part of what makes us all the same unfortunately is that we’re responsible for the destruction of our planet. The Octopus Museum isn’t shy about pointing the finger of blame at us in one poem and then deconstructing language in another.
If you were an Octopus, would you understand that a woman is a person? Considering the way that “man” can be a synonym for all humans, but “woman” cannot, the questioner is perplexed. I’d like to think of it as a troubled cephalopod researcher on the verge of a breakthrough.
In the end, more than anything else, the Octopus Museum asks us to take a step back from ourselves. Consider humanity through the eyes of another species entirely? How would we look?
How would we want to look?
It’s a strange little collection of poems, but I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Who Should Read The Octopus Museum?
Lovers of long form poetry and people who like dystopias. The poems are profound and touch on our fears. Not ease them, but touch on them and make them known. Hiding from our fears won’t do anything to stop them from coming to pass, after all.
If you’re unsure if you would like the Octopus Museum, then I highly recommend going here. The New Yorker has “Gift Planet” on their website both as text and audio.
4 out of 5 from TrulyBooked
Do you have any suggestions or are there things you think I’ve missed? Leave a comment below. Or if you want more posts like this? Sign up today and never miss a post!