Zine Review: Telegram Ma’am #9

2 January 2008

Zine cover - Telegram Ma’am #9

In 2006 and 2007, Maranda Farthing was hospitalised after trying to commit suicide. It was her attempt to escape:

When the darker part of my mind took over, I needed to find a safer place, a place where I could take a break and get some help. To get to that sort of place, I had to hurt myself.

Telegram Ma’am #9 takes the reader to that place with Maranda. First, briefly, to a rehabilitation centre, then to a psychiatric hospital for seven days, and then to the beginnings of her post-hospital life. It is a story of panic and pain, but also of love (a mother who made the difficult decision to take her daughter to the hospital) and care (a nurse who uses what might have been “standard nurse-to-patient textbook stuff” to calm her patient).

Maranda is very good at describing her situation in a way that encourages empathy rather than pity. I think it is because her inquisitiveness and perceptiveness come through so strongly: if she was going to be in hospital for a week, she was going to scour the library and wander the corridors:

Earlier, I ventured the hospital grounds on my own. I simply went downstairs to find the cahnge machine and get myself a drink, but I wondered what the others might think of me, an obvious patient in my casual clothes and ballet slippers, confused expression on my face as I explored the hallways. Would they sense I was from the Mental Health Ward, or could I pass for a “normal” patient?

Telegram Ma’am #9 is hard to read. Not because it’s badly written, or boring — far from it. It is hard to read because it takes the reader through a difficult period in Maranda’s life and makes us feel like we are there with her. Not sharing her experiences, exactly: more like witnessing them from close by, unable to do anything to help. Fortunately Maranda has the strength to get through without our help, which is what makes us want to keep turning the pages.

Maranda Farthing, Telegram Ma’am #9, 1/4 size, 32 pages.
Available from the author, but maybe sold out.

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