Margaret Gibson was so obsessed with words she would write until her fingers bled.
Literally and figuratively, her blood, sweat and tears went into her work.
Diagnosed a paranoid schizophrenic as a teenager, it was her therapist who encouraged her to write. And she did. Obsessively. She would go on to pen books of poems, short stories and the screenplay for the cult film “Outrageous,” before she released her first novel, “Opium Dreams,” in 1997.
Gibson’s work was seemingly fiction. But she admittedly wrote heavily on her life, including time spent in a mental institution, a failed marriage, suicide attempts and psychotic episodes to time with her quirky friends and mothering her son. She saw the relationship between art and life as one and the same, saying in an interview, “Art is a distillation of life. Life is mirrored in art. If it is good art, then it is a clearly reflecting mirror.”
“Opium Dreams” is the story of Maggie Glass whose father is suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease. Over a period of years she must watch her father deteriorate, as she comes to grips with his life, their strained relationship and her own battle with psychological illness and epilepsy.
The story sways back and forth between Margaret’s perspective and her father’s unconscious visions of his life, including horrific experiences serving as a tailgunner in World War II, marrying, buildling a home and nurturing a family in Ontario.
Gibson masterfully crafts two complex and complicated characters who are intertwined by chronic illness, united by the deep love and understanding of parent and child.
In a later interview, Gibson describes “Opium Dreams,” as “the most autobiographical book I’ve ever written… It’s like Joan Didion says: “Play it as it lays,” and I do.”
Her publishers recognized this unique style, with Barry Callaghan from Exile Editions saying, “all writers write out of their experiences, but [Gibson] was like an open vein.”
“Opium Dreams,” is an incredible piece of work for understanding complicated relationships, chronic illness and the writer’s own complicated life.
- brianjbradley posted this