On this edition of Parallax Views, Candice Wuehle joins us to discuss her mind-bending novel Monarch, which combines mind control conspiracies, America’s morbid fascination with dead girls and true crime, Norwegian folklore, and child beauty pageants to explore themes of identity formation, the violence of consumer society, patriarchy, memory, and trauma.
Description of MONARCH: A Novel from Soft Skull Press:
The cryptic worlds of Hanna and Stranger Things mingle with the dark humor of Dare Me in this debut novel about a teen beauty queen who discovers she’s been a sleeper agent in a deep state government program
After waking up with a strange taste in her mouth and mysterious bruises, former child pageant star Jessica Clink unwittingly begins an investigation into a nefarious deep state underworld. Equipped with the eccentric education of her father, Dr. Clink (a professor of Boredom Studies and the founder of an elite study group known as the Devil’s Workshop), Jessica uncovers a disquieting connection between her former life as a beauty queen and an offshoot of Project MKUltra known as MONARCH.
As Jessica moves closer to the truth, she begins to suspect the involvement of everyone around her, including her own mother, Grethe (a Norwegian pageant queen turned occult American wellness guru for suburban housewives). With the help of Christine (her black-lipsticked riot grrrl babysitter and confidante), Jessica sets out to take down Project MONARCH. More importantly, she must discover if her first love, fellow teen queen Veronica Marshall, was genuine or yet another deep state plant.
Merging iconic true crime stories of the ’90s (Lorena Bobbitt, Nicole Brown Simpson, and JonBenét Ramsey) with theories of human consciousness, folklore, and a perennial cultural fixation with dead girls, MONARCH questions the shadow sides of self-concept: Who are you if you don’t know yourself?
In this conversation we delve into a number of different aspects and themes from the book including the Project Monarch conspiracy theory and Cathy O’Brien’s Trance Formation of America (and how Candice viewed it metaphorically rather than a factual account), cultural programming, the limits of feminism in the 1990s, heroin chic, the Barbie doll face on the cover of the novel, the pop culture image of a person vs. who they truly are, the occult, what freedom means in the context of the novel and why Candice believes freedom is harder to achieve than ever before, explaining the book’s dedication “I wrote this book for women who survived and women who didn’t, but mostly I wrote it for those still somewhere in between”, the role of “circles” and “spirals” in the main characters narration, what people don’t understand about trauma, sex and liberation, the violence patriarchy commits against men as well as women, and much, much more.