Continuation from HERE of my dreamcatcher real-time review of A Season in Carcosa and The Grimscribe’s Puppets edited by Joe Pulver.
Pieces of Blackness by Michael Kelly
“One day, he knew, it would open up, all of it; the sky, him, and the entire world.”
Feeling like a new gestalt, a new page for my review, this work is a theme and variations around a simplistic refrain: ‘the boy scared him’ – a treatment of anti-natalism that derives from an adoptee and the way it disrupts a childless marriage. I found it disturbing, but not a welcome disturbance. I found it mostly worrying in a negative way rather than nightmarish in an imagination-awakening way. The sky’s bracketing unequivocally pleased me, though.
“…he peered back at the boundless sky.” – from Michael Kelly’s The Bluest of Grey Skies in Nemonymous in 2003.
Basement Angels by Joel Lane
“If your house is on fire you don’t try to understand the fire, you try to put it out.”
Sometimes, the only thing you can really say about a particular Joel Lane story is that it is Lane-like. And this relatively short one is exquisitely Lane-like. It seems to me to be a retrocausal (for readers) or predictive (for its author) fathoming-out of what might have happened about a year ago in real life. I can only describe it as negotiating today’s modern privatisms of a cluttered technological cure-ambiance, with the story’s fictionally named protagonist, as if a specimen of self on a microscope plate, trying to transcend mysterious sporadic blackouts, while all the time destined to being abandoned in a basement along with other fetal Angels, abandoned to those recurrent blackouts by means of his own incubated or cultured shadow and to someone unworthy as well as incapable of curing him or more than worthy and more than capable of doing so. It depends on understanding the fire or putting it out. I’d say you somehow need to do both those things at once to be able to accomplish either of them.
All this, incredibly, has an added traction when taking into account this story’s benighted but faintly tinged ‘blue glass’ now seeming to resonate with Kelly’s sky in this morning’s contiguous story of my reading order, and Lane’s shadow becomes shards like Kelly’s ‘pieces of blackness’.
Sweetums by John Langan
“The backers are from Hungary or Romania or some shit. From what I hear, they’re on the up and up. Bastions of culture and all that.”
Keira (KiY Knightley?) is plucked from fast food into films, the new Fay Wray, her arrival at a warehouse more than big enough for King Kong’s wall … And an amazing scenario, where even the cameramen seem to be acting parts in the film, combines, for me, Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut, my description of a Murder Dinner in my review of these books’ Cisco story, and Big Brother reality TV where one of the low grade, thick-as-a-plank housemates suddenly mentions, out of the blue, the Illuminati (and this actually happened to me when watching the UK Big Brother this Summer)…
This is perfect Langan, what I have recently grown to expect from him. For Illuminati, read KiY.
Into The Darkness, Fearlessly by John Langan
“…the word that is known as the egg against whose power the messengers of paradise dared not contend. Ah, the caliph said, truly, that was a powerful weapon to have at one’s disposal.”
Well, no sooner said, my expectations are shattered. Fearlessly, I propound that this story, although written in stylish prose, is, at worst, an explicitly expressed beheading of an author by what I see as a spreading Horror-Rorschach cult or, at best, an attempted satire on the Horror Fiction Hothouse’s recent politics and its practitioners’ behaviour, a satire unworthy even of this story’s own clumsy plot’s misfired tropes and effects.
Furnace by Livia Llewellyn
“…here forever, unchanging in the antiseptic amber of our fixed memories.”
Forgive me if I am even more personal when describing my reaction to this perfectly richly ripe – on the brink of endless decay – concerto in amber: where the young girl is, for me, its oboe soloist, seeming to give retrocausal birth to my earlier thoughts on a (as the VanderMeer WEIRD book’s core) Forever Autumn and on a (more Ligotti-orientated) Perpetual Autumn…and her grandfather’s mapping with biro seems akin to my dreamcatching or gestalt real-time reviewing – and this story has now become a strong candidate to represent my dreamcatching’s clinching or optimum dot or point … I can give this story no greater compliment. And its coda movement hints at that very Ligottus knot “…pulled into unwanted existence by the strings of someone else’s desire” and at this book’s earlier river with these words: “river in which I am always and only her little girl, eternal and alone.”
by PF Jeffery
April Dawn by Richard A. Lupoff
There can be no greater contrast with my image of a Ligottian ‘Perpetual Autumn’ than the words ‘April Dawn’, perhaps because we are now taken to the KiY book itself and its author as a living character, as if it were while Bob Chambers wrote the beginning of ‘The Yellow Sign’ (“Why should certain chords in music make me think of the brown and golden tints of autumn foliage?”) and he only wrote that line because of what he read here, today, a Whovian journey? Like the development of a theatrical joi de vivre from a turn-of-the-century Puritan Ireland – into this book’s San Franciscan Pearce Hansen…
The Lupoff story is an engaging literary esprit – that I can imagine as part of the original KiY book itself. And horror flowers at the end amid Proustian Unrequited Love…
it sees me when I’m not looking by Gary McMahon
“– the way her head sat directly between her shoulders, with no need of a neck.”
Well, following that quote, I remind you of what I wrote in this review earlier of Bird’s ‘Gailestis’: [[And there is sometimes barely any space at all between the end of a knotted string of words on the page and any full stop or period, as the female half of the ill-born twins “thought of little monsters with no neck, and smiled.”]] – and here, in the McMahon story, all its full stops are off-puttingly followed by sentences that start with lower case letters…
And not only that, the protagonist is given a KiY book with his own name on the flyleaf, just as my book coincidentally photographed yesterday above has a name (with the year 1906) shown on the flyleaf…
This story’s plot of sex and nightmare and lowlife in New York takes, for me, a backseat to such intriguing synchronicities, a story that otherwise struck me as unduly and pointlessly cussive and obliquely inhuman, but no McMahon story, in my experience, is ever a poor one, although this one gets close.
My previous Gary McMahon reviews: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/746-2/
The Lord Came At Twilight by Daniel Mills
“He could give no reason for these doubts but believed they had their origin in that autumn evening…”
From that autumn to another autumn with burning’s “odor unfaded” – we live this finely atmospheric battle between the secular and the spiritual, each tempting the other, and we find only Cathrianity by one’s own hand… a friendship that makes each friend one. Vows unavowed and not only God is invisible but so is his enemy, both one in invisibility, I guess. A telling haunting cutting Fall. Prince Autumn as Yellow King yoked by this tale’s Muelenberg ligottus.
MS Found In A Chicago Hotel Room by Daniel Mills
“…the wallpaper, which was painted with a pastoral scene: rolling hills, castles, olive groves. A mass-produced print, I decided, though an artist had made certain embellishments, adding a courting couple to the riverbank…”
A palimpsest of truth and fiction, with each infecting the other to the ‘benefit’ of both. It is a highly successful story in the discovered-MS mode where the MS’s end signature throws a significant retrocausal light on the characters involved in it…and highly successful, too, in evoking the KiY ethos, its pulling of stuff into the lungs beyond the mask (a mask, in resonance with the previous Mills story above, “to hide the face of God”), a requited love against the odds that should have remained unrequited before if became permanently or retrocausally unrequited by dint of an imposing King’s recrimination, the architecture of Robert “a dimly-lit chamber” as a person himself as well as the turn-of-the-century exterior to the street Chambers themselves that one needs to find through arcane routes…
Bound to become a classic story. The Key to KiY.
The Theatre and its Double by Edward Morris
“When the sky opens, they will listen, and not be left behind.”
This is an inspiring Pere Ubu version of KiY in a mind-stretching collage of the play itself and commentary beyond it — making many items from KiY into the Key and now into the Knot – to untie and tie, ad infinitum, ad absurdum – an explicit recognition of KiY’s retrocausality at which phenomenon I have been more than just hinting heretofore, and here it includes reference to Toynbeean (American) history, even with several arguable references to the current Ebola crisis (e.g. “God’s own microbes…”). It is a work that has some kinship with some of the major works published by Zagava – Ex Occidente, particularly the book by Andrew Condous, with the Morris text also citing, inter alia, Surrealism, Dada, De Sade, Theatre of Cruelty, Finnegans Wake (my review of FW here). [The only potentially viable connection this story doesn’t seem to make is that with Proust, and searching the Internet just now, no such connection has been identified. Proust lived within the start and finish dates of Chambers’ life and one of the most important passages in all literature, I feel, is the yellow patch that he identified as being on a painting by Vermeer (its text is the second passage here) – and I sense there is a whole gamut of further Proust-Chambers connections yet to be made.]
Lupoff’s April as Dawn in Paris, but ‘everything grew stark again’ with the yellow sun…
“the play is the Theatre…”
I first read and reviewed the next story – by Scott Nicolay – a few weeks ago and below is the text of that review:
[[ Eyes Exchange Bank
It’s as if “pre-coital readings of Finnegan’s Wake” — it should be Finnegans Wake without the apostrophe if you want the title as Joyce had it — represent what this story is and what Finnegans Wake is is the grey ‘construction site of a city mall’ spunk that came out afterward, except I quite like Finnegans Wake. Anyway, I really enjoyed this story, despite the sort of info dump forced in about the diss research on Poe’s stories of visual illusion, and I kind of thought of the one with the heart beating under the floorboards before the story itself did! (Honestly).
I also love the reference to Holbein (see me here). This tale of a reunion from student days did feel cloyed up with disappointments and a falling off of their other friends through sex or plain entropy represented or backdropped by the ‘bad inner space’ of new wriggly things like long shadows in derelict banks… And the pizza place and its officious waitress are masterstrokes.
“I saw Elvis at the mall last night. He was eating pizza with DF Lewis. Can’t think why they’d ordered anchovies.” – Karl Edward Wagner: ‘The View from Carcosa’ ]]
The context of that review is at the link shown with the author’s name at the start of this overall real-time review.
20 Simple Steps To Ventriloquism by Jon Padgett
“Of course, you may think this is all complete nonsense to say, but a lot of things that people say – even most things – are complete nonsense. This is not the ventriloquist’s concern.”
This is a rule book that starts accretively building up sense, not nonsense, regarding the art of ventriloquism, and I am confident that I can reach a certain level and be an acceptable ventriloquist as a result of practising the first few stages. In 1950s UK when I was a boy, there was a very successful ventriloquist on the wireless by the name of Peter Brough with a dummy called Archie Andrews, neither of whom, of course, we could see. There is something sinister about that, and when I eventually saw them much later on black and white TV, I was amazed what a bad ventriloquist Peter Brough happened to be, but having listened to them most of my then short life, there seemed a reality to Archie the dummy which outdid the reality of Brough. Like Miss Rosalyn, later on Romper Room, whom I mentioned earlier in this review in connection with ‘Wishing Well’ by Cody Goodfellow — she brought me to life by looking through the grainy screen that TV Screens tended to be all those years ago and saying that she could see me, scrying me into existence. And this story brilliantly captures that process by a manner of artful means, and is probably one of the most frightening stories you are likely to read if you read it properly because, as in all reading of fiction, and like these very reviews I have been doing since 2008, there is an element of my manipulating the story so that it can manipulate me. You need to work with stories so that they can work with you, working them working you, feeling their tendrils come out of the words and tug your levers and pulleys with prepared ligatures or deceptively tied ligotti. As in the Morris story, ‘the play is the Theatre’. Test out Gardner’s Yellow Bird Strings, too. This Padgett story, if it isn’t already, should become a classic that will be anthologised several times in the future.
Whose Hearts Are Pure Gold by Kristin Prevallet
“the future is like an angel walking backwards”
I can forgive anything for those words, and this is not a bad, almost chick-lit, version of the KiY effect, engaging and well-written enough, sown with several gems such as that and “Men shoot, bleed, set fires and cut other men up in order that sanity, as a general principal (sic) might be defined.” Factor that into Ligottian Cathrianity and you may have another Key or Knot to these two books I’m reviewing.
Also the girl protagonist who becomes influenced by KiY seems to grow up even as you read the words about the things that happen to her. A very interesting effect that makes the plot seems transgressive dependant at what age you imagine her to be from paragraph to paragraph.
This review will now continue in the comment stream HERE.
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