Sanity and Other Delusions – by Gary Fry
Sanity and Other Delusions
by Gary Fry
PS Publishing 2007
An ingenious story of alcoholism within a nuclear family — and a Ligottian Corporate Horror and its use of tramps outside its ‘flee-infested’ factories.
As with much modern horror, “complete with static”.
An author “as a one person steering group”, at the height of his powers.
I simply love the title of the overall book.
I am not reading the Stephen Volk intro until I’ve reviewed and gestalted all the stories. (11.4.09)
The Indelible Strain of Company
Politically incorrect is one thing. Unpolitically correct is another. But this is both!
Hilarious but disturbing — with an original monster of truly frightening proportions (not a mere zombie or werewolf or other horror stereotype), but a real monster — Woman, Stanley. Woman. — seeking scatologically fishy sex from a binged-out third-person monologuist (Cf the inebriated third-person monologuist in the previous story).
Combining M.R.-Jamesian twin beds, Aickmanesque canal-boats and Ligottian mannequins (and a wonderfully redolent pub/inn of recursive mis-memory), this is a masterpiece right up my canal-tunnel. (11.4.09 – 3 and half hours later)
No Oil Painting
Another third-person ‘monologue’ (one in adolescent angst, finding his feet as a person mentally and physically, in relationship with his parents) – and there is more slurred drunken speech as in the previous story but here it takes on a more serious significance (almost speaking in tongues?) and, again, a (cleaner’s?) face at a hotel window that shouldn’t be there…
Although this story is somewhat contrived in its gathering of images of self-worth and bodily image (as an ancient and modern phenomenon regarding internet forum avatars, digital photography, oil painting…), it is a very effective traditional ghost story – indeed one I can imagine written by May Sinclair: “People crave recognition from others, and when they can’t manage that, they linger on.” A very positive comparison, for me. (11.4.09 – another 4 hours later)
It Can Also End At Home
All the stories so far have been male third-person monologue-type rites-of-passage, this being no exception – a story concerning the Machinations of Ebay, Book Collecting, Suspected Cancer, Existential Angst, the Serendipitous Shards of Synchronised Truth & Fiction, and the Absurdity of Self-Coached Paranoia. I related to it wholly with both amusement and worry! So it must have worked.
Except I’m not a Male Chauvinist (Cf. ‘The Indelible Strain of Company’) who would congratulate himself on surviving a Wife! (11.4.09 – another hour later)
“the situation grew wrought”
And so it did, in more ways than one. And fraught. A brilliant little phrase. And a substantial R.Oliver/R. Aickman like story, but more what (after reading three Fry collections (and just another story to go in this one)) is essentially Fryesque than anything else. It is as if Richard, the I-narrator, (but still a rite-of-passage-by-male-monologue like the other stories in this book so far) is developing as an adolescent-towards-adult character, one with angst and sensitivity as well as crude masculine needs; meanwhile Fry (quite unconnectedly and differently) is this I-narrator’s head-lease creator and has also developed as a fine mature writer, honing out a few rough edges, like moulding a digital photograph here and there, mysterious shapes, testing, teasing, putting the fiction in certain lights, certain ambiances, to see how it ticks, to see how the reader (a few rungs down the pecking-order of leases in the reading-chain) reacts …. monstrous shadows and echoes of painful memories…..
A story I really really liked. An essential Fry. A catharsis of ‘No Oil Painting’. The pitiful Mum. The harmless Mum who only harms so things can stay harmless.
Also this story (like the previous ones) has some more slurred drunken speech. A leitmotif of this book? Where have all the knives gone? Long time passing. (A few faces in windows here, though, like ‘World Wide Web’ book). I fear I shall have nightmares about Albert Mock and that shop in Bruges. The imp of the perverse disguised as two discommoding dads joined at the boozy-hip. (12.4.09)
I had forgotten till now that this collection has a sub-title: “Tales of Psychological Horror”. In many ways this is a misdescription for the book as a whole. However, ‘Projecting Malice’ fits the bill. Indeed, ‘Sanity and other Delusions’, although a great eye-catcher of a title, is another possible misdescription. Except it is good for ‘Projecting Malice’.
This story has echoes of ‘The Sunken Garden’. The solitary and detached bungalow has walls (at one point with menstrual aperture) with noisy neighbours behind them! It is another male third-person monologue, again someone who seems to drink too much – now defintely this book’s leitmotif! The bungalow is being given a make-over (like the mother in ‘No Oil Painting’) – and here we don’t only have visual images but auditory ones too that penetrate the mask of sanity. One of these is momentarily called an ‘audition’ somewhere in the story. Indeed, it is as if this is a dress rehearsal, an on-the-couch interview for the job of psycho-analysing the whole book retrospectively, where headings and titles take on a new force by what came since they were seen there by the lower-rung reader.
The apparent weak trite ending of this story is consequently strengthened – i.e. this is not going to be just an ordinary axe-murder (or marital sledge-hammer murder) but a vast cropping of imagery made to fit in with a kaleidoscope of delusions-in-hindsight.
This book beggars belief. (12.4.09 – 3 hours later)