The WEIRD (11)

Real-Time Review continued from HERE.

The WEIRD: A Compendium of Strange and Dark Stories
Edited by Ann & Jeff VanderMeer
First published in Great Britain 2011 by Corvus, an imprint of Atlantic Books Ltd.

Shades – Lucius Shepard

“Guys sayin’ “Wow” and tryin’ to think of a story to top it.”

..and this story does, it surely does. Tops itself, too. I am a pig, I keep pigging on great stories in this book, and it’s almost become a greed an addiction a compulsion a rave like being ‘stoned’ on drugs and alcohol or dream or visitation to the land of Shades where the dead live and give you a once-over, as the protagonist is given in this amazing story of ‘war’ and ‘vision’ with all the meanings of each word you can imagine. The story is utterly well-written – perhaps in tune with a version of Graham Greene returned like this book’s erstwhile ‘Little Dirty Girl’: a semi-physical ‘ghost’ like Stoner turns out to be himself.  The Viet Nam ‘veteran’ has returned to Nam as journalist now tasked, amid jungly cards and controversies and benders, with de-stoning the ‘ghost’ of Stoner (in whose death in the war he was originally implicated). Another experiment, another zoo-scene sandking set-up perhaps via a machine-contraption (the Harrow, the castle of maw, “astral tiger cage“?) summons the Stoner ghost or whatever pretends to be Stoner so convincingly – and we learn to f*ck with death and meaning and it echoes this review’s earlier thought of weird literature being the teetering on the edge of winter forever – here it is death that is winter – dying eternally until you can let go or someone lets you go from our real world… but still eternally something or other. “I believe a ghost is a quality that dies in a man long before he experiences physical death.” coupled with  “…and it had to be worse than dying — dying, you see, had an end, whereas this went on and on, and every time you had adapted to it, it grew worse yet. I wanted it to stop.  That was all I wanted. Ever. Just for it to stop.” It’s all process – and, strikingly in tune with the Leena Krohn novella, it is “less a place than a sequence of events“. Read that and learn, I say. By the way, I apologise for a lot of this whole real-time review. Some of my wilder extrapolations and continual pigging on too many truly great stories. It does something to the mind. Good or bad, I’m not sure.   The sex scene here is utterly graphic in a very weird way, too.  Murakami unsheathed.  The sheer outrage of everything; the sheer enclosed silence within the words, too. A wisdom through Weird.  The ghost within me.  Perhaps it’s been ignited or was always ignited and its new readiness to leave is disguised as its original ignition….? “Hard-core  disoriented“. Disvet-nammed. (25/11/11 – another three hours later)

The Function of Dream Sleep – Harlan Ellison ®

“I’m, yeah, I’m okay. I just had the weirdest, I was dozing, fell asleep reading, and I had this, this weird–”

I shall remain detached, in this critique, as features of this body- as well as mind-coring story come, for me — by its own amazing kill-or-cure cruel skill — too close to home.  To all readers’ homes, I guess. With that statement, I can give it no greater  recommendation or pre-warning, depending on your own sensitivity to personal loss. Starting with a Henry S. Whitehead-type [should he also have a story in this book?] conceit of a mouth formed in one’s body, this story goes into REM dream [note the ® in the by-line] therapy and the sadness of death and the sensitivity or spiritual pain in the alephantiasising soul (my expression, not the story’s). The text combines, inter alia, images that remind me of the film ‘Freaks’, the expelling from the body of a ‘wind-sigh’ tantrically (?) to “flense the mind“, and, in at least one character, the ‘softening’ from this book’s ‘Soft’, plus this book’s ‘zoo-ology’ (“She had said the word experiments, with a tone in her voice that made McGrath shudder“) and an empathy-symbiois as a possible ultimate culmination of many such themes so far in this book (and indeed, the story itself is in strong empathic synergy with the previous Shepard story, i.e. its ‘release’ and state of death considerations that I covered above). Indeed, somehow, a direct empathy with each reader: e.g.  potentially: “My mother died, and I was lost,…”  – and even with the approximate timing of reading it, e.g: “This is Black goddam Friday!”, i.e. Autumn yet again? We are suffering a severe Autumn drought in the particular area where I live in the UK. Notwithstanding that, thank goodness I finished reading the story “in time to turn on the sprinklers”. (26/11/11)

Continued on The WEIRD (12): HERE

Index of this whole real-time review HERE.

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