The WEIRD (45)

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.

Saving the Gleeful Horse – K. J. Bishop

“…as if the white wool were full of seeds and burrs,...”

My underlining. Real-time reviewer punches the air. Yes!

I mentioned to someone recently that I simply always consider last stories in anthologies as automatically symphonic CODAs (and, by a weird ‘srednidipity’, they always are) – and thanks for shouting from the bend at Tattenham Corner as I approach the final straight of this massive ‘happening’ of a real-time review, if I say so myself. The whole of November, tantamount. Not often is such a coda about a horse. As this is. As a real-time reviewer and “By profession I trade in flotsam,…” as well as in the “synchronised shards of random truth and fiction.”  Ma’at was the ancient Egyptian concept of truth, balance, order, law, morality, and justice – interspersed with  “…a zoo of spotted and striped horses” —all the thorny bundles coming apart and slithering below in one rush as if a giant in the earth had them on a rope…” — “And in one world this animal has life, and you see it, and I see it, but in the other world it has no life, it is a thing.” — “the gist is that my Gleeful Horse will bring this happiness back to us.” — “friend to cats and dogs”

–“for I’ve seen Prince November” — and all shall be well, all manner of things shall be well. A story – about cruel children or cruelty to children? – a story to read and read and read and read (in the manner of the girl in ‘Flat Diane’) till you convince yourself that, happily, you shall never reach the end of Winter….

… amid the “chalk hills” – and the Cerne Abbas Giant standing hardon-collider, zencore tall. (3 Dec 11 – another two hours later)


Some concluding remarks about the whole book:

An alephantine thank you to the Revanche-Menders for this book: an education, a delight and a constant discovery.  People, I hope, will carry this book around all their lives as a literary talisman – however heavy in weight, but eventually light in spirit, even given all the dark and strange stories it contains – carried as their own Gleeful Horse or Frightening Imaginarium, depending on their mood.

It is a very important book. Probably the most important I have ever read.

There are a few stories to which I need to return and re-appraise – and others I shall have to stop regretting were never included. How could it include everything?

This is something I publicly wrote over a year ago:

<<There seems to me several aspects of Weird:
Weird like VanderMeer (New weird?, SF, Interstitial).
Weird like Rhys Hughes (Absurdism, wordplay Fantasy of an optimistic tone)
Weird like Ligotti (puppets, dolls, pessimism?).
Ex Occidente Press Weird (eg Valentine, Crisp) – including European Weird of the 19th and 20th century.
Weird like people who are Horror writers call themselves (Samuels, the ‘Never Again’ anthology etc.).
Older Weird – Lovecraft and traditional Weird where I would put Reggie Oliver and Ghost Stories.
Weird like Aickman.
Weird like Bizarro.>>

At least this book has made the best possible job of reconciling that – although the definition or gestalt of the book and hence of ‘The WEIRD’ itself (chosen as the book’s title) — (about which I do not need to elaborate beyond what I’ve said already – please re-consult in particular my real-time comments emerging from my critique today of ‘The Forest’ by Laird Barron) — is arguably VanderMeer centrist.  Not in a self-centred or, even, conscious or deliberate way, but inevitably – whoever produced such a book – a way that – as a fallible human rather than as a feral zoo-animal – stems from a single-minded or collaborative editorial human taste or proclivity. 

Meanwhile, this has been a superhuman effort. And I cannot stress enough how grateful personally I am for the experience – a landmark lifetime experience. I hope my review has complemented that experience for others somewhat, even if, to avoid spoilers, any added value is after the event. Or retrocausally.

I shall now read the rest of the book for the first time: FOREWEIRD by Michael Moorcock, INTRODUCTION by Ann & Jeff VanderMeer, the individual story notes, AFTERWEIRD by China Mieville, Acknowledgements & Extended Copyrights. As is verifiable, my normal real-time review routine (based on my lifetime interest (well, at least from the late 1960s) in ‘The Intentional Fallacy’ as a literary theory) is actually to read such accoutrements of a book for any further food-for-thought (and I am sure in this case it will be most valuable food-for-thought) but not to return on-line to review them. I do not intend to divert from that tradition here.  However, if anything else needs to be said, after this page is finalised, I shall append it in the comment stream (if any) below. (3 Dec 11 – another hour later)

Below I give some random shards from my erstwhile review. Meantime, I place my pet burrs in the cage, then put the cage on the last balcony so that they can see what they are missing.


as I said before, I’m pigging, personally pigging, pigging on each of this book’s discovery after discovery:

“They seem to limit their growth to fit available space. If I moved these to a larger tank, they’d start growing again.” And, I’m sure, that is exactly what happened to the book that contains all these stories, including this one! At first, it is what I would personally call an old-fashioned SF story, yet within this ‘tank’ of a tome, it takes on scary proportions with many implications.

The ultimate symbiosis of author and reader. But which the ‘spider’?

— all conveying a miraculous nocturne – miraculous, that the reader can come out the other end intact. But you won’t know whether you can unless you try.

For me, a clever story of night-life’s nemonymous quick-change artists, or “anemones“.

[For the first time in this review, I have just read two stories in tandem (without first reviewing each in turn), mainly because I read them both in a hospital waiting-room today, where, assisted kindly by my wife, I had taken a very close elderly relative of mine for examination by scan ‘rays’, entailing special dietary pre-procedures and cubicles with blue vertical venetian-blinds. An onerous day, a poignant day, an ominously fateful day. Plus the striking new (to me) short-fictions I read there by Russ and Harrison.]

Autumn came.” We all once had “the sheer, elastic wealth of children’s bodies”, yet we end up possibly with cancer or with looking in the mirrored walls of Kent and Hallby’s to see one’s essential self as a depleting physical shape –

There will hopefully come soon my ‘hole in the toe of my shoe’ moment (rather than my ‘hole in the bottom of my canoe’ moment).

And why do houses near all fictional Dunsanian woods only show their defenestrated backs to such woods?

Not the distaff curse of ’red flag’ but some obverse ’green spear’? [Megalanthus become Megazanthus?]

A Todash tide of sound, for me, via a viburnum bush.

Crowding in on me. The Town that squashes Cats. Rubber-Neckers who People the Pit.

The VanderMeers are the biggest, if not wildest, beasts prowling the Weird Jungle or the Zoo of Dreams, keen on giving their genuine pearls to those with or after or by whom they prowl or are prowled.

And a Dunsanyan wood now become Dunsinane.

There is a pub nearby where people of my age regularly eat – a large steaming roast dinner a day.

Here we have the passions that erect today’s prize-fighting Tahrir Square versus Homs City: the Arab Spring become the Autumn?

I was once obsessed with marbles and your significant mention of marbles seems also to connote this: “the terrible knowledge slid between them and me – that one day my mother would die” in your text. And your description of the old-fashioned radio – for me a ‘wireless’ (significant to the lines or threads) – makes me recall that this ‘contraption’ (you describe so wonderfully) was my childhood todash, like it seems to have been yours.

The lizard becoming tantamount to the fiddlling busker in the film ‘Death in Venice’. And a guiding rope. And more “Which are right – the freaks or the philosophical principles?

What more could you ask? Well, perhaps, the arpeggione sonata by Schubert as the story’s coda, to wind down from reading it.

He’s just imagining it from his calm, reflective, Japanese-passive, dead-pan non-sequitur (that we readers are taught to take for granted as if Ice Men have always existed; we’ve always known about them and there is no good in any of us shaking our heads.)

As a reader, I took “weird casualties” of the mind. “Friendly fire” from a book I thought was my friend. [new text: and what about the collateral damage?]

Perhaps like this eventually intriguing story that punches above its weight. As does this brief critique about it!

and a pet cat to which, at sight of its sudden flayed and flensed appearance more chicken than cat, he gave a vicious fatal lisa-tuttle.

– and the results seem to indicate some proof of real book-lovers’ views concerning the vast magical differences between paper books and ebooks even if their texts are identical –

I’m not responsible. I can’t be responsible.”


Index of this whole real-time review HERE.

All my real-time reviews HERE


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14 responses to “The WEIRD (45)

  1. Jeff VanderMeer

    Des–I just want to say that reading your real-time review has been a life-changing experience for me, following along, as you’ve managed to make fresh for me stories that from continual familiarity had been rendered invisible over the process of compiling the anthology. I also just want to thank you for your compassionate, sympathetic, and thoughtful approach to reading these stories. It’s not often an anthology editor gets such a thorough mega-review. I have some other thoughts about this real-time review that I’ll put into a blog post. But, in any event, thank you so much. – JeffV

  2. Thanks, Jeff. That means an enormous amount to me. All the best to you and Ann.

  3. Two further ‘shards’ from the RTR – this time hand-picked, rather than random:
    The best Weird fiction can touch and tantalise you strangely, darkly, poignantly, humorously, grotesquely or with deathly finality, but, also, mellowly and fruitfully, because, from the very experience of reading it at all, one never quite reaches the winter beyond the autumn in the way that you once reached the autumn beyond the summer.
    By the way, I apologise for a lot of this whole real-time review. Some of my wilder extrapolations and continual pigging at too many great stories. It does something to the mind. Good or bad, I’m not sure.
    And a brand new one : The exigencies of Ellison, Evenson and Etchison.

  4. “revamenderhoodie” really exists

  5. In hindsight of only a few days, I already feel I saw ‘Prince November’ in real-time. A significant achievement.

  6. This is an interesting review of The WEIRD:
    Explains a lot about my own cited ‘pigging’ and having to reappraise (weeks later) at least three of the stories.

  7. Regarding the various websites that I use for my real-time reviews, I try to make venues appropriate to the type of review being placed on them. Having said that, I feel justified in using my various book sites etc. for my real-time review venues (as a spin-off marketing) because I have always bought the books I review, i.e. as a normal customer (or, very rarely, it’s a contributor copy or exchanged it for another book). My over-riding love however is actually in doing the real-time reviews themselves for my own creative reading satisfaction, which, as merely another spin-off, hopefully benefits all the good literature I choose to review.

  8. Quoted from HERE, regarding my massive review of the massive THE WEIRD ed. by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer.


    “I discovered recently that Des Lewis’s monster ‘real-time review’ of every single story in ‘The Weird’ is now available in book form from Lulu.

    Real-Time Reviews – Volume Six by D F Lewis (Paperback) – Lulu

    As fans of his reviewing will know, DFL is very astute at highlighting correspondences, subtexts and ‘gestalts’ between the stories, both real and metaphysical, and I’ve revisited several of them on the back of these reviews simply because he made me realise that I had overlooked some of the deeper themes on first reading.

    If you’re like me and ‘The Weird’ will reside on the beside table to be read and reread for years to come, then I can wholeheartedly recommend Des’s little book as a useful ‘unoffical companion’ to this peerless anthology.”

  9. Johnny Mains just called this: “The greatest review of any book in the history of reviews” on his Facebook timeline.
    Lawks-a-mercy! Thanks, Johnny. 🙂

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