I’m due to start below another of my gradual real-time reviews, turning leitmotifs into a gestalt.
A hardback book I purchased from the publisher:
THE SCREAMING BOOK OF HORROR – edited by Johnny Mains
Screaming Dreams 2012
There is no guarantee how long it will take to complete this review, whether days or years.
CAVEAT: Spoilers are not intended but there may be inadvertent ones. You may wish (i) to take that risk and read my review before or during your own reading of the book, or (ii) to wait until you have finished reading it. In either case, I hope it gives a useful or interesting perspective.
All my other real-time reviews from 2008 are linked from here: http://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/
Authors included: John Llewellyn Probert, John Brunner, Alison Littlewood, Robin Ince, Bernard Taylor, Anna Taborska, Paul Finch, Rhys Hughes, Kate Farrell, Alex Miles, Craig Herbertson, Alison Moore, Claire Massey, Reginald Oliver, David A. Riley, Steve Rasnic Tem, John Burke, Christopher Fowler, Janine-Langley Wood, Johnny Mains, Charles Higson. (8 Oct 12 – Noon bst)
Christenings Can Be Dangerous – John Llewellyn Probert
“Well, a graveyard wasn’t such a bad place to be scared in,…”
This is an interesting case study to start this book with. Babies often scream even when they’re not scared, you see, but Horror concerning innocent babies can be shocking, and this one, for me, is! That, despite a humorous tone with a slight tongue in a slight cheek. Gratuitously horrific (unless one accepts these strange outcomes of the protagonist’s retributory madness regarding his ex)… and iconoclastic in terms of today’s mœurs. Yet I wondered, would I have thought it was so shocking had I experienced this in the 1960s or 1970s within the Pan Books of Horror that I read at that time? Rhetorical question. As a story in itself, at the beginning, it seems artificially to withdraw authorial omniscience regarding the protagonist’s thought processes, then meting these processes out to us regarding the circumstances of the christening church’s yew tree etc before Hell breaks loose (the latter scene very effective, TOO effective!) (8 Oct 12 – 3.05 pm)
[As is common with all my RTRs, I shall avoid other reviews and the book’s own introduction until after I have read and publicly reviewed the whole book.] (8 Oct 12 – 4.30 pm bst)
Larva – John Brunner
“‘Larva’, she amplified, ‘is a Latin word that originally meant both spectre and mask.'”
One’s whole body as the mask for self? This is another shockingly cross-grain story, one that revels in iconoclasm and PUS. It tells of uncouth muggers who prey on ‘poofters’ and ‘nignogs’, with, here, another baby victim (what chances that any anthology could start with consecutive stories that both themselves start with nipples being bitten!) – a baby who takes revenge not only for what happens in this story but what happened in the previous story! Meanwhile, I take suck or succour from this work not for its run-of-the-mill morality tale of the protagonist’s eventual meted-out come-uppance but for its brilliant metaphysical larva conceit. And its accomplishedly conveyed PUS AND VOMIT. [I thought John Brunner wrote SF and died some years ago, unless this is a different John Brunner or an uncharacteristic long-lost horror story discovered by Mr Mains?] (8 Oct 12 – 7.30 pm bst)
The Swarm – Alison Littlewood
“As jellyfish thrive they feed upon fish eggs and larvae,…”
…and thus the cycle goes on, here a calmer cosmic osmosis as it turns out stemming from the crueller, laddish threads set up by the two previous stories. Here the cruelty of the swarm – skilfully imbued with the tang of the sea – somehow becomes a spiritual culmination of the earth soul that may have been seeded from literature like that of John Cowper Powys (whom I serendipitously happen already to be reading). But there is an added frisson when we read in the Littlewood that each participant in the gestalt-‘creature’-from-leitmotifs (represented by a line of glowing lights) has 24 seemingly brain-disconnected eyes and then compare this to the creature with a ‘myriad of tiny pink eyes’ in the Probert. The fact that Littlewood’s protagonist, at story’s end, is still narrating post-culmination (on the precise point of becoming beyond consciousness) did not seem to matter. This throws a retrospective light on Probert’s earlier gradual going up the gears of narrative omniscience… (9 Oct 12 – 3.05 pm bst)
[It hadn’t quite dawned on me fully how Littlewood’s jellyfish gestalt is arguably an allegory of my earlier stated reference on this page to my real-time reviewing technique of accreting leitmotifs (light motifs) to form a gestalt – nor how the overall title of this anthology is something that my edited ‘The Horror Anthology of Horror Anthologies’ anthology book (horror stories about actual Horror anthology books) would have loved to contain a story about a Screaming Book of Horror! In fact, thinking about it, was there one? I shall have to re-read it!] (9 Oct 12 – 6.15 pm bst)
Natural Selection – Robin Ince
“…not a bad structure really for the accident-prone system of evolution by natural selection and its adaptation of previous fish parts along the way.”
…and so the cycle continues from story to story. Here, a gem of a Horror Story, truncated to prose perfection, except it’s about the problem of what exactly to truncate in order to travel “along the timeline” (the book’s audit trail toward its gestalt?) so as to provide that perfect potential of a baby, screamer or not. Here, ostensibly a feminist tract, where, like in the Probert, the protagonist (this time female) seeks to truncate her next ex and his baby but, here, by creating a new baby, a better one! Gratuitousness with a moral, like the Brunner. The image of cutting off a human ear is wonderfully done. [As an aside, without ears, one cannot hear screams, only see them, like the one in Munch’s scream.] “…when was he going to stop screaming?” (9 Oct 12 – 7.05 pm bst)
[Further to my comment above about ‘The Horror Anthology of Horror Anthologies’, I have found in it a quote (i.e. from the Rhys Hughes story): “Wasting no more time on nostalgia, he cut out the entire Appendix and cast it aside. It was bloated and disgusting. The book screamed during the operation, but it was over in seconds.” (I note there is a Rhys Hughes story I’ve yet to read in ‘The Screaming Book of Horror’). Also, the story in the HA of HA entitled ‘Common Myths and Misconceptions Regarding Rita Kendall’ by AJ Kirby is predominantly about a scream: in fact the most famous audible scream in the world!] (9 Oct 12 – 7.35 pm bst)
THIS REAL-TIME REVIEW IS NOW CONTINUED HERE