CHTHONIC MATTER 2021
Edited by C. M. Muller
PART TWO of my real-time review as continued from here: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2021/10/06/nightscript-7/
As I read the second half of this anthology, my thoughts will appear in the comment stream below…
18 responses to “*”
’Neath The Mirror Of The Sea
”Breathe. ‘Must be a theme,’…”
Kylie lost, five years before, her son Mitch to a drowning at sea, his body never found, and, here, today, she is at the same resort where there is, now a new 13th floor hotel with miraculous and, often, as its turns out, potentially nightmarish effects of sea and sand, plus an infinity pool on the sixth the floor, I remember — a place to which her new husband (earlier having been her psychotherapist!) has brought her today as a catharsis for her earlier loss and her current consequent phobias.
Some wonderfully described accounts of accretively subsuming sand and salt and sad memories from the past overlapping with dreams or realities today. She even meets the old wise man whom I recall, perhaps wrongly, from this book’s earlier ship hotel. Memories can always be wrong, I guess.
Is this a Rosemary’s Baby type gaslighting as an ironic nod toward this book’s remember-to-breathe syndrome or Kylie’s genuinely purging visions of resurrection with eventually more spiritual power to her elbow?
“…the world had become untrustworthy, life a monster that could rise up at any moment.”
My previous reviews of this author: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/tag/rhonda-eikamp/
“…the world had become untrustworthy, life a monster that could rise up at any moment.”
…a repeated line leading to the Toase below.
“Neither of us had to be anywhere, so I lost myself in YouTube rabbit holes and the endless scroll of social media.”
…and so perhaps this book’s earlier Wyckoff brought us to this story, and makes us think that the narrator has been infantilised by such activities, a childishness that he admits at one stage amidst his difficulties when dealing with his child Jamie and his biting other pupils and teachers at kindergarten, and his arguing with his wife about how to deal with him. It is as if angels constructed in the garden like snowmen are symptoms of a communal-vivid dream that changes with changes in the weather or the temperament, as these angels begin to come into the house itself, having left the snow worn thin to the grass beneath. Father and child alike as the ‘star child’ that wearing heavy snow clothes pad them out to be? Disabled, literally by their stuffed flailing limbs and whatever else.
“Snow angels scarred the lawn, clustered and stark.”
“Most of those grounded celestial beings were the size of a six year old.”
“They say that it’s made up by grown-ups to stop them becoming parallel with fear.”
“With bare hands I started digging through the drifts, searching for my child.”
Lines learnt and and later repeated time and time again, like neuro-diverse incantations. The very last line of the story is pure genius. Beyond any mind-blizzard’s subsuming white-out upon life’s left teeth-marks.
Meanwhile, the quote below is taken from earlier in the story, co-summoning the spirit of the Eikamp child syndrome above…
“…but somehow I felt like the rules had shifted. Like the world had shifted. Like if I didn’t hold on to something I was going to fall and not stop falling.”
My previous reviews of this author: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/tag/steve-toase/
Miraculously, if obliquely, cross-referenced with an obscure story by Elizabeth Bowen just discovered here, the day after reading above: https://etepsed.wordpress.com/1004-2/#comment-2368
From earlier in my review of this book …
“…all overlapping piecemeal with one’s Facebook feed, post by post, a unique mixture of other people’s lives and their current preoccupations, and friend requests, and pictures one is polite about and ‘likes’, those that make one angry or sad, toward a whole dead elephant in the headroom, I guess. The ultimate Zeno’s Paradox story, where a scream is ever only partway complete. But still time enough to snap…” (my new bold)
The Cardboard Voice
“…like a series of traipsing hunched figures, though How saw them more as a herd of elephants with each tail held in the trunk of the one behind. However,…”
I don’t know why, but I kept hearing the clear voice of Fred Dinenage saying a single word with bass-deep ominous after effects like hindsight, as I read this quite staggering, lip-synching, ever-changing-by-afterthought, mad-scientist story…
From our earlier days’ presaging of the ‘how’ into a tomorrow’s world of Internet personalities and apps and AI and the nature of celebrity and the success or disaster to each Proustian self that moves along the giant cardboard waveform now continuously transcribed digitally…. Trouble with cardboard, though – it’s flammable!
“…three dull staccato clicks that triggered something in How’s mind, an association that remained out of reach.”
PS My version of that very association is Aickman’s cuckoo Clock Watcher. What is yours? Assuming you are still you. You see, I have long maintained, now coming to good in hindsight, that we all individually build toward gestalt the Fictions we read by triangulating our own bespoke coordinates alongside. And, similarly, the Internet now enables this to be gathered together like an endless bar-code or trunk-call margin to a rolling film projected upon our revolving doors of self.
My previous reviews of this author: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/tag/tim-major/
“A repetitive click stopped. You had thought the click was the bed frame, a loose joint. Turned out to be a bird trapped…”
You will believe the reviewer. This is madness now gone unmad. Let me straighten out the encroaching madness of the psychiatrist narrator and her meeting with a female horror writer in some foreign city. Echoing one of my earlier patients with a misbegotten daughter called Ella. One of my earlier stories reviewed above about doubles doubling up, trolls, and now an ‘unstork’ that shrieks in rhythm with my breath. I am a tall seventy year old, never made headmaster, though. Or was it an anti-stork, my Alzheimer’s has become Capgras, and the narrator is a woman, in any event; I’m off to Drang Isle to find the underskein, and all manner of museum mutants. I AM THE REVIEWER, THEY WILL BELIEVE ME!
That quote at the top of this entry above is the cuckoo clicking in the previous story. And we also have the levels and landings subsumed beneath my feet as in the Eikamp. And this book’s remember-to-breathe syndrome is embodied in “Breathe, I told myself” now actually quoted from this disarmingly self-made, self-mad Stokes story. Touching my collar-bone as if ‘sun-bathing without skin’, that SCAR GAP… A changeling.
“I was exhausted. I had not seen you, no. These were illusions, anomalies. I should not validate them. I should not have validated your delusions. You do not have Alzheimer’s. I should not have treated you as if you have Alzheimer’s. You suffer from CAPGRAS Syndrome.” (my validating caps)
My previous review of this author: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2021/04/03/black-static-78-79/#comment-21411
In hindsight, quite a story and quite an interpretation, and I am sure to be thinking over it for a quite an endless series of moments. Seriously meant.
Not forgetting …
“I walked along lines of animal skeletons: elephants and rhinos, moose and reindeer, ostriches and emus.”
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A Perfect Doll
Regina Garza Mitchell
“They are not mad. They are . . . indifferent.”
A beautifully limpid story that starts as made perfectly and ends perfectly, too, with necessarily more space between, baggier clothes having much-room, indeed, the story of a perfect daughter, ineluctably imperfected through puberty’s tight fit, ending up forced by the black magic of her idealistic parents to grow back, double back into her own erstwhile perfect doll to match this book’s way in more ways than one, even perhaps depicting its miniaturisation, its streaming photos here as ideals that are never ideal at all, an endless lifefeed of falsifying images and more ‘unwelcome ghosts’ of self-hate screaming from within previously screened images of self. Toward nemonymity?
In 2003, this author was in Nemonymous.
Madam and Yves
“…the feeling grew on me that there was something there, some hidden design. Something intangible; something that, at first, I could not quite discern.”
The bits of this whole book, as if now told to PRINT! as far as it’s got, bits of one, bits of another in it, the last three stories above in particular, perfect doll (“a doll-like creature with dog’s breasts, her fecund pelvis perched on famine-child legs, grinned at me in a revolting parody of allure…”) and earlier museum mutants as golems alike, in a bookface stream of multi-polymer app-apotheoses of 3D printing to see who is the Zoroastrian god beyond even MelekTOASE, now twisted askew by my own pretensions of an exterior god gestalt, as this storyGOD tries to do before I can, outdoing even the freehold author’s story, having already outdone his leasehold narrator Georges who was trying to bring together bits of his lover Yves (himself a god of polymer faces spreading them piecemeal to create a gestalt between bits of them), all happening in Yves’ studio after he has seemingly died, Georges doing this by co-opting, by creating a communication relationship with, one of Yves’ software creatures, a maDAM gender but multi-formed, but here in my own relationship with her I am bluffing to maintain my way with this story and the fact that I can freely admit bluffing shows my omnipotence beyond even Jarry’s unUbu and the others that strive to become supreme. All trying to make others in their own image, as I do with all the stories that I have, as god-reviewer, so-called reviewed over the years ! Beyond the ultimate literary “doppelgänger mask” and the “The unclotting of memories!” And the “How can gods rest without adoration?” syndrome. And many long passages of physically app-covivid Frankensteining that ineluctably blow the reader’s mind. Now all mine!
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…an endless lifefeed of falsifying images and more ‘unwelcome ghosts’ of self-hate screaming from within previously screened images of self.
“A cough was no longer ordinary but sinister and threatening. Other people were threatening simply for being.”
I feel I, too, dig ditches or pits as DFL scrying story. Co-opting story as ‘constructed narratives’ of truth that make up history as well as fiction. And this story is one at first seeming easy to dig, easy to exploit, with its often lean and staccato or even shallow sentences like Hemingway and in direct contrast to many of the preceding stories in this book. But it got me in the end. Proved somehow my presumptuousness. I was initially bemused by its cough as weapon, that came out at me at the delf itself by the darkly shapeless representative of cough conspiracy in a wayside community on the mainland where the viral intensity is worse than from where he comes form, with all the ominous staccato aura of mask, taste and smell, a disarming narrative of a man come by ferry to give a lecture upon a theory of our current plague bordering on conspiracy, possibly a Jungian archetype repeating itself from 1666…. A story’s scrying that shook me proper darkly, and made me think I was like him, delf as self, “Like something out of sorts, he thought. Something lost. Like something burdened with a body.” I’ve been getting that for years, since I can remember in fact, now made real.
My previous reviews of this author: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/tag/danny-rhodes/
I feel I, too, dig ditches or pits as DFL scrying story. Co-opting story as ‘constructed narratives’ of truth that make up history as well as fiction.
Where the Oxen Turned the Plow
“A cough and a cautious silence.”
“…tohu wa-bohu, the flickering confusion when space was formless before the world began.”
A story that seems to be an amazing lip-synch with the rest of the book that digs ‘strata by strata’ towards it. A story of an ex-teacher now living at Boundary Cottage, retired in an out of the way community; he has hurting legs like rusty Meccano that also seem to drain into the ground, as it were, or something drains up into them, unless I misremember, and quite unnoticeably at first [SPOILER?] he notices that there are scripts about the house that he was supposed to have written or manually typed, all quite out of character, about shamans and other sorts of today’s mobile facestreams of myths and conspiracies, and equally unnoticeably at first, there grow sections of the story itself that I myself begin to notice are disarmingly starting to be infected, some passages for the worse, others for the better. An example of the latter is possibly the most striking description of a thunderstorm that I have ever read. “Your house. It’s a burden on our earth.”
“…hammered into the earth as if he were a gatepost.”
‘Trance writing’ becoming actual strata in this story outside the control of whoever the freehold writer of it is. Even the original reader of it is sidetracked for a different reader, I somehow sensed. The tone of the village itself and the inhabitants as well as the alignment of his own cottage begin remarkably to morph, and it all seems tied up with an ever-harassing man called Shenley in the village who claims our protagonist’s cottage is within the boundaries of his family’s land from before Norman times. I have heard of quicksand but now the Earth itself, where we think we stand and that we depend on for its property rights, becomes, for me, Stonequick history in shifting strata.
And this review is perhaps a review of a different story to the one I think I just read.
“A heat haze blurs boundaries, fusing the far lines of hedges and fields, rising from the path in front of him with a shimmer, as if a revenant’s hand has smudged the air.”
My previous reviews of this author: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/charles-wilkinson-christopher-harman/
My previous reviews of the next author: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/tag/lc-von-hessen/
The passage in italics printed at the start of the next story by a newish writer I continue greatly to admire seems at first an out-of-character refugee passage from similar Wilkinson passages above, and this one sits here vestigially outside the living organic gestalt, like a little squirmy worm, not the larger flaccid thing that Sophie’s libido thinks she discerns hidden by a certain pair of trousers….
Wilkinson’s Shenleys now Garlands…
Feast of Fools: A Heartwarming Holiday Romance
LC von Hessen
“A barren, borderless land of white.”
“…she didn’t do property law,…” but tort law galore…
“Actually one of my friends is a Medievalist and she says they don’t really use the term ‘Dark Ages’ any more, it’s a misnomer, she thinks, before realizing that is hardly the biggest issue here.”
Sophie despite her cynical friction against the smooth rub of her home folks, she don’t know half of it yet! Sophie has returned for Christmas to her homely over-wholesome hometown of Jingletown, Missouri, but she is now a streetwise New York lawyer, and the town still has its ancient overarching Ol’ Granpappy monument (now a touristy Santa, if not Kris Kringle or Krampus) but now it is being attacked by termites, and, well, all manner of shenanigans at the Christmas party, and if I told you what exactly happened I’d just be repeating the whole story. Some amazing passages that somehow feel written autonomously. Meanwhile, the model town in the basement and the subsequent Conqueror Worm are safe with me. Just concentrate on the comic if not cosmic evocation of not Yule but Yuck! And how Stepfords go in cycles, not necessarily in directed strata of prehistoric truth. Holly Frost, her mother, and Rudy Garland, notwithstanding.
This von Hessen is a timely off-kilter, if stratified and truth-shafted, coda to what is the most inspiring mind-blows of a fiction anthology that I have ever read, level by level, storey by storey, towards basement seas and streams to which we have all sunk …then horror-genre imaginatively bouncing right back at me or my doppelgänger with the puckish gusto of a new literature.
They wanted Sophie to be the perfect doll.
Just also noticed the circle from Clint Smith’s ship hotel at the beginning and von Hessen’s Ol’ Granpappy at the end, worms or termites and all!
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