I’m due to start below another of my gradual real-time reviews, turning leitmotifs into a gestalt, drawing connections…. A book I recently purchased from the publisher and received a few days ago.
BLACK HORSE and Other Strange Stories – by Jason A. Wyckoff
Tartarus Press 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 are linked from here: http://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/ (3 Mar 12 – 8.50 a.m gmt)
An author whose name is completely new to me. But I relish the promise of ‘Strange Stories’, being, as I am, a ‘sufferer’ from Aickmania.
The Highwall Horror
“…he hung his North American wildlife wall calendar open to April and briefly considered the mallards in flight.”
Joe is a young ambitious architect – with a “honey-do” family of wife and daughters at home – and, at work, he moves into what I see as a glorified carrel or here called ‘cubicle’ whence its predecessor architect had left the firm suddenly. Ranging between Ligottian ‘corporate horror’ and a Kafkaesque feel, we are suddenly tipped into a Lovecraftian panorama through the cubicle wall…. The prose is textured, sophisticated but easily accessible and highly effective. I sense we have a significant Weird Fiction writer here – sensed even this early in the proceedings of reading the book. A story that I am sure will linger with me as emanating from its power of what I gradually felt I was made to see as insectoid wordprint within the “oblong rectangles” of white walls … lingering until I read this book’s next story? “Terrible connections in his head were trying to come together while his sanity strove to keep them apart.” (3 Mar 12 – 90 minutes later)
“Down beneath the carpet the small people in the floor creep over electrical wires to the walls…”
Sometimes in my whole reading life – and in latter years, my reviewing life – I wonder at the displacement of a particular work of fiction. Is this the work for which I have been waiting all these years to discover: originally stunned by Lovecraft in the 1960s, next stunned by Ligotti in the 1980s, now to be stunned by Wyckoff in the 2010s? I have already (only) made a single deliberately concentrated reconnaissance of ‘Panorama’, but it feels more like a passing glance than an act of concentration. It surely needs far more effort and time for cumulative passing glances – just as the panoramic (Sistine roof?) work of art in the story itself needs its own various channels of passing glance to be travelled, created as this work of art happens to be (a cross between Bosch and Escher and more?) with separately autonomous and unsimultaneous ley-lines of tugged eye-path (or, in story-terms, reading’s audit trails)… all mingled with vital considerations of the artist himself who perpetrated it, of the artist’s model (the artist’s loved one who is tugged herself into the canvas’ ley-lines (or paper insect-trails of print?)), and of the artist’s agent or, here, surrogate third-person narrator who is also in love with the model and who travels to the artist’s studio after failing to raise him on the phone and, after fearing the worst, eventually discovers this ‘Sistine roof’ (that expression of mine does not do it justice) and the various entrapments of both word and word-evoked images, in turn mingled with images of an erstwhile gallery-showing of this artist’s work. Is this a major, landmark story fundamentally to shake the Weird Fiction world or something of which I shall never reach the bottom however many passing glances I devote to it? I keep my powder dry. The text, meanwhile, is stunning: and incommunicable to anyone who has not directly experienced the work itself. (3 Mar 12 – ten hours later)
The Walk Home
“It was always the best party they’d ever had.”
A touching, haunting, exquisitely worded vignette of sprites as ghosts or ghosts as sprites, with a death-enduring feminine loyalty theme in the face of everpresent masculine dangers or poignantly masculine protections: a moral ‘thin ice’: hinting to me again of the vaguely adaptable formula for humanity’s selfish/unselfish motive-tussles that I identified in a real-time review that I just completed about another new (to me) writer here. (4 Mar 12 – 8.35 am gmt)
“Who says a ghost has to look like the body it fell out of?”
An intermediary is a broker. So is a fiction author. Without hopefully transgressing my much long-cherished view of The Intentional Fallacy as a literary given, here one of the protagonists – the archaeologist Barclay following aptly the architect Joe in the first story – has his own implied ‘honey-do’ family back home: back home while he is dicing-with-danger-or-amorality (possibly equivalent to writing dangerously weird fiction) so as to wreak honour or benefit for that family. This story, as foreshadowed by ‘The Walk Home’, is concerned with (what is here now called) “moral integrity“, with Barclay also dangerously faced with his own self-perceived edgy job and the archaeological ‘riches’ he and his colleague have found in Ecuador: wrapped round with guilt, anger, mixed motives of greed and fellowship (even murder!), reminding me of much well-seasoned high-quality literary fiction I can’t put my memory’s finger on (later filmed by Hollywood for Bogart et al to appear in?): as their tent, in the middle of the Ecuadorian nowhere, is ‘invaded’ with their apparent permission by a large poncho man carrying a shrunken head: with morality to broker and requesting coffee to drink as the excuse for ‘invasion’ [cf: amazingly, the exact same coffee reason given in a parallel edgy situation in another of my recent real-time reviews: i.e. of the story Fake in ‘Nowhere to Go’]. Only at the end does one begin to think. Thinking is thought-provoking. This story in itself is thought-provoking — as well as retrocausally atmospheric with a prose style to die for. “While you can only see fragments of a terrible future, he is weighing options and considering outcomes.” (4 Mar 12 – three hours later)
THIS REAL-TIME REVIEW IS NOW CONTINUED HERE.