17 thoughts on “The Wide, Carnivorous Sky

  1. Kids
    “…the Artful Dodger and his crew come calling,…”
    A lesson-for-lesson’s-sake shortlet for the readers to get their teeth into, as if a mixed sex, more than just carnivorous, ‘Lord of the Flies’ gang has replaced this teacher’s normal students….(Synchronously, I found myself mentioning ‘Lord of the Flies’ in a concurrent real-time review here an hour or so ago!)

  2. How The Day Runs Down
    “This has to be what made me choose the kitchen, but I can’t remember it. You have to protect them, no matter–“
    It is as if a Pistorius type re-staging for the benefit of whom – or what? Here it is the Stage Manager, a sort of Town Manager, the narrative use of whose narrative makes this a very powerfully told movement to movement of some zombie or Reanimation Crisis process that hits not only the town but the world, including masses of those eaters effectively prefigured by ‘Kids’… A scenario passing through set pieces of certain characters with their cameo stage-sets and lines learnt, all soon to be subsumed despite their attempted ‘Alamo’ … Leading to a theatrical ‘dying fall’ at the end as the lights come up rather than go down.
    Gory, frightening, deliberately melodramatic as a double bluff of a theatre’s rolling and breaking news… The best zombie story I’ve ever read, but that’s not saying much. A great stage-managed story, full stop, about zombies or not.
    “All the record you have of what you’ve done is what you can say about it.”

  3. Technicolor
    ” –there’s a moment when he realizes he’s dead. He isn’t sure when it happened.”
    …which resonates with “He was already dead; his body simply needed to catch up to that fact.” – which is a quote from the previous story and, in many ways, the staging, enactment, reenactment, management are similar. Here the main protagonist seems to be a combination of the teacher in “Kids” and the Stage Manager… Can’t you see? Surely you can.
    At the beginning, we are shown what I have been doing for some time with texts – i.e. real-time reviewing not only the lines of the words on the paper but also an aura of meaning and imagined materialisation – as the Manager or Teacher does here for his silent audience, that’s you, as he, literally and explicitly in front of your eyes, ‘real-time reviews’ the text of Edgar Allan Poe’s ‘Masque of the Red Death’!
    Not so much a Reanimation Crisis this time but more a Reanimation Conflux; this is an amazing rarefication of masques, masks, a character called Prosper, Gnosticism, the onset of disease, Edgar-&-Virginia, and much more, thus creating a synaesthesia of summoning words and images. I can’t do justice to its details for you here. Don’t look so disappointed. If I did, it would be a whole new story extrapolation that I would need to write about Langan’s story as Langan did about Poe’s.
    Seriously, a Cormanesque ready-made that comes off the page before it is ready and before it is made, needing you the reader to optimise its making and allowing the vision to become bespoke for each of you. And whatever you do, read this story in a proper physical book. There would be no point in doing it in any other way.
    “They put their selves aside, become a massive blank, a kind of psychic space.”

  4. The Wide, Carnivorous Sky
    I – III
    “…who swore his reflection had been killed so that, when he looked in a mirror now, a corpse stared back at him.”
    …which links both with the previous stories and with the recursion of war or what I see seeping through this text as a recursion, as we meet, in an accretively narrative stage-management of dialogue and prose, the characters of some soldiers in Iraq with regression to Viet Nam, wars being wars, friendly fire unfriendlier than pukka unfriendly fire, I guess, and what I feel so far is a form of shell shock that may or may not ‘extrude’ the real, as these men plan to contest a ‘vampire’ with choice weapons such as stakes and close physical considerations of the body-map of such a creature. I do not intend to spell out much more of the plot as it proceeds, for fear of spoilers, but I shall hopefully adumbrate my feelings about it while slowly savouring what this text already positively promises. Give or take a fair share of luck.

  5. IV – VI
    I have long expressed, in my posts since 2008, a description of triangulating coordinates within the many readers of one book as they real-time review it separately, eventually arriving at some optimal truth in this mutual act of book-making. During — and by shell-shocked memory when in care just after — Fallujah, these soldiers themselves real-time triangulate the ins and outs, ups and down, space or sky or earth, coffin-clad or just a shadow, assessing this larger-than-life ratcheting bat or vampire that itself seems to triangulate the wars it inhabits, different wars, non-differentiating who’s fighting whom among those it appears?
    But I will now desist for fear of myself triangulating the spoiler of wars…for fear of where this may be leading.

  6. VII – VIII
    “…it was clear that safe was one of those words that had been bayoneted, its meaning spilled…”
    This often becomes a real-life rollercoaster, like riding its nightmare flying version along with Blackwood’s Jimbo…
    “Perhaps it’s time for some review,…”

  7. IX – X
    “The kid is dead; he’s dead and he just doesn’t know it, yet.”
    War’s archetypal Jimbo? It’s as if the words themselves borrow eyes via the reader’s eyes. Then a series of triangulated hypotheses none of which, especially some of the more SF ones, seem to me to be likely.

  8. XI – XIV
    “…to coordinate their experiences interrupting…”
    …indeed, what I cannot reveal about the ending (the story’s last sentence being a wonderful masterstroke). I merely need to question whether the characters’ triangulated coordination against the archetypal vampire or against the clouded monster of inchoate form or against nothing at all, worked or whether it didn’t work, give or take the odd mistake so as to make something more real, as nothing can work perfectly without a mistake, I reckon. Including this story.
    And I wonder whether whatever it was these men combated was simply real or whether these men were just another group of grizzled veterans (old, by war fatigue, before their time) who might also appear in a great Rasnic Tem type tale, characters who saw real or unreal things that frightened them in the sky or saw them somewhere inside their own heads? Or a combination of all these? What do you think? The confusion of war, notwithstanding.
    Whatever the case, this is a very powerful, memorable story that has just been coordinated – or stage-managed (in a good way) – upon the page. This imaginary review page as well as the book’s real page.

    ——————
    I should make it clear that I have not yet read any of the non-fiction material in this book and, as has been common with all my real-time reviews, I will not read such material until I have completed my real-time review of just the fiction.

  9. City of the Dog
    “There are people — the mentally ill, the visionary — who emit cues, some subtle, some less so, that they are not traveling the same road as the rest of us.”
    Let me say straightaway that I admire this quality horror story, its slow-driven stage-management (though with more of a feeling of contrivance than creative triangulation that the other stories so far have possessed), its textured development of the vision of the silent werewolfish ghῦl and its haunting eyes, the character of the protagonist and his relationship with the city’s 1990s counter-culture ethos and with his girl-friend and her ex, the insidious underworld of the Kennel etc, the undeniable essence of its well-written, weighty moments of atmosphere and obsession and sex without love…and those that lurk around every lower corner of our mind and of our city.
    But, for me, there is something lacking, compared to the previous stories. Too linear, too workmanlike, keeping inspiration too close to its dark chest.
    “On both sides of the road, monuments raised themselves like the ruins of some lost civilization obsessed with its end.”

  10. image

    The Shallows
    “…granted I was younger, then, and from a distance of four decades, mid-sixty seemed a lot older than it does twenty years on.”
    I know I am sometimes guilty of slightly going over the top during some child-like enthusiasm of the moment, particularly during a dreamcatcher real-time review, as this is. However, I think I can genuinely say, and will say it again tomorrow, and will say it again in ten years’ time (should I still be alive), that ‘The Shallows’ is one of those truly great fiction works that one rarely encounters during a whole lifetime. I cannot give it more praise other than to compare it with ‘Flowers of the Sea’ by Reggie Oliver…for reasons of similar subject-matter (inter alia, a man’s memory during bereavement after becoming a widower in interface with his wife’s prior illness threaded through with haunting horror conceits deriving from the sea and its environs) and its visionary style and its damned well perfection as a story plain and simple, whatever its subject-matter.
    I shall never forget the evolving nature of the visions in ‘The Shallows’, their accretively poetic versions of Jules Verne type apparitions-in-physical-form, the man’s hindsight relationship with his son, his allotment garden aligned with Voltaire, his pet crab as perhaps a reminder of what had ailed his wife and of the pet-owner whom she once bravely tried to out-face … and the monumental or dome-like structures within more common structures such as a house by the sea, structures that seem allied with the other monstrous apparitions – and much more to which I cannot here do justice.
    And an ending that one cannot quite believe would be possible and how dare the author leave us with that ending? Except he could only thus dare.
    Unaccountably, I was also reminded of ‘The Apple Tree’ by Elizabeth Bowen (my favourite ghost story written by my favourite writer) blended with William Hope Hodgson!

  11. The Revel
    “Those who accept those keys fit them to the locks of the doors in front of them, find their way through to the next part of the maze; those who let them drop to the floor will live long enough to regret their mistake.”
    The stage manager from this book’s first story appears to have reached almost directorial orgasm of optimal horror trope trawling! I have my reservations about some of the longueurs in this staged story but I am equally intrigued by the stylised build up, cinematically, by dint of drawn spear-carrier, monster (here a werewolf), the police chief, the heroine (who enacts another Pistorius type re-staging in her house) amid a Twin Peaks type ambiance of a community.
    Even ‘you the reader’ is factored or sketched in. And as in the previous story an apple actually holds the final key that I will not divulge here. Key or lever? The stage manager or someone else as the perceived central lever? Revel backwards?

  12. June 1987. Hitchhiking. Mr. Norris.
    A young man was once warned as a child by his Dad about hitchhiking with lone drivers. In this effectively brief story, either his Dad was proved right as the young man ends up in tantamount to a “rolling abattoir” or the whole thing wouldn’t have happened at all without life’s recursion of horror tropes as well as the hero protagonist simply existing to draw such horrors upon himself, a character creating its own author, and is it not better to exist than never to have existed so as to experience life and survive its horrors, drawn as if by the lever in the previous story, emerging from the horrors that first created them: ad infinitum, ad absurdum toward retrocausal anti-Natalism? Intriguing.

  13. Mother of Stone
    As in ‘Technicolor’, a teacher, a professor, but here a female, her marriage unravelled, someone with slight bi-sexual leanings (here unrequited), calling herself ‘you’ with a near progression to ‘I’ at the end, but this novella, I’m afraid, doesn’t work for me at all. It is her investigation into a sheer conflation – of myths concerning a headless ‘pregnant’ statue dug up near a hotel, its then almost farcical effects on those eating their dinner in the restaurant where it is placed, and a whole gamut of Burke’s Law type investigative cameo interviews she conducts with interested parties all of whom are easily contactable by phone but also busy with their own backstories, as is our protagonist. A conflation transcended eventually by a confused reported-speech twice removed of the statue’s exorcism. And lots of blood and echo-accidents of headlessness and pregnancy and a concomitant famous sculptress connected by head sizes. And much more. The research our protagonist is engaged in is creating a gestalt from the leitmotifs of the internet myths, some real, some not. That brings me back to triangulation and dreamcaptcha real-time reviewing…
    I am sorry I could not be more sympathetic toward this novella, but it does not make me forget the absolutely wonderful high moments of this book. For example, what I said yesterday about ‘The Shallows’, I reiterate today, without demur.
    It is almost as if this ‘Mother of Stone’ work is deliberately stage-managed, with tongue in cheek, to be the most large-than-life coda in the world, a foil to greatness.

    ‘You look like a statue, up there against the sky! Whatever I do or say, or don’t do or say, do forgive me…’
    —Elizabeth Bowen: from her last novel ‘Eva Trout’: 1968

    end

  14. I have now read and enjoyed the non-fiction articles in The Wide, Carnivorous Sky, by Jeffrey Ford, Laird Barron and John Langan himself. I find it interesting that it did not occur to me that ‘The Shallows’ might have been written for an HPL inspired anthology! The name Lovecraft didn’t even occur to me when reading the story.

    I have now received my purchased copy of Mr Gaunt And Other Uneasy Encounters – that I ordered while reading The Wide, Carnivorous Sky – and I shall read this in due course.
    image

  15. Pingback: Mr. Gaunt and other uneasy encounters | DF Lewis' Dreamcatchers (2008 - )

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