I have just received this book after purchasing it from Amazon UK.
Ana Kai Tangata by Scott Nicolay
Tales of the Outer the Other the Damned and the Doomed
Fedogan & Bremer 2014
Introduction by Laird Barron
Afterword by John Pelan (John Palen according to contents list)
Artwork by David Verba
I look forward to real-time reviewing this book once my Sabbatical is over in September.
MY EVENTUAL REAL-TIME REVIEW OF THIS BOOK WILL TAKE PLACE IN THE COMMENT STREAM BELOW AS AND WHEN I READ IT.
“The pages fell open to that well-thumbed spot…”
And in a reading and review of a story I carried out here yesterday, the pages falling open were to a snake…
Ostensibly, too, this story struck me, at first, as a run-of a-mill adventure template of travelling to a wild area of ‘monsters’ and premonition backed by an endlessly recurring nightmare of an ominously tragic familial hinterland: much like but also unlike three other ‘adventure template’ bookstarting-stories that yesterday I read and reviewed (centrally linked from here) — yet I instinctively know in this one today that it contains, in reality and in metaphor, a seemingly bottomless depth (Pit as Pi with endless recurring dream decimalisation) thus enhancing this tale of generational miscegenation, both American aboriginal and salamandrine, and I sense I know why ‘alligators’ as an upper case title is here a lower case title, why ‘predators’ can only work by ‘predating’ their predations like a sort of ‘as above, so below’ astrology, alligators, too. And so it haunts me…toward the rest of this book.
The Bad Outer Space
“To me the clouds all look like alligators, sharks, or old people’s faces.”
…like my face looking down at the book on my lap:
Scattered through this book is haunting artwork by David Verba, a bit like the wiggly things born from this stunning story of an ominous, cloud-chasing sky-synaesthesia (or squeezed-up or floaterful eye-synaesthesia like within some of my own skylines) — a believable story, a through-childhood-eyes idyll with bad and good memories staining the eye-tricks, conveyed via such synaesthesia bordering on the ‘sinaesthesia’ of older children who are seen pairing off within the woods as well as the words. And the childhood discovery of a derelict water poop cleansing building where the the wiggly things possibly collect (reminding me of the Water Man and town water in another review I am real-timing simultaneously here). And childhood’s absconded parentage…
Referenced a few hours later: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2014/08/16/2892/#comment-3091
Ana Kai Tangata
“The meat looked as if it had been carved from the side of a pig with a chainsaw.”
I feel I became an inmate in this story rather than a reader of it. Although I did not, when setting out, intend to deal with this sizeable work in one sitting, I found myself compelled to do so, blown away as I was, and it was as if it drove me on with its special language of extended staccato hints widening out into joined-up, if wrenching, meaning (and if mobile texting is what it is to ordinary conversation, then this story’s prose is what compulsive texting is to the tentacularly sinuous texturing of Proustian rhapsodies) – telling of archaeo and other spelunkers exploring lava tubes etc, on Easter Island out for their disses, gradually characterised with individuals containing one or more sexual or academic or food or pecking-order or backstory fault-lines … and a voracious entity that is the island and its caves and living seething isopod masses and clumping statuesques. It even betters a John-Cowper-Powys mystico-carnality, specially, for example, with that ‘joystick’ growing from the main male protagonist’s chest towards the end (see this Midsummer Dawn section of my much earlier review of a Powys here.)
This is all serious mad stuff for inmates like us, to dreamcatch whom the cave traps have been set. Don’t often encounter such reading experiences.
PS: I am convinced that if you examine the brain of a reader before and after reading this story, you will find marked physical differences.
Eyes Exchange Bank
It’s as if “pre-coital readings of Finnegan’s Wake” — it should be Finnegans Wake without the apostrophe if you want the title as Joyce had it — represent what this story is and what Finnegans Wake is is the grey ‘construction site of a city mall’ spunk that came out afterward, except I quite like Finnegans Wake. Anyway, I really enjoyed this story, despite the sort of info dump forced in about the diss research on Poe’s stories of visual illusion, and I kind of thought of the one with the heart beating under the floorboards before the story itself did! (Honestly).
I also love the reference to Holbein (see me here). This tale of a reunion from student days did feel cloyed up with disappointments and a falling off of their other friends through sex or plain entropy represented or backdropped by the ‘bad inner space’ of new wriggly things like long shadows in derelict banks… And the pizza place and its officious waitress are masterstrokes.
“I saw Elvis at the mall last night. He was eating pizza with DF Lewis. Can’t think why they’d ordered anchovies.” – Karl Edward Wagner: ‘The View from Carcosa’
My real-time review of Joyce’s “Finnegans Wake” which hopefully has some interesting observations about it: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2014/02/05/finnegans-wake-james-joyce/
“This glimpse into naked stratigraphy brought to you by the letter E. Epochs. Eras. Eons. An open book if he could only read it. But geology was not his forte.”
And finally the protagonist’s End, after patient questing. Let me say I am driven by the stratigraphy of this story’s style, indeed this whole book’s style so far, and I don’t think I have quite encountered anything like it. It’s not Finnegans Wake, but it’s something in sporadic autocorrect nevertheless, whereby I understand things I should never have understood, like the skittering nature of the motels in this aboriginal America, and later the native deep-structure transformational words of inheritance, their sacrifices, their ruthless family or spiritual needs, their caves wherein they set traps for readers like me and leave us as trepanned skulls, still complete with their facebooks, metaphorically as well as electronically. This story is a patient one, as we slowly travel with the protagonist and then with him and his cuz, deliberate, skittering and crepitating and rocky, their truck tracked with its own passage through structures of destructive country, with tree systems out-sized by underground fungal ones, where caves and tubes are the multi-linked way the facebooks travel with several legs, flicker-fast; meanwhile, we readers still travel along with the narrative, pent-up, driven, compelling, page-turning despite deep prose texture, excited while reading fast – but with halting resolution… deep-textured, clear but curdled syntax, autocorrect terms for the religion and the cave science. But with our threading through the cave-systems by such texting textures as with fast messaging… in “vegetal futility” or slow-paced like the life around you where you read the book.
A truly significant book this is fast becoming. Or as slow as I manage to read it. Epoch is an astrological term whereby you can retrocausally evaluate things like the direction and paths of conception, birth, passage, death … or at least to time them by calculation from beyond death, give them shape.
The Soft Frogs
“One Mis-sippi, two Mis-sippi, three Mis-sippi, four…Bloop. It was inching toward him across the lot, no question. Slow and steady wins the race.”
Not so much a residential-hall converted convent where students get their heads down in concentrated effort, but more another deviously crafted Nicolayan text-splurge to which I am still acclimatising myself like exploring the short-cut backdoubles of my own innards for joinable-up messages left there, something that sort of made me retch at points in this deconstruction of unhealthy modern youth as they wring pleasure from a nerdish salamandrine petkill foamy insectoid sort of half-clothed sex. If some earlier stories in this book changed the shape of my brain into craggy aboriginal swarmable honeycomb this one is turning it into a consistency that only Nicolay is capable of describing. Some books impart brainfood, others like this one give head.
“If the sun caught anybody sleeping during the day, he could take a piece of that person’s soul for his own. And if the moon caught anybody walking around at night, he in turn was entitled to a piece of that person’s soul. Which explained why one actually became more tired after sleeping during the day.”
Amazingly, although neither of these stories could possibly have read each other before each was published, I did read and review yesterday ‘The Four Darks’ by Terry Dowling, and that story and this story do complement each other in a compelling way without at all being otherwise similar in style or plot, as if it were always intended for them to be made thus contiguous – with the humble privilege of aligning them arguably mine! For example this quote here from ‘The Four Darks’, when compared to the quote above, gives some basis for the nature of the monster or ‘artefact’ that emerges at the end of ‘Geschäfte’…
‘Geschäfte’, as a separate story, is a dealing of Nicolayan text-skittering and a Prufrockian trade or business via a corroded utility shaft in the form of a scaleable ‘dumb waiter’ that reminds me of one such derelict ‘connector’ that might have threaded from roof to basement in a building in the likes of such movies as ‘Barton Fink’ and ‘Naked Lunch’. This has prose in sheer power-overdrive at times – which is as if Clark Ashton Smith wrote this story in a prediction of what our modern world became as corruptly mutated from his singing prose. It tells of a roommate come to Frisco to live in this single Geschäfte-ridden building near a ‘Moorish folly’, a fact that seems apt today, an apartment apart, his girlfriend and him having given headroom to each other without the air to breathe between head and room, as a past hinterland of the ghost of the past he needs to exorcise or exercise by some Illuminati pyramid or dark aviary topping off the shaft or ‘dumb waiter’ where he and his roommate salaciously make a new movie on the roof at the top near whither the shaft’s burrowing ascends, beyond Burroughs himself…
And that’s all I’m telling you about this story. There’s much more I’m leaving out. And there’s a lot I’ve told you that may not be true. It’s now down to you.
As an aside, it is interesting to compare the spelunkers earlier in this book with the scaling of the shaft.
I started this almost novel length work and skimmed the rest. For a 66 year old who bought this book from his pocket money and who wants to get on with some other books, I have decided this work makes the rest of my life feel too short. It’s a shame really.
The previous stories, though, will remain huge in my memory. I hope I have done justice to them.
I do intend to read TUCKAHOE properly one day. Do come back here from time to time and see if I in fact do that. I feel somehow that I had reached a Nicolay optimum with the stories and novellas. And this novel felt more like a screenplay, more cinematic, flabbier than the densely nightmarish knots of words or the Avant Garde symphonies as the stories and novellas had been, and I hate cinema films, not seen one for years.
If I had read TUCKAHOE as a one-off or the only thing I had ever read of Nicolay, it may have more easily lifted up my skin and squatted stubbornly under it.
Thanks for your insightful words on my words. It is beyond heartening when someone finds so quickly so much of what I put in. Reading your review(s) was the highlight of my day. And you are correct regarding “Tuckahoe,” in that it does represent somewhat of a different approach, with a more clearly defined plot as opposed to the other stories, in which I allowed atmosphere and character to drive the narrative. I do hope however, that you will find some merit in it if you find time to read it…
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THE ABOVE WORK HAS THE HONOUR TO BE ON THIS LIST HERE AS COMPILED BY DFL