Puppets in Carcosa


I have just received these two books as purchased from Amazon UK.


Miskatonic River Press 2012 & 2013

Stories by Eddie M. Angerhuber, Laird Barron, Allyson Bird, Michael Cisco, Nicole Cushing, Gemma Files, Cate Gardner, Richard Gavin, Cody Goodfellow, Michael Griffin, Pearce Hansen, Michael Kelly, Joel Lane, John Langan, Livia Llewellyn, Richard A. Lupoff, Gary McMahon, Daniel Mills, Edward Morris, Scott Nicolay, Jon Padgett, Kristin Prevallet, Robert M. Price, Joseph S. Pulver Sr., Ann K. Schwader, Darrell Schweitzer, Robin Spriggs, Simon Strantzas, Anna Tambour, Jeffrey Thomas, Paul Tremblay, Kaaron Warren, Don Webb.

Links above are to my reviews.

In the comment stream below, I hope eventually to conduct a gestalt real-time review – by surname alphabetical order of authors.

21 thoughts on “Puppets in Carcosa

  1. The Blue Star by Eddie M. Angerhuber
    image“I succumb to the crossing streams of past and presence…”
    This is a deeply haunting nocturne on guilt and remembrance, a reunion anniversary with the lugubrious seaside home town (like mine) and with one of its lit building-top sigils, one that is conjoined, circuit to circuit, with that conflux of streams, beyond any home or ohm resistor. A memorable start to my leisurely personal journey here, I predict. Blue star as an electric knot of neutrally dark complexes where guilt of existence feeds as well as drains. By day, for me, it is a flower not a star.

  2. D T by Laird Barron
    “Alas, alack.”
    That quote is one whole paragraph in the story. Luckily, it is not as self-referential as some other things in this heavy metal lodestone of a story, things like this wannabe-alpha horror author who dreams personal dreams about Stephen King but does not stop at merely dreaming of screwing his lady editor he calls ‘E.’ This nerve-trampling story is its own doppelgänger. It came out of the toilet and hit me. Satirising the Horror Hothouse, it makes me feel that the Heuristic approach to books is only as good as the books themselves and the readers who triangulate them. Bum tickers or not, they need to be brave readers and do it all publicly, to get the stories nailed down, before they come out of the closet and ‘read’ the readers’ innards first. Here the sigil is not a blue star but “a Rorschach pattern of Hell.”

  3. The Beat Hotel by Allyson Bird
    “The colour perhaps that had made Van Gogh go mad with his blessed sunflowers?”
    He ended up drinking the paint of that colour, I think. As I do eventually drink it from this story, as its author crafted that the pages seep or even ooze with it, her heroine, a balconyless Juliette, perhaps eventually melting into the walls of her Parisian hotel room, into its wallpaper? Men haunt her, true, with their intentions that she imagines or simply knows, and one man who actually haunts this room…a room let to her by Madame Rachou, Barron’s Rorschach come to life along with a cat’s sorcery. Hell is what colour? I am already thinking hard about this skewed Proustian threnody artfully threaded, inter alia, with Rimbaud or even perhaps Ginsberg, thinking of this and that … of this story’s ‘excelsior’: an explicit reference to that writers’ Hothouse again wherein few avoid “THE fall”.
    Not only the explicit “rings on her fingers and bells on her toes”, but also “Upstairs and downstairs / And in my ladies’ chambers…” Read the whole rhyme and see if I am wrong.

  4. Gailestis by Allyson Bird
    “Gerda had a feeling many objects somehow made their way back to New Zealand.”
    And from one colour seeping and oozing throughout the above Bird story, we tellingly come to another pervading colour in this fairy-storyish reality, the colour of a bookmark, weed, kimono, wine, pillow, rash… And there is sometimes barely any space at all between the end of a knotted string of words on the page and any full stop or period, as the female half of the ill-born twins “thought of little monsters with no neck, and smiled.” But like Juliette above, her version of word-wallpaper reveals another invasive man in its patterned weave… The one who ties and unties the kimono’s knotted bow, treats her as his puppet, and if the authorial backdrop to this whole book is to be summarised, it may indeed be with the single word ‘Gailestis’. I think I know what it means. It means more than a self’s definitive subsuming against having once been born but, I infer, there is also a pervading pity or remorse that, seeping or oozing from the very self-destructive act, remains in the peopleless air, as it were, in the form of a residual Rorschach sigil of a life once had – still insulated against death, incubating itself for its own sake. I once was and so, without suffering, I still am. You see, the eternal river of life, as well as Gerda’s river, takes on that same colour, too – bringing everything back to where those things began.

  5. The Secrets of the Universe by Michael Cisco
    “A: Which stories were … those kinds of stories. / B: By the sign. / A: Right! By the sign in each story.”
    …which makes me think that this story of solipsistic sophistry only works in the context of this book, in the context, even, of only this real-time review, bearing in mind (whose mind?) the above ‘sigils’ (or ’emblems’ as this story also describes them) that evolved already in the previous stories. This work reminds (re-minds) me of the times I have recently attended what in the UK we call ‘Murder Dinners’, where we have to role-play set parts in an independently prescribed whodunnit involving fictional characters and real costumes, while doubling up in normal social exchange as our real selves, while juggling the consumption of the food courses, and trying to hold the whodunnit plot in the mind, and if you are host or hostess, cooking and serving the food itself (someone’s pet dog or cat?). Each of us dreamcatching the ghosts we are and are not. Then guessing who killed the dead person (who earlier became the first ghost, real or imagined), dependent on which territory you have sniffed out for yourself or pissed upon to mark it as yours (too busy to go to the Kantian washroom?)
    Yes, just like gestalt real-time reviewing…
    “As I say, my hypothesis is that the supernatural resembles us only coincidentally, and could be construed in a completely alien way if we offered it completely bizarre tropes to occupy.”

  6. The Company Town by Nicole Cushing
    “Can you tie a noose?”
    A brilliant relatively short short bringing up short by an eventual jerk called death, poignantly telling of a Dad and daughter leaving home and her Mom’s grave for a colder clime in the next state along, I guess, this being subcidal Corporateville, Corpus County or wherever… Not much company at the Company.
    “Similar buildings lined both sides of of the road, adorned with signs revealing them to be ROPE STORAGE and PILL STORAGE.”
    The former for the knots, I guess, the latter sadly for the Ebola.

  7. Slick Black Bones and Soft Black Stars by Gemma Files
    “…as though maintaining a strict death per birth replace-the-race-policy…barring the occasional mass murder that is.”
    …and that is as if, with the ‘Soft Black Stars’, this work is attempting to obviate or encourage (I am not sure which) the Islanders’ inbreeding by letting these two books breed with each other…as I am also letting them breed, perhaps, and, in hindsight, breathe. This tessellated text is a pent-up, human-skitter-bone, human-dumb-bone, soft and hard tectonic “puzzle-box” of an experience, as the template researchers reawaken the monster on the islanded Island that they simply knew would be the outcome of their land-prying, native-aided, later native-attacked, without knowing that outcome at all, ‘cos the author didn’t tell ’em! But far from being a J-FROG, this story benefits from its main fusion mentioned above, and its backstop “black-slop” and the ‘fontanelles’ like, I infer, Clark Ashton Smith’s Yoh-Vombis cradlecaps – backdropped by explicit Innsmouthianisms all as a secondary fusion… Fusion upon fusion, sigil upon sigil. Soft blue stars.

  8. Oubliette by Gemma Files
    There are three incredible things about this story that are mainly personal to me, I guess. And I was somewhat disturbed by its synaesthesic ‘hypertext’ to the extent that I don’t think I have yet read it properly, or even properly ‘realised’ its internal oubliettes or Internet caches. An Internet diary about treatment of madness as written by the so-called mad or depressed one – combined with a type of exterior collage about all manner of mental conditions and approaches to death and dream images. Although it disturbed me, I appreciated, even enjoyed, its gestalt.
    The three things? It significantly relates to something called ‘Signalism’ and it is very strange that I have already majored this real-time review so far upon sigils, signals, emblems, signs… Secondly, there are references to ‘knots’ – and here is my earlier short treatise on knots and my theory about their connection with the author’s name and the author himself who, I believe, is designed to underpin one of these two books that I am reviewing. Thirdly, this story deals with the condition of seeing signals in everything (like faces or messages in objects or skylines etc that my blog photos try to show, and signals like connections ever accreting as I tend to allow to happen in my DREAMCATCHER reviews?)
    Below are some quotes from the text that relate it to the previous Files story and the rest of the stories in these two books I have read and reviewed so far. There are other aspects to this story that I will not itemise and you will have to read for yourself.
    “The way my perceptions kept on altering, as though filter were laid on top of filter on top of filter…” (Fusion on fusion, sigil on sigil).
    “The signal cannot be stopped…” (And numerous other quotes along these lines)
    “…a white void pocked with black hole stars…” (Cf ‘Soft Black Stars’)
    “…a swirling knot of stars, too tangled to untie themselves…”
    A dangerous story, unless my own form of Signalism has misinterpreted it. Meanwhile, the Internet itself remains teeming with signs and symbols and codes and avatars and obsession…

  9. Yellow Bird Strings by Cate Gardner
    “Bird’s trained eye noted the strings wound about her wrists.”
    Bird’s custard colour I consumed nearer the beginning of this review, and the wallpaper I then mentioned, now someone they call ‘he’ and ‘him’ named Bird, who has secret doors behind his wallpaper, and regrets of a TV career now gone as TV no longer likes puppets but computer images etc, reality TV, celebrity TV, and I imagine Bird’s knotted wrists dangling puppets – and when I was young, the TV screen was often full of puppets, nodding, squeaking, speaking in strange tones, Bill and Ben, all in monochrome, so when this story actually implies a colour other than monochrome oozing onto the screen, I woke with a start. This is a nightmarish vision of different versions of Files’ oubliettes and caches behind things in Bird’s house’s rooms, and his seeing things that are people who are puppeteers or who are puppets themselves, but which is which? Full of a dark nostalgia.

  10. After The Final by Richard Gavin
    “Maximilian switched on the antiquated television set that he’d wired up to the man’s head.”
    And that, incredibly, has significant resonance, for me, with a similar sense of old TV in the previous story just reviewed: aided and abetted by the astonishingly nightmarish prose (typical of the whole of this Gavin story) that follows the above sentence.
    This is a fevered, despair-seeking quest – with, for me, the flow of HPL’s ‘The Hound’ word music, if not its details – for summoning the presence of Professor Nobody, to re-ignite by obeisance the Professor’s teachings and fellowship of ‘macabrists’, an Avant Garde tradition of eventual skull rictus as taught by one’s post-student Life Final, its Finality even before it began. And the story’s final lines, its coda, leading to “Nobody, Nobody…” in assonance with the flow of the finale in ‘The Hound’…
    Nobody, Nobody, a minimalist dislocation from understanding that the story could never have even been begun to be written let alone finished, after the final final, by Nobody or Nemo…
    “The plague’s widespread.”

  11. The Hymn of the Hyades by Richard Gavin
    “By noon the fever began to afflict him.”
    Blending quite obviously, if unintentionally, the Files ‘black hole stars’ in a river as ‘simile’ like Bird’s, the boy’s half-dream stigmata forms part of this frighteningly visionary story that is itself a sign (among other story signs as a single gestalt) as well as creating the stigmata as a different sign that features within it. Complete with more bedroom wallpaper and even a “comic book cache” infecting the masks that, I guess, characters in comics often wear as the paper faces printed above the real ones. The fever soon to be a different plague, a different sign, to fit with world news as I read these books. Yellow fever.

  12. The Man Who Escaped This Story by Cody Goodfellow
    “Or was it you, ungentle Reader, without whom he might never have existed, at all?”
    This story’s text mentions a ‘sigil’ and Gavin’s mask early on, but once that is out of the way and after I at first thought it was a compelling parody of O Henry, it became tantamount to a masterpiece of self-referential fiction combining a Mephistophelian pact with the Devil, the O____ character as the (Dr. O) Olan ‘Loan’ that I mentioned here when reviewing 7______’s recent new fiction book – plus, incredibly, a retrocausal treatment of the Pizzolatto plagiarism matter (the word ‘plagiarism’ is here conscientiously not avoided) – and the “We’re all puppets” and the endemic new plague of Cathrianity backdropped perfectly by Goodfellow’s bleak purple passages. The Eschatology and the Ontology, both knots or traps. Loved it. Written for “sad freaks who can’t wait to die.”
    “…gray shades, props with no words […] a vague sense of weight.” Cf The Small People.
    “puzzle box” an expression used also in one of the Files stories above.
    “…any more than a cell of the body can comprehend the larger purpose of the whole.” Cf gestalt real-time reviewing as a new plague? Later: suicides “streaking through communities like flu bugs.”
    (My earlier view of the ‘plagiarism’ matter: here.)

    • Talking of those ‘sad freaks’: For the last 20 years, I have lived in Clacton on Sea where there is a politically historic by-election tomorrow. Matthew Parris, ex Conservative MP, controversially wrote an article in The Times about Clacton with relation to this by-election: where people are waiting to die, ‘a place of shell suits and death.’

  13. Wishing Well by Cody Goodfellow
    “The crew and the puppeteers also wore masks.”
    I felt this story was written for me. The old TV programmes in monochrome, I mentioned earlier above: puppets and masks, but then when I grew slightly older, I watched a programme called Romper Room on Anglia TV with Miss Rosalyn, full of kids corralled into games and looking into mirrors. Miss Rosalyn always said she saw me through that screen or mirror. My 2010 novella ‘Weirdtongue’ has a kid who was was one of the kids playing a game in black and white 1950s Crackerjack on UK TV, who was tripped up by another kid in front of the camera; one kid grew up as the Weirdmonger, the other as a clown, both with masks, both with a revenge to seek. This Goodfellow story is one of those perfectly written stories that you know you will always remember. The traffic island, a special island for the grown up version of the kid who appeared on a TV programme like that Romper Room, one with a hindsight view of dark conspiracies, and a version of Weirdmonger now called the King… The other kids, what happened to them? One such kid grown up, an ostensible sympathetic woman, is in your own apartment you can see with binoculars from your Island, her last balcony, your island’s manhole that your Dad said was a wishing well. To cut a long story short, here we have poignant complexes and alliances and misalliances that grow up, despite death, beyond death – as I say a story that will stay with you, a story different from my own story, but related enough to impinge very personally upon me. Laced with CATHRianity – ‘hiding in plain sight’. Uoht as Thou.

  14. Diamond Dust by Michael Griffin
    “One of the plans appears to dictate the assemblage of thousands of moderately-sized components into an enormous whole.”
    Another story personal to me, whatever the author’s intentions. Each word a stigmatic burn mark on the paper, but not if it is a domesday ebook that you read. An exercise in Avant Garde and Utility. A wonderful Blakean vision of an ‘industrial doomsday’, personal to the protagonist, someone who, for me, eventually becomes a Hawler, in this world of corporate rivalries and collusions – to reach that centre, that story-core we all seek if we are the sort of people who find ourselves reading books like these ones. Each neighbour, each romance, each book, a cog in the pattern.

  15. The King is Yellow by Pearce Hansen
    “Not there? But that is where you have to be. It is the locus, the intersection for the lines of power.”
    Indeed, not there; I am between two books … not nailing, not even admitting to myself, the advertised gestalt of one or the other. I am awash with unofficial gestalts burgeoning between both books, with suicidal slime inducing or allowing each page to turn of its own accord against such clinging and sticking to my fingers. The words are no longer the stigmatic burn-marks as I saw them in the Griffin story an hour or so ago, but a cloying and a grasping from upright stains and I can’t tear my cheesy pizza strands off the giveaway title of this subsuming San Franciscan story that has thus set the true gestalt upon me: no possible escape for me from the literary ley-lines … then suddenly being engulfed by an endless vision of Barron Rorschach’s thickly handsome plunger piercing and swelling inside a yellow book integrally swollen already by its conjoined editor. The King is yelling.

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