The Nameless Dark – T. E. Grau


I have just received a copy of this book collection as purchased from the publisher.


Lethe Press, Inc. (2015)

Foreword by Nathan Ballingrud

I intend to real-time review this book in due course and, when I do, my comments will be found in the thought stream below or by clicking on this post’s title above.

18 thoughts on “The Nameless Dark – T. E. Grau


    “He was hunting bigger prey this time,…”

    Oddly, there has been a big news incident in my reading’s real-time, an enormous story very recently about the trophy hunting and killing of a beautiful lion called Cecil.
    By telling contrast, a boy named Alden, although ‘hunting bigger prey’, has a stoical, caring attitude despite being surrounded by elements that don’t care for him, with his own beautifully leisurely evocation by a prose story, of pet-farming, amid a city’s crude recycling, his mother’s equally crude ‘uncles’, and a downtrodden city zoo, a makeshift pet shop about to close down; Alden befriends a slow-moving octopus, back and forth, in and out of the cracked aquarium that he precariously transports, amid the utter poignancy of this boy’s natural love for his blousy mother, a boy with dignity and respect, despite everything. In stoical symbiosis with the octopus, and an enticing swim eventually in the biggest tub of all… Left me genuinely tearful.


    “…like a structured Baroque refrain woven inside jazz.”

    This is not another boy but someone called Boyd through whose third person singular eyes we see Los Angeles not necessarily as a dark SF apocalypse but more as an accreting extreme caricature of what it is now, I guess. The skill of this second substantive work in the book is to make that exponential caricature believable which, with increased traction, then takes us gradually by the believing hand into the truly startling mind-grabbing revelation, at the end, of the identity of the Screamer that Boyd hears and pursues, amid his life in a rabbit cage apartment, his flighty girl friend, the city aberrations around him, concerns over the Big One, the sinkhole, the Ligottian Corporate Horror of his office job, and much more. All expressed through a stunning series of striking observations and insights couched in a powerful prose that continues even to outdo itself as one travels through it.

  3. As an aside, I have been speculating upon this collection’s title of THE NAMELESS DARK. However often do we skim titles involving Darkness, Night, Evil Dead, Blackness, etc when dealing with so-called Horror or Weird Literature? This particular title has brought me up short because it is an almost exact synonym for my novel’s title of ‘Nemonymous Night’. Inter alia, I shall be thinking of its title while reviewing this book…

    Another matter…
    This is a skilful and evocative cover image by Arnaud de Vallois.
    I don’t like it, however, for this book as it is likely to deter a whole tranche of readers who do not consider themselves to be Horror story readers. There are many readers who would otherwise value what I already know, even from the little I have read so far, to be ground-breaking human literature by Grau of the highest calibre. Also, I am tantalised by having seen this image (or one very like it) on another book but I can’t yet place it. Or did I dream it?

  4. CLEAN

    “Inside Billy’s backpack was a library chart of every industrial train route across the country,…”

    And from the BoY and the man BoYd in the previous two stories, we have here a much shorter one about BillY, who is neither boy nor man, it seems, but something between, manipulative and knowing, a con artist with a sidekick, imaginary or not, in a wet suit, a con artist who gets on trains from one con to another. Abuse seen from this side of abuse. It resonates on and on after finishing.

    I can’t help but link this story of Billy to a story about Bill that I read and reviewed HERE about half an hour ago, that I in turn linked to another concurrently read story about trains read about half an hour before that one. Side by side. Detached. Dispassionate. Like travelling together as one, the good guy and the bad? Clean between.


    “Gary and Gladys were seated in a corner booth next to a murky aquarium.”

    A well-characterised Polynesian island — “as just the tip of a capacious ebony spear thrust fast and hard from the sea floor” — is vulnerable to its own form of the Big One as Los Angeles was in the Screamer.
    Lovecraftian, I’d say, too, in a Deep One as well as a Big One sort of way. And it sure gets a sort of Big One from the shape of Gary….
    On one level this is a hilarious satire of a married couple celebrating their 35th anniversary (the Coral one as I seem to remember ten years ago buying my wife a coral necklace for ours), with Gary fulfilling some sort of civilised husbandly promise in booking this honeymoon in their promised – but eventually outlandish – land. She with countless items of older woman fashion garments about which she obsesses even up to the last line of the story. He with his whiskey and manly older man swimming…
    And the daredevil eating…
    Not food poisoning so much as hyper-eructation. Beautifully honed and Grausome horror scenes.
    On another level the GaryGladys encounter with the island’s phenomena is a serious contrastingly parallel symbiosis to that of Alden with Tubby.
    The latter symbiosis: stoical and dignified.
    The GaryGladys symbiosis with the island: self-destructively and ridiculously convulsive as seen within a series of objective correlatives worthy of Lowry’s Under the Volcano.

  6. EXPAT

    “No nightstand, no lamp, no dressers. Not even a clock radio. There was, though, an unusually large spider perched in the far corner.”

    An American in Prague awakes to a text that suggests to him that, after a hard night on the absinthe, he has grausomely murdered an unknown someone in an unknown flat where he finds himself now awake staring at the dead body. There is more to it than that, of course, and that ‘more’ fundamentally is the exquisitely evocative prose style and ambiance that is tangible enough to touch, together with the deadpan, wildly dream-like or irrational events that then ensue, reminding me, and him no doubt, of the volitionless acts of one’s own volition, acts that conveniently and coincidentally echo also similar ones in the two other books I happen to be concurrently reviewing. Deadpan is indeed the word. Drifting, too. A beautiful Otto Dix painting.
    Furthermore, significant in our news headlines at the moment are the ‘swarms’ (a word used by our prime minister) of migrants attacking Britain via the Euro tunnel. This story seems to become an oblique take on that situation, making me ask why expats are usually English or American while migrants are usually not? The apricot woman, notwithstanding.


    I wonder if I have been spoilt by the previous stories but this theme and variations on the crusading gestalt ‘mission’ of Jack the Ripper, as if told through his own mouth, seemed predictable. But much can be forgiven when Grau’s immaculate prose conjurations are present, as they are here.


    “Dale’s long ash hung from his cigarette like a bent, shriveled finger.”

    I remember my beloved grandmother’s fag ash being exactly that while she treadled her old sewing-machine. Good literature, like this book, tends to be full of different bespoke references for each reader who chooses to pick the book up.

    This delightfully mulchy story is characterful of elliptical misogyny, full of strung tendons of naive man-to-man dialogue, various items of ripe fishbait, some inadmissible admissions of thought while chewing the fat, and a sense of an approaching pervasive scatological-eschatological catch of critters – and another man-fish symbiosis in prospect for this book to collect?

    Dreamcatching without the net.


    “…with too little horror to aid his passing.”

    A text crackling like an outward sea adventure yarn, but at times turned inward, down-in-the-Innsmouth, all taking place during the American War of Independence, but with a literary ballast in its hull of well-characterised personal concerns of reputation in the face of alleged cowardice. The man’s meticulously textured as well as swashbuckling journey of self-purging by Cthulhu catharsis has honest-to-badness visions of Elder Slithery folk in potential symbiosis with this whole book’s so far erstwhile own Deepnesses of both soul and fishy trawl, as well as a visionary terrorist suicide bomb-baiting.


    “But the roots never came. Only rot.”

    This is a remarkable reading experience and, with the first half’s word-crepitating drive and sensibility of a Roth or an Updike, we are taken by the scruff of the cerebral neck from out of that natural delight in a literature of such Rabbit, Run dodging tumbleweed of existence and then taken, via a form of gateways to abomination, within a different but equally natural literature that we love, too, a literature of a Lovecraft or a King.
    This page-turning story parallels the seeking of a tether on a car radio scan through the various parallel AM and FM bands of static with the seeking of life’s own tether itself within a severely wanderlusting man called Max. And the eventual tether of tethers crystallises at the end as he becomes the next in line to make darkly evangelical sound-witness of the meaning of mightily wild visionary interactions of existence upon the parallel, now blended, transmission-bands of, say, a Roth and a Lovecraft. A master stroke.

  11. MR. LUPUS

    “James felt like he was dictating a fairy tale in which he was a character.”

    This is probably the longest work in the book, a novelette that intrinsically tells of the recurrent Christmas period as life’s tether, while we scan, as it were, a dial of time, like James, looking for or already living within his own fairy tale world-view, something inbred by his family of fated smoke and annihilation, a family that towers over the city in more ways than one, a city as if from Alice in Wonderland or Angela Carter scenarios, but with its own sense of ‘one thing after another’, a come what may of events magicked from a previous event as if by random between tether and tether, with some sexual innuendo and an eventual shocking whodunit or whoisit aspect, and a quest for a pink unicorn, fabricated or real, then hiding like Red Riding Hood in a cage pulleyed to the ceiling.
    A whole eclectic cornucopia of a ‘genius loci’ represented by the city, its accoutrements and its surrounding countryside and some striking prosework and wonderful characters like Calliope the girl-woman, Mr Leopold the toyshop keeper, James himself as Santa’s Little Helper, Mr Barrows the chauffeur and, above all, Ms. Talmidge who is James’ own helper, and I sense this work will stay with me, especially if I am still trying, even while I write this about it, to assess the work’s worth and whether it will remain in my mind, or whether I shall lower what I consider to be the ‘aquarium’-equivalent cage down towards depths I cannot reach for fear of spoiling it all for you.

    “The liquor had run dry, and the barracuda were getting restless…”


    “He hated that he was an expert in smoke,…”

    The smoke, fire and annihilation of the Moncriefs in Mr Lupus?
    The American Day of Independence, 4th July, another annual tether for the otherwise endless rolling of etheric time? The suicide bomb-baiting of White Feather?
    But now 4 July seems to celebrate an inversion of history – where one lit sparkler can be a sign of commitment and love – a poignant vision, if one can understand it all, and I’m not sure that I do with just a single reading so far of this remarkable work. The stars have moved to different astrological positions, making my own natal chart worthless. The so-called Islamic State, I guess, mass shootings, the suicide bombers of yore, each with their single God, now fighting against our new religion of many gods. This is the catharsis, a purging of the tethered moment in time with a new hope perhaps from, say, Azathoth (who in my own fiction worldview sits waiting for us at the centre of the Earth ready for our symbiotic embrace)?
    Or those radio messages in ‘Transmission’?
    Thinking aloud, with my figurative cuttlefish helmet upon my head, and my hope for this story’s one word sentence: “Triangulation”, I am given free fireworks, instead of caged ones?

  13. image


    “The radio had faded to static, and Doyle started to hum again. That hideous, tuneless sound, as if intentionally missing notes.”

    Starts as hardcore Ferlinghetti that ends up ‘melted’, I guess. I’ll eventually tell you how and why. The ‘hero of the outcasts’, Doyle, is meticulously crafted by the story to become the modern messiah whom I follow, along with others as if in some Close Encounters of a Third Kind sort of diaspora pilgrimage together towards the holy sinner’s monument in the bytracked parts near San Francisco. I am impressed by Doyle, even by the way he changes us all into nicknames, as he takes us from “our glowing squares” to some sort of enlightenment. I believed this right to the end. He knew everyone along the way and they knew him. Toward “the Listening Place”, the almighty Ouroboros. UNTIL what he said ripped me from awe “to a more rational state of mind tethered to reality”. His promise of ’embrace’ with his god or nirvana was more like a ‘hug’ of electronic symbiosis between Facebook friends, I guess. The embrace with Azathoth. in my own fiction worldview as mentioned by the previous review entry above, has more traction for me. But then I realised, when reaching what turns out to be the facile end of this story’s gospel journey, that it had indeed become a self-destructive (albeit beautifully expressed with visionary power) fiction story. Melted beat poetry. UNTIL I remembered that Doyle, in this very same story that creates him, had earlier told me, from within its text, not to get on the stage with him nor be led by him into its deeper levels, even if he himself later told me to do so FROM the stage.

    A dead monument to once ancient hope.


    As tellingly prefigured by the ‘queer stars arranged in new constellations’ in “Free Fireworks”, this story is about a very intelligent and sensitive eight year old girl (already versed in astronomy) and her Dad, both bereaved by the loss of their mother and wife, and the girl, with his well-meaning encouragement, searches the stars with her sophisticated telescope to rediscover her lost mother. What she discovers in a gap between the known stars and the repercussions of her discovery make for a very emotional story, imbued as it is, too, with some of the ‘blind chaos’ themes of the book’s other material. Two other factors, for me, make this story almost unbearable. The line from the famous nursery rhyme: “How I wonder what you are”, and the ache I feel to replace ‘what’ with ‘who’. AND the title of this whole book….come home to roost at last.

  15. imageTHE MISSION

    “I was full aware we were being pulled forward instead of pushing by the strength of our own authority, but the chase was coming to a close, and I just wanted to know where it would end.”

    … a perfect summation of the experience of this book.
    As the narrator of this story no doubt wonders about himself, the reader also wonders whether he or she is to become EITHER the pioneering winner of a wonderful Tontine prize OR the only one left among people like us to suffer blind chaos, while those not like us wallow in it and feed off it. A conundrum for our times.
    I approached this last story with trepidation, seeing that it was a Wild West tale (a genre that I don’t understand and is normally not my cup of tea), a Nebraskan tale at the time of frontier-pushing when the United States had just become United, with the miscegenate gaps in brutal interface between those pushing the frontiers and those who were already there, as evoking, by this tale’s literary symbolic history, all manner of Lovecraft’s fears of xenophobia, etc.
    I assumed this work would be this book’s coda, a bonus track as it were, a fill-in after otherwise so wonderfully culminating with ‘Twinkle, Twinkle’. imageBut I soon realised that THIS is the book’s true culmination, even out-doing the unoutdoable of some of the other stories. I was also to realise that my choice of personal illustration above for the Hydrogen Jukebox ‘monument’ would have been better suited for this story’s, instead, as if I had been given some preternatural power by this book’s text to ride not only its real-time but its future fateful endings that were then still ahead of me. I know this all may sound a bit pretentious on my part, but I think some books empower us beyond our intrinsic selves, as they should, of course. Why else read them?
    There is a unique vision of otherness in this last story that works within the crude colonising cusses of some of the characters, and the inner and outer acceptances of foreigners in a fight with the ultimate foreignness. A town and church that should not have existed within such a scenario, laced with Wild West brutalities of character as well as this book’s potential Deep One symbioses that are stitched together towards what I might call a Tontine of doubt. A vast catacomb for our brain to sit within. This story and this whole book.


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