My previous reviews of TTA Press Publications HERE
Stories by Georgina Bruce, V.H. Leslie, Ray Cluley, Gary Budden, Tyler Keevil, Tim Casson.
When I real-time review the stories in this magazine, my comments will be found in the thought stream below or by clicking on this post’s title above.
WHITE RABBIT by Georgina Bruce
“Every object has its animus, its story.”
Rarely, but I DO sometimes read a special story and think
like this story’s brilliant elliptic section breaks
think that I am lucky to have managed to live long enough to read a particular story, THIS story, as something I really really needed to read and learn from, with its deep poignant poetic lesson.
It is about an old man’s marital bereavement after many years, the premonition by crows, the reaction of daughters, the needle in a barely audible music and its recurrent vinyl scratch.
A story about inadvertently not being present at the exact point of death of your wife in the house where you’ve both lived for countless years and the house takes over instead.
Coupled with a mathematical love of routine. Like the author of Alice? Or this author herself?
Quite horrific, but eventually stoical, eventually beautiful…. A wonderful story, brilliantly adumbrated, with no strident links, but a myriad subtle ones like that almost inaudible music. I’m so glad I caught it.
MAN OF THE HOUSE by V.H. Leslie
“It’s just her stuffing, it’s moved around a little.”
Vaguely linked to the previous story’s theme of a house that inimically wears a person who lived there, this story presents an obsessive, naïve, sexually-awakening, frustrating manning-up by a thirty-five year old man, arguably still living with his parents, and this is by means of a doll’s house that he meticulously fits out. It is in many ways the ultimate doll’s house fiction; where can you take it after this one? It may not even be a fiction, because the story itself is a sort of doll’s house, I guess, arguably written by someone equally obsessive as the story’s protagonist in deploying its inner rooms – with artefacts and well-characterised inhabitants/visitors – for our inner gaze. It is compelling and as page-turning as its turning population. Think Pinteresque mingled with Sarban.
The ending is one to grapple with, though, and I’m not yet sure whether I have tamed its meaning. Be interested to hear what you think.
CHILD OF THORNS by Ray Cluley
“…he’d never looked so long at Jessie’s nethers, never seen them open and unfold, but he could tell it didn’t look right…”
After listening to the seven thorny tracks of Blackstar yesterday and learning of the sad momentous death by self-distressed nature as well as by self-made (tantamount to) crucifixion by video, I learn today, by means of this thorny tale, of a new birth, a new remedy for barrenness.
These are highly prickly-tactile birth throes of words, as if DH Lawrence had swallowed a mutant thistle too large for his gullet. People close to the spiky ground where they survive, one couple in a single cabin, giving strained natality to nature’s monster in disguise, with stray acquaintances living in the same area, acquaintances who inter-penetrate in more ways than one, wreaking love from more than just soft cuddles. A series of life-filled stigmatisations derived from self and habitat, as if popping out like Russian Dolls from Leslie’s doll’s house habitat and cruel-to-be-kind tutelary forces from Bruce’s loving marital habitat. The eternal trial and error of creative projection, like the endlessly shed husks of Bowie. Or the devil who comes in from the woods with logs for chopping.
GREENTEETH by Gary Budden
“Now I have more time to notice.”
I am rather taken with the description of the three vertical levels as layers of London described here, as opposed to the more usual triangulation by horizontal maps of it, and this thoughtful story is a layer itself, what they otherwise call a tranche of time or a slice or life, with no obvious beginning or ending other than the words beginning and ending. I was also taken with the description of the canals, having been on city canals myself (albeit only when on holiday.)
These vertical layers, though, represent, for me, a horizontal map of austere existence today. These are moving straitened houses – as a means of negotiating or escaping that existence – houses that can be compared to the Russian dollish, body-skewering and punishing houses earlier in this magazine’s fiction. We readers can assume for a while the role of canal gongoozlers, watching today’s mode of austere existence as souls grapple with the locks of life, gritting their teeth above the weeds through which they float…
FOUL IS FAIR by Tyler Keevil
“Almost as if the theatre space was a dream, another world he could enter and exit, a kind of mindscape or alternate reality.”
Although longer and more linear than the Budden story, this is also a story of layers, also a tranche or trance of time, a slice of life with a fine indefinite ending – artfully and deeply adumbrating, in plain compelling language, the levels of acting in theatre (another front and back of house like the earlier doll’s house) and real life, layers between nations like England and Scotland, the layers in literature like Macbeth, marital and casual love affairs, the levels of creation where one child was perhaps meant to be another’s, rowdy pub life and personal anguish inside, football as religion and personal religion, weakness and stoicism concerning fateful life, indeed fate and chance themselves.
Another fine stage in this chance audit trail of tales. A tale of ‘groundlings’.
Cf: Cal’s interface with Amy and, earlier, Dudley’s with a doll.
BUG SKIN by Tim Casson
“…these ‘lyrics’ are dangerous, therefore, that subliminal messages lie under the surface,…”
A moving story, in more ways than one, moving house as well as one’s emotions, a portrait of the loss of this woman’s teenage son – his loss to death itself or to a musical act called Miya who is a possibly ‘androgynous’ performer synchronously in tune with our image of David Bowie who unexpectedly (for us) died in the last few days after pre-staging his own requiem and obituary by means of his music? It all seems to resonate here…
There is also a crowd compared to a football crowd that relates to the image created by that in the Keevil story.
Moving house to recreate the son’s habitat or destroy it by forgetting it? As the best route through a sad bereavement or a hope for his return?
I know I say it often, but it is usually true of most sets of Black Static fiction, a set as a fine resonating selection with this its perfect coda.
There is much else in Black Static to please the Horror arts enthusiast, including, in this issue, an interview with Simon Bestwick who once helped publish my first novella in 1998.