7 thoughts on “Swift to Chase – by Laird Barron

  1. I: Golden Age of Slashing

    Screaming Elk, MT

    “The combination of scents, the crimson aura of the den, made me dizzy, made my nipples hard and my thighs weak.”

    Hi, just come out of this story in one piece. A strong narrator with strong Barronial language, a woman for women to emulate, or not, a woman made and marked in the crucible of Alaska, now come to these parts, meets Beasley and the Carnival characters of which he is part, learns of the Carnival curse and her use as bait. I believe in the Carnival and all these characters and situations, and its exponential love and righteous violence and demonic possession, its legends and truths , and its outcome… it sent the reading blood racing, a Robert E. Howard gone weird cosmic in its modern sense. But I can’t help wishing that we had instead been allowed to follow Beasley’s Pynchon-like mad scientist employers backstory rather than this front one. Or, possibly at best, both in tandem. But then it might have been too long to finish.

  2. LD50

    “Fifty bucks was fifty bucks and a dead coyote was one less coyote, which was good.”

    “I am a reader between lines kind of gal so we got along dandy.”

    I am a reader between the lines, too, but no gal. No dandy with me. Another tale in the Wild Weird Cosmic genre (with undercurrents of the ‘Against The Day’ Pynchon, here a giant telescope in Hawaii), a tale told us by the ‘Goddess of death’, the previous story’s narrator with the ‘shooting the shit’ language from Barron, that narrator called Jessica Mace from Alaska, survivor, not a spoiler, but yes a survivor. Her new grit hard man here to VH1 her down to the bottom bone, is a man of hard hunting, like coyotes, with background mystery of dog mutilation, dog fighting, robot rabbits, varmint suit et al. It sure crepitates, this invigorating story, and I reckon, as a side issue, they ought to build that wall, after all, against the Mexicans…Or for them?

    “Doing unto predators who surely did unto the weak and the wounded, and kittens. I am human, thus a justifier of irreconcilable behavior. Therapy, right.”

  3. Termination Dust

    image“Her mind flashes to a vivid image: Gothic oil paintings of demons perched atop the bosoms of swooning women.”

    This quilt of Jessica Mace’s Alaskan backstory, that I said earlier made and marked her, needs to be triangulated into a gestalt, and I feel only reading techniques akin to real-time reviewing — or dreamcatching (hawling, träumtrawling, dowsing) as I otherwise call it — can approximate to such a gestalt, and I intend that thought as a compliment and appreciation of this striking work, one that I enjoyed in a passive-aggressive way, both in love with and with hatred towards it.
    I cannot cover here all my thoughts or all its brilliant stylistically adumbrated happenings, both from and outside Jessica’s perspective. A gun and gashing culture. A Twin Peaks type community (“Something terribly wrong in our enclave”). People going missing, suspicions, investigations, sometimes absurdist. Continents drifting closer as part of that cosmic Pynchon undercurrent I mentioned before. Whether Jessica survived and continues (almost after death?) towards some rarefied old age, as part of a “final girl” syndrome. The snow as that termination dust. A character called Bobby Aickman, a bit of an acid head, and other tangible characters like Nate and deputy Newcastle. The hefty cut and thrust of Wild Weird literature. The ability not to feel the self as the gashes gouge deeper.

    “Only the snow sifting upward from the void to fill the world with silence and sleep.”

  4. The next story is one I read in the ‘Autumn Cthulhu’ anthology and below is what I wrote about it then…

    ————————

    Andy Kaufman Creeping through the Trees by Laird Barron

    “Everybody loves me and everybody else hates me. I know who’s who—”

    A rather clever literary exercise with a blonde taut young woman cheerleader as narrator, filtering an Updike or Roth mentality, as she tells of the trampoline accident that puts paid to her activities, the backstory with her father and Machiavellian mother – and now we have a momentous character: the nefarious Steely J (a mutant version of her childhood imaginary companion Jesus?) who plans a consolation meeting with a favourite famous actor for her now cancer-ridden Dad. With the onward thrust of Speedy Gonzalez, this story, with many neat turns of phrase and knowing transgressions of wholesomeness as in a Losey film, reaches an arthouse conclusion of “patronising contempt”, cruelty and horror.
    All is copacetic.
    “Rage makes a beautiful painkiller.”

    ———————–

    Andy Kaufman is also mentioned at the start of the previous story above.

  5. II: Swift to Chase

    Ardor — Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta, February, 1975

    “After making a career of fucking over others, finally we are the ones getting the screw job. O. Henry or Hitchcock should be on the case.”

    Or Stoker?
    This jabs and jabs at you with backstory after backstory, even the earlier one about a mad scientist; this one is a latter day Renfield who is after immortality in the wild ice wastes of Alaska. Money in it somewhere. The gay narrator is commissioned to find him, and hires a plane, with others, and it crashes. And then there is the secondary cinematic jab about a film itself, a film called ARDOR (pronounced the same as Nabokov’s ADA), a film that is a hard-cocked porno version of DRACULA. We are treated to adumbrations of this film, whether we wanted them or not. There’s a lot going on here but it gradually comes into focus, with lots of denouements. Some mighty descriptions, too, of Alaska, as well as slick cinema talk by actors who want to make Barron’s silent text into a talkie. And, like Jess’s earlier “final girl” syndrome, we wonder at the narrator’s own immortality reaching beyond even his own death. There is a black hole at work here, and you feel it eating away at you as you tread these wild wastes of text. A cosmic therapy, if nothing else.

    “It was snowing there, in Hell. I was in there, in Hell, in the snow, waving to myself.”

  6. I first read the next story – the worms crawl in, – during my review of the FEARFUL SYMMETRIES anthology in 2014, and below is what I wrote about it then. (My real-time reviews are always based on my initial reading of any story.)

    ———————————-

    It seems with the ending comma as part of the title that the heading on the page makes the title refer to or run into the author’s name if not the author himself…and indeed I guess this is gobshite alpha male stuff compared to the nancy boy ghost stuff in the previous story.*
    “Pasted in gore and excrement, crowned by a garland of intestines, I strike a Jesus Christ pose…”
    Against my inclination, though, I actually began to like this story, despite its easy glitch for orange and black cock-of-the-hoop speech rhythms, unholy revenge, and sexual recrimination, as told from the actual point of view of an accretive zombie Kaiju, against assholes and an insect woman of the garish mags. I first approached this story “like a God-fearing Catholic fondling his rosary” and ended up tangled in its fucking “fubar” Fuligin Braid…
    This story says: “I loved monster movies as a kid. Don’t all boys love monster movies?”
    Gary McMahon’s story earlier in this book* says: “As a boy he’d loved monsters. As a man, he wasn’t so sure how he felt.”
    I wonder how the More Dark Man feels. My ancient review of one of his earlier books here.

    ——————–
    *references to ‘Fearful Symmetries’.
    Perhaps if I re-read it, I would more easily get into the swing of it. I seem to swing in more directions these days.
    But I need to churn on with my reading without re-reading; I might not have much time left.

  7. Since the previous entry, I have tried to read the next two stories and come to a halt. And although I continue to see the bite and grind of this type of writing and consider it crisply deft, as well as cosmic widening-rapping stuff, I have decided it is beyond my capacity to deploy here as a gestalt real-time review for the accompanying mutual triangulation by others – or even to enjoy fully for myself.
    In short, I cannot give it added value, which is both a compliment to this book and a personal admission of defeat.

    end

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