22 thoughts on “The Red Tree – Caitlín R. Kiernan

  1. AE28857E-AC26-4C61-B194-B436E618B7A3Thomas Millie Dow’s ‘The Kelpie’

    Editor’s Preface
    Chapter One
    7 May 2008

    “Joke’s on you.”

    Read this so far as above. Captivated to carry on? Defiantly yes. I am there. Believing in myself. You must already know what happens? F79D95B2-8A29-42F0-948D-C245A308A8E9The Editor (worked with her when she was alive) and now recipient of Sarah Crowe’s posthumous dated journal manuscript and ‘today’ the Editor knows her again through Sarah’s originally pencilled words, Sarah Crowe writer of novels and short stories, erstwhile lover of Amanda (not real name), and her vision, her act of DOWsing, when 14, the naked sinking girl… I know you know all this. But the Editor told me of Sarah’s obsessive red tree (enormous red oak) and what was found today ‘legend-tripping’ at its roots. Not a rafter of turkeys. Not kudzu. But Red Rose Tea figurines. The photograph to the right is the latest image of my own obsessive tree, obsessive for a few years now. A willow, I think. Certainly not red. I have long publicly called it the Yieldingtree.

  2. 9 – 14 May 2008

    “Always, I digress. I may have mentioned that already.”

    Firstly a dream, one with muttering men and women. This is now already flowing this evening like the finest feisty sporadically Crowe-cussing prose and dialogue syrup; I couldn’t put it down, in the same way that the author could not put her own pen down (replacing the yellow pencil) (to the no doubt satisfaction of her literary agent) as she tells us of her first witty-conversant, sporadically lying, eventually raunchy meeting with Amanda two years ago, amid the latter’s positively crazy photomontage in her flat. I am getting to know this person real good and her current circumstances, and I am loving it all. I had no idea that I would. Her tense change, notwithstanding.

    June 25/26, 2008

    “, young boys biting into shiny red apples only to discover globules of blood at the cores.”

    Although completely different esprits de coeur, I am reminded of my rite of passage and real-time reviews about a year ago (?) of the novel and novellas of T.E.D. Klein. But comparisons can be misleading. This character of Sarah is misleading already, delightfully so. She seeks the onionskin manuscript, after discovering its author’s still working typewriter, and to get beyond a superstitiously guarded arch of the clammy basement in this Wight house back beyond, learns about suicide of that manuscript’s writer, hung in our tree, does not blame the landlord. And evokes the word “fakelore” before Trump thought of Fake News. I don’t need to tell YOU of all people all the details as I go through. In fact, you could help ME negotiate the twist and turns and Fortean byways, and arcane discoveries. She uses the typewriter now instead of the pencil and the pen, and is now expecting an unwelcome attic co-tenant that the landlord’s lease allows. And we learn more about Amanda. Do I dare issue a spoiler? She is dead? Well, you knew that already and even if you didn’t, it won’t spoil your enjoyment. The maw of the Morewell Tunnel, notwithstanding. Digression on my part.

    “No one we knew ever believed there was anything between us but the sex and some virulent allure, my dirty dishwater circling the drain of you.”

  4. June 28 – July 2, 2008

    “Oh, sure, it’s grim stuff I no doubt shouldn’t be reading, out here with only the woods and the deer and my fits for company, but if I pretend it’s only fiction,…”

    This is getting even better and better. Why have I not properly read this author before? Although, her Sarah persona is not very kind to reviewers, including their attitude towards her ever-generous supply of ‘dream sequences’. But I am beginning to know her as a real person through her own sharp print on rough paper and her faded smudged old-fashioned typewriter-ribbon typescripts or transcripts, whatever, of the onionskin, and her now presumable dream relationship with her dear lover Amanda, both equally feisty to each other, as well as to me the conscientious reader. And her description on approaching the red tree (note the description here of its roots!) which she had not really noticed other than it being, as I would call it, hidden in plain sight. Meanwhile, I can’t wait to meet the yet unknown attic tenant to whom she has been (ha! ha!) given, by the landlord, the job of ‘Welcome Wagon’. Cheek!

    “This is New England, and you can’t swing a dead cat without smacking a ghost or a haint or whatever.”

    July 4, 2008

    “; it was something to say, words to fill in empty space, misdirection, and the only thing I could think of.”

    In the context, I somehow sense that there can be little else in literature to match this first meeting between Sarah Crowe and Constance Hopkins.

  6. July 4, 2008, (second half of that day)

    “…(it would be too kind to call this writing ‘non-linear’).”

    I strained my own eyes, too,reading Sarah’s typed transcript of the Harvey onionskin about the Red Tree on the old type writer, but it is intriguing with a reference, not only to works by HPL and by Karl E Wagner who once wrote he met me on the Mall for anchovies on pizza, but also to Baring-Gould who lived near where I live now and I think he had something to do with the hymn Onward Christian Soldiers… The text also mentions “a large willow tree”…
    Sarah tells us meanwhile of how the style of this text reminded her of that of Charles Fort… and she starts to get to know Constance slightly better…

  7. July 5, 2008

    “the unanswered question.”

    Fascinating and consuming. Constance tells Sarah of some retrocausal argument for ghosts with evidence of her own experience of a sort of French Lieutenant’s Woman vision in mutuality of creation on the Forty Steps, one more step in the ‘quantum foam’ than Buchan’s. Also a reference to the thin spots in Jung’s collective unconscious which might also explain the thin spots between each of my gestalt real-time book reviews?
    I can’t wait for the two of them to get it off, as they plan for a less hot day to have their Picnic at Hanging Tree…

    “Constance made an exasperated sound, and somehow managed to roll her eyes without opening them.”

    July 6, 2008

    “‘The intractable guilt of the insomniac typist’ — sounds a bit like a stray line Ezra Pound might have wisely persuaded Eliot to cut from ‘The Waste Land.’”

    I couldn’t stop reading this whole dated day. First, another dream sequence! A hurricane and mnemonic rape, not a real one. Mention of Nagasaki and Hiroshima. Then the actual treacly trip by Sarah and Constance – two clumsy walkers doubling back and feisty-Sapphic “beating around the bush” or not, in a never-ending, implicitly frightening excursion to the Red Tree which is only one hundred yards from the house whence they start walking! I now admire my own Red Tree review’s premonition earlier above of the Joan Lindsay ‘Picnic at Hanging Rock’ (my real-time review of the book here). Miranda et al. Dare I dare these darers? Seizures and weak-tea coloured water, notwithstanding. But what the hell is a “Dadaist inversion of expectation”?

  9. July 7 – 9, 2008

    “, as I am beginning to see that it all fits together somehow, even if I cannot yet fully articulate the extent of the nature of this interconnectedness.”

    A sort of debriefing for Sarah and Constance after the treacly “lost picnic” walk to the Red Tree, nothing yielding, especially the tree. Hints and innuendos, and sparks of sexual promise and more mature regrouping between them. Meanwhile, Sarah finds an old Alice book through the looking-glass when she remembers her old flame Amanda’s uncanny knack of finding four-leaf clovers. A nice touch from the past, pressed between book leaves instead. She also finds reference in the onionskin typescript to another woman’s attempts to make the otherwise seemingly simple walk from the house to the Red Tree. Nothing yielding, except continuous intent? I can’t emphasise enough how I am equally determined to eke out my own journey through this book towards its end. To read it more quickly would be too easy for me, because that’s what it impels me to do.

  10. F is for Fanny sucked dry by a leech
    July 14 – 16, 2008

    “It’s easier to steal your thoughts than make my own.”

    A reviewer turned bloodsucker? No, I think it’s being attempted the other way round! I can go along with your hesitation to tell us the exact logistics of your first kiss with Constance and how one thing led to another in a believable, if cuss-peppered, quality of disarming reticence of style towards full-blooded sex (a sort of transcending of Amanda) while allowing this to explain why all is being typed on the old typewriter to fulfil some duty to a literary agent. I did try hard to live with that. Not that I disbelieve the FACTS lying behind the genuinely artful artifice of this fiction. You however expected me to believe you didn’t write the disturbing story PONY that I just read (it disturbed me as all fine weird tales are meant to disturb, thanks) but then you put a clue later in a different context: “I could pretend to pretend…” and it’s probably irrelevant now what that sentence went on to say in reality on the typewriter and now in this book. So, I think the general assumption all authors should have at the back of their gestalt mind: you can’t ‘gaslight’ a reader and reviewer like me, but you can make me believe that characters might be ‘gaslighting’ each other. In fact, you can make me believe in these created characters full stop. But, meanwhile, I wonder what was seen in the field over the wall? And who was riding whom? And did PONY itself seep one of its characters – a woman with blonde hair – into the story that contained it?

  11. A3B30341-F3A4-43F9-9E45-A87701429FEBCHAPTER SIX
    16 – 18 July 2008

    “How is it, then, that the manuscript was saved, but the files on which the manuscript are (sic) based apparently were not.” (My ‘sic’, but sicnificant?)

    Feisty, pseudo-Freud, Fortean, Thoreau-esque preoccupations for our Sarah, in equally feisty contiguity with “paint-stained”, canvas-storming Constance, amid the heat. And I note that what I spotted about ‘gaslighting’ yesterday now comes to the fore with the Tree Yielding leaves in the house. But by its own volition or by human intervention? Whatever the case, this seems in tune with some of the legends or at least with the onionskin manuscript. Later, an interesting character of a lady librarian asks the author for her sole book in that library to be signed. Which reminds me that I have been looking for an affordable copy of ‘The Ammonite Violin’ so that I can read and review it. A title explicitly mentioned here. Indeed, I am increasingly being entrammelled by the ‘truth’ of this fiction book, and what it is itself now Yielding me.

  12. 33508538-373E-4FF1-A4C6-49AF750EA6D6July 19, 2008
    July 21, 2008

    “, he must have meant this only as a rough first draft:”

    Although it is equally honed by Sarah? Not when re-typing it on the old type-writer used to type it in the first place, but when she via Caitlín moulds it to look like a first draft? A “delusional architecture” with a false front and back, or face? Whatever the case, I believe I am being subtly drawn into believing legends (another word for words as inscribed rubrics?) more than I otherwise would of lycanthropy and serial killer reports surrounding the Red Tree? Something else is strikingly mentioned during the interpolations between these passages, something about a haunting blend of certain characters whose own combined tree-crotch is snuffled… a sort of first gruff draft?

  13. EAE0E0F0-8E04-48BE-8062-3ACFFC422FFF July 23 – 26, 2008

    “Start here. It’s as good a place as any.”

    Can one of a Sapphic couple be that couple’s counterpart to a cougar? Or is that an absurdity compounded on absurdity to ask? We now perhaps get to the gritty nitty, as Constance for the first time is visiting the basement where the manuscript was originally found by Sarah. But was that the same manuscript where Constance now appears in it visiting that basement? That same treacly feel of the “lost picnic.” Or some form of Lindsay’s Voyage to Arcturus? And who is rescuing whom eventually down there? An aphasia of misspellings and typos hinted at, but now corrected.

    August 2 – 4, 2008

    “I’d meant to read something harmless, something new, the sort of throwaway paperback…”

    … like what might have been portended by this very paperback (see the above inset of its pouting cover girl). She reads Poe instead! The ability to read on, whatever the cost to gain the treasures that death and horror might bring? Or Chance by Conrad? This hybrid text becomes more and more like a real-time review of itself from within itself (events happening during the writing of it, as we learn more of dream and Amanda and the Red Tree’s darkest heritage and that earlier sinking girl Sarah saw) and I suspect only another real-time review like this one can review it. With its pretensions towards a Jungian gestalt. No ordinary reviews could touch its horror, I guess. And, meanwhile I wonder if my own Yieldingtree (the latest photo of which I showed earlier above) can now be seen as PONY itself? (My first (clickable) photo of it a few years ago is shown below.)

    “, and, partly because a good deal of what I can read still refuses to yield anything like meaning. I know that I am filling in some of the gaps.”



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