14 thoughts on “Behold The Void – Philip Fracassi

  1. 9D67C172-3DC9-4F04-9549-4D1CCAAA1C49Soft Construction of a Sunset

    “…elephants the size of planets,”

    I don’t want to spoil this story, I don’t want to do that for THIS story above all. I can’t actually convey the suspense of Tom taking a phone call from his boyhood mate Marcus (both of them now in their late 30s), Marcus’s call for strident help in extremis, and, by reading, my following Tom as he drives over to his old mate to see what was wrong… the suspense is unbearable.
    You see, as I review the story further on, I am sure I shall spoil it, spoil it as no reviewer has ever spoilt a story before. Spoiling it in a way you can NOT imagine, spoiling it by simply opening the pages further on and reading them…
    So, suffice to say this is a story of Tom, one where he dreams of a woman, a lover as part of the horizon, part of the sun’s movement, a coition with stars and with landscape. A truly unmissable erotica of geomancy.
    The call comes later.

  2. I reviewed the next work in an earlier real-time as follows….



    May 1, 2016

    “Deep down inside him, something had… dislodged.”

    This takes me about halfway in this story within this flaccidly tactile chapbook as a physical object, so appropriate for reading at swimming pools when not swimming, about a boy taken by car by his separated slightly-alcoholic mother to that swimming pool over a pothole, his elder sister’s special wink at him in the car about knowing-things between them, flip-flops, water-wings or angel-wings, then another boy in that pool as a different point of view, an incident of bullying, and a fragile, frangible reality of hard-surfaces softened by water that swimming pools seem to have, a sensory-aversionary smell and baking heat under foot at the side of the pool, ominous with I know not what, something perhaps no lifeguard as the author can prevent – even if he wanted to do so.
    Very atmospheric. I feel I am THERE sub-merging myself with the pool of text … and I will keep the subtle suspense pent up for a while before reading the rest. NO spoilers, just remembering his sister’s school’s called Middlemarch Middle.


    May 2, 2016

    “The children in the water were flowing in a circle,…”

    The various feelers of this story’s first half (grown-up and adolescent bullying and sexual politics, swimming-pools as a strikingly inchoate metaphor and, for me, something like Azathoth at the earth’s core) are literally and literarily fulfilled to such an extent that your clambering out of this text is tantamount to sinking back in again. We need such inchoate metaphors to help humanity make cracks coherent and, thus, transcendable. Horror without victims.
    A bursting bubble of a reading experience. Not to be missed.


  3. The Horse Thief

    PART ONE Widowmaker

    “There was such depth of life in the scent of a horse.”

    An ultimate, horse-whispering pungency here. Gabino, eponymous protagonist, is for me a reader-whisperer supremo. Or is it Fracassi? He steals me into this text, as I learn Gabino’s backstory, his tragedies, crossing into the States, the sense-riven nature of Florida then, whenever then is or was, a sensation of horses that actually sticks to my skin, the horses he is about to steal from ranch people he knows already, one of them, the daughter, on Widowmaker, making it seem as if it has been saddled with a tumour. But why steal horses to kill them? I know HOW he does kill them, flense, flay, flame, fricassee them… But WHY? Maybe, I should know why. Fracassi will sure despair of such a naïve callow reader as me, I guess.

  4. PART TWO The Dark Road

    “There was something very sacred about it, Gabino thought, crossing himself. Sacrificial.”

    This is probably one of the most transporting scenes I have ever read. Like listening to, say, Bartlett’s in-truck radio, and heard it spoken aloud through the static, as I sit alongside Gabino in his truck, a truck hawling the trailer with Widowmaker towards its own fracassee? I watch in hindsight with Gabino the most unforgettable totem on the road’s shoulder, and I whisper my own story of the hitching boy himself, in the rôle of the boy telling it, half in tune with Gabino’s own erstwhile son, half in tune with the fracassee that is rumoured the boy became. I am confused, but utterly utterly moved, if only moved someway down the road with Gabino, as far as the gas station. A Gas Station Carnival? A Mexican carnival? No, except possibly for the carni- bit to be cooked?

  5. PART THREE Fat Ted and the Chinaman

    “frazzled to life,”

    And that quote near the beginning of this story’s last chapter is fundamentally what happens at the end of it… with, between, some of the most passionate, life-defirming, life-affirming, steaming blow-holes of today’s walled-behind demonry of fire and bloody fury — an immigrantancy of soul, race and animal-bonding — that you are ever likely to experience by reading this mighty work.
    “The demon eyes of the truck’s red taillights lurked deep within.”
    But none of the above gives you any real clue as to the preternaturally powerful nature of this story of a bargain struck between various forces of horse thief, dealer and customer. Between also a man and the boy whisperer within him, but a boy from his childhood or from some other source? A story for its own horrific, undidactic sake. And all the more affirmative for that, I guess. And that tumour again…

    “A rough-edged tumor of hate, a charred lump of misery and loss.”

  6. Pingback: Test Patterns … something I do every day. | DES LEWIS’ GESTALT REAL-TIME REVIEWS


    “Nature waited. Nature and his dark secrets.”

    So, is it surprising this NaNa was called Nana? Nor is it a surprise, after her death, that her granddaughter Sylvia is more than just be-reft by eventually sharing all our life-changing experiences of initially seeing a dearest loved one crammed as a corpse into a coffin.
    This story is powerful, and my telling you more before you read it might spoil it.


    “…choking to death, quite painfully, on his big toe.”

    After I started gestalt real-time reviewing about ten years ago, I have been astonished by the frequency of a phenomenon I did not then predict at all – the apparent conflux of dark synchrony and serendipity between the works I happen to choose and the parallel events of my own life. Here, by some quirk of unusual fate, last night, before reading this story today, I saw a drama on BBC iPlayer called ‘Stations of the Cross’, slow-moving and suggestive, almost constructively low-key, even boring, but paradoxically enthralling and moving, about a teenage girl’s relationship with a specialist sacred (perhaps considered heretical) part of the Catholic Church and the creation of God’s Angels by sacrifice… This story has many differences but it served to make a holy, holistic, dare I say hawlistic, Gestalt when seen in conjunction with the account of faith and faith’s tensions depicted in this Fracassi. Even the author’s name seems somehow part of that Gestalt! The well-written and deeply felt plot concerns the battles of extreme faith, the connections between earlier times and the secret written confessions of the Baby Farmer woman in Newgate prison who might also have been called the Angel Maker. And the tensions today sexual and spiritual of a young Priest associating with a woman interested in setting up an Orphanage in his parish and in wanting to research the Baby Farmer. There also seems some synchrony with the NatureNature NaNa story…. And today is Candlemass.

    “In the far distance, the city was clearly defined by the layer of smog that rose above it, like a second city in the sky that held the labourers of weather—the makers of thunder, the pourers of rain. Painters brushing only with grey.”


    “To Adolf, Steve Orosco existed only as an abstract attachment hovering near his mother, as if he were an accessory of hers—like a handbag or a walking stick.”

    An interesting, moving, worrying character study of Adolf who, for me, sort of grows into something akin to an 18 year old Frankenstein’s Monster who likes pulling bodies apart rather than being the gestalt outcome of such bits and pieces himself. I thought this theory on my part might be a bit far-fetched until I recalled a forgettable reference to a mad scientist earlier and then he meets a small girl during a beach holiday in Acapulco with his flabby mother and her vestigial boy friend Steve (Adolf’s father, Frankie, having died in an industrial accident involving molten metal.) Worrying, I said, and there are indeed no good vibrations in this story at all. At least Acapulco was not at its hottest, and Steve had said: “We don’t want to melt…”, hadn’t he? A lesson in deadpan growing pains. A surface girl. Not so much a corpse crammed in a coffin, still recognisable as Nana in an earlier story, or even someone much younger, threatening to engulf you, but more a mined mindless metal that only certain minds can mourn. And ‘surfer’ has metal embedded. Ferrous metals include mild steel, carbon steel, stainless steel, cast iron, and wrought iron. The implications of this story feel as if they might resonate forever. Forever. Surfever.

  10. MOTHER

    “There was a spindly blue creek that trickled deep within the throat of the forest, an afterthought to the wild swath of vegetation, a varicose vein in Mother Nature’s swollen green thigh,…”

    If powerful horror genre words mean that the reader feels dirty or polluted as well as frightened by what he or she reads, the words also need to inspire us by some ironic ‘agape’ (a word used towards the end of this work.) It is an enormous compliment to confirm that this novelette works (uniquely?) on all those levels and more …. with Howard, late into realisation of puberty, finally marrying Julie (brought up by her grandmother, this book’s Nana, we infer) – he with his loose fitting watch from his Father, she eventually with her attic art studio that he provides, but with her failed artistic ambition (“An Eve caught with a mouthful of apple”) and her loose fitting book of dark watchwords as it were, he with his more dependable job and his growing suspicion of what demonic forces ‘postpartum’ for their soon-to-be-born son (another Frankenstein type cretin?) and already for Julie, the Mother herself, inside the realms of Mother Nature, that NatureNature rearing its head again in this book.
    And is it a surprise that Father is also Fat Her? The ending and the whole novelette’s style is unforgettable and unmissable.

    “Days went by like the flitting pages of a storybook.”


    “The walls are steel.”

    Metal now making the coffin, not making the corpse crammed within it,
    This is a story of part-time fail-safe collusive capture between captive and captors. It results in a situation of unbearable suspense for the reader, let alone for the characters. Part-time or post-partum Mother is the mad-prone captive; the Father and on-the-cusp-of-puberty Son are the captors…

    “Her bob of hair made her head seem bigger than it was, expanding the black shape of her head upward and outward,…”

    The ‘Great Fear’, watching as a normal family the migration of birds on TV, then eagle’s shriek…

    “Mama’s gonna buy you a mockingbird.”

    Part of a song she sings as lullaby to her Son or an insidiously hypnotic collusion?
    MadnesssMadness or ManMan?
    The Great Countdown.

    “A man made his own decisions. Even the hard ones.”

    As I say, unbearable suspense until the end, because nothing can be fail-safe until it is proved to be.


    “What made him whole was now an empty symbol, a circle defining a void within.”

    Best summer friends, two boys aged twelve, a cove, a tide, handcuffs and a Universe that seems nevertheless inimical with deliberate forces of many moving parts of Nature like the moon, some “giggling waves” and a boy’s dead mother. There are also father-son relationships provocatively explored. If the previous story had an unbearable countdown of suspense, it seems, now, in hindsight, a dress rehearsal for withstanding the suspense in this mighty novella. No joke! What one character calls a “cluster-fuck” of events that I am confident you will, having once started, never finish till it is finished, till the fail-safe is unlocked with whatever lost key you can find, and till the author has tossed a coin to make up his mind which ending ensues, the one the reader desperately wants or the one the reader desperately does not want, although either ending would have been equally valid in the skilfully constructed context. I don’t think I have ever read anything QUITE like this before, anything QUITE so relentless and page-turning. I am sure it quickens the pulse that you struggle against as if against the cove’s tide itself, or against what is implied by ‘the radio being killed by the video star’, the rocks that are pareidoliac masks of comedy & tragedy and the Mr Slatsky who triggers a boy’s sudden realisation of memory…of that locked metal cuff as the other boy’s coffin. But those are only some of the things making this novella’s cluster-fuck a cosmic audit trail of a Dead Mother Nature. Or the ultimate Angel-Maker. Or a NaNa gone GaGa. Or something else still coming through before the radio’s been killed. The whole book is the gargantuan gestalt of gestalts that I somehow believe it to be. Time will tell. Or MaMa will. A seriously, sincerely great book, whatever my CleverClever observations about it happen to be.


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