16 thoughts on “To Charles Fort With Love – Caitlín R. Kiernan


    “, dingy plaster walls and faded Catholic icons, the oilyfaint smell of fish,…”

    That ‘oilyfaint’ is a constructive example of many other such examples in this work of arguably unusual double-barrelled ‘words’ without a hyphen. Not that ‘footprint’ is such an example, as this is not unusual. The scientist Anne has been called to Catholic-superstitious Ireland as her possibly romantically backstoried male academic colleague has had a fatal accident while investigating the ‘footprints’ in an area (Valentia Island), marks and other more mysterious aspects of pre-Dinosaural creatures who could not tell their fins from their toes, it seems. Marks that have been vandalised. And there’s another sudden death of a girl student at the end that we witness alongside Anne. A perceived felo de se. A girl that might have assuaged Anne’s loneliness the night before, it is hinted. I shudder with a frisson of dumbfounded inability to link one step with another, putting one step before the other, but still hoping that I might thus get somewhere when I have eventually gathered the Fortean gestalt of this book that keeps its secrets guarded by its conceptual eponym and dedicatee. For later deployment of such secrets as clear truths? Tell me what you think. Am I a dimehead or a dinosaur?

  2. SPINDLESHANKS (New Orleans 1956)

    “, maybe, or a line of footprints in the snow between her and Emma.”

    …footprints in her dream that, in her later second dream, are as if “in powdered sugar”… this story, between these dreams, is about a female writer who is struggling with her latest novel, and now moved to a well-characterised abode and environs in New Orleans, with her lover Emma, so as to help clear the creative air, I guess. Emma is more sociable than the writer and is embroiled with the “voodoo” set. Part in jealousy, part with stoicism, the writer watches a séance with planchette in their house beside the Lafayette Cemetery near where earlier a woman had been murdered by an entity who the police thought to be a human trying to appear an animal. Part in suspicion of the otherwise compelling results of the seeming charlatan nature of the séance, part in feeling that I have been allowed to watch this séance as a genuine uncolluded unclouded event of the supernatural, in part to assess the Fortean nature of my reviewing techniques, I remembered I was only eight in 1956 and hardly able to travel that far…but, as the planchette’s letters spin…
    “‘D . . . L,’ someone says,…”
    (Are there not only 4 girls in Sargent’s Boit, not 5?)


    “And for a kiss she shows him the place where Lovecraft is buried,…”

    And with the help of many unusual double-barrelled words (a phenomenon that I earlier observed above), this story’s absorption by reading runs the world away, smoothly intoxicating my musical brain, without too much ratiocination of what is being told, with ghouls and vampires and waxworks, introducing me, with heady words strung together like a string quartet, to Dead Girl and the other characters’ names that surround her. A river that changes its own name partway along its riparian path. “….a small drift of snow at his bare feet,…” Wings that bruise the sky, and a dark flow like another book of indelible wings and other dark inchoate characters on a feathered bough that I am concurrently reading and reviewing by chance here. I think I understood Dead Girl’s instincts of progression in this realm of existence, but do you? And then, of course, there is the woman’s reading voice who wrote it…someone else knowing seven words for grey…

    “, her ice-cream voice against every vacant moment of eternity.”


    “Shanna’s holding a black umbrella over both their heads, a stifling scalloped-edged shadow and the two of them huddled underneath.”

    (Cf AIAIGASA – Japanese for an umbrella for two – amazingly that I reviewed earlier this very morning here, quoting the words “We share the umbrella”)——
    As if an umbrella for this book’s doublebarrelled words, to hotglue them together without a hyphen, a phenomenon discussed above and exemplified again in this story itself. Here, the umbrella is a sunshade for a couple who recently split up but need to work together in a bookshop. The books are not always shelved in the correct alpha order. The sunshade is needed because a long burningly hot period in the city still prevails. But, strangely, there’s a mud puddle of water and earth that the male half of the couple spots outside the bookshop, despite everywhere else being scorched dry…. a puddle whence now years later we can imagine has that ‘shape of water’ about to loom, some Fortean thrust of power about to emerge from mere mud….until the weather tellingly breaks. The universe and its scorched earth policy manqué…I guess. Memorable, flannery, literary, portmanteau, portmanitou, quietly cinematic, till the end.

  5. Pingback: Synchronicity rampant… | DES LEWIS GESTALT REAL-TIME REVIEWS - 10th Anniversary


    “Aye, there’s the very reef…”

    Whether reef or rêve, this relatively short, sometimes double-barrelled-worded, evocatively tactile account of sea dreams within a woman in various rôles of rêve (dreams as a life choice of perceived realities, some more seedy or visionary than others) is also, for me, amazingly (again!) making aligned patterns elsewhere, i.e. with the reef and the tactile visionary sea described in a work I happened to real-time review this morning, i.e. ‘From Whence They Came’ here. Not only that but also aligned significantly with the whole of that ‘Book of the Sea’ itself. “…all these fin de siècle painters”, all such fins et al.
    That “fleeting pocket of saner wind” still being sought?


    “A dog barks.”

    “Hoy” is Spanish for ‘today’, and the name Charles Hoy Fort is tagged or pinned to some Albert Perrault paintings, and the narrative is diarised under each month, with verbs in the present tense of each today, and there is a letter sent to Alex (a struggling writer as protagonist who goes with her art reviewer girl friend Margot to a Perrault exhibition, paintings that disturb her too much, with the Red Riding Hood extrapolations I have seen before in Kiernan, I think), a letter from another girl (an art groupie) whom she met there, a letter with a typed dropped aberration of each ‘t’ as if symbols of each ‘today’ put into the past and gradually below attention or memory or palpability. Beyond pinnability, too. And Alex is visited upon by synchronicities, the first being of an unexpected projection in a cinema instead of the advertised Bergman, and the next being a video that later arrives with the art groupie’s letter, a video that starts blank till a new today of dog and girl ensues, a scene that arguably matches a phone call from Margot, red cap or not.
    Innuendoes incommensurable.

  8. ONION

    “Where he’s standing, Frank can see into the bathroom, just barely, a narrow slice of linoleum, slice of porcelain toilet tank,…”
    “…and Willa’s eyes seem to flash and grow brighter, more broken, more eager to slice.”

    Frank rings work earlier to arrange a sickie, ringing from the toilet ‘head’, “…this is only going through the motions.” This story seemed steeped in a city heat wave, similar to the one I am suffering onward from today. There are no such things as coincidences, as McAvoy says. Meanwhile, this story is a compelling, poignantly moving, word-evocative novelette-length, of Frank and the ambiance of Forteanisms, I guess, from a child when he sees a vision through the crack in the basement, more Stephen King in nature perhaps, but, later, more Flannery than Horror, but Horror shapes, too, and his relationship with skinny or skinned Willa, a woman we grow to love amid all her frailties but feisty strength of mind. 6C69100F-B3A7-462E-9AA8-711A3006EC1F — Amid trying to reconcile alien visions, say, over the Arctic, attending meetings about such phenomena, Frank working at the copy shop, Willa at a food bar, hard life, gritty, seedy, yet with naïve hopes perhaps, but less naïve visions, by dint of the characters and the visions creating themselves from within the mind of Kiernan. A climactic vision in their bathroom, with a weight of water stacked above, a shape of water, too, I guess. Oz as a symptom of madness rather than a childhood wonder. Sacred or scared. Knowingness of dead leopards. A trilling, not a trolling. A mysterious painting’s smile as a Fortean phenomenon couched as a Fortean man’s doublebarrelled name on a business card? A classic to read but not pin down. ‘Pinhead beads of nectar.’ And another painting, a Cézanne, possibly with a real onion or two.

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