Uncertainties: Volume III

THE SWAN RIVER PRESS MMXVIII

Edited by Lynda E. Rucker

Stories by Matthew M. Bartlett, S.P. Miskowski, Adam L.G. Nevill, Joyce Carol Oates, Robert Shearman, R.S. Knightley, Lisa Tuttle, Ralph Robert Moore, Tracy Fahey, Julia Rust, David Surface, Scott West, Rosanne Rabinowitz.

When I read this book, my thoughts will appear in the comment stream below…

16 thoughts on “Uncertainties: Volume III

  1. MONICA IN THE HALL OF MOTHS
    by Matthew M. Bartlett

    “Our trajectory is triteness itself, our story a carbon copy of countless others. They’re out there now, ordering in restaurants, napping in apartments, couples like us.”

    …and reading stories like this together. A story that certainly starts in a Vietnamese Restaurant, yet it is a story I also smoke, one from which I shed its “cherry”, and stick the rest of the cigarette behind my ear for later. Though, that is not me. I don’t smoke. Nor does my wife read the same stories as me. And I could only have finished it if I had started a wonderful story like this. A story of my Monica, of a book I knew as child (reminded me of Martin Pippin in the Apple Orchard) though it is another book about the eponymous moths. But it is a book that does not exist, it seems, but the story quotes passages from it, and it is indeed about the Hall of Moths, the moths that attacked Monica’s eye’s iris in the restaurant; it is also a story about my childhood ‘tubing’ down a river with Dad and a mate, and what uncertain things I thought I saw there when I sank down far enough. Except I never did any such thing. I can’t swim, let alone do daredevil things in rivers. I haven’t read this story yet. But when I do I will deem it a masterpiece of fiction. I am never wrong. Except when I am certain that I am right.

    My many previous reviews of Matthew M. Bartlett: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/tag/matthew-m-bartlett/

  2. WARNER’S ERRAND by S.P. Miskowski

    “One morning he had tried to find the edge of town and failed.”

    The story or Warner seems perfectly to extend my old man like uncertainties from my review of the previous story. This now is a man of similar age to me (younger in fact!) retired in Arizona, someone with whom I find myself beautifully as well as disturbingly empathisable, and he wanders in and out of extreme heat and efficient air conditioning, on an errand for his wife whose ‘creative’ hobby-turned-business costs him a mint. So he thinks, anyway. Cocooned in his car, he dodges the dangers of old age – and the implement his wife needs today, among many implements, people, news items and entertainments that he no longer seems to recognise. I recognised this story though. A miraculously inspiring portrait of perceived boredom, cocooned courage and potential attrition.

    My previous reviews of S.P. Miskowski: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/tag/sp-miskowski/

  3. A couple of hours or so before reading the Nevill story below, I happened by chance to post this Facebook photograph and caption. It seems at least slightly resonant.

    WYRD by Adam L.G. Nevill

    “This suggests the occupants removed their footwear…”

    A powerfully atmospheric, skilfully worded portrait of a bleakly metal-coloured shoreside landscape wherever and whenever. A scene of either inanimate circles or, more gradually, once animate wagon rings showing signs of apparent humanity’s residual ritual symmetry, animal sacrifice and/or human, and inferred lethal paranoia of being observed by something from the sky, seeking prey or prayer.
    Or observed with our own vantage point from aloft, each of us that thing?

    My previous reviews of Adam L.G. Nevill: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/tag/adam-nevill/

  4. WANTING by Joyce Carol Oates

    “Vehicle. Odd choice of word.”

    Odd choice of ending, too, I found. If it had finished with the sentence “Vann laughs, and picks the wig up from the floor” near the finish of Chapter 5, it would have haunted me for the rest of my life. Meanwhile, I am now going into denial about what followed it. So it will indeed probably haunt me forever, even beyond my becoming posthumous, as is suggested somewhere in this remarkable work about its female protagonist named L.K., not what we later think we are told is her name, as represented by those letters. Love and Kisses, it will remain, for me, now that I am in full denial. She has gone back to Detroit, to visit an old friend dying in a hospice, LK being a woman old enough to have a significant backstory, about which we learn gradually. Or I think it is her true backstory. Where USA and Canada meet, I am told. She meets Vnn, as his found art, or someone he wants to seduce, we wonder, Vnn who amongst the art graffiti and conceptual and pop art history of 20th century in which I am very interested, it seems appropriate he loses part of his name, just as she grapples with the correct word for everything, her wanting a man, but scared of the repercussions of that. Each word that vehicle of changed meaning, or changed backstory, towards a purer form of found art, that is later adulterated by the last couple of chapters, if I recall correctly. Detroit has its own backstory of race riots. That becomes pertinent. She recalls her own “ghost-self.” As I do now. Dream-fragments are mentioned. Invited by Vnn to his place, part of a collective of small art studios, Vnn and LK arrive, and he shows her his art. I love this type of art. One collage with real human pubic hair. Too much to mention here. Against her own instincts, she opens herself to this man. Little does she know it is the story about her that is recreating her as found art, upon which any backstory can be stuck like a collage. Whoever wrote the story is the one she should fear. The superannuated Jasper Johns, notwithstanding. “Beauty can never be deduced by examining its creator.” A story still “in progress.”

    “What appears to be chance is just obscurity, perhaps. You don’t know the connections between things, as a fly blundering into a spider’s web has no idea what he is blundering into.” [note the ‘he’ there.]

    My previous reviews of Joyce Carol Oates: https://nullimmortalis.wordpress.com/2010/08/16/anonthology/ and https://expenscusil.wordpress.com/235-2/ and https://weirdtongue.wordpress.com/233-2/ and https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2017/03/24/black-feathers-edited-by-ellen-datlow/#comment-9447

  5. BOBBO by Robert Shearman

    “I had the urge to pull her hair. I was certain the wig would come straight off.”

    A story by Bobbo Shearman about Bobbo Aickman. It is strangely in tune with the previous story. See if you can see how. Of course Aickman is Uncertainties III, Walter de la Mare and Elizabeth Bowen I and II respectively, the Roman ordinals being chronology not necessarily merit regarding these writing monarchs of the strange. I have long been a big fan of Aickman. And after this story, I am warming even further to Shearman, despite everything. A story about an Aickman sceptic who feels he writes proper horror with real plots not pretentious strangeness like Aickman. When in a solitary writer’s retreat in a Bath hotel, he comes across a rare Aickman book among the ornamental books in the lounge. There ensues an Aickman-like installation of words as a Brian Rix type farce of sexual and literary shenanigans with supposed human connectees of Aickman….
    Although I am not sure if the story’s leasehold narrator is a true representative of the freehold author’s taste in books and writing, or if there is a heavy irony pointing to a worship of Aickman, I give it the benefit of the doubt…the benefit of the uncertain, as well as of the strange. And I couldn’t help laughing.

    “‘I read your story,’ she said. She handed me back my notebook. ‘Or, I suppose, your work in progress.’”

    My previous reviews of Robert Shearman: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/tag/robert-shearman/

    My previous things here about Aickman: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/robert-aickman/

  6. BEFORE I WALKED AWAY by R.S. Knightley

    “unsaveably real and ultimately true”

    Two uncertain lovers beside each other on the bed, with stock assumptions between them, assumptions about their backstory relationship, Pink Floyd cover photo or not. We remain tantalisingly uncertain till the end, if then, as to which one isn’t really there. Maybe one of them or neither are still there, or both are gone. My uncertainty is perhaps a plot spoiler in itself, maybe not. You will need to judge for yourself how tantalising this tantalising story really is. Like an uncertain weapon poised between them?

  7. VOICES IN THE NIGHT by Lisa Tuttle

    “She could not imagine any other source of that noise, and yet, until she was certain . . .”

    A woman goes to the city in need of a job, gets a care home position, and finds digs in a hotel opposite a factory … from which she sporadically hears voices in the night…. Plainly spoken narrative with a certain ending. And I assume the care work has reached beyond just caring for the living…

    My previous reviews of Lisa Tuttle: here

  8. IT COULD BE CANCER by Ralph Robert Moore

    “The little girl was still in the waiting room, by the doors to the restrooms.”

    Plainly spoken, but, as ever with this author, powerful and hard to forget. Constructively outrageous. Yes, plain narrative style, but with subtle complexity. For example, the last word in the above quote I originally misread in the context as ‘testosterone’, “sanctum” in the text close to “scrotum”, “testy”, even the word cancer as good health, somehow. I recall code words scattered throughout. A man living in flat shares, finding a lump on one of his testicles, and a a tutelary girl of twelve doing the Chubby Checker twist for him. Haunting material, to go with the plain and with the outrageous. His need for anger management, out-raging himself, as it were. The need for a loving wife rather than a life of alienation. Will he fulfil his dreams? Or will they be shattered forever? Or will he just plainly go back to eating ramen for breakfast? A poignancy to die for. Plus teeth or claws in sweet white crab meat rubbing shoulders with a plaster cast cast into favourable light by planned white lies. Twisted by metal’s outer cocoon. And I know how biopsies are sometimes cruelly harvested, too.

    My many previous reviews of Ralph Robert Moore: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/tag/ralph-robert-moore/

  9. THE WOMAN IN THE MOON by Tracy Fahey

    “; an unstoppable monologue of fears and uncertainties. Behind the the curtain is the glowing shape of the full moon.”

    In seeming contrast to the previous tale’s out-raging, this at first dwelt within my reading mind as a fey Fahey tale of a girl, now woman, Ellen, with gossamer moods of memories of her mother who becomes this mother’s mood as a moon herself to echo the actual eponymous tale her mother once told her and which you now read, a tale of pareidoliac moon as woman, that becomes Ellen’s tale, as it were. A moon perhaps as a feisty ‘moon, too’ movement. The tutelary moon that moves to distaff’s side when Ellen’s uncle or, later, work boss try take advantage of her fey state. So, in turn, gradually, not a contrast to the previous tale but a tale itself of out-raging, too, movingly so.

    My previous review of Tracy Fahey: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2017/11/25/imposter-syndrome/#comment-11167

  10. TallDarkAnd
    by Julia Rust & David Surface

    “Because. Every scar is beautiful.”

    Just the surface of the person beneath? Eleanor with a self-conscious hairlip clones the on-line identity of her roommate Rebecca when the latter’s laptop is left open. A dating page. Description of her hairlip is striking, as if the features themselves have split open? A flesh’s disintegration can be in the bud, unlike minerals like metal that gradually do so over time. Objective or subjective views? This work is a frightening slip into the internet’s insidious repercussions of the autonomous splitting of the self. How did Proust prophesy these things with his separate selves? Sometimes I wonder if some of the nemonymity of the internet means that those — with whom I dodge and weave between the rippling dots of typing words, words and video hatches in the screen — actually live next door … or upstairs? Or something somewhere even worse? …

    (Additional recommended reading on this theme in my increasingly worryingly uncanny propensity of a chance synchronicity of simultaneously real-time reviewing something somewhere else: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2018/09/27/i-aint-got-no-home-in-this-world-anymore-mike-sauve/)

    My previous reviews of David Surface: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/tag/david-surface/ and Julia Rust: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/tag/julia-rust/

  11. ASHES TO ASHES by Scott West

    “split from ear to ear”

    Uncertain whether I understood this, but that doesn’t worry me. A tale of Ben, the last to outlast the ash monster from the wildfire that has been besetting his community of shops and houses, getting closer and closer, the other people having already escaped. Rescues his sweetheart’s body from the supermarket freezer (electricity still on, apparently), and has a burial ceremony with stolen casket tellingly to save her from a cremation to ashes, as it were. A new earthly cryology. It is perhaps his penance for something he has done. Or a retribution against the ash monster. What he once described as hot grey snow has half-baked his head!

  12. Last night’s winner of the Stirling Prize for architecture: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-45813670 which has taken the Temple of Mithras to its original site whence it had — a number of years ago — been re-sited beside the block nearby where I worked in the early 1970s…I suspect that, whatever goes on inside, I suspect this new building is a great interpreter of London’s golden hour of light…

    THE GOLDEN HOUR by Rosanne Rabinowitz

    “Can a building haunt the places it once stood? And do the people who once lived in it become ghosts, whether they’re alive or dead?”

    An effulgent work amid this by-line’s characteristic stamping-ground of 20th interfaced with 21st century inner South London. Working people in interface with rapture and haunting, to try shake off the thrall others have put on them. An electrician who seeks her lost friend Sheila and the block where she lived with whom she once collaborated on a book, a memory of their mix of photographs, mirrors and that perfect moment of twilight known as the golden hour. The fluidity of love and sex, abstention from then renewal, by turn, as well as more artistic bonds. As a photographer myself in recent years, I cherished the description of this art herein. And the whole ambiance of this equally free-flowing text positively subsumed any of my negativity today. It also seemed perfectly fitting to this book’s gestalt, part of which is black stars burning hot.
    “All those lost moments, lit up.”

    My many previous reviews of Rosanne Rabinowitz: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/3228-2/

    =====================

    This anthology is crammed with unforgettable observations of our imaginarium, our past country that is LP Hartley’s as well as a future rapture when the present is finally transcended. Uncertainties harvested.
    Now I am set for an errand along with Warner…

    My previous reviews of this book’s editor, Lynda E. Rucker: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/tag/lynda-e-rucker/

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