23 thoughts on “The Dinosaur Tourist – Caitlín R. Kiernan

  1. Maybe you can help me with a question I’ve asked before to no conclusion! Does this author pronounce her first name in American style (“kate lynn”) or Irish style (“kathleen”)?



    “, you know the way shit reminds you of other shit, like dominoes getting knocked over. Free association. Whatever.”

    Indeed, my reviews know this feeling, here oscillating without section breaks as the almost strobed tossing of the coin by a palaeontology student at a party, tossed between being chatted up by a man who questions her mother’s book and the girl she meets by means of weather proscribed Providence, tossed between correlation and mudflat sewage, lamentation and wedge, swans murdered by crucifixion and a murder of crows one of whom is that man at the party, teeming kudzu and finishing a story before its quick growth gets under way. Or before enough wings make the dancing girl a bird. Before the coin finally drops.


    “Whatever it is,” she said, “it sure isn’t that.”

    Another strobing coin, here inferred by the reader, not actual, as it falls, inducing a story, again without section breaks between the coin’s timelines, here of an object dug up from millions of years before humanity, a story that thus defies its own yearning, for linear coherence and straightforwardness, at its end. A riven ravelling, the same as unravelling, of events as her co-discoverers of the object are boiled up with boils, leaving her to travel the interstate, murder-guilty, and drink herself into oblivion or face the cosmic implications of always battling with pareidolia or rhymes by Lewis Carroll disguised as a Spanish conversation outside her motel room and the shape of water emerging from the room’s bathroom….and the story itself is its own avoidable object, made from words instead of particulated soapstone. Wash my mouth out. Grilled-cheese joke, notwithstanding.

    “Not even a test pattern.”


    “…for a few merciful seconds the smell of sulfur masks the musky stink of the river.”

    Many connectives with Innsmouth, a community, an itemised patchwork of character studies and their cats, an under-milk-woodery of mythic synergy and sysygy as past history is harnessed with various human orientations and future emotive cosmicisms. Not exactly Lovecraft, nor Dylan Thomas, and this is stoically textured Kiernanlore galore, Caitlín’s catlore of the Manuxet. Arriving at holding a thought, that singular conceit for sun, moon and earth, and more.

    “Shadows and murmurs.”


    “She has become a tiny boat on a vast sea of paradoxes, and I can only watch.”

    Indeed, I do. A rather bigger boat, I feel. A story of an anal-puckered hole in the ground, a lotus clitmance with a para-doxy in a bath, a razor with a nude woman design on its handle and an invisible Oxford comma.


    “The forest, the terra . . . I should have figured it out earlier.”

    …that this delusionary quilt (“spinning dreams into perceptions far more real that dreams or déjà vu”) is a quite accidental co-resonance with Nabokov’s deliriumorama TERRA INCOGNITA that I happened by extreme chance to read and review here an hour or so ago this very Boxing Day!! The Kiernan is a terraforming SF riff on Red Riding Hood as Nix Severn travels between iso-containers and the presence of her own backstoried Sapphic lover and their ribsy daughter. I now understand both stories better than I otherwise would, meta-Narnian container to container. Hawling between.

    “It only knows my name because I know my name.”

  7. Whilst the Night Rejoices Profound and Still

    Probably my fault, but I could not grasp hold of this further terraforming story. It felt as if I had come straight into the middle of a novel…

    “Buy ‘em dry or buy ‘em raw.”

  8. I previously reviewed the next story here in 2014, as follows:


    Ballad of an Echo Whisperer

    “You write the things, the least you can do is read a few.”

    I feel I am a sort of Echo Whisperer myself, not only reading the sort of things I write, but colluding (echoing?) with each one in its role as a separate work as well as within a wider gestalt. Can one whisper on the Internet…? I whisper that this story, for me, doesn’t fully work, although it does succeed in conveying an Aickman-Proustian ‘The Same Dog’ haunting, a heady and scenic atmosphere of New Orleans etc., of a railway journey, and, by use explicitly of one of my own favourite words (“retrocausality”), an intriguingly combined revisit and visit, by dream and non-dream, to a devastating event that affects this male ‘writer of things’ and his co-traveller Anna. Like filters can conceivably work both ways, so does a traintrack, I guess. But which way is which? Which of them reads Thomas Hardy? We are never sure. A fearful symmetry, indeed.


    “He’s not the first vampire she’s known who cobbles together absurdities and nonsense in a topsy-turvy attempt to understand a thing that cannot be understood,…”

    A classic: an evocative and cathartically horrific account of an evening of vampires at their regular annual meet upon the site of a burnt down Overlook hotel: full of wise saws, homilies, eschatologies and philosophies of their existence, particularly in a conversation between a male and female vampire who know each other from previous such meets. Visions of the hotel’s own backstory and its guests. A Romanian backstory, too. And a sort of cannibalistic tontine that you will never forget. Lady of Silver Whispers as representative of #Caitlín? (But why the title? I must have missed something. Strangely Lewis Carrollian?)


    Another story I could not master. THE GOO as the God or the Good and the NOW HERE NOWHERE, a Radiohead song, too. Earlier in this book was a Current 93 song. A post-wholocaust world made plastic, to save themselves in facsimile, handwritten by a woman using blank pages in an encyclopaedia. Fake newsletter?


    Behaviour, I think, is not appearance.

    “But knowing isn’t the same thing as seeing, and it certainly isn’t the same thing as being party to it.”

    Jeopardy of collusion by a third party drone like a skimming stone in the sky making red light, this is a chilling Proustian paragraph over several pages that I simply loved, whether by Titanic’s Morse Code pioneering the resonance of etched headstones or by memory loss. It tells of a pair of Bonnie and Clyde type characters, where she blames things on him for killing getting out of hand. But he Chaz is the first person narrator here, not her, not the one called Easter by her Dad because she raised rabbits as a child. So who do we believe?

    “But then the shadow leans in close, and I imagine that it’s whispering to Easter secret words…”


    Pink and yellow.
    As well as being ‘entraced’ by the Dollman painting and by the narrator’s backstory of her father killed by animal or animals, by King Kong or Flannery ‘Gorilla’ O’Connor, and by the narrator’s description of sex with her ex named Nora, I am also affected by the feeling that there is something – in these further five Proust-shaped paragraphs – about her yellow box obsession in Proust’s yellow patch on the wall in a Vermeer… (I quote that Proust passage below).


    The circumstances of his death were as follows. A fairly mild attack of uraemia had led to his being ordered to rest. But, an art critic having written somewhere that in Vermeer’s ‘View of Delft’ (lent by the Gallery at The Hague for an exhibition of Dutch painting), a picture which he adored and imagined that he knew by heart, a little patch of yellow wall (which he could not remember) was so well painted that it was, if one looked at it by itself, like some priceless specimen of Chinese art, of a beauty that was sufficient in itself, Bergotte ate a few potatoes, left the house, and went to the exhibition. At the first few steps he had to climb, he was overcome by an attack of dizziness. He walked past several pictures and was struck by the aridity and pointlessness of such an artificial kind of art, which was greatly inferior to the sunshine of a windswept Venetian palazzo, or of an ordinary house by the sea. At last he came to the Vermeer which he remembered as more striking, more different from anything else he knew, but in which, thanks to the critic’s article, he noticed for the first time some small figures in blue, that the sand was pink, and, finally, the precious substance of the tiny patch of yellow wall. His dizziness increased; he fixed his gaze, like a child upon a yellow butterfly that it wants to catch, on the precious little patch of wall. “That’s how I ought to have written,” he said. “My last books are too dry, I ought to have gone over them with a few layers of colour, made my language precious in itself, like this little patch of yellow wall.” Meanwhile he was not unconscious of the gravity of his condition. In a celestial pair of scales there appeared to him, weighing down one of the pans, his own life, while the other contained the little patch of wall so beautifully painted in yellow. He felt that he had rashly sacrificed the former for the latter. “All the same,” he said to himself, “I shouldn’t like to be the headline news of this exhibition for the evening papers.” He repeated to himself: “Little patch of yellow wall, with a sloping roof, little patch of yellow wall.” Meanwhile he sank down on to a circular settee; whereupon he suddenly ceased to think that his life was in jeopardy and, reverting to his natural optimism, told himself: “It’s nothing, merely a touch of indigestion from those potatoes, which were undercooked.” A fresh attack struck him down; he rolled from the settee to the floor, as visitors and attendants came hurrying to his assistance. He was dead. Dead for ever? Who can say? Certainly, experiments in spiritualism offer us no more proof than the dogmas of religion that the soul survives death. All that we can say is that everything is arranged in this life as though we entered it carrying a burden of obligations contracted in a former life; there is no reason inherent in the conditions of life on this earth that can make us consider ourselves obliged to do good, to be kind and thoughtful, even to be polite, nor for an atheist artist to consider himself obliged to begin over again a score of times a piece of work the admiration aroused by which will matter little to his worm-eaten body, like the patch of yellow wall painted with so much skill and refinement by an artist destined to be for ever unknown and barely identified under the name Vermeer. All these obligations, which have no sanction in our present life, seem to belong to a different world, a world based on kindness, scrupulousness, self-sacrifice, a world entirely different from this one and which we leave in order to be born on this earth, before perhaps returning there to live once again beneath sway of those unknown laws which we obeyed because we bore their precepts in our hearts, not knowing whose hand had traced them there – those laws to which every profound work of the intellect brings us nearer and which are invisible only – if then! – to fools. So that the idea that Bergotte was not dead for ever is by no means improbable. They buried him, but all through that night of mourning, in the lighted shop-windows, his books, arranged three by three, kept vigil like angels with outspread wings and seemed, for him who was no more, the symbol of his resurrection.”


    “I think how it’s strange I’ve never before noticed that, the ticking of the clock on her office wall and how it sounds like an insect.”

    A powerful, well-worded, straightforward account of unstraightforward dreams and memories related on a regular visit to her psychiatrist. One that feels so real we know it is real. Not fabricated. A childhood memory of a car accident she witnesses along with her family. Unforgettable by her, and mutated by later dreams, and unforgettable by you now that you have witnessed such dreams and memories through her eyes. Genuinely unforgettable, I predict.


    I am afraid another tract I can’t tractate. Full of mutterfrigging wisecrackers and Lovecraftese. CRK either works for me or she doesn’t. Here she doesn’t. More Laird than layered. She works for me more often than she doesn’t. Hence all my reviews of her work persisting since I started them a year or so ago. A dinosaur tourist like me is always eclectic.

    By the way, I am eschewing her post-story notes in this book until I have completed this review.


    Almost ditto immediately above. Despite its being another visually meaty Proustian paragraph it is in clashing communion with Joyce in modern dress, and Proust and Joyce don’t mix in my book. Black Helicopters over a city with clashing rotor blades.
    Am I a tourist who is touring a dinosaur or am I a tourist who IS a dinosaur?


    “There’s a slender rind of bright sunlight where the two halves of the draperies meet imperfectly,…”

    Sometimes, a single work just in itself makes the overall book worth buying. This is one of those. The story as a story — or reportage of a psychiatrist-patient dialogue with interspersed descriptions — is actually the psychiatrist, not the disentitled psychiatrist characterised within it. The narrator is the patient. But also vice versa; the narrator is also the psychiatrist and the story is the patient, being teased out, with adumbrations of the narrator’s Catholic upbringing, a psychiatric academic paper on lycanthropy inducing this story’s existence (and thus inducing the psychiatrist’s existence within it as the erstwhile writer of that paper) and the narrator’s childhood memory of surreptitiously watching her father drunkenly watching his projected homemade film of … what? Only the eventual hindsight real-time gestalt will tell you…? You as entitled reader are the no. 3 in the room?

    ”It’s just the way our brains are wired. Sure, maybe we want to be objective and methodical and reserve judgement until all the facts are in, but that’s not how we work, not in the real world.”

  17. ALBATROSS (1994)

    “With a yellow pencil I am making notes on a yellow legal pad, though I’m not entirely sure why.”

    Another story alone worth the price of this book. It really digs me, hawls me. A swimmer as buoy, woman I guess, as narrator or as you, in the sea floating as in musical-word tune with streamed subconscious memories of being in the womb, plus dreams or realities of a small girl on the unsure shore found talking to you and a beached creature, rotting or at least morphing nearby, the girl conversing of Job and things, then your memories or premonitions of being in a cafe with another woman as your date or bait, an ex or not. References to various items of once living flotsam, but even a dying child can still tell truths? Much tactility of floating and the sea. And inferred briquettes of comparison with my once real-time review of THE ESSEX SERPENT by Sarah Perry, another creature’s beaching, and it is the Essex NE coast where I myself live: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2017/01/08/the-essex-serpent-sarah-perry/


    “I have no idea that’s what her dress is called, a dirndl. I’ll only find that out later on, by checking with Wikipedia,…”

    A haunting and magnificently disarming take on coincidence and/or synchronicity, where a cinema film trailer and a lady’s perceived tail (a lady as perceived by another lady as her lover) are mentioned in the same paragraph. A tail that trails behind and in hindsight from the film she witnesses or thinks she witnesses when standing at the back of the cinema auditorium having made a momentous, yes, momentous visit to the Ladies loo and the visions therein, having left her lover in the cinema seat (next to the seat left empty by her upon her loo visit), the lady watching the supposedly same film, one described to us by the lady at the back, yes, described from the back. Very telling, very powerful, but I have no idea why or how. Have you? A dirndl of a tale.


    “What’s in Wall?”

    “I contemplate synchronicity and meaningful coincidence.”

    No longer ladies and their loo, this is another great Proustian-sized paragraph, one in hard masculine vein, over several pages, evolving into a Joycean stream of consciousness towards the end, the man as stream-narrator picking up in his car a supposed 19 year old boy, then travelling towards Wall where a concrete dinosaur has its beginning and its end, involving blow jobs, weighty skies that threaten, a gun, and a carboot full of things that arguably tell us more about what has happened or about to do so. The man claims to be a geology academic, and I surge along with him on such stony story rapids of shard dryness as if they’re an ocean of words whence he creates ancient finds for his past raison d’être. But who here (man or boy) is tempting whom, and why? It is as if an author as Pollock has splattered a whole lifetime on the page of entrancing, compelling words, as distanced by the narrator’s gender and that gender’s form of lust, as a disarming deflection for such an author? Weighing guilts in the balance… ’cathedrals that once were the skeletons of leviathans’ in a literary confessional. Or the ‘dead center of nowhere’ now here in Wall.

    “, sometimes I think people change the names of shit to make the next generation feel stupid.”


    From a literary confessional in the previous story and its weighty raping lust of the sky, that I there saw, to “Mother Confessor” here … the First Mother as self or doppelgänger — stemming from the extrapolated vision of a psychiatric consultation as screenplay or that film trailer…’prefab ennui’, Gogh-yellow house, mask or coyote’s muzzle or mirror, a guilty authorial wickedness to be transcended; how else could a story like this ever be published if its imputed author were not so knowingly pushy and wicked? Just read it and answer me that. How could this book itself have been published, otherwise? All with oodles of technical geology and palaeontology. ‘Double walkers’, all of us. Child is Mother of Man. Woe betide. (Blake, not Wordsworth.)
    This book rocks. It takes genius as well as wicked pushiness to achieve the shove of synergy.

    “This drab, weary woman is convincing. I suspect that, as with writers, psychiatrists must be skillful liars.”


Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s