58 thoughts on “Blacker Against The Deep Dark – Alexander Zelenyj

  1. BEE81999-AC7C-4691-9037-B6C299A0BEEBABF84D65-9613-4C6B-93BD-5498481B22B8

    There’s something Gestalt-like about this chapbook’s title, a chapbook that came to early orderers of the main book. A Test Tube Family, and the works within it aspire to a leap of faith, via an upward Fortean vision during a Japanese war and early halloween romance in childhood. The golden ladder as a sort of coming down before an Eibonvale going up, a bird even from my own garage outside into a rend in the sky…a home I deserve,
    A bit laddish are chapbooks. A lad who became a father who fought perceived if not conceited battles for his frail family.

  2. ‘The Book of Eibon’, or ‘Liber Ivonis’ or ‘Livre d’Eibon’, is a grimoire by the Magician Eibon of Mhu-Thulan. It appears in “The Haunter Of The Dark”, “Dreams in the Witch-House” and — significantly for the Zelenyj collection’s title story that I have just read — “The Shadow Out of Time”.

    Now to my Gestalt real-time of the main book, the first story of which is the title story of three powerful pages between the V of EibonVale. V is an open book. As well as a Vale in itself,


    “He smelled the miracle of the white flowers’ perfume…”

    The Gestalt promise is there at outset, as this work starts with a quote from Matsuo Bashō singing resonantly with a substantial review I just finished of THE BOOK OF FLOWERING here and it also meshes with the inferred shadow of Hiroshima in Murakami’s KAFKA ON THE SHORE that I happen already to be simultaneously reviewing here, and darkly melds, too, I also infer, with Zelenyj’s own THE TEST-TUBE FAMILY above. The lessons of history to a hard-working Japanese man from its shadow-people, haunting as a stand-alone work as well as part of something far more intrinsic.


    “: let whatever’s inside you out onto the paper.”

    Go into whichever of the “naked fields” takes you, I guess. Not having read this incredibly compelling story until now, I wonder what on earth induced me to give you that quote above about the miracle of ‘white flowers’, but now I know! This is the story of four disparate young women, but all four of them friends from school, off on an adventurous journey by car, a catharsis of selves with all their backstories laid out here, so well developed as characters, I could really believe in them. One a dreamcatcher, as it were, another with a black hole like that earlier shadow out of time. All in amicable (sometimes inimical) conflict towards a Gestalt of self-discovery when faced with what or whom they were faced on the lost highway. A tomboy odyssey with vags and matured flowers. A Vault Memory. Also a sort of ‘picnic at hanging rock’ scenario (the Joan Lindsay novel reviewed here). “…a moment seemed stretched, prolonged, eternal.”

  4. “When God laughs at the soul and the soul laughs back at God, the persons of the Trinity are begotten.”
    ― Meister Eckhart


    “Three bodies; one gestalt, a single home of connected limbs:”

    A truly remarkable vision of a single being made of three separately endowed men nicknamed collectively The Priests, who takes sanctuary with a pastor. Eventually there are pitchforks, pieties and pities clamouring for him outside. The Priests’ tales of carnivals and circuses where he had spent his life, and of his bodily machinations, you will not forget. Unless you are the publisher or the author, you perhaps heard about him here first.


    “, and those bags under your eyes add some years to the picture.”

    “…marked with recurring peaks of hopefulness and valleys of despair.”

    This book’s Ebon Vales. Piques and Veils, too, as another ultra-powerful Zelenyj story meets my scrying eyes, a story that I never dreamt one day I might read, because I knew not of it. Thanks to this book, I do now. Never too late. This cosmic battle amid death and rebirth, a battle against DEE Disease by heraldic humanity, as part of some half-known underground conspiracy, with phantom or metal limbs that humans endure as part of the attrition, with spirituality not dissimilar to that of Christianity’s Holy Trinity, yet with human accoutrements such as sex and stoicism: a Gestalt battle against cancers (and some unforgettable Zelenyj descriptions to trap them in your mind) here focussed down to the will power of one man and his battle, one day, with a gargantuan, for me, Azathothian, cancer, amid the backstory of his mother…and later, the woman he ungently treated in lust earlier becomes the new knight with her own ungentle, yet chivalrous charge against the enemy, I infer. However ‘enemy’ is defined or embodied within?


    “, another day rich with fear and the ghosts of the dead calling from Europe in voices that follow us into our dreams.”

    The Midnight upon the Last Spring? As a backdrop to an American man’s story from Fort Lauderdale in 1944 to a present moment, as the giant kite falls into the sea. The inductive reasoning of even the sun at risk. A story that I can see as a literary one like O Henry, yet with shades of visionary genre poignancy that are almost too difficult to bear. An old man as mentor and martyr. His own scrying eyes, I guess, as his plane was taken by some oceanic Devil’s Triangle during World War II, an open-ended triangle not too dissimilar to this book’s dips and dingles so far. A ritual visitation, upon each anniversary of his death, to his loved maiden, and experiencing lovingly naïve but intense sex with her. Or sharing her later battles with cancer, in some sort of echo of the previous story. Or sitting on life’s last beach, as if in some Death In Venice scene, eyeing a young waitress. All fateful rhythms. With lucky shrines, too. We are all lightness inside. “If that makes us crazy, I’ll take crazy any day.”


    “~Just John, thank you for sharing your name with me. It is close in sound to a word in my language which means ‘flower’.~ She pointed to a cluster of lilies growing alongside the fence-line beside them.”

    Her voice like being in different ‘buds’, sounding deep within John’s ears towards the inner head. The voice of Apple, the name John gives this naked girl as visitor from the stars whom he had effectively summoned, via a real experience of an earlier dream of well-evoked rhapsody and love with this girl, John still on the brink of manhood, now breaking his virginity by means of such a visitation, having summoned her to deal by fire with a blackness and loneliness caused by self’s unwanted birth, his unwanted parents, this unwanted world of ours. The intriguing question, for me, though — whither the coiled motivation of being thus tempted by an apple, by a woman he called by this name? A Princess of Mars or a deeper dark?


    “The head ruminated a moment longer. ‘Perhaps . . .’”

    Perhaps, I am that big head looking down at the boy I once was. Read that way, the head as well as the boy start crying… (Cf ‘The Carl Paradox’ that I happened to review yesterday in a simultaneous review here.)
    KINGDOMS is even more effective in the context of the competing or synergistic moral stances earlier.


    “And then . . . then:”

    777, 7+7+7 = 21, 2+1 = 3
    The Holy Trinity, again?
    A few remarkable pages of a single word…
    As if all our epiphanies focus eventually down io a single word. What I personally call the Gestalt.
    These accounts of a support group as each describes a personal spiritual epiphany, yet eventually Polaris the Pole Star triangulates the coordinates of Eden whence Apple came earlier in this book? Apple sauce for dead pigs?
    This work just exists. It simply is. Take it as read. No clever insights possible. Whatever the foreshadowing of something else to interrupt the utter joy of nothing before or even after Nirvana or Gestalt?

    • (Possible spoilers)

      As I have now found, this novelette possesses within its plot — as well as is — its own powerful drug, one new to our world in fictional concept and in its real impossible heavyweight encapsulation, one that eases, in a reader’s felt ways, the pain of our Ligottian Bladerunning world of cities that makes you burn within the soul as well as burn others as cure and ultimate hawling of the soul’s gestalt from the mechanised fakeman you leave behind. Also, I infer, like Eve’s snake sloughed off from the girls she became in such cities. The running of this drug is being investigated by a couple, Clark and Kessel, similar to that investigating couple in the X Files, I guess. Except, are they part of the cure as well as the killing of such a DEEsease? Donna’s disease. And there is a man called Philip and he seeks the Saint, the Saint as flawed or fake representative of this book’s Holy Spirit, perhaps, as part of this equivocal running of a kill & cure drug, a drug taking you out on a trip literally, bodily as well as spiritually. The X in X files, the upright V and its inversion below? The Book of Eibon’s Vale. A major, accessible, powerful work. Still working, as I write this.


    “He blinked the dream the vision the wish away,…”

    A short telling companion piece alongside this book’s earlier man lost in the Devil’s Triangle, as if in a closed V, while at the start we follow him to the dire heart of darkness when fighting the Viet Cong, now really returned to — or dreaming of — future or present civilised homeliness with his love near a baseball match at home, then a sense of perhaps 777 Angels in the sky, the sky as an even darker heart of darkness – but a sky sought for recouping life in the stars or scrying for that lost love in a gentle town? Seeking or scrying pointlessly or with positive purpose, as the Devil either closes or opens its triangle for you? Take your choice dependant on your own temperament as a reader, whatever the story’s temperament that happens to be perceived.

  11. “I’m tired and I want to rest; I want to get out of this and go lie down somewhere, off where it’s dark and no one speaks. Forever.”
    ― Philip K. Dick, Dr. Bloodmoney


    “Maybe we’re like a reminder of how the world is.”

    That we all bleed, whether metaphorically or literally. People sometimes say I often have strange relationships with the fictions I somehow choose to read and then feel forced to review. Sometimes fictions choose me, I guess. This one in a bookshop (disturbing to those who really have expelled blood in toilets or suffered other extramenstrual curses) has the strangest relationship yet between me and any fiction, expelling more than just humanity’s overload of bleeding but more an ironic recognition that Anti-Natalism itself is a birth of something living, something hopeful? Forever is perhaps never forever. The test tube family or a chivalrous battle against cancer, notwithstanding.



    A splendidly cinematic story of wrestling, a moving portrait of its staged brutality and blood, the pattern of marks upon a face, occasionally less than staged, a portrait, too, of a wrestler nicknamed Monster and a boy from the audience who hero-worships him, but a boy who also senses Monster’s real Shape of Water beyond the ‘squared circle’…set against the backdrop of “streets coalesced into a single voice, belonging to a single new and filthy and furious beast: the city.”



    “In that moment, time-paused and precious,…”

    Another moving picnic-at-hanging-rock type epiphany, here two teenage girls suddenly finding Sapphic shelter in each other’s arms, shelter from the eponymous broken places of the city and elsewhere in this spiritual oasis with several tributaries of choice, meeting two of this book’s aliens or angels amid a humming noise, then a man elsewhere in the world, escaped from his own expressed ‘blood-diving’, enters this realm from a different terrestrial entry point, and, eased by seeing the girls and angels, nevertheless makes his own tributary choice, as the reader will no doubt do so, too.

    “His message went beyond language in its common sense: it was transmitted in the language of the heart.”


    “…the gibbous moon like a glowing god…”

    To call this Zelenycanthropy a vignette would diminish its cathartic extent and power towards such a core in this whole book. So I will not do so.


    “He left his slitherlings among the long coils of their mother, and without further word slipped up and up through the warm, man-bone-strewn tunnels toward the icy world above.”

    The wyrm thus meets man, in this Norse world of yore, both of them warriors like this book’s earlier wrestlers, here staged, as it were, by the extended gore and heft of words, words themselves, in feint and counterfeit. Fate-driven and gargantuan, this is a Gestalt of mutual respect and hate, ruthlessness and showmanship. Without corners. Too dark perhaps to see corners in the Valholy halls of Hel. Not a story merely woven to house a battle, but the sheer battle itself. End to end.

    • As an aside, I confirm that the whole of my story SALUSTRADE (published in Year’s Best Horror Stories edited by Karl Edward Wagner in 1994) featuring, inter alia, a “V” and various gladiatorial matters, is linked from a tongue-in-cheek (!) article in 2011 here: https://nullimmortalis.wordpress.com/2011/02/05/salustrade/

      ‘How could the bone of one finger split into a “V”? For a book to live, though, must it not in fact become such a “V”?’

      ‘Such skittering offspring from their metaphysical loins were the half-breeds and double-breeds who were ready to soak the light in black oil to make it night, or vice versa, vice versa, vice versa, V V V V V…’


    “, and crawling a little closer to some understanding of the seed of his genius, and gleaning some inkling as to what he’d been trying to tell us about ourselves all along.”

    This is a powerful and sometimes shocking portrait of a stand-up whose extreme comedy relates to Anti-Natalism and the Apocalypse not being just nigh but here and now. He is also extreme in himself, with descriptions that will make your toes curl, amid love-hate “gladiatorial” audiences. This portrait arrives at its cataclysmic flashpoint including the words of a TV reporter named after this book’s publisher. You, too, will have severe mixed feelings, truth versus fake news fiction, “Douchebag Versus Douchebag”, and it is indeed a seminal work, I guess, ending with verse 7.77 of the comedian’s Revelations.


    As with DH Lawrence’s rabbits, the world will be better off without humanity, here nature getting its own back, literally and gorily, as a sparrow talks to a blue jay. And their “clear clean sky”. A sky even without angels?


    “: the world was as it was because it was the world.”

    Almost as if it is an automatic extension of this book’s audit trail so far, this work – about a father and his three lovely daughters watching a movie at home with “magic in its secret cracks” – is, suffice to say, a dangerous one. A truly dangerous story for anyone to write or publish. Just to add that its sense of warning within this book’s gladiatorial gestalt might have stopped Robert E. Howard in his final act … and also the queue of so-called mad serialists since then masquerading as angels with final acts. If so, not dangerous at all. Depends on how you read it and who you are.


    “It’s beautiful.”
    Indeed, as it is also beautiful within or upon the ants of words and the smoothly, uniformly snowiness of paper underfoot. Another catharsis or purging by this book, as we are led through the nature of Asim’s apocalyptic dream and his small sister’s waking-rescue of him. Then the diaspora or pilgrimage of peoples, including this brother and sister, across the Middle East, peoples described like the awed followers in Close Encounters of the Third Kind (Trinity as trilateral Pyramid) or followers of Christ or Christmas. A lighted pyramid created by two other characters in this book (newly returned from modern Iraq), characters in turn created by the words themselves IN the book, words or ants upon which they walk.


    And this book’s earlier “clear clean sky” – now via a woman’s recurring dream as italicised, “visions” – effectively becomes an apocalyptic opening not to angels but to ourselves as faillible creatures. Our anxieties about the lack of dependability on others around us now justified via a “vestige of dream-fear” following us into the vile vale of waking, I infer.


    “, at that moment the two friends both felt a sense that many things in the world they’d known were connected in a way they’d never before considered, but had suspected in some deep part of themselves; and also, that nothing else in the world would ever be the same for them again.”

    I can’t imagine getting up in the morning and reading another story so enrapturing as this one. Two close women friends who became even closer after as children they saw what they saw in the forest. And you must see it yourself first by reading about it in this story not secondhand through this review of it. A story in complete and telling contrast with the previous story. Suffice to say the two women diverged significantly in their career paths but always came together on an annual meeting to renew their original rapture. One career path close to the green earth, the other in the stars, both equally valuable.

  22. WHERE WICKEDNESS WALKS (A Children’s Fable)

    “— I’ll start catching me some fruits very, very soon!”

    An open-ended, oblique, quirky fable about a man hunting fruit to sell them on, hunting them without success. In his case, fruit with legs. I sense the moral might be that to hunt anything efficiently you need to like what you hunt, as one does (even if this hunter doesn’t), when hunting for potential friends to ease one’s loneliness. (I just made friends with a satsuma by sitting on it.)


    “Fuckin’ angels be watching over you, brother!”

    The potentially lethal stoicism of a private who is besieged in an OMG moment with his comrades in Viet Nam, leading them like kamikaze disciples direct into the enemies’ maw, his having just received a letter from his sweetheart back home that she had shacked up with someone else. Moving outcome I will not reveal for fear of a spoiler, but I feel the ‘play of shadows’ amid the angels’ guardian-light attempting to protect the soldiers’ deadly foray was not so much the author writing this story, writing of the private’s honourably naive, and possibly empty, vow to go back home and poison his erstwhile sweetheart, not so much the writer deciding such an outcome as part of his plot. No, I feel it was the reader that shed a guardian glow upon the page as laid before the reading eyes and changed the words in the most just direction. Nothing is immutable, even already printed words, I guess. You, if you have not already read it, may read quite a different story. A private poison – or public panacea. Each of us a vulnerable fruit on legs?


    Alex and Beth – he with pierogi, she with mac and cheese – turn out to live in the next door apartment to the eponymous one. Deadpan, narratively straightforward, disarmingly undeep, and Lilliputian-literal, complete with solid cartoon or toy-like accoutrements, and the couple learn that living side by side with this initially perceived horror has its compensations in life’s long audit trail. This book, itself living tantamount to next door to my early morning bran brain, has been my own such compensation for the last week or so, and still continues to be so into the foreseeable future. Even if some of its spiders are ‘immense banana’ ones ‘with long slender legs’.

    “On this deeper level, it was apparent that an intelligence vastly, vastly superior to humankind’s was at work, to have orchestrated so elaborate a construction…”


    “It was only another moment of liberty indulged in a world of rampant insane freedoms.”

    A shockingly horrific synergy between a mutant Mount Olympus-like coalition (God and the Devil in our terminology) and a free-will or fate of mankind upon which the coalition gloats in a mix of the same free will and fate. You hopefully still have the free will not to read this story about certain elements of history and human cruelty, but if you are of a nervous disposition, or not ready for learning such things, and are otherwise fated to read it, you are here warned not to do so by someone who has read it — even if any reader arguably has their own control (a personal Mount Olympus?) over whatever or whomsoever is in it.


    “They kissed. They licked. They bit.”

    Got the bit between the teeth. Where that bit of hard concupiscence reaches the permanent apotheosis paradise, but no single bit in or of itself can form the Gestalt, even if its perceived passion seems permanent for a while with the chosen person whose wild words are in the passion of the moment, as Charles here discovers for himself, eventually by excising the erect bit of himself that kept him in that paradise socket of visionary lust on the brink of fulfilment. The vigils and vistas of sex towards the stars, and back again. Strong stuff, be warned, of our lustful Earth in mass urgent orgy — in interface with our more quiet moments of Close Encounter watching. Reading a book can be something like Charles’ depicted process, a process with whom- or whatsoever sits within the book erecting the small print around itself. Vigils and vistas, indeed.


    “Staring into its depths revealed only more unexpected layers upon layers of starfield,…”

    A pair of young sweethearts take to a boat on a lake as part of an exercise in cosmic awareness with the help of an old man’s special mushrooms they had obtained. Their backstories give their own layers of starfield depths to their characters, but it is as if their ‘trip’ infects the whole area and peoples with a violent storm, as the young couple witness a cataclysmic tournament between two indescribable creatures rising from the lake. But, of course, these vying creatures are here indeed impossibly described and anything I say will not do justice to this rite of passage of the young couple, and its final doubt. And my own final doubt that I am that old man who provided them the ‘mushrooms’ in some strange way?

  28. “Forever is perhaps never forever. The test tube family or a chivalrous battle…”
    from my review earlier, somewhere above…


    “They’d arrived. A new city; new sights; new people:; the same duty hanging like a storm cloud over every building they saw,…”

    A story for our times. A child brother and sister, taking trains hither and thither, their hearts fused, or to be fused and then exchanged from chest to chest, who are seen as ‘angels’ of their momma and poppa. Coddled and helped on their programmed journey — even if the helpers do not understand what they are helping — against our corrupt civilisation. We are able to empathise with these siblings as such angels of fire. Even sympathise, or especially sympathise, with them. Hansel and Gretel, or cyborg mules?

    “‘None of the things we do are good things, are they?’
    His eyes remained brave for her, and without tears. He said: ‘The green place.’”

  29. To another child innocence contained … or let loose.


    “The Pastor, wishing to spare Anna the vision of the horror, confronted it by mouthing the words, ’Why are you here?’”

    I mouth the same words straightforwardly while confronting this book itself. And I answer the question myself by saying ‘you are here because you describe things within your pages that need confronting’. Especially in this devastatingly disturbing work of a small girl and her pet cat, and her father, the Pastor, confronting — without the girl herself looking up from the decimated remains of her beloved cat to see it — the clear vision of the post-Miltonic vileness of beast as the culprit threaded through with the explicitly listed litany of our world’s evils that we are now shown to negotiate more and more each day. The story, meanwhile, holds the perhaps hopeless hope of its title. Yet I sense this story is more powerful than the Pastor within it, by creating him in the first place, creating him for such a pilgrimage. I hope so, because the Pastor, without now being created or recreated himself in this story of a different potential gospel, will otherwise fail. Has always failed … till now? I need to culminate this book’s purging or catharsis while I can. Yet, it is merely fiction. And this review, just that. A saving grace. Paradise Lost (Pastor as part of the letters of the mighty poem’s title) and Paradise Regained (‘engine’ of forever) in a deeper dark to show the light more clearly?

  30. Now read the next one, as part of this spacecraft of stories appearing otherwise from nowhere into nowhere…


    “The blackness seemed deeper then, beyond measure as it was always and yet somehow more bottomless.”

    For ‘rooms’, read ‘pages’? Here, loneliness amid the laughter of absurdity or existentialism, the singular ‘Voice’ in the ‘Voracious Void’, as an astronaut — while “keeping perpetual vigil at portholes” — hears it, and asks of it a similar question I quoted from the previous story. A malicious, lying voice that becomes him, after brutally killing all his sleeping fellow astronauts. Questioning what good he ever did. None, I say, Ligottianly. Except he did save an elderly man once. On page 359. “Welcome, to these rooms barren but for you.”


    “Some call for a great mass penitence, and prophecy salvation for those worthy, the humbled and virtuous and pure of heart. Others wait for doom.”

    In a seemingly Fortean edition of Time magazine held by “Henry honey”, along with more fantastical space stories more suiting for his age, one might think. It is the perfect coda to this lovecraft of stories in gestalt, as new Poems of Innocence and Experience. Things discovered while reading them are akin to the discoveries in the Time article … and his young sister – with whom he is playing in the garden sporadically overseen by an anxious mother – the sister who imagines the potato bugs in her hand love each other. Each for each. Vice and virtue, “violent crime” now reducing as a result of such discoveries, a Divine-Light Anomaly, a whale on the moon, Swiftian giants found under the ground in Peru. And talking about Swift, it stirs me to think that this whole book is akin to his Modest Proposal. And indeed this is the Modest Proposal for our times amid Time’s mention of ‘vastness of unknowable mystery’. This book is a sheer experience. A book wherein the word ‘gargantuan’ is used more times than you can count. And, sincerely, a book by a writer to add to the inner canon of fiction writers I watch. A book that can be “defined as being pre- or post-Discovery.”


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