Nightscape Press 2019
Edited by Robert S. Wilson
Stories by Paul Jessup, Kristi DeMeester, Christopher Ropes, Duane Pesice, Don Webb, Greg Sisco, Matt Thompson, Michael Wehunt, Alvaro Zinos-Amaro, Lynne Jamneck, Dino Parenti, Kurt Fawver, doungjai gam, Daniel Braum, Sean M. Thompson, Elizabeth Beechwood, David Peak, K.H. Vaughan, LC von Hessen, Brian Evenson, Amelia Gorman, Carrie Laben, Wendy Nikel, Andrew Kozma, Annie Neugebauer, Gwendolyn Kiste, Dan Coxon, Zin E. Rocklyn, Laird Barron, Steve Toase, S.P. Miskowski, S.L. Edwards.
When I read this book, my thoughts will appear in the comment stream below…
WATCH ME BURN WITH THE LIGHT OF GHOSTS by Paul Jessup
“Kit knows these dead people. He’s coded with some of them, shared space, shared monitors, yelled at each other in assembly. He stole a kiss from one once. Now she has a bullet in her head. Her name is a wound.”
As I go through this book slowly, I shall have to be wary of my own customarily attempted, tempted Pareidolia-in-Text via Gestalt Apophenia! Yet, here I FELT, in this apoplectic, apocalyptic Text, at least a breaking-news religion of death with new Nursery Rhyme words that if they endure will be like HPL’s Cthulhu Azathoth and Yog Sothoth. I won’t write down here this Kit of new cosmos names from the Text. They need to be read FIRST as part of the Kit Experience, his schooldays friends now animal masks in this new cosmos religion of guns, voids and annihilation, his sister, his sister’s friend, who once watched him sleep? I need to let the whole thing percolate in my aged brain then to factor it into future Nox Texts to pareidoliate…
“You are a ghost, they are all ghosts. Embrace death and take them all down with you…”
My previous WOW! review of this author: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2017/09/18/interzone-272/#comment-10703
IMMOLATION by Kristi DeMeester
“I went home alone, and shredded bits of paper and fed them to the cat. After twenty minutes, she coughed up a single sheet, scrawled top to bottom in my mother’s handwriting.”
And this story is the result, I reckon. But which of them is the goddess, the mother or the daughter? And who immolates whom?
I think I may have now already grasped what Nox Pareidolia means. That you can never grasp its meaning.
My previous reviews of this author: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/tag/kristi-demeester/
My stories in NOX magazine:
Wasted Meals – Nox vol 1 no 3 1993
The Presence – Nox #4 1994
Don’t Give Your Heart To The Balloon-Mender – Nox #5 1994
Attic Seas – Nox #6 1995
Nygremaunce – Nox #7 1996
HER EYES ARE WINTER by Christopher Ropes
“the final aloneness of knowing and having no one else who knows.”
The most idyllic Cardinal narration of being part of a religious siblinghood at House Exspirivat whereby a Catholic feel is concerned with what I have long called Cathrianism, mingled with studies of such authors as Aickman and Tem.
“The afternoon bled into a sickish purple night. I roused myself from a fitful contemplation of Robert Aickman’s ‘The Inner Room’ before dinner time.”
“I had moved on to a new tale, ‘A House by the Ocean,’ by Steve Rasnic Tem. It read like poetry, each word melting in my eyes and trickling through my veins.”
This work will possibly be my comfort, a masterpiece as spiritual Spore after I have long pondered its Repos as repose, the narrator’s daughter, his liking for tall women, his relationships of hope and hopelessness, being mocked by others as well as bearing his own self-criticism and altruistic love amid the specific others in the house if not yet the Others. The ceiling stains in the empty, if not inner, rooms, and the writing in the snow, as Autumn becomes today Winter in my real-time. At least my gestalt real-time reviewing will enable me to redial or repareidoliate this story in the distant future, making my distant future at least more certain if not definite… “writing this, so that anyone who finds this house knows what happened.” Null Immortalis.
My reviews of Ropes: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/tag/christopher-ropes/
of Aickman: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/robert-aickman/, and of Tem: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/steve-rasnic-tem/
Later cross-referenced Ropes wounds with Tem’s BOX here: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2019/10/04/celestial-inventories-steve-rasnic-tem/#comment-17234
There is an excellent piece of artwork for each story so far and just as one example, this is the one for the next story:-
by Duane Pesice and Don Webb
“Why were the photos a threat?
Why was weird a threat?”
The title a photo size. This is a story of a feisty young woman called Carol Joyce as the narrator who supplements her pocket money by working at the local Fotomart in Peoria at an era when photographs needed to be delivered to a place so as to be developed. This narrator herself is developing, and amid her heady feistiness of tone there’s an education underlying her style whereby she self-consciously uses such a wordy word as “quotidian”. She also helps develop a fellow male student’s lumpy carrot, but primarily she becomes involved in suddenly appearing in photos she develops, some of which shows where she knows she was not there to BE photographed. Morphing somehow into some sort of photo contest featuring camera booth girls. This story expands the reading mind and ends with a flourish, developed from negative to positive to weird. And I am currently factoring this work into the DeMeester story above, and vice versa. Wordy words become pareidolia as image, or as the Ropes had it: “each word melting in my eyes”.
My previous reviews of these authors: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/tag/don-webb/ and https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/tag/duane-pesice/
8×10 = 8Ø
Joyce Carol Øates
BAG AND BAGGAGE by Greg Sisco
“A suitcase is a little piece of home. Often it’s the most important parts, the only parts you can’t do without even for a little while. The stuff that matters. You don’t lose it without pain.”
Plan A is self-annihilation, awaiting the next train to fall under. A potentially successful literary experiment here mixing train station announcements with the intermittent trans-ownership discovery of an abandoned suitcase the innards of which represents the baggage of your life so far, whoever YOU are. Homophone or saxophone, were you once a Jazz musician who’s lost your civil partnership to an uncivil one with your own self? Plan B as a bottle of whiskey or a gun or the piano keyboard with four hands upon it, or I may have made up that last bit as that was what I saw in my own real-time as I looked up from the screen where I am writing this to another screen. Next Station of the Cross along and I’ll open my baggage again to see who I am and whether I should go back to Plan A. Life itself is one long benighted Pareidolia or Apophenia of the carrier soul in all of us, a gestalt I guess. You must agree.
I’ll tell you later if the experiment worked, assuming we get separated again.
“…as the last curlew drops its songstone into sepulchral silence,”
– from ‘Wandering Pianos’ by Tim Lebbon and DF Lewis (a collaborative story in ‘Blood from Stone’ 1999)
And my favourite darkest music, THE CURLEW, a song cycle by Peter Warlock
No wonder I enjoyed –
THE DREDGER by Matt Thompson
Starting as a run-of-the-mill horror story of a man working aboard a Dredger boat on the canal, and the curlews that’s beset him, or he them, as Coleridge did the albatross, and the legends told by others of such an earthy, mulchy place and his activity there, it becomes a brilliantly described experience, a recriminatory Pareidolia of Stone. Pareidolia, like some filters, can work in both directions of flow, I say.
My previous reviews of this author: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/tag/matt-thompson/
Just received today this new book –
HELLO by Michael Wehunt
“…the essence of the Weird Fiction Loner protagonist, living alone and thus lacking corroboration for the subtle and unsubtle strangeness infecting his life.”
What I say about this ‘story’, I say seriously, of course. Its first half is a genuine masterpiece of a story disguised as gestalt real-time reviewing an anthology, a lost and rare one, where Lionel Richie’s eponymous song is the eventual gestalt of three new stories within it, one by Kirsten Mester. It is chilling, literary, avant garde, creatively linguistic, horrific, horror-anthology studious, a sense of REAL horror, but when, halfway through, real people like John Langan, Kristi De Meester, Scott Nicolay, Ellen Datlow etc. started appearing in it, it ceased ironically to be real at all!
The first half of the Wehunt stands alone as a masterpiece.
“They strengthen the whole of the trio, they copulate and make strange frequencies. And I believe the eight classics packed around them are meant only to camouflage this.”
My whole ambition is to make connections within and between stories (synchronicities and coinspiracies) such as the first half of this work does. If I had not started years ago the process of gestalt real-time-time reviewing as a form of ‘real’ fiction as well as of reviewing, this story would have inspired me to start doing so today in 2019. Perhaps it has done so already – retrocausally.
When I edited and published ‘The Horror Anthology of Horror Anthologies’ in 2011, there was one story that had this within it –
“Can you recall the lasting effect of the most deeply disturbing collection of horror stories you’ve ever encountered? The narratives join hands…”
And regarding the above quote from this Wehunt shown above, Ellen Datlow recently produced an Anthology entitled ECHOES where she included two old classic stories in a similar relationship with new ones. (My gestalt real-time review here.)
My previous Wehunt reviews: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/tag/michael-wehunt/
GARDENING ACTIVITIES FOR COUPLES by Alvaro Zinos-Amaro
“As you watch the cactus, the cactus watches you,” Jeff continued.
I understood this wildly brilliant, beautifully close-ordered botanical/ art-Aesthetic wordiness of a couple and their co-rivalry in the their new Gaia or garden and so forth, but how can I prove to you that I understood it? That it means far more than you can conceive of it before reading it? It was more an osmosis, for me. A running jump. And based on what a real couple have publicly released on social media, I do not think I am being too mischievous if I extrapolate from that information to this, even if erroneously, there is a grain of truth, a respectful obeisance to Jeff and Ann VanderMeer here? A leap of faith, a chance synchronicity, an eternal fictional truth, a creative art-filmic morphing of facts. Or nothing of the kind, her name here being Judy. One notch of Pareidolia too far.
LIES I TOLD MYSELF by Lynne Jamneck
“I’m afraid I don’t pay attention to conspiracy theories.”
Intriguing, potentially gestalt-forming, catafiles about cataphiles and cataflics, catafiles containing interviews involving the death (manslaughter, murder or suicide?) of a woman in the catacombs of Paris, and how they affected one police woman investigator, but where lie the lies, above or below? Or as above, so below? Selves versus selves, as already adumbrated in a number of this book’s previous stories. Mester versus DeMeester/DeMeer? My whole review regime, perhaps, is one long Conspiracy theory versus or via COinspiracy and COincidence. Once you are taught the ropes, you can climb them. But do they hawl up from here or down to there? Questions obviate the lies.
“…they say when you talk about something, you make it real. You give it life and it becomes part of you.”
THE UNKINDNESS by Dino Parenti
“The evening before, Jason had crafted for her an origami flamingo, the best he’d ever made.”
A superbly written story. They seem to keep on coming in this book, it seems. Worthy of being written by a Flannery O’Connor reincarnation. The writerly manoeuvres of a pair of ravens who leave marbles in a birdbath after gorily killing a cat called Othello that Jason saw every day on the way to and from school… A story of this awakening 12 year old boy whose mother died from an infection after giving birth to him. A story of how he sees his father, comparing the latter’s large hands and his own small origami-plying ones. And his witnessing his father’s interface with women (“Local nurses, waitresses, housewives, bored and ravening.”) And both their interfaces with Charlotte, a young woman, housekeep and Jason’s ‘baby-sitter’… But it is the pair of ravens and their doings that are this story’s soul, a TS Eliot-like ‘objective correlative’, a literary device that I now have been myself awakened to see as a form of pareidolia…
This book’s earlier curlews, notwithstanding. Dies Irae Parentis.
Reblogged this on The Sanguine Woods.
MERGE NOW by Kurt Fawver
“‘Coincidence, coincidence, coincidence,’ he repeated to himself,…”
Is it a coincidence that Chisholm, the name of the main protagonist here, has HOLISM embedded in it as a result of crashing its last six letters?
“They wove a deep and abiding pattern that was almost religious, almost mystical.”
My patterns with books result from gestalt träumtrawling, aka holistic reviewing. I dare not tell you of the nature of what pattern emerges in angst-ridden Chisholm’s busy commuting life in the city. That would be a spoiler. Suffice to say, bar a final quote quoted within the story itself below, that indeed this story itself is in blatant tune with what happens IN it — suddenly crashing into all the other stories that preceded it and, no doubt, disrupting any stories that are yet to follow it!
“the blindfolded, seeing the answer others cannot see and gnashing their teeth in fear and ecstasy, do the great work of the eschaton. They will prepare the roads for its coming.”
My previous reviews of this author: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/tag/kurt-fawver/
Cross-referenced the Fawver with the Tim Major here: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2019/11/08/pareidolia/#comment-17307
when we were trespassers
by doungjai gam
“Most of the windows in the living room were boarded up except for one on the side of the house. From where I stood I could see the sunflower patch we hid behind earlier. I admired how they stood, tall and strong.”
“I imagined that if there were such a thing, this place would be shoulder to shoulder with the ghosts of junkies mourning their final hits.”
And that’s the beginning and end of this story, as well as its end and beginning, the meaning of nothing. The red bloom of a hit. A wasp bite versus jagged glass in the scales of first and last avoidance. A derelict house – as a couple, John and a woman called Blair, break in, ostensibly for him to seek the closet of meaning, and finding nothing except a continuation or/as an end. The previous story’s rear-end crash took all the meaning out of this one, but something remained: and that something is the fact that something always remains, beyond either altruism or selfishness. Isn’t Jack just another version of John? Merge now as gestalt.
There is a series of oblique meanings to the word Pareidolia so far in this book. The other Pareidolia book that I am concurrently reviewing seems to convey themes-and-variations on the dictionary-definition of Pareidolia. Both methods are worthy. Presenting, shoulder to shoulder, the Pareidolia of Pareidolia.
RUM PUNCH IS GOING DOWN by Daniel Braum
“I’m in a water taxi speeding away from Belize City, catching spray, sitting shoulder to shoulder with a dozen travelers licking the Caribbean Sea from their lips.”
Shoulder to shoulder, again. Reader and story. Joint with joint. As we follow Rum Punch protagonist (called that because he bought everyone in the bar a rum punch). A well-conjured, well conjured, too, genius-loci as Island or split or caye near Belize in 1986 of sea horses and underbelow caves that you can hawl down to on a rope. Like the closet of nothingness trope in the previous story. Now a trope become tropical. “I find undecided places conducive to the liminal.” Many characters, including the reader, reach here on a boat, with later random huts to sleep in, random meanings to cull, all of us with our backstories. Some of which backstories in others’ minds we learn about tantalisingly. Lost loves and why, and new found ones, even a sea horse in an aquifer. Or did it appear in the jar of water parthenogenetically? There’s even a crocodile with a woman’s name to eat up the one called Hitler who had said to the protagonist’s face “You’re the one who’s been Jewing up the place.” But as in all Platonic caves, we only know the shadows we think we know, I guess. Some live on.
“Running away feels more like truth.”
My other reviews of this author: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/tag/daniel-braum/
Pingback: Träumalising… | The Des Lewis Gestalt Real-Time Reviews
UNMOORED by Sean M. Thompson
“The old man’s never going to get any better, that’s the elephant in the room.”
A rotary phone that no longer works, a Polaroid photo that needs to be pulled out and shaken, this is a realistically disarming virtuality of Alzheimer’s as an increasingly slippery experience of memory-and-now and of who I am. And who you are. How do I know it is realistic? I am an old man myself and at least I vaguely know.
I invented the word träumalising today after an earlier one I invented: Träumtrawler as a title for the way books can be read and reviewed. Not based on trauma as trauma so much as on Träumerei (Schumann) aka Dreaming. Pareidolia and apophenia as words need, in perhaps confused hindsight, the word träumalising for them to exist at all, I guess. Words always mean something.
“Names. Mean. Nothing.”
My previous reviews of stories in this author’s name: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/tag/sean-m-thompson/
JUST BEYOND THE SHORE by Elizabeth Beechwood
“I head over to the green shack on the north end of the ferry terminal, the one with the neon sign flashing B*A*I*T. I remember it from before. It’s not just a bait store, it’s groceries, too, even though the sign doesn’t say that.”
Die Mer or Mother, is Meredith the equivalent Rime to Coleridges’s dire-fortuning albatross or a saviour angel allowing narrator Stephanie’s due rhapsodic fulfilment by sea’s seal? An engaging story as, 19, she travels back to the distant island (here a well-characterised genius-loci) where supposed drowning had taken her mother, and a force called Meredith had once promised more than just death to Stephanie. And, free will or not, an unmoored Orange Star that needs the slightest nudge for its amorphous life to fit some eventual destiny of purpose … or pareidolia…
“, and I clamp my hands over my ears and squeeze my brain so the thoughts can’t take shape into words that will echo in my head. I can’t let them take shape.”
Mère as well as Mer.
THE SCHOOLMASTER by David Peak
“Hundreds of glass prayer candles glow orange throughout the night.”
And the harvest moon, too, glows orange in this now archetypal vignette of the undertow of fire and darkness at the earth’s core with which the beasts beset our young, and the later strictures of education to banish such an undertow, the beast in ourselves, although, I infer, the teacher once relished it in his lessons. Those pareidoliac shadows in the Platonic cave of Braum again? The shape of Azathoth?
My previous reviews of this author: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/tag/david-peak/
The Pareidolia of Piero della Francesca
THE PAST YOU HAVE, THE FUTURE YOU DESERVE by K.H. Vaughan
“Maybe people don’t become attractive to you until you need them to be.”
“, everyone’s cigarettes killing everyone else.”
Affected me more than I, as an old man, can exactly tell why. An atmospheric terroir of old chance stones and rocks and crevices the glaciers brought to the woods and its township, life a diminuendo tontine game or a series of ‘sardines’ games, not of hide and seek. Blokes, drinkers, stoicisms, unserious barmaid flirtations, and people and relationships coming and going in their life, three of them who remember the deadly diaspora of fellow kids during one such ‘sardines’ game. Marsh gas? Or some deeper pattern that needs scrying? They determine to establish that pattern of once future diaspora since such a past, whatever the diminuendo music of a ‘dying fall’ that they themselves now face, in stoical supine waiting in the woods. Even now at the age of 40-something, they consider themselves older than they are.
“You think you’re old?” the old man speaks up, loudly from his stool. His face is red and he is shaking. “What are you, forty? I can’t finish a beer before I have to piss it out.“
Reference WORTH here: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2019/10/14/panic-soup-david-mathew/#comment-17362
HERR SCHEINTOD by LC von Hessen
“…gently but firmly pressed down on the man’s right eyeball with the pad of his thumb. It briefly depressed into the socket, then popped back into place without flinching or protest, the pupil a sullen black pit. In the flickering lamplight, a vague thumbprint emerged.”
A startlingly, unforgettably evocative, often gorily tactile and putridly olfactory, sometimes concupiscent, account of a sort of funeral parlour indefinably years ago, where corpses are kept for as long as possible to outlive any ambiguity as to whether they are TRULY dead. The outlandish outcome is a natural derivative from what we learn about this place and its openly living officials or its clandestinely undead denizens and visitors, Phossy mouth and Corsican salute, included. It is the scrying of such ambiguity of existence and corpse-effluvia that underpins our own eschatological pareidolia, I guess
“Given time, he supposed, one could grow accustomed to anything.”
THE ROOM ABOVE by Brian Evenson
“: if it is not human, it is pretending to be.”
I uncannily feel as if I am this man. The room above being my own brain in this (what has turned out to be) obsessive review-site body itself from which I ever hear a preternatural voice, every day, so sometimes I go out and take brain photos, including my own varying shadows. I REALLY should pay attention to the rather over-size quote below from this story and do away with this site, its overweening singular voice in my headroom above!
“I should get out more. I should try to meet other humans and converse with them. I should be entertaining. I should memorize a series of jokes that I can tell in the cafeteria as I eat my lunch. I should do everything I can to make myself believe that my life resides somewhere outside of the bedroom, somewhere outside the house. That the house is a place I go to sleep, to rest, and that it has nothing to do with me.”
My previous reviews of this author; https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/tag/brian-evenson/
Cross-referenced the Evenson with the Barker here: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2019/11/08/pareidolia/#comment-17378
SINCERELY EDEN by Amelia Gorman
“To your left a tall pale man calls an elevator. You hear it ding on the tentative third floor, then the second, then the ground, but then it chimes again and again with too many floors for this squat building. Each ding is more distant than the last.”
One of those stories where you end up saying, hey, where has this story been all my life? As if found in some forgotten P.O. Box of the mind. Exquisitely written, you enter the mind of a woman in some unknown German city, a mind with layers like the storeys of where she lives and the smaller storeys of the cubicular delivery-hatch for post near the building’s entrance. It is ironically already the internet age, true, but still with an array of ancient spires and buildings, here in her fifth floor flat in a five floor building, hints of art deco in its air-lock entrance and where there are damp stains to read on her ceiling, pancake shapes, a face seen in the red cracks of a hand, strawberry parables to scry, and the gradual onset of an old friend’s postcards signed with her name of Eden bringing different emotions to share. So many implications and interstices twine, with an eventual visionary scene far more lasting than her momentarily lingering dreams after sleep. Here there was no Evenson room above.
My previous review of this author: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2018/08/01/vastarien-a-literary-journal-issue-2/#comment-13358
WILD DOGS by Carrie Laben
“but it turned out that nearly every car in Montana had a cracked windshield. Someone had told her in workshop that it was Montana state law; they couldn’t pass inspection without a cracked windshield. This was a joke because there were no such things as car inspections in Montana, but”
A rumbustious and witty account of a sort of hen party at a bar in the wilds of Montana, and I had to scry what happened amid images of roadkill, a plate of battered gizzards, a horny man too free with his shots, the women’s wild dogs left in the back of a car in the car park, a coitus interruptus and the confused slapstick of horns and antlers and so forth. Even a hint of an earthquake to match the earlier cracked windscreen, but what did the crazing depict?
Not my thing, but I somehow loved every minute of it!
THE MOODY ROOMS OF AGATHA TATE by Wendy Nikel
“…staircase in bright reds and yellows. Dust dances before your face, drawing you forward like fairy lights on a forest path.
This way, it says. This way.
Obedient, you follow.”
An archetypal story, swaddling enough a story to stir my literary tastes. Archetypal as such in providing what you expect from such a moody-roomed story, as a young woman enters it, privy to where the key was, and eventually privy to the lock of hair to which it was also key, made privy by the eponymous deceased when she was not deceased. A house with perfectly couched words to describe it and to swaddle you. No surprise, looking back at that quote above, it actually started with the word ‘spiral’. More a moody möbius, I guess.
SALMON RUN by Andrew Kozma
“Documentaries had ruined us for real life.”
A man as narrator with a knack for evoking the numinous fears within us all, yet he also seems simple-minded and lacking understanding of what he describes, as if something has taken him over, some force like an over-arching author with presumably more omniscience than the narrator, or perhaps a documentary fly on the wall camera. The narrator man with his wife Harriet driving to the hospital to see her father who had been taken suddenly ill, but had he really been taken ill and was he still at home after a day of gardening? It seems even the author can not explain why all these people in their gridlocked cars like Godard’s WEEKEND traffic queue (as I inferred it to be with even more omniscience perhaps than the author himself) had been called to the same hospital on false errands. And then held behind an emergency incident such as a crashed balloon on the motorway. Crushed intentions. A fish stream with no fish. No way out. Slow diminuendo of purpose. Gridlocked cars tailing off or tailgating off into nothing except, at best, into visionary coloured scales. No point to say more. Other than, perhaps, that it was the story itself that made me say it no more.
My previous review of this author: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2016/08/08/interzone-265/#comment-7905
THE LITTLE DRAWER FULL OF CHAOS by Annie Neugebauer
“I imagined the bubble was exactly centered.”
From that still point, that crux before the crash, this becomes a rollover from a jigsaw gestalt to “a thousand little pieces of unrelated detritus”, from a couple’s OCD towards a bookshelf where – heaven forfend! – books were now ordered wrongly, perhaps deliberately so, together with a drawer where oddments of untidiness were stowed but a drawer that becomes a Narnia into contra-Gaia, with vomit transmigrated between the couple, without much chance to establish that vomit’s nature nor to scry its potential pareidolia… and much else paralleling our own teetering life on the brink of disorder, here demonstrated by the well-characterised loving couple, May and June…
The experience of this work is not in what happens in it but the experience itself of reading it.
Cf the couple in the Zinos-Amaro.
“But what about how we wanted real careers and how babies spit up everywhere and how kids are dirt machines?”
My previous review of this author: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2014/11/18/interzone-255-black-static-43/#comment-3519
WHEN THE NIGHTINGALE DEVOURS THE STARS by Gwendolyn Kiste
“Anywhere is better than here, I wanted to say, but kept quiet instead.”
Should I allow the nightingale to dive in the water, rather than soar into the sky, to expunge the million years old stars themselves, or merely expunge their reflections? My question, not necessarily this story’s, but, whatever, whatever the nightingale decides. This tantalising story is about a 40 year old woman who works menially in the small community, with no durable desire to leave for the city and the wider world. A contemporary woman – quite close to her when they were young girls in this community – returns having been rescued by members of the community from a death cult. “….shortcutting down a nearby alley and escaping into the day that seemed too bright to hold something as strange and obscure as her.” The eventual outcome and the renewed relationship between the two women are haunting, arguably blighting, as the woman rescued shows no sign of explicit gratitude to the community that rescued her. But which community now reflects the other, which the death cult?
“shipwrecked from a world that might no longer exist […] how to close my eyes and smile…”
My previous reviews of this author: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/tag/gwendolyn-kiste/
FAR FROM HOME by Dan Coxon
“He’d never had sex with anyone taller than him —“
A truly compelling story of a man travelling on his own by train from England to Cardiff, Wales for work in an art gallery near the hotel he had booked, representing a break from his wife, one with mixed feelings. If I told you what happened you would not need to read it and you must read it. I insist. Suffice to say, on the walk to the hotel, there is an exterior mural that has weathered and effectively become pareidolia as an image. A mural strangely also viewable later from his hotel room – in a hotel worthy of the ominous Hyde Hotel of yore. There was a pink suitcase on the train earlier and later pink vomit, if I recall correctly. A visit to a bar with waitresses and some beer as strong as cough syrup. And noises from the room next door not the room above. But I have missed out the most important item that connects this whole story. You need to need know that to focus the whole picture.
The cough syrup relevant to another Coxon story here? https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2020/10/04/nightscript-6/#comment-20044
BIRDS by Zin E. Rocklyn
“, dreaming of a sky so black, no one could see me fly.”
Creative and constructive miscegenation, from a girl’s point of view, I guess, important that guess, as a striving for gestalt, or racial gaia, as she absorbs her older sister like a hybrid magpie, or an angel with sprouting wings, and with dark poetics of were-birds and were-serpents, and a predatory police officer. Mentions of mother-suckling and a father, too. Bare rumps, sick as disgust’s “muscle memory” of some previous stories’ vomit in this book, and a boy she takes home as if a lost fledgling.
Reading as tantalisingly tentative trial and error, where you come out more whole. As if what you piece together mends you, too? Just as “Sometimes what you break, breaks you.”
Perhaps the essence of nox pareidolia? Night scrying.
From “dreaming of a sky so black, no one could see me fly” above, ironically now to ‘nyctophobia’ below…
STRIDENT CALLER by Laird Barron
“The perfect place to host a dinner party and then watch the guests vanish one by one.”
Roll with it. Strident like ‘Wild Dogs,’ so I give it a chance. Young man Jesse Craven (with his pit bull Artemis) — seller of his sex to those who want blowing as men or rejuvenating as women, I guess, and he gets tangled up with Deborah, 75: with interesting backstories and a country house to die for, and her eponymous recorder as flute sort of summons up Satanics and perhaps an angry cuckolded husband. And to give a reason for this work to be in this book: “A man’s silhouette receded toward the heart of the disk, slightly hunched and dragging an inert, possibly canine-shaped object.” Pareidolia in Motion.
My previous reviews of this author: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/john-langan-nathan-ballingrud/
THE TASTE OF ROT by Steve Toase
“All the time I walk between the tables, the owner watches me over smeared varifocal glasses.”
“The letters slide off the paper, diluted ink staining her skin.”
A remarkable rapture of rot, where the world has been inundated, and the narrator seeks his sister in the city, also visiting the library and a cafe. Relatively short work, but remarkably there is too much to tell you what you can see in it through a critiquing varifocal towards pareidolia, a pareidolia even in the form of smell as well as taste, sound and sight. A new sense, perhaps, to add to the other senses, with fiction transfigured. Spores creating galaxies as devotion. Null Immortalis.
The early development of my various theories that preceded or coincided with the November 2008 start of my gestalt real-time reviewing – for example this blog post by the luminary Matt Cardin in January 2009: http://www.teemingbrain.com/2009/01/13/fiction-as-religion-some-good-words-about-divinations-of-the-deep/
Also in 2006: http://www.ligotti.net/showthread.php?t=818 (Magic Fiction)
http://www.ligotti.net/showthread.php?p=3826#post3826 (Fiction as Religion)
https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/i-only-buy-books-i-know-i-will-like/ (Initial thinking behind this site)
Perhaps, all these years later, this story presents a most important staging-post in this quest.
My reviews of two other stories by this author: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2019/09/13/the-best-horror-of-the-year-volume-eleven/
Metatron – MetaRot
TAStE rOt – Toase
VENOM by S.P. Miskowski
“….beyond the amber circle of illumination cast by her desk lamp, and gazed into shadows against a far wall. There appeared to be a central area more opaque than the rest. The longer she watched, the more distinctly she made out…”
Made out what? This story tells you. A strikingly disturbed portrait of a woman working in a mental health institution, and the trials and tribulations of such a job, her once mentor called Waverly, the reduced financial support for such treatments, and her own mental health infected by visions and a patient who becomes in her eyes the gestalt patient. And what that patient said he once found inside his shoe.
‘Oh, what a tangled web we weave…” Sir Walter Scott
My previous reviews of this author: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/tag/s-p-miskowski/ and https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/tag/sp-miskowski/
My previous reviews of the next author below: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/tag/s-l-edwards/
IN THE VASTNESS OF THE SOVEREIGN SKY by S.L. Edwards
“And there, amidst the barking of their voices and the venomous glare of the sunlight off their guns, the boys did what all hounded animals do.”
Combining the flying in the blackness of the Zin E., here in the intriguing Edwards with “you only see the howling black just outside your patio doors.” And the out of body floating in the Miskowski, and in the Edwards the sky as the means of rescuing you from the firing squad, to escape upwards … but the ‘you’ here, instead, is a woman studying the Gardner coup in Antioch, corresponding with a woman who claims not to have shot the hooded figure of Santrich in that historical massacre of an event – and, along with her partner Chris, this ‘you’ is studying the writings of Santrich (a cross between a Lovecraft and a Magic Realist?) — “Santrich was far more than a shade of someone else’s terrors.” Factoring in, also, the previous studies of other literature including the “not-so-gentle subterfuge of Julio Cortázar’s ‘Axolotl.’” (I reviewed the latter in 2011 HERE.)
And I continue to study this Edwards story itself as well as the whole of this important anthology in a similar open-minded way as ‘you’, fathoming whether I shall ever get to the bottom here of the aesthetic, religious, political, historical and literary-noxious mythos of pareidolia, ‘NOXious’ being the word that has now suddenly, as I write this in real-time, been derived from reading the Toase above, earlier today. And — by dint of this massive book in particular, as assisted by a shorter Pareidolia anthology simultaneously by chance arriving within my purview — I have understood for the first time what I have been doing for the last 11 years (Gestalt real-time-time reviewing) is only made possible by the alchemy of something called pareidolia as assisted by my own perhaps pathetic apophenia.