The Immeasurable Corpse of Nature – Christopher Slatsky

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GRIMSCRIBE PRESS 2020

My previous reviews of Christopher Slatsky: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/tag/christopher-slatsky/ and of Grimscribe Press: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/tag/grimscribe-press/

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

21 thoughts on “The Immeasurable Corpse of Nature – Christopher Slatsky

  1. I read the first story in 2016, and below is my review in its then context…

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    PHANTOM AIRFIELDS

    “Nothing but time these days.”
    “Wide open space. Makes me think.”
    “Randall knew she needed time and distance.”

    Time and distance, needed by all of them, and Randall has lost his son mysteriously to some astronautic abductor, he thinks, about to lose his wife and remaining child through such attrition, and he spends his time at the derelict airfield – still thinking. Time and distance, haunting and mind-twisting for him and and for us to see him thus, and just like this book’s cover (and Griffin’s work) crystallising, now crystallising into that astronautic child-like story, now a ‘chartreuse glow’ rather than yellow alone, with attenuation more like a strength than a weakness, beyond ‘oblivion’, beyond ‘entropy’, even beyond ‘piety’. Poignant with the power of some game of storytelling Chinese Whispers, I guess. Loved also the ‘anthropomorphic train’ as some form of symbol permeating my thoughts here.

    “The haunted were capable of depths of compassion most were not capable of expressing.”

    That earlier ‘expression’ of DeMeester?

  2. I read the next story in 2017, and below is my review in its then context…

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

    ENGINES OF THE OCEAN

    “The air was soupy like brine.”

    They keep on coming. Another perfect addition to the relentlessly atmospheric slow-moving, snow flakes in the Wilkinson, here flakes of salt, even a ‘flake of the guilt’. Not Devlin’s porridge, but Slatsky’s soup as if the sea has thickened over time via various ‘mad scientist’ meters, pipes and insidious underground engines, as if recalling William H Gass whom I earlier mentioned above in connection with the previous story, an erstwhile depiction of a future Trump, Gass’s objectilia and hisTunnel built as a syndrome for some kind of Trump phenomenon and the relationship of a sort of Trump with his daughter in Atlantic City? Here, the daughter is the protagonist Cordelia, receiving messages from her dead father, and returning to the seemingly unchanged house (beautifully depicted), the house where she grew up, and a ghost is now metamorphosed from history and nostalgia in generative union.
    Ungraspable, but with fixed Zeno’s paradox staying power grasping YOU instead. Here a parakeet, too, as a rejoinder to Kuder’s songbird.
    Water Kings and Strangos.

  3. E6626C4A-0E3A-4411-85BE-B7D817636BFA
    THE CARCASS OF THE LION

    “Monet painted the same landscape again and again, to capture subtleties over time, chronicling slight differences in countless moments.”

    Sylvia “confronting the sylvan”, this is a perfect accompaniment to my just finishing (here) Melanie Tem’s novel ‘The Yellow Wood’, particularly when now reading the revelations about Sylvia’s father at the end. This is the story of Sylvia’s older female mentor Hazel from childhood onward, with Sylvia now reunited with Hazel who is suffering from cancer, whether in remission or worsening becoming a moot point. The yellow of honey and honeycombs and bee-keeping and the lion Sylvia once saw in a dream, now harbouring the mutated honeycomb cells… but there is some “inherent geometry of nature” that seems to contrast with Sylvia’s “smudged memories” of Hazel but chime with my own gestalt real-time reviewing of what is called here in the Slatsky: “glorious structures with no intent or foresight”…Hazel and Sylvia’s interfering neighbour of Fuller’s Earth notwithstanding.

    “The world was chaos.”

    “If the world was intentional, it had been formed maliciously, the maker intent on antagonising its handiwork.”

    Monet and Slatsky alike?

  4. ‘The Numinous In God, Nature, And Horror’ — an academic article with footnotes and bibliography, followed by…

    THE WORLD IS WAITING FOR THE SUNRISE

    “Summoning the dead was ungodly, but was the Communion of Saints such a vastly different thing?”

    …the crux of this work, it turns out. Starting off as a slightly confusing discussion by posh people with various names about séances amid the charlatan mœurs of the era following the Great War, but it turns into a most powerful tension between lack of belief and a belief beyond mere hope as tangible Word or Logos, as a woman, for her husband’s sake, seemingly mocks up, in her own mind, a tangible projection of their son Noah beyond his death in the war. The final scenes are even more powerful and, indeed, gorily disturbing (even glorily, in rapture), to tell you about which scenes would spoil them. I, at least, also wonder if there is some covenanted Ark beyond death that is salvageable? The temporal versus the vaporous. Some gestalt beyond a book…or room…some wonderland?

    “She experienced a kind of empathy with the room’s crannies and nooks, the patterns of the streets outside, the city’s layout in its entirety.”

    “The world ran thick with corruption, on whose currents Alice knew she’d soon be swept away.”

  5. PALLADIUM AT NIGHT (for Bob Leman)

    “He wouldn’t let something as trivial as the flu bring him down.”

    Ice cubes can bring temperatures down, I guess. Nice for vodka, too. But no ice cubes here. Just that Quote or QTE below somewhere in the future that I have not yet typed. This novelette is the journey of a man called Irepani (anger and confused pain?) still fending off alcohol addiction who roams, first by his cousin’s jeep he’s pinched, into the wilds with his beloved pet dog the third, an adventure in solitude, to find himself at the supposedly derelict tower and observatory named after Leman. He somehow sees an echo of a childhood dream of himself now crawling towards the tower from the past. Or it’s him now having wandered onto some latter day test site, the crawling, then standing, image of something discrete from a mad science experiment (about which we are allowed to attend sporadic italicised discussions by supposedly authoritative soldiers and scientists who are dependent on shit-sculptured icons (one of which the dog breaks?) to weaponise Time itself by a Ritual of Pan?) QTE giving humans such powers of a God, in fact. Poignant about his dog and his failure to be strong with self, it is as if Irepani has become some sort of ‘dead astronaut’ in this work (first published, I note, in 2017) — towards a new nirvana of self…? That immeasurable corpse of Gaia.

    “…but he continued on as the dying Earth’s oceans turned into mist and planetary crust fragmented into desolate plates.”

    ***

    Magic words.”
    From Window by Bob Leman
    (A story first read by me in 2011 from the VanderMeers’ THE WEIRD)

  6. FF306186-3D83-46D5-BD82-4FC08880BD9BDEVIL GONNA CATCH YOU IN THE CORNERS

    “I broached the subject of his emulating birdsong, of frightening me by casting his voice into the well, of Daniel and the opossum; of the stone building in the woods; of Fox-Faced Rannie. I dare not mention the journal.”

    That is the skeleton of the plot, Charlotte, young woman sent to tend her once famous ventriloquist uncle in the frissons of the wilds, much as it resonates with things quite quite beyond itself, too. The dollhouses, the round barn evoking a round church where corners are obviously eschewed by dint of the work’s title.
    7764B885-94BB-40CB-8F1D-CAC34424FF84 Ventriloquism as an inadvertent apotheosis of Padgett. The foul concupiscence, too, that seems to begin at least to infect her, making her forget even any backward yearning for a fiancé. Which of these two versions of the Bosch painting with the same title is mentioned in the text? I think it be the round one even if it’s by a would-be Bosch rather than a straight-edged original. Ventriloquism as something coming inside you roundly sheds a whole new light on Christianity, I guess.

    ***
    “Our life without Christ is like a dummy without a ventriloquist — lifeless. But once we accept Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit enters our lives like the ventriloquist’s hand enters the puppet.” – Jay Kirk
    The immeasurable stretching of our future corpse?

  7. PROFESSOR COGNOSCENTE’S CALIGINOUS CHARMS CARNIVAL

    “The Professor even described a performance where he charmed an audience into believing a shadow was sitting on their lap, suckling them like a baby.”

    A man called John drives all the way to visit his once childhood hero of a magician and illusionist, with his conjuring show and pickled freaks and tantamount to avant-garde installations (or are they just a projection of fake news?), but, whatever, we do enjoy his journey into the house, itself a place of illusions – but is it eventually an anti climax (did he waste “gas money” in driving to this nostalgic carnival?) or is it an even darker, even more cosmically meaningful happening than he can remember? More scary than enlightening? More self engulfing than self affirming? 790DE82A-4D02-47FC-AEEC-BD150DB515E8 You will need to read it for yourself, but do beware entering this story, I say. Slatsky has too much of a prestidigitative knack than is good for him (or us?), I reckon! But what do I know? Too late for me to be objective, as I have already now looked up this Word-Alectrotrymancer again?

    “The key touched John’s forehead, penetrated the skull, spilled coils of dream wetly onto his lap.”

  8. THE ANTHROPARIAN INTEGRATION TECHNIQUE

    “‘Depression is like cancerous cells.’ Dr. Silvert continued, his long hands together, palms up. The gesture made Bian think of a child holding a dead animal he’d discovered on a nature romp.”

    Is this girl’s name Bian thus short for Bianca, I wonder? She has a young person’s classic hang-ups connected with depression, self harm etc etc and her parents have brought her to this doctor in an otherwise deserted or derelict Ligottian Mall…
    I sense a divestment towards the nude soul entity in his treatment, an entity referred to as a Seraph … and, incredibly, a story I read yesterday (‘All Your Belongings’ here) about the self’s non-belongings being divested is in true mutual synergy with the Slatsky. Coincidentally or preternaturally so. Reading one story resonates with reading the other in a revelatory way. They also both have connections with a train! This story has a simile with train tracks. But this story also involves the symbols of Ligottian mannequins, but in an original Slatskian way.

  9. FROM A PEOPLE OF STRANGE LANGUAGE

    “But do you know the common web connecting all?”

    A one-act play, with generous stage and character directions, a drama that potentially (depending on how well it is performed) is as frightening as Volk’s Ghostwatch happened to be when I first watched it on its first live viewing in the 1990s, whereby the audience itself became entrammelled. Otherwise the plot is quite different. This is a séance, further ‘benefiting’ in fright from what the audience has already absorbed above in ‘The World is Waiting for the Sunrise.’ Charlatanry transcended. With theories expounded, inter alia, upon ghosts being subject to Darwin’s evolution — and language itself not an effect of humanity’s expression but its autonomous cause.
    Words within a blast of sound!

    “aitisirt xe erecsid ótic”.

  10. THE FIGURINE

    “He hears what sounds like whispering somewhere inside the ceiling.”

    Nathan apparently has had whispering in his own head, too — about his little ten year old sister Sylvia, for some time now, as we all have our personal tipping points, no doubt, as universal mass hysteria has its own tipping points as described here. ‘Figurine’ as a WORD perhaps resembles another word in assonance or appearance or brainstorming imagination? The figurine he finds in “the impossible attic” and under her bed…
    This powerful work, meanwhile, is, on the surface, the story of Nathan’s grief at his sister’s death at the hands of a school shooting, the last message she sent from her mobile, his difficult relationship with his mother and her boy friend, with his religion and with the house’s “front law” (sic) of geometry from the garden and what is actually beyond the hatch leading to the attic inside.

  11. An academic article: ‘Affirmation of the Spirit: Consciousness, Transformation, and the Fourth World in Film’, with footnotes and bibliography, followed by…

    …the next story, that I reviewed in 2017, in its then context, as follows…

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

    SPARAGMOS

    “A magnetic sign attached to the driver’s door spelled SPARAGMOS in neon-orange letters. The two employees inside the cab wore orange jumpsuits.”

    We learn later they have orange boots, too. And even later, before I forget, the orange is as bright as a tangerine. Or was it a mandarin?
    But this unforgettable standalone story – one that is disturbing as well as blackly humorous – also emerges fully formed from the previous story, a continuation of the theme and variations on memory loss and dementia, here a man and previously his wife with Alzheimer’s. He tries to fix things in a journal, tries to remember his son and daughter when they visit. Tries so hard. I ached for him, for I know how he feels. Seeing things through the cataracts of time, and via bias mirrors. Seeing “plumbing dragged behind like a disemboweled animal.” Exaptions and goby frogs? He tries to make sense of what is broadcast on his radio as I try to make sense from this story, as if a Gestalt from life, a Gestalt from a Slatsky’s growing maze. From this BOOK’s still growing maze. Even its earlier caves and cavers…

    “SPARAGMOS’s respirators, goggles and hardhats with built in lamps made them look like a species of insect found deep underground. Or cavers who’d lost their way.”

      • “Affirmation of the Spirit”

        Possible mutually interactive spoilers.
        Despite only allowing myself to review pure fiction (as I have sacredly vowed in public several times) I did actually comment on this work before here.
        It is indeed very meaty, mind-staggering stuff that is essential to read, and on now fast recall, I see it handles many themes with which my gestalt real-time reviewing is in synergy, except that this essay is a moving balance of fiction and fact — and however much any imputed authorial intentional fallacy (see W.K. Wimsatt) weighs that balance more towards the tipping-point of fiction than that of fact, the fact that it never appeared in the publication it was said to have been first published in is only one of many things to be factored into that balance. Another thing is that the footnotes and the bibliography are seemingly fact.

  12. QUEER WOMAN SURGEON (aka THE BRUISED VEIL)

    I reviewed this story in 2017, and below is what I wrote about it in its then context of PHANTASM / CHIMERA…

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

    THE BRUISED VEIL

    “Like a printer error where the ink runs out and the words trail away into pale nothingness.”

    Or like when you need to prod a pencil into one of the holes of a cassette tape to get it back on track or torque. I started reading this story in the public library (as Carrie turned out to be in hers) and continued it in the waiting room of the local hospital while waiting for the regular six month meeting with my oncologist. It all seemed somehow terribly fitting as I methodically gathered the ratiocinative plot gradually by means of Carrie’s research and cassette interviews about the legend of the Slit Mouthed Woman. The forward slash in the book’s title seemed to embody that slit for me. Book titles do not often have forward slashes otherwise. It also deals with the Japanese internments in USA after Pearl Harbour, and it mentions Korea, too, evoking the Fire and Fury of today, things that the world has never seen before. The build up of facts about the legend of that woman, how she was created, whom she haunted, the historical symbolism involved, the people’s stories about her, the mafia hitman to embody again this book’s earlier revenge theme, dust storms, too, the mask the woman wore like a surgeon…. There is so much more to tell you about, and it all works subtly and cumulatively, leaving me with the ‘dying fall’ of a despairing thought that the story itself expressed better than I can about the world then and today –
    “The world no longer felt rational, no more a puzzle to be solved in the gathering of fragments and pieces.”
    And the two mile queue of parked untenanted cars made me cry more than any other story has made me cry, I guess. And the puppet-jawed face behind reality’s veil.

  13. THE IMMEASURABLE CORPSE OF NATURE

    “‘Life fucks up everything. […] I’ll take distractions over going nuts any day.’”

    So speaks Mina Fawn, whose character study — as bodily defiguration and backstory delineated here, along with her fallibilities as well as virtues as a scientist — makes her oh so real, and this Slatsky novelette is one such ‘distraction’ from my going nuts in today’s world, by ironically providing an extended and densely packed metaphor of arguable imaginative or realistic genius for this very world around me, by apotheosising, mutating, extrapolating, beautifying and uglifying its own world AND the worlds in Ligotti’s anti-natalism, VanderMeer’s dead astronauts, Caitlín R. Kiernan, Gemma Files, Alexander Zelenyj, Emil Cioran, Ursula LeGuin, with a prose style of sheer tactile horror that even matches that of ‘Allus Cold’ by Leyshon, recently reviewed. No greater compliments can I give it, but none of what I can say will do justice to this major work, unique in itself. It is its own Gaia. And God as His own mass suicide. I will merely mention some thoughts below to keep your eye on, as you negotiate this arguably first ever TRULY prehensile work to be written (in all senses of the word ‘prehensile’) and it is now absorbed by at least one reader, and I already feel DIFFERENT … the piglets, the scarecrows, the so-called children’s bodily remains that litter this work, the skull or planet as the individual consciousness of an astronaut in space, the cancerous cells as mental depression from earlier in this book, ghosts or monsters as Darwinianism again, language as controller not controlled, the art of fiction as the only truth in face of the fake news or faked fact, even fact itself (see what I said above in connection with ‘Affirmation of the Spirit’), the cannibal or zombie horror films being watched on the TVs near the Omelas Farm genius-loci where this work takes place, the actual title of this book and of this work as aligned with Mina’s malignant corpse mass of despair, the old man on page 281 that is surely myself, the secrecy and false entropy of scientific research and locked trailers, humanity making ‘amends’ for what it has done to Gaia, Nature as a drunk that is fumbling a whore, “the perfect Halloween pumpkin”, “Johnson’s baby shampoo”, “Roaring to go”… And much much more.
    The book design optimises this work with its two illustrations. In fact, for a paperback, it is generally aesthetic. My purchasing this book somehow ended up with my receiving two books, one having given birth to the other, but which one was which? If anyone would like my extra copy of this book purely for the price of postage, please tell me whether you want the one with my many items of pencilled marginalia or the one that remains pristine as new. A significant question, perhaps.

    end

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