Oculus Sinister


Edited by C.M. Muller

My reviews of works edited by or containing this editor: HERE

Stories by Seán Padraic Birnie, Brian Evenson, Elana Gomel, Douglas Ford, Shannon Scott, Timothy Granville, LC von Hessen, Mark Howard Jones, Rhonda Eikamp, Charles Wilkinson, James Pate, J.A.W. McCarthy, Christopher K. Miller, Selene dePackh, M.R. Cosby, Michael Kelly, Rebecca J. Allred, John Langan, Steve Rasnic Tem, Sam Richard.

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

20 thoughts on “Oculus Sinister

  1. Lucida Seán Padraic Birnie

    “…but all photographs are a kind of fiction.”

    This author is possibly one of the most generally underrated of my favourite authors. And this is his relatively short work’s richly believable description of the narrator’s clunky but sensitively off-key camera that might break your toe if you drop it from the missing tripod. Where negative meets positive in the merest blink, creating a Polaroid dream of a palindromic selfie. Perfect texture and substance as meaningful prose, as well as pointless in a constructively throwaway manner. No mean feat of developing.

    My previous reviews of this author: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/tag/sean-padraic-birnie/

  2. 673DA630-6EBC-4013-B2EA-D9556746A527…and Navidson was a photographer or otherwise framer of memory and other stretched out dreams or visions — through his own slit of vanishing light? Also with seemingly uncanny premonition, I have already (for quite a while now) been real-time reviewing ‘The House of Leaves’ HERE before reading today the next story, as if being gradually primed for the latter by some visitant in the night…

    The Other Floor Brian Evenson

    “On those nights, he had the impression of someone looking into his room, through a door that didn’t exist.”

    A truly classic, creepy, claustrophobic Evenson, with a disarmingly straightforward narration, as Doran in his bed before sleeping is kept by his mother’s presence from seeing that non-existent door and who or what is coming to take his wrist and lead him through it to the eponymous floor. But what was between that other floor and this floor? Doran’s door, but to what?

    “…never letting his eyes rest on anything for long, cutting away from each thought…”

    My previous reviews of Brian Evenson: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/tag/brian-evenson/

  3. Pingback: Oculus Sinister & Dexter | The Des Lewis Gestalt Real-Time Reviews

  4. Waking up in the dark, as the next story does, as if born from the previous one…in that area of no man’s land where darkness is disguised as a bunker of inimical whiteness or blankness…

    Black-Eyed Susan Elana Gomel

    “It is so calm and quiet under my eyelids. I hear no voices.”

    My eye stye vanished overnight without treatment, as I would have predicted had I read this story first.

    D2E5155D-6530-4846-9CBE-EE78A6E964DBYet that story’s start above turns out later to be ironic. And the woman narrator’s memory of her childhood trip to an art museum whereby her dislike of Dali seems appropriate to her end. A case study in her extreme synaesthesia and it needs to be read as possibly the only means to fully understand suffering this condition, as this woman faces her husband and sullen teenage daughter and their own concomitant colours.
    It is searingly powerful. Stunningly expressed.

    For me, it somehow paradoxically transcended my stigmatic hordeolum at the edge of sight by having the premonition of needing to outstare full in the face this work’s Thunbergia alata (or Rudbeckia hirta as it fails to tell us is the alternative name for the eponymous flower) — as well as facing all the other colour noises that are described. Sight and noise as a curative synergy. Or just my bespoke way of reading something?

  5. Brad Dourif’s Tears Douglas Ford

    “She stared at him, and he stared back. […] Such darkness there, a complete and perfect blackness.”

    Another oustaring game for this book towards that dark place, this time with the visible product of the eyes as tears from the same actor’s eyes appearing on whatever film you happen to watch as part of the deepest interconnections of the Internet, self thus gaslighting self, as if tears were flammable enough to turn us into someone else’s ashes. An engagingly absurdist story of a man and his ex and her dead mother and his laddish mate who watched films with him and the scorpions in the darkness that were used to teach such pupils as ourselves how to forget the depths of the collective co-vivid consciousness we’d been to. The unwanted litter of our life and loves that we cannot turn out or off!

  6. Dead Bread Head Shannon Scott

    From the celebrity syndrome in the previous story to this one’s ‘self-diagnosed celebrity worship syndrome”, a grotesque marital force of farce that has belly laughs but also plenty of bakery ones, as a bread head, fashioned from amorphous dough by the wife and the homeless man who also plies her, becomes a voodoo doll with a yeasty force in that farce. The transcending of pareidolia and Rorschach shapes into something completely unique, if there CAN be degrees of uniqueness reaching towards a gustatory gestalt, involving a social satire mash-up of today’s mœurs and any literary apophenia risen along the way. Eyes merged into eyes during the sex act of giving head? Left eye into right and vice versa.

    My previous review of this author: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2019/10/04/nightscript-volume-v/#comment-17178

  7. The Other One Timothy Granville

    “He began frantically clearing the futon, not wanting to miss the credits, not wanting to miss the warnings.”

    A disarmingly straightforward telling of Stuart’s tale, ostensibly of his renting a house with a locked annex he didn’t really know on the edge of Wiltshire, somehow on the edge of Alzheimers, indeed generally “on edge”, as it says, having settled back upon the visual 1980s traditions of popular films recorded on VHS, colourless insects upon a growing unfocus of image, an unfocus caused by some inferred or prophetic, if not explicit, lockdown, where you only tentatively talk to neighbours from pavement to pavement, or at social distance through the front door, the tree and plants in and around the house you live in somehow out of your jurisdiction, if not strictly. I was beguiled by this work, particularly as I am, I guess, by chance, already simultaneously re-reading and real-time reviewing or viewing by shaky film (here) The House of Leaves. A strange sluggishly suggestive coincidence. An oculus upon forgetfulness and mental migraine.

    My previous review of this author: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2020/07/24/crooked-houses/#comment-19629

  8. From the VHS customising in the previous story to its apotheosis in both directions as DVD or Betamax … even streaming…even, unless I imagined it, ancient ‘what the butler saw’ type shuttling images … in the next story…beware possible spoilers…

    The Obscurantist LC von Hessen

    “…the strongest frisson of the pure uncanny that I believe I have ever experienced.
    One might as well advertise the von Kempelen Mechanical Turk and display a Zoltar machine uprooted from Coney Island.”

    “…but he didn’t want to encourage any false expectations.” Nor do I! But this story, as I expected from my recent reading of this author, is a wonderfully written exposition of a man interested from boyhood in lifelike models … and shuttling images to be kept forever beyond streaming, and obsessed with a certain actress from the past he glimpses in an early film. Now a woman growing old in his mind. But still a sexual object, rubbing his eye and then thinking of her wink, her direct communication with him through the camera, from the past, even from the present embodied in a self-consciousness induced in him by a model with a different name he had positioned in his room. Too much to cover in a short review; it is crammed with memorable images and thoughts, and makes the reader feel paranoiac under the gaze of one’s own scrutiny of the older concupiscent self via the oculus of the preserved past, I guess. One’s own throbbing “PEnnsylvania 6-5000.” (sic)
    All those crime photo scenes in one’s brain, masquerading as a neighbour upstairs in the head. “So long as there remains at least one viewer, somewhere, unknown to him. Copying the evidence.”

    “It’s, whaddya call it, ‘death of the author?’ And the author doesn’t get to write a will. Heh heh.”

    My previous reviews of this author: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/tag/lc-von-hessen/

  9. Doorgrave to the Bittersea Mark Howard Jones

    “; his so-called life, the shell he inhabited that now passed for a life.”

    Razor sharp, scrying lens, the woman he once loved buried and now seen askew migraine, poetic prose transcendence…

    I can only retweet my tweet from earlier this morning, tweeted before reading this story; it felt almost as if all the story’s elements had already inspired me before my actually reading it! And its gestalt was already a ready-made.

    “As a child, the sand had always infuriated and delighted him as it slid away under his soft shoes, his small feet. A million, million tiny creatures crushed to pieces and thrown upon the shore for his childish delight.”

    My previous review of this author: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2014/01/02/delicate-toxins/#comment-1550

  10. The Eyedom Rhonda Eikamp

    “When Claire was twelve, her father took the door off her bedroom. Evil dwelt in shadow, he said. Behind doors.”

    The eye has a eyelid like a door that filming removes, filming upon the brain as spying for gossip fodder? A turtle withdrawing its head into its shell can still see you? That celluloid and acetate in the hidden annexe, from earlier above in this book, rediscovered. An original and disturbing work about Claire in the future, having an affair with her ex-husband, thus betraying her second husband, also caring for a a small child called Teddy who shares visits with her for tea drinking and spliffing with an octogenarian neighbour, an old hippy, himself a reprise of her childhood toy turtle’s wrinkled neck, who literally sows her with the fairy story kingdom of eyes, Royal agents and double agents like food tasters who also poison the food, I infer, like a chess game of bluff and double bluff, each eyelid a door to the secret of her body and mind, somehow physically implanted like open-and-shuttered bruises so that the other more run-of-the-mill neighbours and gossipers can share Claire’s life through these flickering-lashed eyes, making their lives less boring… this story being by somebody who has put eyes in every word she writes to hide in plain sight, as it were, her own ‘death by surburbia’, I wonder? Her own eye camp, tents with open flaps for doors?

    My previous review of this author: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2016/01/23/playground-of-lost-toys/#comment-6296

  11. From the death by suburbia in the previous story to new mutabilities of the suburbs in the next…

    The Visible Changes Charles Wilkinson

    “…the strange acoustics and the mist in the café.
    The street in the suburbs where he lived was filled with semi-detached houses built in the Arts and Crafts style: bay windows, low eaves and stained glass.”

    …via the vague senses of sound, sight, smell, even the taste of different wines as different inter-nested house-parties, with layers of swimming pools, or none.

    “Is this feigned immutability?”

    Well, it is shockingly appropriate that I have read this classic Wilkinson the day after finishing Priest’s The Evidence (here), as we follow this male protagonist who has seemingly retired from his job as an architect into the mutabilities of retirement at his forgotten age of 39, dislocated by the people he once knew as well as even in his own house as well as those in the neighbouring area! – to the extent that he resorts to a small box room with a nostalgic barred electric fire, nearer a small square of the sky’s changing light, a new lockdown in this age of lockdowns, I guess. Premature dementia perhaps — or is he being the one-eyed in the otherwise “blind empire”, thus the wisest man of all in his changing country of past standards to stand by or die?

    My previous reviews of this author: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/charles-wilkinson-christopher-harman/

  12. From the above hidden ‘in camera’ box room and the other VHS annexe now in plain sight …to…

    Director’s Cut James Pate

    Old people talked in strange ways sometimes.

    I should know, being so old myself. And I find this disarmingly plain-spoken horror story chilling with the shards of art (here the cinema art of vampire films in the ancient 1990s) – the subsumption of self. The acting within and those who watch the actor being the same now and then. And perhaps it was preordained by another car accident last night in real-time before I read this…

    “He suddenly swerved to avoid a deer,…

    “The oldest oldest touching fingertips with the newest newest.”

  13. Contrition (1998) J.A.W. McCarthy

    “His age was probably the only thing he had in common with my grandfather—“

    The narrator who in 1998 had not come out as a ‘lesbian’… or not. Memories of a creative writing class where her work was once humiliated (“under the guise of constructive criticism”) by a fellow cohort, the narrator now getting her own back, with this story? A story that is about a “really bad, sad movie that’s attracting people who are already depressed and messed up.” For ‘bad, sad movie’ there, put ‘bad, sad story’. ‘Sad’ in 1998 meant ‘pathetic’. As was the act of severely self-harming one’s arm which bears a brother’s memorial tattoo upon it and later asking someone to sign your plaster cast, both of which happen separately in this bad, sad story…

    ‘Two days only, exclusive screening of A. Todesfurdchten’s Contrition.’
    ‘Todesursache’, though, being ‘cause of death’ in German. Only constructive critiques like mine would dream that up as being even slightly relevant!

    Yet, I was deeply affected by being allowed into this story within the dark auditorium of this book, alongside all you other few no-hopers, to see my own reasons for contrition. A neatly clogged story that hangs on the lullaby of an old man like me and like the one in the type of personal self in a projected film as presaged by the actual immediately previous story in this darkened book. Continuous performances, not separate, as in the old days when you could stay in the clotted smoky furred up auditorium to see the film through again or watch it from middle back to middle, or howsoever.

    Also I have often been genuinely intrigued by those in a cinema foyer, who cater popcorn, issue tickets, and so forth, and what goes on in their minds when they see us coming out of the dark blinking and tearful at what we had just seen. This sad story has answered many questions. Gone over the top with it all, but remained constructively true, whoever wrote it, whether freehold author or leasehold narrator, or possibly both in collaborative contrition. Sad, if not bad.

    My previous constructive criticism of this author: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/tag/j-a-w-mccarthy/

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