36 thoughts on “The Glassy, Burning Floor Of Hell – Brian Evenson

  1. LEG

    A strikingly effective leanness of prose by Evenson even for him, even-legged, dead-handed and deadpan. A story about Hekla who became captain of the ship after finding independently conscious and motive-forced ‘Leg’ to replace her real leg lost in an accident. The machinations of what quest they embark on together (along with the crew) involves blood, inside-outness and the leggy offshoot’s adoption of their common enforced enemy.

    This work also seems to create much mutual synergy very neatly with an utterly different prose-styled and plotted story that I happened to read and review a few hours ago (here) about the equivalently independent conscious and motive-forced human tongue and its tyranny! And ‘lie’ and ‘leg’ are both three-letter words that share two of those letters…!


    A powerful extrapolation on a man’s synergy of:


    and the lyrics of…


    and Evenson

    …the Orbison lyrics being, in considered hindsight, quite remarkable!

    A synergy at Odds with the progeny of Even.

  3. I reviewed the next story here: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2020/02/20/uncertainties-iv/#comment-18347, and below is what I wrote about it there in that particular context…


    MYLING KOMMER by Brian Evenson

    “You washed your hands?” she asked.
    “Yes,” he said. “Of course.”

    The top cover of this book has elements of icy blue to it — and, as with all my reviews, my pencil has today been scratching within, upon its pages — sometimes indecipherable when I look back at my marks. Arguably, I feel, meanwhile, this story is a genuine ghost story classic, in all the traditions of that often scary genre. In many ways, unusual for this author, yet not really. As there is here a ‘between’ not only between Evenson and non-Evenson, but also there is one between dream and non-dream, ghost and non-ghost, photograph and non-photograph, a real great grandmother and a blocked persona non grata great grandmother, the eponymous great-uncle and not him, as we follow the main protagonist boy from age 5 (or 6) till when he is older, while he is in between ‘ghostly haunted by’ and ‘physically pursued by’ a dynastic ‘between’ of a mispencilled curse and what I see as a righteous Null-Immortalis.

  4. COME UP

    “Was some water thicker than other water?”

    Is this one of those stories planted in a book that is hauntingly memorable and brilliantly written but eventually amounts to nothing?
    An often cheating husband’s wife vanishes, thought to vanish into the muddy lake near their house, but nothing comes up. Except his subsequent sleepless nights, but they can be easily explained. I am with the the plot police who still investigate.

  5. I reviewed the next story here: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2018/09/14/the-silent-garden-a-journal-of-esoteric-fabulism/, and below is what I wrote about it there in that particular context…


    PALISADE by Brian Evenson

    “But why would you wall a garden in?”

    A page-turning narrative between the varying points of view of uncle and nephew, both of whom had been involved in a crime and somehow need to escape by canoe to a house on one of a lake’s islets. But is it the right islet, indeed the right eyelet, as pareidoliac faces appear in trunks of trees in the house’s “garden”, some trunks with deceptive gaps separating them into discrete trees? Also complex ferns as if adopted from the ingredients of this book’s previous Wattage. Creepy and haunting, it also has resonant synergy with a concurrent review I am conducting of Ong Muslim works (eg Pet) here. And how often do YOU do something as silly as the uncle’s disposal of the canoe, then deeming that you could not have been yourself? Reading this in itself might even be just as silly, you may wonder, as you finish it. The smell of sap, notwithstanding.


    In mutual synergy with another uncle-nephew story called THE PLAYTIME OF MONUNCULUS that I happened to read a day or so ago in a concurrent review: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2021/08/05/utopia-in-trouble-rhys-hughes/


    Maybe, she thought, I will die from lack of oxygen before the cloud consumes me.

    The sole archivist (of Earth and its humanity) becoming a curator carries an enormity of baggage none of which we should take with us – except perhaps our own very self to prevent it being left behind as evidence for a recurator or recreator?
    Very effective piece for this day and age, that any more information from me here would spoil. Literally.
    I’ll get my permeable coat.


    “But in failing you will succeed.”

Firstly, my own osmotic take (here: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2021/08/08/succeeding-to-fail/) on this major Evenson novelette was written a week or so ago before I had even read it! Even before I had read about its son and father, their callipers, stylus and schematic. Their hierarchy or lowerarchy of cities (Cf the palimpsest cities in nemonymous night), these cities’ respective air breathing qualities, and whose city was made for the shorter or taller citizens even if each didn’t live where they were best suited to the chairs, especially to the ‘command chair’, and who was lying to whom and why. Or confusing each other with depleted truths? Which city was false or hollow, which real? Which wall was a wall, which wall not? Who was curator or archivist here? Whose final consolation was the console that made this novelette in definite if confusing kinship with the ignition of a travelling diaspora in the previous story, even if the looking down from the last balcony or balustrade or rampart, in the highest city of all, at the clouds below had not been recounted in this novelette at all!
    “‘Where did they go?’ I asked.
    ‘They became us.’”
    This city’s or some other city’s warren of streets, the permeability of air suits, peeled off faces or masks, lungs and encased throats that remind me of the hypoxia and death in our own times, seeing things or things available to be seen, the half-formed shapes, actually seeing what I was seeing, hearing, too. Words like tongues smacking. And the couplet of key words beginning A and B respectively, I cluck them, now, too, for fear of spoilers. The only one still alive, like the erstwhile archivist turned curator, as I manage to curate this still resonating novelette to my own meaning. As a Father once did Even to His Son, now in upper if not higher case. Which one failed by succeeding, I ask.

    “It was the room from which one could awaken the city, make it fly like a bird, make it soar home.”


    “He tried to lift his leg.”

    No tale should be banned even if this seems to be a Swiftian fable with, reading between its lines, a moral that somehow prophesies what the Western world’s death-fearing human beings think of the Taliban today as the strangely inhuman or alien barrow-men or tumbrel-men…with shades of misunderstood kindnesses??
    The nature of human death, too, as a Zeno’s Paradox of the restful-yearning and perhaps unterrifying, perhaps terrifying ‘Null Immortalis’? We shall perhaps never know. The whole body as the earlier Leg? Coming Up again to Breathe the Air?

  9. Which wall was a wall, which wall not? – from a previous review above.


    “I could feel my father’s legs, my arms wrapped around them, but then, suddenly, they were not legs at all…”

    Praise should be eked out, they tell me, but this story disarms me again! It is possibly the most memorable Evenson so far. Time will tell, as I travel between, or reach into for objects to sell as a paid living, or am snatched by others whom I see as shapes within them, yes, this story’s shimmering walls. One day, seeking, within these walls, a cure for my wife when I become old enough to have a wife, or follow my tutelary parents, becoming a familial scenario between these looking-glass cities, flesh through translucent jelly, back to flesh, forwards to become the jelly again, as a telling theme and variations upon the ‘breathe the air’ story and more. Limbs, like the earlier Leg, cauterised or severed and autonomous, infused with a carapace of light, self and a different self entwined as the same self. Child cherished with existence or now become a disposable grown-up version of that child. A pattern of floating transubstantiation or wobbly Eucharist. Between vial of health and vile disease. Between two states and becoming neither. Sounds like a dilemma I still live through, now recognised from beyond myself.

    “I did not breathe, but I do not know that I needed to breathe.”

  10. F81EDD3F-40C6-4A4F-AA21-9308810F64E4


    “…his legs somehow covered with it even though none was falling. How had that happened?
    Just a moment, he thought again, just time to catch my breath,…”

    A man lost amid a sudden blizzard in the wilds, along with two other men who were siblings of each other but with whom he loses contact, a scenario effectively conveyed to the extent that I felt lost in it myself, footprints quickly vanishing under the growing snow behind me.
    Eventually finding a recently ploughed rail track in the darkness, he then reached a single train carriage. Was it St Bartholomew the Apostle inside the carriage and who demanded his ticket? And who was it seemed to rescue him in the end? His original companions?
    Very strange reading this with the carriage-man having feet-tangling skin like his carriage’s own ill-drawn curtains. A gestalt for me to endlessly scry — with relatively clear words vanishingly veiled by their meaning behind me. I never had a sibling, so it couldn’t have been me who earlier accompanied the lost man in the snow…

    “He couldn’t feel his legs.”

  11. Today…

  12. JUSTLE


    “…named after two brothers. […] A name can travel in either direction.”

    As you can see, I got very excited about that first quote! – a quote now having become the satisfying culmination of many of my real-time reviews in the last few months, even years, dealing with literature as a Zeno’s Paradox, particularly my recent reviews of Aickman the writer or Fontana editor: as linked from here.
    I got excited about this story as a whole, too! And not just whole, but beyond its own pouch.
    The story of a man telling his son why he is named JUSTLE. The name of the place where his Grauer branch line reached, a place where he melded and merged with sexual troilism or even a ménage à quatre, involving Evenson shapes and shifts of somehow Kafkaesque spirituality, as spawned by Beckett. Never assume a salesman is telling your the truth about your inner pouch, I say.
    Pouch as gestalt not particle of the literary body. Moving and poignant, without knowing exactly how it means what it does. As narrated by JUSTLE, whereby his mother eventually took charge. Pouch as this book’s suffocating womb? Hypoxemia again. The Castor and Pollux of GRAUER?

    “Halfway there, his regulator began having trouble. Soon, it was quite difficult for my father to breathe.”

    “What story? There was no story.”

  13. Pingback: Justle as Bustle | The Des Lewis Gestalt Real-Time Reviews


    “…the sounds of heavy footsteps as individuals boarded and jostled their way down the corridor…”

    From justle to jostle … but none had entered Carlton’s compartment on the ancient train, until… Well, Carlton was on his way to a long lost friend on a train and ended up alighting at a classic lonely benighted halt along with the passenger who had entered his compartment — evoking an unmitigated, almost completely disarming eeriness that tradition has taught me to appreciate when reading such stories: in many ways a theme-and-variations upon Justle’s ménages à trois ou quatre, involving spiked drinks, a card game and variable detached fingers and thumbs… a special solipsism set in train by the manipulative devil?


    “A series of artificial persons will never bring real people back.”

    A theme-and-variations on the earlier Archivist / Curator story, and the necessity (or not) to preserve humanity after what humanity has done to our planet, this time, I feel, using The Last of the Mohicans story as template. Who the angel, who the ‘dust angel’? Artifice or truth, man or drone, a scrabbled-at mushroom farm in someone’s basement or a ‘by the skin of the teeth’ cryology to at least save a single figment of humanity? I am a mere ‘mule’ of a book reviewer, I guess, incrementally confused and lifeless but still dogged and plucky, if nameless.


    ‘This is a strange place,’ he said. ‘I’d think twice before coming up here to think.’”

    Especially with the name Jens, a haunting synergy with the Zeno’s Paradox / Null Immortalis themes of Anna Seghers, here death perpetuated in a disarmingly deadpan way — a man dreaming or not dreaming, as the case may be, of his father whom he remembers murdering in a cave thirty years before, and he is now the same age as his father was then. The ‘occult circles’ he once drew on the floor of that cave and the father now married to his wife? Circles within circles. This story within its ‘stories’.

    “‘I don’t know what I’m thinking,’ he said.”

  17. To ‘see daylight’ is an idiom for a sudden transcending of confusions, so what dire irony is this? —


    “‘What do you see awaiting us?’
    I opened my mouth to speak but nothing came out.”

    I tried to write a review about this cruelly imprisoned woman who ate darkness but nothing came out except these words of mine as an implicit paean to the story’s disarming, nonsensically associative deadpan power. Read it and somehow see that you have not read it at all.


    I note the name as letters summons ‘Hello’ out of itself, and perhaps ‘Hell’, if not Heave Ho.
    The Glassy, Burning Floor of Hell?
    It seems an arbitrary name, at first, used as an example by the narrator, with the moribund-people collectors calling out ‘ELO to a nemonymous Havel at the hospice, then to take him or her to the Forest Grove as the original Haven of death, but death by what process? — but then it later becomes the narrator’s own name. Each of us feels the need to be thus special when death impends and we should be treated differently with a specific name, rather than your name becoming a mere memory of other people who will also die and be forgotten themselves or airbrushed — or, at best, you become an engraving upon the stone of a dying planet, and you expect avoidance of you yourself becoming literally this non-entity abandoned, here, to a place we have been cruel to! — the forest — with the forest monster engendered to push us toward such nothingness. No longer that Haven, but an attrition of vanishment.
    This is my unique interpretation of this multi-interpretative work as my own engraving or memory for others to laugh out loud at. You will have a similarly unique, but different, interpretation. A story for dying readers.
    Leave Hole. Well, almost.
    The GRASSY, Burning Floor of Hell.

  19. I reviewed the next story here: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2019/08/28/echoes-edited-by-ellen-datlow/#comment-16985 and below is what I wrote about it there in that particular context…

    HIS HAUNTING by Brian Evenson

    “But the light in the hallway was always on.”

    Pronouns often work harder than nouns. ‘His husband’, as another example, to define the Arn who is the protagonist seeing a ghost as a silhouette in the bedroom door, a symbol of actual or potential dementia in his father and his husband and himself. His Arnt (Aunt), too. If I ever thought of a great ghost story that Evenson might write, with my having read much Evenson before, this would surely be it. Or it is certainly working very hard to be it, with my help. And I keep looking back at the story’s heading as doorway and see the author foreshadowed and, later, predictably forgotten. A reviewer can be, at best, a sort of therapist for troubled fiction, I guess. Potentially troubled, that is. And such thinking now leads to a number of trap-doors in my mind!

    “There wasn’t even a switch to turn it off.”

  20. “How have ye brightened since I saw ye first;
    How have I darkened since ye saw me last! “
    from the mighty 19th century FESTUS by Philip James Bailey


    This will surely be known one day as a horror story classic, one, when you speak to someone —
    You have not read HAVER? Goodness! Well, of course, you must read this story by Brian Evenson, with its Tarr and Fether theme-and-variations, whereby the institutionalised mental-health patient Festus and his therapist Haver obliquely battle each other, if sometimes subconsciously, for the Platonic Form of Sanity that only one of them can possess or embody. The patient, I infer, needs to finish off (literally as well as artistically) (the) the-rapist of his mind. Being an artist, now eschewing colour, he obsessively draws, upon sheet after sheet, with charcoal, creating different versions of his old studio before he was institutionalised. Tantamount to this being a gestalt real-time review, ‘very moment’ by very moment, sheet by sheet, within such drawings. A studio which therapist Haver is then somehow compelled to visit, thus eventually to view the frightening correlation between the drawings he’d seen the patient draw and the real studio and the drawings stacked there, leading to frightful smeary progressions in fell rhythm with my own recent Zeno’s Paradox obsessions….
    There is even some ‘subdued’ colour at one point. Till he does have the gestalt sought.

  21. Pingback: A Door in the Wall to a Secret Garden of Literature | The Des Lewis Gestalt Real-Time Reviews


    A set procedure by the author-narrator in an archetypal Evenson ‘bunker’ for an individual to be physically coaxed, in strict rote of a catheter bags procedure leading to each of us chosen one by one to become the next one’s guinea pig in the procedure so as to evolve us into a world that has already evolved beyond us. A Zeno’s Paradox, as we all become guinea pigs of each other one by one forever?
    For many tantalising reasons, this vignette somehow chimed with three chapters of a book called Empty Chair dealing with mass co-triangulation etc. that I read this morning here before reading this…


    “It was at that moment that I began to suspect my mind was not entirely my own.”

    This extremely disturbing work seems to follow the previous story naturally, organically, although they were each no doubt first published separately. The narrator there has now become a creature inside one’s stomach, a bit like Alien, I guess, bloating it, as one would have been by those catheter bags. Predicting a time when any human survivors were deemed to be regular doctors who worked in morgues, working on human corpses, in whatever stage of trans-gender or not, thus experimenting in a lost hope of evolving humanity’s preservation against a planet world in a counter-evolution … till there was nobody left alive to archive or curate or even certify a sick note.

    • That equally leads organically on to another separately generated body-organ of words disguised as a vignette called HOSPICE that has nothing to do with Aickman’s Hospice except the tube inserted through the protagonist’s ribs was probably for more bloating of him by force feeding.
      His watching girl friend? Well, many Aickman’s stories had one like her imagined in them, I guess. Some that cross-dressed.

      And that then has brought us to this painfully unmissable book’s coda below… one with a view of events above from below.

  24. I reviewed the next story here: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2020/02/09/shadows-tall-trees-8/#comment-18166 and below is what I wrote about it there in that particular context…


    by Brian Evenson

    “In number nine.”

    One of two sisters calls in with a sickie, and then there is only one sister who luckily is already the narrator. Being told that the original sister was complaining of vomiting I wonder if, in truth, she had lost a leg instead? This story gradually makes you think you are Aickman dressed as the narrator, attuning self with self…
    The plot is something else. Not quite The Hospice, nor The Trains, but something in between, with a mirror thankfully turned to the wall and numbers burnt into doors. Doors as floors. Self meeting self.
    As to its being a satire upon lucrative courses powered by mystic fraud, well if you believe that, you might believe anything!

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