Black Static #80/81



Fiction by Mike O’Driscoll, Rhonda Pressley Veit, Steve Rasnic Tem, Claire Rudy Foster, Jolie Toomajan, Sarah Lamparelli, Françoise Harvey.

My previous reviews of this publisher:

When I read this book (192 pages) in 2022, my thoughts will appear in the comment stream below….

14 thoughts on “Black Static #80/81

  1. THE HUMDINGER by Rhonda Pressley Veit


    From the other side of the hedge, this wildly huge novella somehow, with Suddeth slowness, is plain-spoken yet deceptively subtle — and indeed inspirational. It has infiltrated into my very reading soul. It may be even more significant than I, so far, think it is. Hindsight may give it even more power. It is the Humdinger itself in the shape of an accretively unforgettable snowman within this work and now within your head, but — so far — outside Nell’s abode in an equally wild place, but a place with neighbours, including a boy with the promise of a similar gift as Nell’s divining or spell-making with all manner of commodities, and a boy who may fulfil her legacy after the great storm, a storm of which the weatherman on Nell’s TV eventually exhausts the bigging up and even (or especially?) this weatherman becomes part of its utter sway and power, a ‘catching of a cold’ that Nell needs to save the world from… and we gradually know more and more about her backstory and her sought legacies, her two diverse sons, her grandchildren, her husband who tries to return to Nell through the epic snowstorm from his sister’s, and the accident to a friend created by the snow in the vicinity of where she lives, an accident that is not an accident but one that Nell’s magic tries to assuage, with her healing sachets, her gingerbread men, and then there is the catharsis that we all must reach, I think, with this work, but, above all, it is about her horses, her dog, her chickens, her Jerusalem donkey. And we genuinely get to know them all so well. There is no hope that anyone, in a review, can help you coldly pick a way through the spiritually deployed details of a seemingly massive work, massive although it is miraculously shorter than a novel despite its size — because picking your way through it yourself is the unique bespoke experience it will give you, so I will leave it there. Leave it in your hands to shape and decorate in your head its snowman. (Meanwhile, I find myself dreading that the current winter around me may soon cease to be relatively mild for the time of the year!)

    My previous reviews of this author:

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  3. FISH SCALES by Steve Rasnic Tem

    “Maneuvering through the world with his blind wife had been a kind of dance. Linda could see well enough in the city where the regular landmarks and her cane skills kept her from getting lost. But out in this semitropical landscape she needed his arm and his elbow…”

    A most moving work, a classic Temerity of fiction, portraying an older man called Charlie and the boldness in his facing the experience of depleting days, in whatever form such days presented themselves, as well as, paradoxically, a fear, as I read it, in the face of equivalent temerities embodied in the ever inimical world outside himself, following his recent lifetime of caring, until her death, for his blind wife, a woman who also ‘saw the almost impossible’, and he returns to live at their summer house near a sea-cove where they used to frequent, a place somehow with missing animals, but the house had been terribly vandalised when he arrived, and whatever else later came from the sea — frighteningly presented to us as onlookers — is related to a ‘fish scales’ skin condition he had long suffered. Almost a hunger, as he half-slept, half-dreamt, for what was coming for him. Death or his own encroaching blindness or a fish-with-legs, or whatever ineffability ‘Charlie associated with hurry, or the fear of being caught’. Somehow, both our hurrying towards something and our resistance against.

    My previous reviews of this author:

  4. ADAPTATION by Claire Rudy Foster

    Some very strong writing here, perfectly couched and syntactical, with empathisable horror blisters upon many of its words. A plot of a fight against the gestalt of traditions’ similarities, whites in a black community, and a towering teepee that emerges memorably in wolfish fire. A woman as narrator called Jerry dealing with the culture of South America and has been linguistically embedded in their MAY THEY BE EATEN cultures…returns to her girl friend Lauren in Portland and her house, but soon she is abandoned by Lauren who travels to the cultures of her recurrently dying Dad in Iceland, leaving Jerry alone with a white tribe of pretentiousness and drugs, and role playing and costumes that soon wear the blisters as their own, and echoes of a woman’s searingly evoked wounds that Lauren recalls from Venezuela….the EAT curse here translated literally, or transliterated, with memorable images that remain with me of Charlie the parrot and the postcards Jerry lovingly sends Lauren in Iceland, postcards that are coldly, whitely, icily returned to her, either deliberately, cruelly by Lauren or by plain postal mis-delivery, or even by my own mis-delivery at understanding, wondering whether any of us will ever know? And a lingeringly sited or sighted configured moon as sky phenomenon over Jerry’s perhaps inadvertent healing by means of the EAT curse she brought back with her. Whatever the meaning I sought in this work, I shall recall its intermittently soaring horrors and breathtaking catharsis. Be warned – it is not easy. Somehow in possibly inadvertent keeping with the kitchen witch of Veit and the fish-scales of Tem. Sometimes mis-deliveries in themselves become a gestalt we all seek with the sense of the stark differences thus adapted within it?

  5. STOLEN PROPERTY by Sarah Lamparelli

    “His head was pulsing with a blistering pain…”

    An art installation of words. I will keep my review short, as the more I think about this work the more it seems to frighten a somehow believable, yet elusive, part of myself! At first it is a satisfyingly, often startlingly, prose-styled symphony of semantics and syntax instinctively reflecting, as source or product, the Algernon Blackwood and Manly Wade Wellman elements in the Veit above, as well as other intrinsic human-rooted elements in the Tem and Foster… and I sense it makes us readers suffer an increasing paranoia that we are liars to our own selves, with all such readers being representative of all people, whether they read this work or not, and each of us is about to get its face ripped off to bare another face beneath it, indeed flayed and flensed by a huge psychologically self-idolising art-installation, whether this idol be a complex Wendigo force lusting to feed upon our deepest souls or, more simply, the Foster-tribal wolf having now become a giant bear baring us to our blistering roots.

  6. TRAPS by Françoise Harvey

    “The you that lost the edges of herself to the rain seems to have been re-moulded…”

    Modern humane traps or older crueller ones, this story taught me — alongside the horseshoe wreath et al of the Veit and other mis-interpretations in the bodily or spiritual ‘scales’ of the past in Foster — that it is important how to interpret a proverb from old texts (here Shakespeare), e.g. that it is easier to do something than later to undo it. And such a lesson is embodied in this inspirationally dark and spooky story of the ‘dream house’ that the narrator has found to live together in with his female partner (whom he refers to as ‘you’) — a story that tactilely finds hidden cupboards etc. in this house behind the wallpaper as well as mounds of mould growing, as well as mice scurrying. The ‘you’ who — with my having sensed she had been in ‘labour’ once but seemingly no sign of a child today — feeds the birds with better food than she and the narrator themselves eat. And, indeed, she sensitively ensures that the old mouse bones they keep finding in cruel traps are given burial and makes the narrator release, in the countryside, the many other mice that they trap alive in the modern humane traps they set themselves. Yet something slowly takes over from artefacts of the past that they also find — maybe the boxed wedding dress they find in a box in the attic with prawn cocktail stains has been in this attic because the whole house itself had once been divided into two separate abodes but with a single attic, an attic covering more rooms than they need, or more than they need to be haunted by. Rather than dividing a house into, say, two separate abodes, as oftener happens with large houses in modern times? ……. To do or undo. To be or not to be. To darkly, damply re-mould and re-mouse or to re-mould as one does with clay ready for a kiln… or a killing? Old dry bones or fresh living ones?

    My previous reviews of this author:


    Who let This into the world? Black Static is the answer, and I, its unofficial mentor from afar, is shocked at its reconstitution here. Suffice to say, I surrender to it and will go along with its methods, even though I do not understand them all. It is now my mentor itself, however much younger she is than me. As an old man, I’d hope to be reconstituted, too, with even any of my life’s scars reproduced, just like with Elizabeth’s beloved Saba, under the older mentoring auspices of an older woman called Dr Ernst. It has long been my rule that reconstituting a story as an ingredient in the gestalt should only happen after one reading of it. And I would need to read it again and again to do full justice to it, to This … for Hell has now given us This. Hell and Heaven. A marriage of sorts. So keeping in mind that I have read it only once so far, I saw Veit’s above kitchen witch in young orphan Elizabeth and her ‘filthy creations’, with food itemised in redolent detail and cooked, then, animals or birds as controls for later reconstitution of a man or boy called Saba. The Foster, Lamparelli, Tem and Harvey’s kiln / killing are piggy-backed, too. All recipe ingredients for the Jungian gestalt coming together into Toomajan’s own ‘filthy creation’. And This is couched in a tactilely horrific prose-style that is staggeringly meant to die for, and, once death has come, This and the reader reconstituted in the mixer (then eaten and regurgitated?) — even if you have already been cremated. The methods are that clever. And I sense This by a form of taught osmosis. So, please read This. The more of us who have absorbed This the merrier. Seriously. Read This at least once, at once.

  8. From Toomajan’s SABA to…

    PERVERT BLOOD by Mike O’Driscoll

    “Sabba was there, alongside over fifty other creatures and birds, each one baptised with his seed. He wondered if any of them had been born again in some other form.”

    ….animals are those who lack the cruelty of humans, revivified here by the words of this huge work (somehow hallucinatingly more huge than its apparent full-size novella shape) and by its satisfying texture of pachydermal skin as a still sought meaning within it — all of this via a story of the ‘dark eternal’, a story that flows like an inchoate river of connected bloodcourses, also as an adept crime-suspense narrative with fine characterisation and dialogue to match, and passages between the narrative like vast fantastical masterpieces of transcendent literature that here become a catharsis for Hay, a believable young man, who has sporadically been dressed as a girl from childhood by his mother, a young man who is now starting a naively touching (as in sensitive) relationship (but touching eventually by means of a “cock” near a “hard, cool rock”), a relationship with a girl called Frannie whom some others in this town call a ‘fucking lezzie’ — a catharsis that stems from their families (whom we get to know, one called Parr as Hay’s step-Pa and another Parrish as a loafing friend of Frannie’s bully of a brother) and from Hay’s and Frannie’s cruel backstories and unlikely future hopes. Wow! What can I say about this mighty work. It is my idea of the Platonic Form of O’Driscoll apotheosised. And I don’t think I am wrong. But I don’t want to seem too over-dramatic about it, even though it has made me that way! So much here, page after endless page, one image being of an elephant that was once hung for squashing a man’s head in a circus. Don’t go there, because if you go there I’ll become a different old man to the old man I am, “the old man stabbing his finger, not at the sky, but at the side of his own head” (as I do) or the worst old man of all: Hay’s Grampa. What was that about the Chinese-looking catamite who killed Hay’s real daddy? And what was that about Parr’s ‘lab’? And much more I can’t expect you to answer, because you have not read this tour de force yet. Even when you do read it, you will have different questions to answer. About a riot in the black part of town. And a cosmic surge of Pachydermal energy that perverts the course of blood toward a better course, the animal way. Not futile at all. All swept up by and into the other tribally kindred stories in this book, towards the ultimate gestalt perfected here. Its hide still thickening.

    “His head rattled with antic fears…”

    My previous reviews of this author:


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