PS PUBLISHING 2021
Edited by Stephen Jones
My previous reviews of the publisher HERE and the editor HERE
Stories by Scott Bradfield, Maura McHugh, Caitlín R. Kiernan, Jonathan Carroll, Alison Littlewood, Ramsey Campbell, Stephen Bacon, Don Webb, Ron Weighell, Angela Slatter, Richard Gavin, Michael Chislett, Mark Samuels, Richard Christian Matheson, Dale Bailey, Simon Strantzas, Kristi DeMeester, Steve Rasnic Tem, Reggie Oliver, Tanith Lee, Glen Hirshberg, D.P. Watt, Michael Marshall Smith.
As I had the honour of my stories being included in this series (1, 2 & 6), I felt I wanted to review this last one, as a heartfelt note of gratitude to all concerned, and to express my congratulations to Stephen Jones in particular…
When I read this mighty book, my thoughts will appear in the comment stream below…
There may be a delay in commencing the review of this book in the wake of my recent Elizabeth Bowen and Robert Aickman projects…
ZOMBIE-ISH by Scott Bradfield
“‘You gotta remember,’ he said, leaning one elbow…”
And then there is anti-climax. Possibly the greatest ever fiction about anti-climax as insidious low-key horror in hindsight, as we, in the shape of Marilyn and the tottering Watanabes, gradually forget the sick people that pestered us for small things while threatening us in their own feeble way, or what was more than just frightening while being even less than feeble, and we now just drift into a lack of memory about why these sick people were sick and why we weren’t sick by means of our supplies of shots, indeed why we kept inside, well, Marilyn kept inside, if not her partner Mac, indeed the horror of whatever it was that made us something-ish too, something elliptical, amid a non-covivid race of arms, I guess…
WAKE THE DEAD by Maura McHugh
“…worn smooth by generations of elbows.”
…that counter where Joxer prowls. This elusive Halloween mummery walks but gains no ground, but walks further than itself, couched in the admirably gluey style of Irish writers like William Trevor and ELizabeth BOWen, somehow telling us of a small Irish hamlet where the funeral parlour and pub and local shop share the same roof, and a man seeking a job there and everywhere (touring Ireland in his dodgy scrapeable car, hearing “snatches of news”, via its radio, about “wrangling in distant kingdoms”), a man called Donnacha who has been tipped off by a ‘tall lady’ in a nearby B and B about getting work there, and seeing his own ghost on the way there, a man whose grandmother’s dead body haunts him and what she said about his father outpacing himself in a sort of Zeno’s Paradox of ‘time and a half’ that Donnacha finds he deserves being paid from always coming second in the multitudinously mounting seconds of his post-divorce life. A haunting horror story that feeds the literary lusts of those who seek their frights from the corner-of-the-reflected-eye as an occupant of the coffin at the eternal Irish wake fit to wake dead Finnegans Wake but with real words instead, and with mourners all equally morbid. A wake needing a car’s unscrapeable wheelguards as well as ‘hardy backsides’.
My previous reviews of this author: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/tag/maura-mchugh/
Pingback: Generations of Elbows | The Des Lewis Gestalt Real-Time Reviews (from 2008)
MERCY BROWN by Caitlín R. Kiernan
“I’ve sold dumber.”
…and a writer (as an ‘I’ in it) never before sold as good as this with that proviso.
Plenty of writerly I-stuff in compelling flowing clausal monologues. A writer and her new love mate she takes to Mütter and a ‘you’ — blending all as a sort of Rapunzel who climbs up to you or me as a seeking succubus or strix! A hairball from Mütter or another theme and variations on the eponymous incident. Whichever it is, it did not seem dumb to me. It spoke wisdoms amid the I-stuff. It’s still working on me now, a me that is the you who wishes to read what ended up written here as a story. And what was written about it, too. Velvet sounds or frying bacon.
My previous reviews of this author: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/tag/caitlin-r-kiernan/
From Mercy Brown above, now in name rhythm with…
MAMA BRUISE by Jonathan Carroll
Yet here the main characters have no names at all, other than being the man and the woman who’d once made marriage vows to each other, he and she, possibly gaslighting each other while being ‘highlighted’ by death itself in the shape of the ‘dog-dog’ they gave a home to.
Whether this dog-dog is the reincarnation of her guilt-ridden father or the single vanguard for a mass attack by all unnamed we shall never know. But what we do know: bodily bits of them are named by these outside forces as if to label them neatly as parts within her own OCD of wishful omniscience, pitting one form of omnipotence against another form of omnipotence represented by her insidious in-laws… Forces that are wanting to punish these nameless ones for knowing too much about what they shouldn’t know about things such as death and reincarnation, let alone cookies and Stetsons.
We gaslight each other, we gaslight ourselves, I say. Writer gaslighting reader, too? Nope, t’other way about! You should have used an anonym!
THE SAME AS THE AIR by Alison Littlewood
“She’s left the Everly Brothers on the turntable but it’s switched off.”
A story ever left on its own unturning turntable…
An accomplished story, no doubt, containing some nifty evocations and with undercurrents of Swedish legends, and I was initially intrigued by the holiday postcard with hidden codes in apparent glitches in what was written from one family to another. A parallel between the two families, friends to each other when at home, each family comprising two parents and one daughter, and there are some forename meanings, and a knowing deer found in a forest, and another forest within a forest’s lake. Eventually, though, I was left unplayed, unturned… any music unaired. I hope the goldfish kept going round!
My previous reviews of this author: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/tag/alison-littlewood/
GETTING THROUGH by Ramsey Campbell
“His elbow thumped his father in the face and knocked his glasses off.”
I truly loved this story, and not only because the hero’s name is Desmond! It is intensely fantastic, amazing, astounding…. With a Galaxy of Shards from its own built in mirror at the end. An end I will not spoil here. And a punch-line second to none.
On the surface, though, it’s about a nerd’s SF magazines, his parents wanting him to get out rather than sit in his room with ever more magazines, his meeting of Dianne at university, and their attempts at creating the patter of little feet. It’s just a bit of the future, a bit from the future, seen without reflection but writ large in your face nevertheless, till it all smashes, as it is about to do so in real-time, I guess… Optimally, Desmond read this just when he needed to read it, to the sound of the Beatles song that mentions him. Authentically, this Author’s ‘Life goes on’, I’d say.
(Dodge the dog.)
My previous reviews of this author: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/tag/ramsey-campbell/ and https://nullimmortalis.wordpress.com/2010/08/17/ghosts-and-grisly-things-by-ramsey-campbell/
Pingback: La-la, how the life goes on | The Des Lewis Gestalt Real-Time Reviews
I first read and reviewed the next story in 2019 here: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2019/05/25/murmured-in-dreams-stephen-bacon/, as follows….
THE CHILDREN OF MEDEA by Stephen Bacon
“Maybe the meaning was lost in translation.”
The meaning of the milk moustaches, that is. At heart, a workmanlike story of an Englishman called Saxton on a strange Greek Island, trying to unlive his tragic backstory as a temporary teacher with passive deadpan primary school children who seem already to know about this backstory. The island itself has a genius loci — relating his backstory to its own. Yet there is more. A thing that Bacon is good at, making me relish his stories without always knowing exactly why. As if his writing is as instinctive as the paintings that Saxton finds in the strange church nearby. Like ideas in a head that the head didn’t put there. Young and old heads alike. Mine is older than many. Crept out.
My many previous reviews of this author: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/stephen-bacon/
THE WATER OF DHU’L NUN by Don Webb
“Not a town to read Stephen King in at night.”
…indeed, not to read anything in! Nor to watch the news on TV — especially today! And how do you know what water filter to watch it through?
That town is Mlandoth, TX, and if you know it already you don’t need to read it here, but if you don’t know it, you sure do now, with its mega pop statues of Indians outside stores and much else I can’t or daren’t cover in this review. A story through the filter of a well-characterised Susan in this often Dull town and her shaky, sometimes distant marriage with Jose, and the refinery where she works, and her need in this place to extend the effects of alcohol and the scarce weed into the ‘better’ effects of the town’s water rather than the bottled version, and, as a reader, one is utterly disorientated by the choosing between the two waters and guessing which is the parasite one and which is the cosmic gestalt soul in real-time. A Fearless Faith In Fiction makes this a High Noon, as well as a frighteningly Dual one! But which represents the ultimate Duel of Realities! Even if we knew which version is which! Are you brave enough, brave enough, brave enough? And slowly…And slowly… And slowly….what was I drinking when writing this, let alone first reading the story it is reviewing?
A work of the first water, whatever.
My previous reviews of this author: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/tag/don-webb/
I first read and reviewed the next story in 2019 here: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2019/12/20/the-far-tower-stories-for-w-b-yeats/, as follows…
UNDER THE FRENZY OF THE FOURTEENTH MOON
by Ron Weighell
“Even a Palladian mansion and the library of my dreams, I concluded, wouldn’t compensate for facing every day with those in your mouth.”
A Yeats student has the chance of obtaining unpublished Yeats material, and meets a man with bad teeth who keeps it in that mansion’s library. Via this catalyst and that of a flat stone found by a thorn, there evolve dreams, later realities, of sporadic erotic contact with a beautiful woman in entrancing scenarios. Blake’s Los mentioned, inter alios. Resplendent but odd. I’m even in it somewhere, as an old man shambling along. Gyres of cosmic time and a code-wheel installation, too. And other Yeatsiana. Growing on me.
My previous reviews of Ron Weighell works: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/peter-bell-ron-weighell/
I first read and reviewed the next story in 2019 here: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2019/11/13/a-miscellany-of-death-folly/, as follows…
THE PROMISE OF SAINTS by Angela Slatter
“There’s no flesh on her, merely a fragile canvas of thin-thin skin, so she’s been wrapped in fine netting to keep all her component parts together…”
…just as this richly conceived story is fragilely suspenseful until the story’s ending bursts through. Do I dare call this story a genuine classic of religious fantasy? A story to measure up to Derek John’s Aesthete Hagiographer, and Harold Billings’ work, containing, as it does, a most lasting vision of an ancient Saint’s own bodily reliquary in a church as an attenuated bejewelled vessel of herself, and an account of her miraculous contact with a young woman called Elspeth whose mother is as determined as Mrs Bennett to find a male suitor for her daughter. Yes, I do dare.
My previous reviews of this author: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/tag/angela-slatter/
I first read and reviewed the next story in 2020 here: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2020/09/04/grotesqueries-richard-gavin/#comment-19816, as follows…
CRAWLSPACE ORACLE by Richard Gavin
“Rhiannon’s arms felt like concrete.”
Today’s lockdown tropes in this 2019 published story as filtered through a crawlspace of distilled horror tropes, a wordy literary means to make such a filtering to work in both directions of flow. Here, with a fable upon the repercussions of having a seeming King Midas touch with money. In a downbeat community with downgraded entertainers after lockdown, such as ventriloquists now little more than scarecrows, and other slouching figures. Even enwebbing the heroine Rhiannon’s husband into the plot with all manner of his disloyalties and links between another womb and reality via umbilical cords as direct or closed circuit filters…speaking through us readers, we readers now feeling like nothing but mouthing responders to the text’s own words — words about, inter alia, ‘immersive ghost stories’…. “…the cement steps that connected the ugly lawn to a residence that was not much larger than a storage locker […] an army bunker …as though it hadn’t been properly cleaned since the analogue age.[…] He felt that the great pattern was everywhere, in all things at all times.” Some Logos made flesh.
My previous reviews of this author are linked at the top of the page here: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2020/09/04/grotesqueries-richard-gavin/
DOWN RIVER by Michael Chislett
“Time and tide wastes for snowman.”
An atmospheric vampire story, vampires who cannot cross running water, a story upon the illogistics of negotiating a Thames crossing on foot and by ferry by a man Scovell and a woman Lily out for a dusk-ridden Sunday walk, getting dark too quickly, and seeing a glass sided vessel they had seen before, now lit by the dying sun and moored in the middle of the river, and a woman waving from it, and Lily’s ambition to powder her nose and to be Kate Winslet with arms and elbows out upon the prow of the ferry earlier… or later… and morphing into other film actresses and film noirs, and Lily morphing with whoever or whatever was the woman that had waved and needed Scovell’s thorn and exuding berry’s redness … almost religious as well as eerily wasting, almost under as well as down river. Almost nothing ….except the delayed screaming.
My previous reviews of this author: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/tag/michael-chislett/
DEATH IN ALL ITS RIPENESS by Mark Samuels
“Everyone knew he was an ornery cuss, especially when in his cups.”
Ezekiel Nantwich, that is… one of the three characters to create a deliberately clumsy triangulation of points of view, his, HP Lovecraft’s and a Sheriff’s at the end who seems to gratuitously burn the whole story down following a late backstory for us about Ezekiel and his Dad. A story, at outset, about Ezekiel’s posting his manuscript to HPL’s Aunt’s place where HPL is labouring at ungratifying revision work. He should have revised this story, which is brilliantly its ironic point.. The story, meanwhile, is well-written in the sense of its antique construction of style conveying obnoxious horrors and conveying also the battle between Superstition/ Occultism and/or Anti-Natalism (here, by a scorched earth policy) and/or talking animals and/or voodoo with stick figures VERSUS horror as horror as good old traditional weird fiction for its own sake without intrinsic belief in the occult, like the occultist’s believing the Necronomicon is a real book that actually works!
Indeed the battle of ANIMALTRUTH versus a purely fictional AZATHOTH.
[It was interesting and serendipitous that only yesterday I finished my review of Weighell’s posthumous new novel ‘King Satyr’ (HERE) wherein I speak of a similar triangulation: ‘…this novel starts wrestling itself into a subtle literary novel instead of a genre horror one, nor a darkly or inspirationally ceremonial ritual / tract’ — and, so, I have already battled with this battle, primed yesterday for encountering this new Samuels today, as you can see from the Weighell review, also saying in the Weighell review: ‘By putting evil things in fiction you neutralise them?’ and ‘…I envision some Holy GHOST with Holy GOATS within? “There are many paths to god.” Or to God.’]
My previous many reviews of Mark Samuels: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/mark-samuels/
Pingback: Animaltruth vs Azathoth | The Des Lewis Gestalt Real-Time Reviews (from 2008)
SHRAPNEL by Richard Christian Matheson
An unbearably powerful war veinette that everybody should read, today in particular. A third person singular monologue of the war conducted within one’s own body. A Christian, the Son of Ma? ‘Children pleading.’ Who has the right, except if bombs go off inside you, too? A proud face of dead soldier, from under skin then proud upon your skin. Well, who knows, but it makes you think, even when reviewed by a dick like me.
My previous review of this author: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/393-2/ (…an inferred dysfunctional family within a man’s chest. “Forgotten selves.” –)
I first read and reviewed the next story in 2019 here: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2019/08/28/echoes-edited-by-ellen-datlow/#comment-16948, as follows…
PRECIPICE by Dale Bailey
“He resolved to moderate his moderation.”
A relatively tall holiday hotel overlooking sea and swimming pools, almost like a prop, another family photograph on the office workstation. An easy moderate read as a comfort to my earlier plot-blurry mind. A fifty something man, well-lined enough to afford countless cocktails for his wife of thirty years of marriage, a grown up daughter at home at the end of the telephone as his mentor; he once had a near death experience with his heart, now beset by vertigo and ghosts in the small hours on the beach. And yearnings for a young woman in a pink bikini. A workmanlike haunting with a tragic hinterland and even moderation in ambiguous innuendo at the end concerning the numbers involved to match those of the hotel’s numbered floors to avoid the thirteenth (cf the quatorzième syndrome in the earlier Dowling.) And impulses, such as the need to jump, that neatly echo the Upper Berth…
My previous reviews of this author: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/tag/dale-bailey/
ANTRIPUU by Simon Strantzas
“…haven’t landed on my feet…”
A resultant group of people, some not met each other before, in the wilds of Iceteau, facing a Wendigo type horror whereby I have now been haunted here by the conceit of one of them dressing in red as the group leader so that he can be seen more easily, but becoming a counterproductive red blur, and, above all, by a wincingly attritional scene involving a human arm where it attenuates and seems broken, but the narrator — to whom it belongs and who seems to have his own views on life and a resultant over-dependence on hope! — seems shy of calling it what it was where the pain truly laid, and he seemed just to be a little more concerned at the end with his other joints called knees, as a sort of wishful diversion from what truly threatened him. The Antripuu monster, or whatever it is, is angular by seeming on first sight tree-like, and I had already started being disturbed, even before reaching the broken arm scene, by what I had somehow visualised as Nature’s giant mutant Elbow reconciled into the insectory shape of a monster by the narrator’s seeming to see it with its own narrow legs, long creaking arms and with teeth but no head…
Three of the men, including the narrator, once worked for ‘the socket company’, by the way.
My previous reviews of this author: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/simon-strantzas/
I first read and reviewed the next story in 2019 here: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2019/07/18/interzone-282-black-static-70/#comment-16528, as follows…
A CROWN OF LEAVES by Kristi DeMeester
“All that melancholy wrapped up in melody…”
An exercise in retrieving Proustian memory with all five senses. About narrator Opal’s older sister Maribel, their missing Mama, Massachusetts pines, eating RRM’s raw meat (brained by a rock) because there was nothing to cook it in, and Opal’s refusal “to acknowledge how my mouth has flooded with the taste of something growing.” To complement that taste, a powerful tactile, olfactory, auditory, visual trip back to their girlhood home of surrounding trees to find their Mama, to both absolve and solve the eponymous mystery of Mama. As a perhaps wild aside on my part, The Crown has an older and younger sister, too. The former loved music, I guess. The latter became a queen. All abandoned palaces are dark, their rooms shrunk smaller? Beyond any memory’s sixth sense.
My previous reviews of this author: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/tag/kristi-demeester/
I first read and reviewed the next story in 2021 here: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2021/11/12/thanatrauma-steve-rasnic-tem/#comment-23412, as follows…
A STAY AT THE SHORES by Steve Rasnic Tem
“What if everything uncoupled at the very moment he stood between cars?”
You can never be sure. But this work is surely alone worth the price of the book from which I am reading it in real-time. A Tem classic story that I would have deeply regretted not reading if I had been subsumed by whatever awaits me before having read it. Like those tides in Holihaven. Here, in the Tem, these tides are said to be sucked back by natural causes or wilful monsters.
“I imagine terrible things are watching me. But even that’s better than believing I am completely alone.”
…said by someone with my wife’s name. I can hardly be subsumed by her kiss as that old man earlier above was by a kiss during a different version of a so-called cruise.
The story of an asexual or lightly bi-sexual man who lectures in transcendental poetry and now lives alone after his last partner had gone. Alone enough to be persuaded on this trip, with no one waiting for him back home, a trip by forms of transport he had not experienced before, i.e. train and ship. Except the ship is held up not only by the tides but also, for me, by the vague shapes in the fog of a latent Zeno’s Paradox…
“Look at that route diagram near the ceiling. We really should have arrived in less than half this time!”
My previous reviews of this author: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/steve-rasnic-tem/
I first read and reviewed the next story in 2019 here: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2019/10/04/the-pale-illuminations/#comment-17186, as follows…
THE OLD MAN OF THE WOODS by Reggie Oliver
“: to me it was a delight to the eye, so gloriously distant from Grey Britain.”
It is always good to encounter a Reggie Oliver classic; not all Reggie Oliver stories are Reggie Oliver classics. Far from it. But this one is. An Englishman, determined to finish reading Proust for the first time (although that was not intrinsic to his raison d’être or purpose), retires to France, after a civil service career and a difficult marriage (details of which marriage we learn more about, but again not something intrinsic to this story, just as not intrinsic is the bum-fluff man-boy who is ‘partner’ of a neighbouring chic woman near the Englishman’s house that he’s bought on the borders of where Vichy France once met Nazidom in the war and also edging upon the Englishman’s unexpectedly owned wood wherein a legend had it that a man once cut off his shadow and thus cut off his mis-collaborating conscience) and there was some vista, too, of a chateau where Montaigne, of the essays that I once read, lived — in fact none of all this is intrinsic to the story, but a transcendentantalising vision of the Englishman’s encounter with a intensely sad ghost (“A tunnel into the void had been drilled through his body”) you will never forget. The story has its own raison d’être and this is it, whether the author allowed his story to have it or not.
“But all history is legend, and all legend history… […] You can be frightened into evil but not into goodness…”
My previous reviews of this author: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/reggie-oliver/
THE IRON CITY by Tanith Lee
This is a most remarkable and incantatory ‘story’, a definite find, a previously lost work by this author, that mixes, in its prose, ingredients of refrain, poetry, nursery rhyme, horror story, sex, and other visions, amidst characters and images and events of this city as a genius loci or gestalt conjured up by these very ingredients, evolving into a series of episodes featuring certain of these characters, episodes that are both poignant and nightmarish, even beautiful. I don’t say this lightly: some of its poetics are second to none, and I imagine hearing the whole of it recited by a skilful orator would be almost too exquisite to bear.
My previous reviews of this author: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/tag/tanith-lee/
“‘I’ll tell you something, Clara. Have you ever SEEN a minute? Have you actually had one wriggling inside your hand? Did you know if you keep your finger inside a clock for a minute, you can pick out that very minute and take it home for your own?’ So it is Paul who stealthily lifts the dome off. It is Paul who selects the finger of Clara’s that is to be guided, shrinking, then forced wincing into the works, to be wedged in them, bruised in them, bitten into and eaten up by the cogs. ‘No you have got to keep it there, or you will lose the minute. I am doing the counting – the counting up to sixty.’ . . . But there is to be no sixty. The ticking stops.”
From ‘The Inherited Clock’ by Elizabeth Bowen
SLOUGH by Glen Hirshberg
“Inherited. The clocks.”
This is a genuine horror story masterpiece, one to help cope with our own hateful times. I am surprised I had not heard of it before, and glad to have reunion with reading this author after so many years. You don’t often meet such masterpieces, but I met this one today, ever turning left when in any doubt till reaching What’s Left Beach, while travelling in the head of a woman called Gabbie, and amidst “the dangers of interpreting texts”, I got to some bespoke nub of this story. After dealing with presumptuous Daniel, she angles off to an earlier friend called Julian, crossing Rhode Island to reach him, with much protesting backstory as backdrop… and I was further excited to see this story has the relentless soul of my favourite author, Elizabeth Bowen, in both the beautifully startling style and the nature of a ticking Zeno’s Paradox as theme. Such mutual synergy is doubtless inadvertent between the souls of these two writers with their being otherwise worlds and times apart, but it may be that borrowing a swimsuit does link souls. Yet, their mutual synergy definitely stems from the preternatural literary gestalt not from each other. This story actually makes me say such things for the first time without worrying about my being called pretentious afterwards.
If I tell you the full plot’s rite of passage and what Gabbie sees on her journey and beneath the waves away from the wet rain, and what wonders of expression, image and vision that teem in whispers before the reader among the soft wagon houses, I would no doubt cover pages and pages with this review. The story just is. Where do I start? Where do I end? I had in my mind so many things to quote from it and events/emotions to point out to you from it, but I have come to the conclusion that I can only say you must go there from whatever presumption of place or person wherein you currently stand, using whatever route through it you might choose; indeed you MUST read this momentous story full stop
My previous reviews of this author: https://nullimmortalis.wordpress.com/2012/04/08/glen-hirshberg/
PS It also has a ‘shadowy third’, but which is it, Daniel, Julian or Gabbie herself?
But no ElBow, as far as I can see.
My first noting of the Bowen – Hirshberg synergy was almost ten years ago exactly, here: https://nullimmortalis.wordpress.com/2012/03/18/the-two-sams-glen-hirshberg/
I have only just now noticed this by doing a Google search and finding it! I had indeed forgotten all about it, till now. 🙂
Now planning to review Infinity Dreams by Glen Hirshberg: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2022/03/05/infinity-dreams-glen-hirshberg/
Pingback: “Never, ever swim alone.” | The Des Lewis Gestalt Real-Time Reviews (from 2008)
I first read and reviewed the next story in 2019 here: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2019/11/08/petals-and-violins-d-p-watt/#comment-17351, as follows…
A SPECIES OF THE DEAD by D.P. Watt
“I have seen the place where I once was. I have looked into those endless mirrors and my empty eyes;”
An artist woman in deep grief whose artist husband has died, now picking up the pieces, And it is an important horror-coda to the previous work of bereavement, horror as rapture, although it is a standalone work as well as a coda, a standalone as your body can be made to be when you have left it? The physical flaying and flensing from around the soul when set against the art installations of conceptual taxidermy, as mixed with the chemical ‘mad science’ of life-continuation beyond death. Our second home.
Please excuse my quoting below from the text liberally. Far better than anything else I can say about it.
“; a badger a round stone that rolled gently through a circular groove in a slab of granite; that stone came to her regularly in dreams since he had died, just rolling and rolling and rolling, on and on through the tormented synapses of her sleeping brain.”
“She had seen too many dead things; she had worked with their remains and knew the empty eyes; the nothing that lay within. But human beings might be different; she might glimpse a soul.”
My previous reviews of this author: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/d-p-watt/
After the context of the ‘scorched earth policy’ I mentioned in connection with the Samuels story above and with the ‘Zeno’s Paradox’ (of half and half again forever as a gluey phenomenon) in the Hirshberg story synchronously reviewed earlier today above …
THE BURNING WOODS by Michael Marshall Smith
“The difference still felt clear, and I wondered how far from your starting point you had to go before that ceased to be the case, before you’d truly left the place you were before. The point where you became committed. There’s probably no kind of math that will work that out.”
This intensely haunting and compellingly readable novelette on any level of reading it features what I have in recent months called ‘gluey Zenoism’ regarding my public studies of all the works of Robert Aickman and Elizabeth Bowen, and here the water around the lake resort’s base-connected islands is actually aligned with ‘frozen treacle’. It is a poignant story of a narrator with a secret, his cap lowered, at first a secret from the readers, as he stays in one of the wayside resort’s cabins, with just the manager called Ralph in another cabin, for the snowy season. The reserved relationship between the two men is developed by near-silently drinking beer-cans together. Until Ralph tells of the eponymous woods and of the ‘island’ in the lake, all disarmingly told, perhaps deliberately divulged without seeming to be so. And a lemniscate of poignancy that would be spoilt if I divulge it here.
“Dying is different. It’s not going anywhere. It’s time itself dying, minute by minute, hour by hour.”
The attritional journeys made by the narrator in a kayak and the visions he sees amid slow snow, you will not easily forget, also amid ‘tales of death and love’, to quote Aickman eponymously. Not that this novelette is particularly Aickman-like, nor is it Bowenesque, for that matter. It is highly recommended, though.
“Slow, measured back and forths, until I hit a rhythm that felt eternal…”
I personally felt it obliquely helpful to re-read the poem by John Donne entitled ‘The Paradox’ after finishing the MMS.
And also to consider ‘They Also Serve Who Only Stand and Wait’ by the poet who once wrote the God/Satan into a paradise lost..
My previous reviews of MMS: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/tag/michael-marshall-smith/
There is also a great amount of non-fiction material in this book that I have not yet read: Introduction: Horror in 2019, Necrology: 2019 and quite fulsome introductions to each story.
end of review