DIM SHORES 2023
Kurt Fawver – “Radius Unknown”
Alvaro Zinos-Amaro – “Undo”
Brian Evenson – “Vigil in the Inner Room”
Michael Kelly – “Dead but Dreaming Still”
Gwendolyn Kiste – “To the Progeny Forsaken”
Anya Martin – “The Other Cat”
Clint Smith – “Lovenest”
Jeffrey Thomas – “Strangler Fig”
Simon Strantzas – “Still Packed”
Brooke Warra – “We Don’t Live Here Anymore”
Michael Griffin – “We Spend Weekends With Dad”
Matthew M. Bartlett – “The Cryptic Jape”
Craig Laurance Gidney – “Impz”
Cody Goodfellow – “Protect & Serve”
David Peak – “Zones Without Names”
Erica Ruppert – “Ex Astris”
Richard Gavin – “The Intercessor”
Kaaron Warren – “Songs We Sing at Sea”
S.P. Miskowski – “Across the Darkness”
A.C. Wise – “Into the Green”
Gemma Files – “Bb Minor”
Nadia Bulkin – “Your Heart is a House on Fire
My review of Looming Low, Vol. 1: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2017/11/01/looming-low/
WHEN I READ THIS BOOK, MY THOUGHTS WILL APPEAR IN THE COMMENT STREAM BELOW…
RADIUS UNKNOWN: KURT FAWVER
“…the stench had taken on a new and terrifying quality: it made us bleed.”
This is a scouring Swiftian satire become horror story and beats all such attempts to portray our world today as the gestalt stench it truly is. I have been inhaling it, it seems forever! As it radiates from those in rich smug denial to us others who just try to transcend the way it destroys us. Horror story? Yes, but its horror is multiplied by the exponential attrition to which it exposes us with the disguise of irony. Takes the skin off even its brave author for addressing this situation at all, even by the use of fiction.
My previous reviews of this author: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/tag/kurt-fawver/
The Kurt Fawver collage: https://elizabethbowensite.wordpress.com/2023/04/14/kurt-fawver/
From that enlightening hurt to another…
UNDO: ALVARO ZINOS-AMARO
A masterstroke to glue laptop’s undo button to a universe of gluons and child creation, child destruction within, the felt bodily concomitants and the accoutrements of modern life, phone texts, rats on subways, missed life chances, fruit on vines, a woman from Warsaw, I saw the war, too. Inside. Woman or not.
A mammoth azathoth of emotions story! Complex but fluidly accessible.
“There has only ever been one spreadsheet in the whole world, she thinks, endlessly populated by the illusion of change. […] ….the cosmological constant and the energy density of the vacuum?” … coffee stains
“The hurt was so intense it verged on enlightening.”
My previous reviews of this author: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/tag/alvaro-zinos-amaro/
VIGIL IN THE INNER ROOM: BRIAN EVENSON
“The mother at the window, the brother at the door, the sister by the bed, and the father dead, dead, dead.”
A meticulous vigil ritual that is dark, dark, dark. Recurrent death-denyings by wax sealing and wax searing. A sort of last ditch sacrifice of the young for the old? Too dark even for Evenson. But especially darkest for dad or daughter?
My previous reviews of this author: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/tag/brian-evenson/
The Brian Evenson collage: https://nemonymousnight.wordpress.com/2023/04/11/brian-evenson/
Beware impossible spoiler…
DEAD BUT DREAMING STILL: MICHAEL KELLY
“She is a grey shape in a grey world. Blending in. Indistinct and ephemeral. Like a ghost. Perhaps she always was.”
This is the story of a dead or dying woman who through a survival means becomes the dream of her own baby. Or is it? It and its blank black plate shall forevermore bug me. Or me it.
“Breathes. Breathes. Calming. Calming.”
My previous reviews of this author: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/tag/michael-kelly/
The Michael Kelly collage: https://nemonymousnight.wordpress.com/2023/04/14/michael-kelly/
From a baby daughter who arguably created her mother in the story above to a daughter who destroys her own father… with cosmically transcending results… the mother, the motel and the memories notwithstanding.
TO THE PROGENY FORSAKEN: GWENDOLYN KISTE
“Stevie can be charming when she wants to be. That’s what makes her dangerous.”
The polaroids as signs of previous times. And the frightened neighbours fleeing from either side of where her father lives.
“How are you supposed to embrace something that could destroy you in an instant?”
My previous reviews of this author: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/tag/gwendolyn-kiste/
“The human creature is alone in his carapace. Poetry is a strong way out.”
— Stevie Smith
The Kiste Collage: https://etepsed.wordpress.com/2023/04/08/gwendolyn-kiste/
THE OTHER CAT: ANYA MARTIN
This is very moving portrayal of senile dementia, an era (via a combination of old age and medication) I myself am trying gracefully to enter, if men like me can be graceful about anything! Here it’s a mother cared for by a daughter, to the detriment of the latter’s romantic relationship. A definite ghost story masterpiece that reminded me of ‘The Other Bed’ theme, but eventually dissolving into the story’s very own form of literary dementia — not unlike a weirdly crowded AI visual image where things are either missing or miscounted!
My previous reviews of this author: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/tag/anya-martin/
The phone texts were truncated or half-missing, too!
The Anya Martin collage: https://elizabethbowensite.wordpress.com/2023/05/06/anya-martin/
LOVENEST: CLINT SMITH
“Bordered by shredded edges, the liminal structure appeared to have been raggedly torn from a photo, its ragged edges vivid and crisp, not the result of some haphazard demolition.”
There is no way I can do justice to these transcendent ‘shadowy thirds’ as they horrifically meet, man, ex wife and hag woman from the cornfields, all in evil palimpsest with a sporadically derelict hotel next door to a rundown bistro. So, I have erected this story’s own shifting visual collage here: https://etepsed.wordpress.com/2023/05/07/clint-smith/ to give you at least some idea.
My previous reviews of this author: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/tag/clint-smith/
The Clint Collage: https://etepsed.wordpress.com/2023/05/07/clint-smith/
THE STRANGLER FIG: JEFFREY THOMAS
“The puppeteers were chest-deep in that oily black water, manipulating in their black-gloved hands the rods that like external skeletons put their beautiful puppets through the motions of mock life.”
These days, my mind often turns to the AI triggered visions that one story could provide, and if that is anything by which to judge, this story is the most inspirationally fecund of all time! Just one such vision would suffice, while a good thousand more are certainly possible! Like the burgeoning images of the giant entrapping tentacles and strangling figs of a freak banyan tree near the temple and the cafe in Unnamed Country, and the two superbly characterised water puppeteers as a seasoned married couple, the wife being coerced by the husband into accepting his bad behaviour, and their ironic paid job in the story for two new young lovers at the latter’s wedding reception — the job being a puppet show with spitting dragons to pre-echo newly wild marital kisses, a show involving the Black Stork, the Curious Fish, the Banyan Tree, and much more, in this staggeringly substantive and memorable story, making my own head teem somehow with more and more visions of both intelligently artful epiphanies of artifice and of subsuming glottals of blackwater reality beyond reach of anything but this otherwise undecorated story itself.
“In the wedding of the Gold-Scaled Dragon and the Silver-Scaled Dragon, when their marriage is culminated they spray water into each other’s mouths.”
My previous reviews of this author: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/tag/jeffrey-thomas/
The Jeffrey Thomas collage: https://etepsed.wordpress.com/2023/04/27/jeffrey-thomas/
STILL PACKED: SIMON STRANTZAS
“Was there anything worse than an aging punk rocker walking a tiny dog?”
Still packed, but what a carry-on! A seemingly standard portrayal of a woman torn between her aging husband and the thrusting stud of a waiter when she was away on business. But it becomes genuinely disturbing. And the ending, although, in hindsight, somehow telegraphed to us earlier, was even more frighteningly telling than the description of an earlier children’s playground scene, a scene that was as if intended, inadvertently, to inspire a reviewer who happened already to be harnessed by an AI at the time he was writing about the story. A pet squiggly AI.
My previous reviews of this author: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/simon-strantzas/
The Strantzas collage: https://etepsed.wordpress.com/2023/04/12/simon-strantzas/
This book is full of relationships or marriages, gone, coming, rotting, ripe for truncated artifice as well as for art itself, here, in a house with a life’s ghosts, this next one being a rewilding of Molly’s Monologue of Mold by a transgressive James Joyce…
“He showed me the scar his teeth had made going through his lower lip from a spill off the monkey bars at school.” That playground above!
WE DON’T LIVE HERE ANYMORE: BROOKE WARRA
A major ‘eclosion’ that ‘erupted out of a cluster of pluteus villosus’
“I painted grotesque portraits, hellish landscapes, and the odd still-life.”
We all can, now!
My previous reviews of Brooke Warra: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/tag/brooke-warra/
WE SPEND WEEKENDS WITH DAD: MICHAEL GRIFFIN
“I felt myself getting heavier and heavier, the harder I tried to run. My arms and legs were tired and I wanted to give up. I guessed I couldn’t do anything against so much gravity.”
This seems to be the epitome of what this book so far and my gestalt reviews and my madly truncated AI collages have brought me to, along with elbows and with a Zeno’s-Paradox but now real-life sick sluggishness — and an Ai-ckman-like or Tem-like situation that these two boys find themselves in, with subsuming sand in a strange town, sights of two girls with a skinny red ball, as a symptom of their father’s broken marriage with their mother. Not to speak of the bits and pieces glimpsed of women body parts (pre-empted above) along with those insidious slapping noises! Gah! what and how has all this been brought about?
“the blood ran down her arms and dripped off her elbows”
My previous reviews of this author: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/tag/michael-griffin/
The Griffin collage: https://etepsed.wordpress.com/2023/04/18/michael-griffin/
THE CRYPTIC JAPE: MATTHEW M. BARTLETT
This is, for me, the ultimate escapist Bartletting through a foul valve. A brief story with a million possible AI image offloads. And each sentence could be quoted to suborn all of the others. And it has the comic versus comedian characters evolved from the set piece stage directions of a Ramsey Campbell or Reggie Oliver audience-watching stand-up made into an overwhelming, clogging ablution. The Scout? I just need to peel off this work’s words from my face like a mask!
My previous reviews of this author: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/tag/matthew-m-bartlett/
The Bartlett collage: https://etepsed.wordpress.com/2023/04/04/matthew-m-bartlett/
IMPZ: CRAIG LAURANCE GIDNEY
This is a world I have no experience of, some adolescent self-named “niggas” on an after school scheme summoning their own demonic Mary Poppins, or sort of. And what is the devil is a “ladyboner“? And something somewhere wriggled a bit of this work’s feisty meaning into a generator for me and produced an alien goodness what the hell out of it all…
My previous review of this author: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2018/04/24/the-nectar-of-nightmares-craig-laurance-gidney/
PROTECT & SERVE: CODY GOODFELLOW
“But you can see the twists and turns it took, like the weird bones in whales that tell you they used to walk on land.”
It is more than that! An honest-to-badness portrait of cops, here an experienced cop and a rookie cop, meaningfully called Albright and Madrigal, the latter with a cop-as-father backstory, and the wildly greatness of observed language coming from this work’s radio belly potentially giving you all you need to know of all the cops’ thoughts and fights and and, yes, nobilities as well as deep darknesses and conflicts and prejudices and radio talk, but not, until you read it to the very bottom sump, and possibly mis-read its power of who is the law protectors and who the angels and who the Great White Whale in the sky, or those they might mis-think they put back in the black Hell they deserve! It is gob smacking – literally. Rage and hate and holy ghosts. Or just ghosts of themselves?
“The Bubble was a funny kind of bar. No sign out front. Whatever you ordered, you’d get a dirty glass of Mad Dog or warm beer…”
mad dog, mad god
My previous reviews of this author: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/tag/cody-goodfellow/
ZONES WITHOUT NAMES: DAVID PEAK
“Everything you see. Everything around you. None of it is real. None of it can be trusted.”
This is a set of powerful futuristically Swiftian or Orwellian visions that somehow speak equally to me in a bespoke fashion and also to our troubled times in general. The work needs to be read cold without further intervention from me, other than to make note of a minor detail — a waitress where “One of her legs was much longer and thicker than the other.”
“I see things—I notice things that other people don’t seem to notice—and I try to relate those things to other things. That’s all. Like recognizing patterns.”
My previous reviews of David Peak linked here: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/tag/david-peak/
EX ASTRIS: ERICA RUPPERT
“…jagged, fragmentary words behind on the ragged edges. But the remaining leaves were covered in dense, angular script, a mix of words and patterns he recognized, and almost understood.”
A very intriguing story of a private detective, with a personal backstory as betokened by a certain scar on his hand, who is commissioned by some strange people to search for a young woman, somehow movingly conflated at times with his own missing daughter, and there is also featured a haunting piece of poetic verse that I will not reproduce here but I did dare to put its complete words through some magical image maker (resulting in the image shown below) that solves nothing about this story’s conundrum of nothing but it somehow fills me with enormous qualms about something else! So I have now fed my reviews of some of this author’s other stories through the same magical image maker and they may give you, as they did me, further clues…to this story and to this whole book so far.
“There were no coincidences.”
My previous reviews of this author: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/tag/erica-ruppert/
The subsequent Ruppert collage can be found here: https://elizabethbowensite.wordpress.com/2023/05/13/erica-ruppert/
THE INTERCESSOR: RICHARD GAVIN
“It was a collage of her true self’s touchstones:”
This is, for me, the ultimate Gavinostick. This woman who sees someone or something near a place of cosy safety during a storm, i.e. the woman’s own boathouse near her home. And this figure — ostensibly perfect for the AI cosplaying of visual human truncations and weirdities – I can see that not even such an AI image, even at possible future full strength, could possibly depict it. It could only have been depicted by the human WORDS of Gavin. Nor can any reviews encompass it. For example, I feel it’s calliope wheeling around my own head simply through Gavin’s words. I feel my own bungalow house is bunging up at the windows and doors like this woman’s home – and eventually bunging up like her head. I shall just try to concentrate on her landline phone on the wall….
My previous reviews of this author:
Omens by Richard Gavin
Primeval Wood – by Richard Gavin
Sylvan Dread – Richard Gavin
Plus a number of stories in anthologies linked from https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/tag/richard-gavin/
The Gavinostic Collage: https://etepsed.wordpress.com/2023/04/12/richard-gavin/
SONGS WE SING AT SEA ARE THE LIES WE TELL OURSELVES: KAARON WARREN
“They began to believe there was a god of the sea who kept them floating. Who watched over them alive and dead, and sent them crucifix fish, which barely fed them but gave them sustenance.”
There are some stories that one knows straightaway are completely inspired and will last forever. This is one of them. The story, through a unique blend of song and narration, of a cruise ship set adrift during the the plague and the young woman on board with many others, and now in aftermath back home with her grandson, or so the song he sings tells us.
My previous reviews of Kaaron Warren: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/tag/kaaron-warren/ and https://nullimmortalis.wordpress.com/2010/08/21/slights-by-kaaron-warren/ and https://nullimmortalis.wordpress.com/2010/08/18/the-alsiso-project/
More story inspired aimages: https://nullimmortalis.wordpress.com/27535-2/ and the full KW collage here: https://etepsed.wordpress.com/2023/05/03/kaaron-warren/
ACROSS THE DARKNESS: S.P. MISKOWSKI
“Stupid, I know. It was stupid fun, like scrapbooking—“
I feel my own recent AI obsessions are ironically brought to a poignant apotheosis by this particular writer’s mischievous portrayal of a woman, beautifully characterised as a cleaner of houses, who takes on the identity of a dead Facebook account – or tells us she does. There is far more to this story that is an ingenious ghost story. It filled me with all manner of emotions, mostly welcome ones, but one or two deservedly unwelcome ones!
My recent reviews of this author: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/tag/sp-miskowski/ and her ‘collage’ here: https://nemonymousnight.wordpress.com/2023/04/03/s-p-miskowski/
INTO THE GREEN: A.C. WISE
This is unashamedly a crowded horror story, indeed over-crowded with many horror tropes and spooky situations as well as the story’s ‘the green crowds closer’. Cousins visiting a secluded island as half-trespassers, and its ghostly backstory of a cult, a compound and a demolished house. against the backdrop and devastating backstory of one of these cousins. And a mural they find that makes me think of the occluded and piecemeal AI images that are the backstory of us all, with bits of people there one minute, gone the next, or bits missing from the gestalt that is still there —
“The [mural] image wavers as the light passes over it, and the figures stretch though they’re already tall. Featureless, pale as the birch trees around them. […] —subtly wrong. […] At any moment, one of those faceless painted figures will turn and shush her. They’re intruding on something sacred.”
Seminal stuff! But the triggered images today, for this review, seem instead to concentrate on the crowding green…
My previous reviews of this author here: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/tag/a-c-wise/ and her AI collage can be found here: https://elizabethbowensite.wordpress.com/2023/04/21/a-c-wise/
Bb MINOR or The Suicide Choir: An Oral History: GEMMA FILES
This is the moment my life-long concept of atonal classical music takes full flight, taken through a process not entirely unlike a variant upon the song-narration of Kaaron Warren above, but here the Warren is the back room of a new House of Leaves during the 2020 lockdowns. Via witness accounts distilled into a gestalt and seemingly gathered thus to witness as necessary disciples for what I can only call a Zanny cult vocalising hymns to itself …. a soaring Sanctus of a story!
My reviews of this author here: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/tag/gemma-files/ and her ‘collage’ here: https://etepsed.wordpress.com/2023/04/12/gemma-files/
YOUR HEART IS A HOUSE ON FIRE: NADIA BULKIN
“Life is the interlude, the extended layover in the world’s worst airport. Death is the long stretch. Death is forever.”
This is the story that makes your whole body vibrate with the concept GHOST. This story, amid her relationship with others, of a seemingly born-to-be lady ghosthunter and her rite of passage, a ghosthunter who judges her own attunement to the paranormal by her bodily numbers rising or falling. Many beautiful written and ghost-telling moments in this work; it is a timely coda to the whole book, especially in contrast to the wild music of the previous story. And the gestalt of ‘God’ as Ghost that the Warren work above fetches … looming low beyond the “psychic tar pit”.
“Their chaos is so profound that the eye of their storm must be God, I think.”
My reviews of this author here: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/tag/nadia-bulkin/ and her collage here: https://elizabethbowensite.wordpress.com/2023/04/24/nadia-bulkin/