The WEIRD (9)
Real-Time Review continued from HERE.
The WEIRD: A Compendium of Strange and Dark Stories
Edited by Ann & Jeff VanderMeer
First published in Great Britain 2011 by Corvus, an imprint of Atlantic Books Ltd.
[For the first time in this review, I have just read two stories in tandem (without first reviewing each in turn), mainly because I read them both in a hospital waiting-room today, where, assisted kindly by my wife, I had taken a very close elderly relative of mine for examination by scan ‘rays’, entailing special dietary pre-procedures and cubicles with blue vertical venetian-blinds. An onerous day, a poignant day, an ominously fateful day. Plus the striking new (to me) short-fictions I read there by Russ and Harrison.]
The Little Dirty Girl – Joanna Russ
“She refused to go to the zoo (‘An animal jail!’)…”
“Autumn came.” We all once had “the sheer, elastic wealth of children’s bodies”, yet we end up possibly with cancer or with looking in the mirrored walls of Kent and Hallby’s to see one’s essential self as a depleting physical shape – as the ghost of self haunts our older versions – in a haunting transfiguration in synergy with a mother and daughter symbiosis (cf: ‘My Mother’ by Jamaica Kincaid) – A.R.: Alter Revenant? Meanwhile, it is a highly memorable ghost story – a well-characterised spirit of a spirited little-girl waif-and-stray with ghost-clothes and dirt to bath off, a disarming penchant for Milky Ways and a “little skull coming through her skin“. Astonishing. (And more cats and the main protagonist’s “kitty-booting” (like Maybury) to match this book’s other earlier pet-cruelties!)
The New Rays – M. John Harrison
“We aren’t supposed to eat or drink for five hours before a treatment,”
A second bite of the book’s cherry for this by-line. And I am glad, because, otherwise, today’s srednidipity would not have occurred for me so meaningfully. (Agar Grove as the new Egnaro?) For me, a natural companion story for the previous Russ story. Competing ‘spiders’ of sickness and life, match and mix between. A highly disturbing back-street dream of a clinic where the ‘healing rays’ are geared to or from saddish blue ‘pets’ (as I name them), creatures without internal organs. We are autumn-steeped again. We were once ‘summer people’, but now we are autumn ones and we need to divert from any failed or spurious cures of self or of self’s body with art or travel or love: that turn out to be, respectively, a detestable self-preservation by a painting in a gallery or a hideous train journey or a lover who does not care enough to share sickness with us. “All you have for company is the image of yourself in the steamy mirrors…” And injured soldiers who litter our lands with crippled memories of a forgotten war. I don’t think I shall forget today’s landmark readings from this book, even when I’m not here to remember them. (23/11/11)
The Discovery of Telenapota – Premendra Mitra
“Like extinct animals preserved in museums for all time.”
There is a lot going on in this engaging, essentially ‘autumnal’ (“white clouds of autumn“), fantasy, of quite short length, with prior echoes from this book. Beaumont’s ‘Mrs Rochester’, the Danubian three-men-in–boat ‘adventure’ (here a fishing expedition (an expression taking on a new meaning in more modern times)), yet another ‘genius loci’ pool ambiance, a drumming that becomes another ‘todash’ rather than the initial cover story of scaring tigers, Telenapota as vaguely another land of Egnaro, and a stumbling into a matriarchal situation personally in vague tune with my day yesterday at the hospital. Another weird story to treasure. The best Weird fiction can touch and tantalise you strangely, darkly, poignantly, humorously, grotesquely or with deathly finality, but, also, mellowly and fruitfully, because, from the very experience of reading it at all, one never quite reaches the winter beyond the autumn in the way that you once reached the autumn beyond the summer. (That could be a definition I would like to subsist from this real-time review, if nothing else). “She can’t see; she can hardly use her limbs; and yet she is determined not to die. […] You will hear the old woman saying. My son, I knew you would come.” (24/11/11)
Soft – F. Paul Wilson
“Her legs had been so strong, so sleekly muscular, like her mother’s…”
A touching still-ongoing post-holocaust tale of a plague: a molten type of osteoporosis, graphically conveyed in the relationhsips of those semi-immune: a father and daughter: the daughter a ‘growing-ghostness’ version of the feisty “little dirty girl” earlier. The virus with its own bone-‘todash’ onset like the sound of “cellophane crinkling“. It is another story so ‘opportunely’ intertwined with this whole ninth page (so far) of my real-time review. In so many ways. And the engaging characterful ‘Bogart’ and ‘Cary Grant’ mimicries by the father reminds me of this book’s other mimics so imbued by the figurative chameleon potential of bones softening…? And the ‘soup’ he makes her. It just had to be soup, didn’t it? “No public displays of morbidity. Just solitary deaths of quiet desperation”, i.e no Bradbury crowds, just “rats in the walls” unless you’re more careful where to live…and die? Holistic immunity – like the earlier ‘rat-king’: all one’s detachable body-bones cohering one by one into a single messy gestalt? I can’t help thinking, separately, that the skull is not just one single bone? These thoughts of mine evolve whether explicit or implicit in this provocative story? (24/11/11 – two hours later)
[Just as a reminder: this real-time review (like most of my previous ones in the last 3 years) is turning into a streaming of images, themes and personal thoughts and appreciations of the fiction, not an academic study of each story based on its authorial history, social history etc. — and I have not yet read any other reviews of the book nor any of its internal non-fiction notes, intros etc. I hope this real-time review (as I naively call it) is still proving to be of some provocative ‘aesthetic’ in its own right. Some feedback I’ve received so far or inadvertently seen is promising. Thanks for your patience and empathy.] (23/11/11 – another 30 minutes later)
THIS REAL-TIME REVIEW OF ‘THE WEIRD’ IS NOW CONTINUED HERE.
Index for this review of ‘The Weird’: http://nullimmortalis.wordpress.com/2011/11/16/df-lewiss-real-time-review-of-the-vandermeers-massive-the-weird/
All my many other real-time reviews are linked from HERE.