Sunday, August 28, 2016

Short Stories and Excerpts from Larger Works – Leena Krohn


Short Stories and Excerpts from Larger Works – Leena Krohn

krohn

Part Seven of my real-time review of
THE COLLECTED FICTION OF LEENA KROHN
CHEEKY FRAWG 2015

Foreword by Jeff VanderMeer

Part Six (THE PELICAN’S NEW CLOTHES) of my review of this book HERE.

Links to all parts here: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/tag/leena-krohn/
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When I review The Short Stories and Excerpts, my comments will be found in the thought stream below or by clicking on this post’s title above

17 thoughts on “Short Stories and Excerpts from Larger Works – Leena Krohn

  1. A selection from UMBRA 1990

    .
    Translated by Herbert Lomas
    THE PARADOX ARCHIVE
    UMBRA reminds me of Håkan’s doctor from PEREAT Mundus. He collects paradoxes and addresses a ur-paradox, infinity, in interface, serendipitously brought to him, with an AI man and his fear. But how can an AI have fear with all his other infinititudes of not having body and soul? Because he also has a harmonium and a harmonium (as well as a piano) features in Rossini’s Petite Messe Solennelle that wasn’t petite nor was it solennelle!
    Mind-stretching stuff. Zeno’s paradox ever halfway in towards the end of this text.
  2. Three from ‘Mathematical Creatures, Or Shared Dreams’ 1992

    GORGONOIDS (translated by Hildi Hawkins)
    “The gorgonoid is merely and exclusively what it looks like — as far as we know.”
    This mathematical, arguably leather-like encased, digital creature, with and without free will, or thinking it has free will, is, for me, what some have called a drogulus (like the Prott), and arguably half-related to the assumed quasi-motivational nature of Grandpa Raft in a story I reviewed earlier today HERE. This becomes specially interesting when the narrator in the Krohn compares her own life with that of the gorgonoid.
  3. THE LORD OF MY DEATH (translated by Vivii Hyvönen)
    “He was the prey of my gaze.”
    This is an astonishing Horror Story. I don’t think I have ever read such revulsion about glimpsing someone intrinsically inimical to one’s paranoiac-eschatological eyes, this woman narrator glimpsing such a man among the crowds at a railway station. Her subsequent internal speculations about and extrapolations from sight of this stranger are all-consuming. Should be anthologised.
  4. LUCILIA ILLUSTRIS (translated by Vivii Hyvönen)
    “It was the sound of decomposition, which is the sound of life in death.”
    Decomposition (like Sibelius’s Silence?) rather than composition, intriguing…
    This is another powerful story, a narrative by a forensic expert (and seems to be a forerunner of those now popular cold and taciturn Scandinavian detective films that populate these days our Saturday night screens in UK)…
    “On the wall of the ladies’ room someone had written in a swift, sketchy hand: ‘Time is nature’s way of preventing everything from happening at once.'”
    From Baudelaire to the working of insects upon bodies (which shows Tainaron in a new seeping light) and all manner of considerations of the process of decay and murder and the soul / spirit and death and body.
    “Nothing as lifeless as that can ever have been alive.”
    Significantly and coincidentally, I just read and reviewed about an hour ago this where it says “the soul is in the bones.”
    “The spirit is like the queen of an anthill.”
  5. A selection from DREAMDEATH (2004)

    Translated by Hildi Hawkins
    TO SLEEP, TO DIE
    “Before the ‘event’, one could also spend time in Dreamdeath’s well-equipped mediatheque, or, if one was still sufficiently hungry, glance at the admirably long menu of a Bykovian, Kungho, Tainaronian or even Lastrupian restaurant.”
    An enticing euthanasiac menu of bespoke deaths.
  6. FEAR OF THE DARK
    A theme and varIations on the eponymous subject as well as on Lucia’s darkness-inducer occupation of helping others with anaesthetic remedy as well as easy eschatological escape, even cryology’s shaky promise.
  7. FIT AND UNFIT FOR DEATH
    “Lucia called Schopenhauerian those who said, ‘Ever since I was a child, I have known that non-existence is better than existence.'”
    Ligottian Lucia as Aunty-Natalism, as we follow her at Dreamdeath, almost a whistleblower or undercover agent, despite or because of her care for her customers’ wishes, or what she interpreted as their wishes about dreamdying. And why the depressed or demented excluded?
    But the use of the word dream as a prefix remains mysterious. Euthanasia and suicide as gifts of a dream, from which we can wake up? Perhaps Lucia is dreaming, too?
    The right to die or the right to dream? Life itself goes on, meanwhile, full of fiction and truth, a book like this one for the head to house, or a book like this one to house the head?
  8. A selection from THE BEE PAVILION 2006

    Translated by Anselm Hollo
    REALLY EXISTING?
    “I may well be the only one who referred to the building as The Bee Pavilion. Why?”
    I think this labyrinth of gestalt real-time reviews of hyper-imaginative literature is a sort of Bee Pavilion in its own way. And I should join one of its constituent hives: The Fluctuating Reality Club judging by its propensities. The other clubs and societies that use this building, replacing the mentally ill patients of yore, are also fascinating to hear about. The structure and genius loci of the building itself and its history are very evocatively conveyed here, too.
  9. SO SORRY
    “At the Fluctuating Reality Club, I could have told a story about my trip to London,…”
    The narrator lives on the coast of the Gulf of Finland, and from there tells us of this London man who reminds me of not so much Henderson the Pelican man but of the phenomenon of such men, a sort of strobing of vision between non-human and human.
  10. THE THREE BUDDHAS
    “Under this town lies another town.
    Inside this earth is another sun.”
    For perhaps unobvious reasons, that couplet means a lot to me,
    And probably the most striking description of a Japanese tremor you will meet in literature.
    A tale of travels and telling souvenirs the narrator gives The Fluctuating Reality Club.
    And I do not give my brief reaction each day since I started this book for its own sake or to add or subtract anything to or from the book, but simply to record my rite of passage through it. To say I was there.
  11. Four from FALSE WINDOW 2009

    Translated by Leena Likitalo
    THE DIVIDER
    “I combine mathematics, horror, and beauty in my science-art in a unique way.”
    Metamaatti. A determinist, too. Murders by dint of mathematics? Or of triangulative dreamcatchers like this review? This amazing stuff. Needs rereading, I guess.
    Real-time reviews versus Metamaatti.
  12. PICTURE BOOK
    ” — I beg your pardon? A thousand pages! How vast is the whole book! I asked, confused.
    — Thirty-two trillion pages, he replied as if he really were serious.”
    I thought at first this might be the BIG BOOK OF SCIENCE FICTION edited by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer … But, no, and this is indeed possibly the oddest discrete story you are ever likely to read. The narrator who stays in a tank of brine has a salesman visit selling a book containing photographs of children, some hinted at as naked, some weirdly disfigured, all of whom turning out to be the narrator’s own children that he COULD have had with his wife, and one of them in fact is his real daughter. I could go on, with the fascinating extrapolations from this scenario. It is probably the most remarkable few pages I have ever read. Should anyone get this far into Leena Krohn’s turquoise tome (of rival size to the one being sold), they will discover that for themselves.
  13. FILEMON OR THE WOODEN MAN
    “…and I started to doubt my own disbelief.”
    As we all do when reading this remarkable section of a man poignantly seeking advice from the tank’s narrator, when joining him in the tank. You see, the man seeking advice is slowly turning into a tree. Or is he? Is he mocking the narrator in the tank? I sense turning into a tree is a thing to envy, but maybe it isn’t as good as it sounds. The description of this transformation needs to be read to be believed.
  14. THE QUEEN OF THE NIGHT AND OTHER STRANGERS
    ” — My spouse was a businessman, who tried to sell dated technology: personal weather stations and self-illuminating cellphone covers.”
    The woman comes to the narrator in the tank with marital problems instigated by emails from her husband’s supposed lover. Very strange, not forgetting the reference to the Magic Flute. Perhaps the narrator in the tank is the erstwhile pelican?
  15. A selection from HOTEL SAPIENS 2012

    Translated by Hildi Hawkins
    ME AND MY SHADOW
    “I’m inclined to think that sooner or later I will fade and become less distinct so that when my time is over, I will no longer be distinguishable from my surroundings.”
    A perfect analogy here as an interlocutory exchange of self as body and shadow, as I already experience this stage of life’s attenuation. A fitting penultimate prose coda to this book, the onset of the Silence of Sibelius. Or the pelicanised person about to enter its flight. Leaving the massed insects that densely make up one’s shadow left behind, if one can but see it once you as the shadow’s caster have gone.
  16. Translated by Eva Buchwald


  17. “He had hoped to articulate the silence.”

  18. A writer’s engagement to talk to his audience and sign his books for them, one that turns out to be a nightmare where people who once knew him turn up… A writer called E.
    A journey just for the car’s petrol to be paid and no other remuneration , if he can wait long enough for them to pay it to them. E flies off, a petrel, not a pelican, I guess.
    Poignant and eventually wordless…
    This book has been one of those not brought-up-short but brought-up-long-by-reading-landmarks that you sometimes gradually meet and appreciate in passing life, neutrally passionate with its SF wings, large and small.
    My gestalt real-time reviews are always and only upon the fiction in any book. I shall now read the non-fiction foreword and appendix for the first time, sure that it will give me more food for thought. I do notice, however, that at the end of the book there is also a Krohn poem, translated by Bethany Fox. ‘Would I believe my eyes’ it is called, and like most poems worthy of attention, something to read and then put aside to read again later, except for one quote to make today:
    “Particles oscillate in strings.”
    A sentence for this whole book.
    —————
    “‘You don’t look like a crone,’ he told her.
    ‘To each her crone,’ she said.”
    (A quote from another book I happened to read and review yesterday HERE.)
    end


    Saturday, August 27, 2016

    A Natural History of Hell: Stories by Jeffrey Ford




    15 thoughts on “A Natural History of Hell: Stories by Jeffrey Ford”

    1. THE BLAMELESS
      “Tom spotted a guy holding a beer, and went in search of.”
      The unspoken elision is perfect not only in the context but also for a book published by Small Beer, especially when Tom is told later by his wife, as mine often does, to go slow on it.
      Having felt a tinge of Updike, I suggest, from my berth reading this in the UK, that this is a fine satire upon American suburban people who, here, have rites-of-passage exorcism social occasions for their older children as they are shriven of what older children are often cursed with as far as behaviour is concerned, whether it is the devil’s doing or just plain nature. But is it a satire at all or a glimpse of some intrinsic truth demonstrated by its absurdism and stage religiosity and gibberese? I wish I had thought of exorcism parties for my own children all those years back. It may have absolved a lot of trouble.
      The story itself has an often dangerously near the bone hilarity of an exorcism party in this very enjoyable romp involving devilish extrusions from the daughter’s bodily parts, and a word-musically ‘dying fall’ ending to die for.
    2. WORD DOLL
      “‘My mind is scattered by age,’ she said and smiled.”
      A truly haunting, mythic-crafted discovery-by-fiction of an intrinsic truth that we all should already have known: the word doll. We see this discovery through the eyes of a natural born story-writer who drives his vehicle past various routine places of his route and then we suddenly see the sign through him, a sign for the ‘word doll museum’. We find out from the old woman he meets in connection with that sign that nobody has been interested in it for years; he is the first for ages, and thus so do we become interested by being co-readers of his writing, I guess. The word doll is in fact significantly connected, I feel, with the child exorcism rites of the previous story, a sort of lesson to keep the old children, or children old by being older in or from our past time, working in the fields, the word doll being a sort of counterintuitive distraction doll, a friend that helps them concentrate on the field work, if not sharing the work, even doing it themselves. Well, if I tell you more, it will spoil this story, especially if I tell you more of the old woman and what happens to her. It is a story that I feel I ought to have read before. It will become, perhaps, my own word doll, my fiction friend not field friend, one that may distract me from my own writing block that has lasted into the scattered ageing today of my second-childhood. If so, thanks to Jeff Ford (the explicit name of the story-writing character in the story). A wonderful work.
    3. THE ANGEL SEEMS
      “In the village square there were two enormous black cauldrons, simmering mucine and glifero, spices from the Far Islands.”
      This seems to be – and, to my naive eye, actually is – a Biblical apocryphal fable of an Angel, and his two Mastiff sled-helpers, who supplies an inimical protectionist policy towards a village and its inhabitants, creating sometimes impregnated staylings or changelings – and other mischief – for those whom he takes agreed ownership each year that his sway persists. The outcome of blood pits, more blameless extrusions and near mayhem is a fascinating and stirring scattershot of strangely divine influences – and I wondered if the surviving mastiff was the one who ate the mutton hand? Or was that me before writing this review? And can you tell this is another story I have thoroughly enjoyed?
      (Although distinctively discrete, this work, to my naive eye, SEEMS, too, to be in the wonderful weird literary tradition of the Ex Occidente Press canon, very nearly one hundred of whose books I have previously reviewed. And a seeming tinge of Rhys Hughes or vice versa?)
    4. MOUNT CHARY GALORE
      I read and reviewed this story before here: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2014/06/24/fearful-symmetries/#comment-3172
      and my real-time reviews are intended to be first reactions after a first reading of a work, whether it requires a second reading or not to appreciate it fully.
      But I will say I have read it again and enjoyed it more in the context’s flavour so far of this collection. A growing upon me of mastiffs and magic hogs plus my own word doll’s sense of humorror gifted by Ford. When my children were small, their minor hurts always seemed to diminish when I pulled an invisible jar of magic ointment from under the couch for them to use.
    5. A NATURAL HISTORY OF AUTUMN
      “‘I intend to be in your book,’ he said and prevented himself from smiling.”
      This is a slippery story, with lies, then corrections of lies throughout (e.g. the pony that is corrected more than once into what it is in this fiction’s truth) – a story that is actually perfect in its own way, quite distinct and discrete, but also sharing to my mind a few constructive features of Capote and Evenson…
      It takes place on a Japanese peninsula, evocatively described, the characters evocatively characterised, too, with the professional ‘escort’ lady who also writes books and lies that she never went to university, and the business man, both in hindsight with their own ingenious jigsaw of lies and motives, but who completes the jigsaw first? The outlying place they visit to share their enticing concept of an Autumn’s completion (cf my view of Ford’s Autumn here), and their own adult sex (lie or truth?) as well as attempted forced animal abnormalities… A very disturbing and satisfying work of fiction that I am glad I have had the chance to read and hopelessly now can never forget.
    6. BLOOD DRIVE
      “By the time the first snow came in late November, the guns became mostly just part of our wardrobes, and kids turned their attention back to their cell phones and iPods.”
      This, like the earlier Exorcism coming-of-age parties, is another modern Swiftain Modest Proposal extrapolation. It is now easier to imagine, from where I am in brexited Britain, the gun laws that seem to apply in real-time America, but this is a shocking fable of children and teachers each openly with their guns, and school children in young labour, giving birth to a dystopia that involves even mildly spoken people having their own foully expletive signatures every time they point their gun at someone, whether in play or in deadly intent.
      I feel this powerful story is pointed at us in BOTH play and deadly intent. Bloodflow in a two-way filter. Literature’s modern Plato’s Cave syndrome.
    7. I read and reviewed this story before here https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2014/11/18/years-best-weird-fiction-volume-one/#comment-3546, and below is a copy and paste of what I then wrote about it:
      ———————————–
      A Terror
      “…Me / Undoing knots…”
      I think this may become one of my all time favourite stories. As an extended Brothers Grimm type fable, its words gestate… It is a Faustian bargain that the female poet makes with Death, Death who appears firstly like the White Rabbit in Alice and then takes her on a trip as if with Dorothy in Oz, and there are many disturbing moments, including the effective description of the undead boy for whom she is contracted to poeticise a counterspell to the spell his mother had cast on the boy to keep him living… It just needed three words in one of her poems that she writes inside her own tomb… It is ironic, I guess, that it is also the same spell for her to transcend her own death…
      The most unlikely source for care and love: Death itself.
      By each undoing of each ligottus…?
      Safe in their Alabaster Chambers –
      Untouched by Morning –
      and untouched by noon –
      (Emily Dickinson)
    8. ROCKET SHIP TO HELL
      “‘He’s got the prostate. You know what I mean?’ She turned and looked at me.
      ‘Not yet but I’m sure someday I will.'”
      …the rocket ship to Hell, indeed. But that’s not what this engagingly page-turning hilarity of a story is really about. Having a break at a recent SF World Convention, the narrator finds a bar in a grimy area of the city, where he and the bartender (a woman who also happens to be a budding SF writer) meet an old-timer SF writer who tells an apparently true story about his 1950s space trip (sponsored by four rich old men) along with a painter (a ‘naive’ female artist) and a composer (a theremin specialist who ended up playing the rather attractive avant garde universal note sonata!) – the three of them having been employed to tap the experience of space travel to embellish their various arts. I can’t do justice to all of it here, and, indeed, a lot of it is secret, but, meanwhile, part of me wanted, when I got halfway, to dive to the end and start reading upside down from the back to the middle. This work fitted my current mood as I am currently reviewing the 1950s material in the double-columned BIG BOOK OF SCIENCE FICTION…
    9. THE FAIRY ENTERPRISE
      “‘Mr. Benett, even a brilliant gentleman such as yourself can never know the way of the fairies. They seem to us crazy as a mad woman’s poo.’
      The industrialist jotted down ‘mad woman’s poo’.
      …as I did, too, from this story’s text, a text that is only a text at all simply for its own sake, one that seethes and crackles with what I have learned already to call forking Fordisms, a text that I sense if I burn its pages it’s printed on upon a book bonfire a brain-igniting spark of its soul (spark of the book or of libban life itself?) would float towards some heavenly hell. TIma Loorie, Binsel, Thrashner, Benett, letters seem loose, too, like poo as an elision for poor? Mr Norrel, notwithstanding.
      It tells of an industrialist’s plans to exploit the population with fairies by some arcane fairy factory recipe of recreating such creatures from the black snowstorms of lore or yore. And the tiny mobile repercussions of his machinations are manifold amidst a crepitating style to die for or, at least, to express one’s own waste products to self-desiccate for.
    10. THE LAST TRIANGLE
      “…and I want you to walk all around the town, everywhere you can think of, and look to see if that symbol appears on any other walls.”
      I confirm that when I posted that photo above, I had no idea that this would be a story about another such symbol….
      This is a strangely relentless, almost naively obsessive, almost felt-to-be-incantatory, plot about a triangulation of symbols (comparable, for me, with my long-term attempted explicit dreamcatching triangulations in gestalt real-time reviewing), a triangulation with occult importance, following the befriending of a criminalised down-and-out by a woman, and involving him in such a deadly triangle as sanctuary-and-prison, along with her ex named Lionel Brund…
      Having now read it all, a third of me is impressively haunted by this text, another third constructively bemused, the final third mindlessly shrugging. The proportions may change.
    11. SPIRITS OF SALT: A TALE OF THE CORAL HEART
      “‘You don’t look like a crone,’ he told her.
      ‘To each her crone,’ she said.”
      I remember entities earlier in this book being smashed into salt smithereens, and this is a rumbustious tale of Ismet Toler, a foundling found at the edge of a cliff whence his mother, I guess, must have leapt like one of many lemmings, and he is then adopted by a hermit, a female hermit, to boot, she, indeed, a hermit assassin called “- I -” who trains her ward Ismet by pitting herself in warrior disguise against him.
      With much more that feeds like a two-way filter into and from BleakWarrior. Black coral versus red coral.
      Sturgeon featured Mars in that story I mentioned above, transmigrated here as an island of red coral. As RM Ballantyne might have said: every man is that island; every man’s would-be mother, a lethal symbiosis; every man’s would-be enemy, a crock of coralised salt?
    12. THE THYME FIEND
      “There was almost too much to tell. Every time he picked a launching point, he thought of some other thread that needed tending…”
      And so with time’s deep breath…
      A substantive work that flows delightfully through the mind with all its forking Fordisms and desiccated salt-visions. Except the threads are not hemp but smoky swirls of inhaled thyme and cups of thyme tea to help assuage the demons. The work is about a 14 year old boy who needs such hits of thyme, and a bike, to broaden his horizons and defend his own sapling defences, and eventually a girl to hold his hand, as he and then both of them are faced with visitations from the retributory toothless dead between its sporadic farming farms in Hell. Spurned by the villagefolk (some guiltier than others, we suspect) for his seeming obsessive peculiarities, the boy persists along justice’s long journey, when he eventually sees, we hope, the light at the end of his erstwhile life’s dark tunnel. But whither or whence, such light? We all have that question to answer, triangulated, as we ever shall be, by Hell, Heaven and Hiraeth. Or so, sometimes with vivid frights, this major threaded yarn portends.
    13. THE PRELATE’S COMMISSION
      “I’m not in the habit of showing my true self to the Lord’s clay dolls, but I will for a price.”
      …as if this coda of the whole book is proof positive of the existence of a talejuice’s word dolls, here in a Christian religious sense, after Codilan, this coda’s master artist, creates an image of angry God in the Cathedral’s dome with Hell beneath, a God who is later doll-masked – by the very Devil – with the face of the prelate who commissioned from Talejui (Codilan’s under artist) a portrait of that Devil himself so as the masses would recognise the Devil when he came to them – or possessed their children? A tortuous vision that somehow works on various levels, especially when also taken into account with the concept of the crucially triangulated murder at the centre of this book’s earlier story. I am still working on this final story in my mind, its “motes of marble dust floating in the sunlight”, the “nettlemare” smoked in a long pipe, “time for his creation being scattered like dust”, the chandeliers turned to “crude salt”. And of the Hermetic and “frosty blue”, and more. It is, at one level, of the Ex Occidente canon and, at other levels, of something specially Fordian, levels still being fathomed. Always ask the next question.
      The whole book still needs to be worked at, too. So pleased I picked it up.
      end
            

    Thursday, August 25, 2016

    You’ll Know When You Get There – Lynda E. Rucker


    10 thoughts on “You’ll Know When You Get There – Lynda E. Rucker

    1. THE RECEIVER OF TALES
      “Ruben’s fingers had looked like that as well, she recalls; only paint — instead of ink-stained.”
      I had a double take when I first read that, Rubens or Ruben, indeed, it is Ruben, her deep Platonic lover, this third person narrative in the name of Aisha (the Ayesha of the ‘She’ she fears she may become), so utterly third person singular, but she imprints herself as a first person singular round and round and upon the reader’s skin with neat homilies and wise saws of emotional modernity that become a rhapsody of weird fiction (Walters, Moraine, and many others?), weird fiction of the distaff that so perfectly populates the pain and pleasure of the weird-turning world today, this the ‘she’ with a ritual-sinuous tale of herself and Ruben, the painter, and his own ultimate self-harming that exceeded her own, and she takes and gives from all quarters of spear, distaff and vampire; we are all receivers of her tales, but only if you are the receiver tuned into the right channel do you travel it right…
      I feel with my real-time reviews, that I have managed to fine-tune my receiver to the optimum. And this work stays with me wherever I move that fine-tuning needle next upon my written-upon skin. You see, it is the only story featuring a chance hitchhiker given the immediate chance to actually drive the car (wherever that hitchhiker wants), and thus the only story giving a chance reader the chance to write it.
      You’ll know when you get there.
      “The modern world ensures your identity clings to you as surely as your fingerprints.”
    2. WIDDERSHINS
      “It was just an ordinary gate, and the other side was ordinary too.”
      Bearing in mind the American protagonist’s everpresent and explicit “trauma” at once losing, through emotional entropy, his beloved ready-made family, and now staying in a cottage in the wilds of Ireland, this is also the ordinary story it seems to be, and the rest of it is just his trauma-fed imagination?
      Whatever the case, I feel relieved that to transcend any curse of widdershins all you need to do is walk with the sun, the path the earth ever follows with or without your own contribution, thus cancelling out any path you shouldn’t have taken, any gate you shouldn’t have passed through. Even if it means stretching you against the grain between tree and tree to do it.
      “In the end, we all find ourselves in the same place.”
    3. THE HOUSE ON COBB STREET
      “…and one word distinguishable above the rest — her, her, her — and she never knew that three letters, a single-breathed syllable, could be weighted with so much hatred.”
      At first I feared this might be another stock documentary haunted house investigation. In many ways it is one, but not stock. It is probably the most genuinely frightening such story I have read. The documentary extracts, some disagreeing with the others, are interspersed with the narrative of a woman, a literature student teacher – and her husband who commits suicide quite out of predictable character. The nature of the horrors in the hatefully prehensile house cannot be given justice to here, and references such as Fuseli and the Ouroboros symbol merely distractions from something genuinely and irresistibly horrific that somehow lies beyond the text even if it is conjured up by that very text. The finale where she escapes into the presumably welcoming normal outside city is a masterstroke. Can you tell I like this story?
    4. WHERE THE SUMMER DWELLS
      “…and somehow regal despite it all.”
      An idyllic hot endless Summer memory, of ghostly train tracks, campfire horror stories shared, curses expected, lostling or even changeling inferred, these young people in- or post-backstory, in or out of confused or jealous love — and it did not seem to matter that I myself became confused by this work’s darkly entrancing theme and variations upon the Sourhern Gothic (please see my recent review of the complete stories of Flannery O’Connor), confused because I must be too old to follow such goings-on.
    5. WHO IS THIS WHO IS COMING?
      “What a funny place the world was, that this could be the most mundane of journeys for them and one of the most exciting of her entire life.”
      A darkly charming story. Fern, with a learned stoicism, travels from her native America to England, not only with a learned nostalgia for the stories of M.R. James but also one for the BBC productions of those stories in the 1970s, whose latter production sites she intends to visit, as she now travels with excitement, via Liverpool Street, and where I live along that rail line, towards the Norfolk coast. We learn a lot about her character, her dreary life back home, and now in the ‘signal box’ room at the inn, and the kindly-intended gentleman called Mr Ames who befriends her with his own Jamesian enthusiasm, but inadvertently deprives her of her aloneness of discovery. A very subtle character study of Fern by Fern, and how she summons the ghost of her ability to stay and not return. A ghost more frightening than she intends? You’ll know when you get there? (Possible spoiler here).
    6. I have read and reviewed the next story before here https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2013/11/02/the-burning-circus/#comment-1259 and I copy and paste below what I wrote about it then…
      ———————-
      A new day. And a new gestalt for the second half of this book?
      The Queen in the Yellow Wallpaper – Lynda E. Rucker
      “Each generation that came into possession of it made additions and architectural embellishments and what stands today is a sort of hideous discordant symphony of a house.”
      I love discordant symphonies! And I love this story (about a married couple gone to a house called Carcosa to care for the husband’s ‘sick’ sister), imbued as it is with many ‘comforting’ horror tropes (including Robert W Chambers’ ‘King in Yellow’ and Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s ‘Yellow Wallpaper’ (the latter story often being used in academic feminist circles as a recommended text for study – a fact that resonates with some of this story’s themes)). Here it does not seem to matter that we are steeped in those potentially stereotypical horror tropes – the pleasure comes in this story from embracing them and their embracing you. Meanwhile, I sense this author is suspicious of the ‘avant garde’ in Art and Literature (something I have noted before, I think), yet whether by design or, more likely, by accidental synchronicity, the author makes her female narrator seem to become subsumed within the sick sister’s avant garde play being written around her, making her, the narrator, into the eponymous Queen herself? A sort of embrace, despite disgust, of the experimental (paradoxically within a seemingly formulaic horror story!) and the outré. This story really makes you think on several levels (as does the Gilman story in its own right).
      (Later) I apologise – the writer I was thinking about regarding suspicion of the ‘avant garde’ was Helen Grant, not Lynda E. Rucker. See my review of Grant’s ‘The Calvary at Banská Bystrica’ HERE.
    7. THE WIFE’S LAMENT
      Or mine? I don’t think this otherwise well-written story was written for the likes of me. It seemed contrived, with modern day romantic machinations, a heroine haunted by a wood down the end of the road and by pre-Roman Britain. Like the previous M.R. James inspired story (for me, far more enjoyable), it is an innocent abroad, an American woman in England, unsettled here not by Mr Ames but a strange woman in the wood. And by a wayward English husband and the woman next door. Not sure what else to say about it.
    8. THIS TIME OF DAY, THIS TIME OF YEAR
      “…back in the gentle chaos of the crowded family.”
      Rucker is often full of rhapsodies. Rhapsodies sometimes upon the edge of hard-consonantal near-rationalisation, also upon the soft edge of never coming back, of becoming attenuated, distaff-diaphanous…
      This is one such story, where I floated between the once durable sororal loving relationship, grown edgier since the older sister came back early from service in hard-consonantal Iraq and the younger sister almost disappointed that she can no longer ‘recognise’ the sister she once loved accompanying, despite the age gap. And the lakeside cabin their Uncle once built, where I guess the two of then now see a version of Rucker painting the rationalisation she sees below the lake’s surface, some small-town version of Suffolk’s Dunwich, from beneath whence unsalubrious church bells sound…?
      Who sinks to find the other? Ruck and rack or Josie and Ellen.
      Rhapsodic or near-rationalised with an old war’s attrition? A story that tugs you further beneath its own surface.
    9. THE HAUNTING HOUSE
      : remember that there was nothing that she had to get up for, and sink deeper Into the bed, deeper into sleep.”
      What I was, in hindsight, hinting at the end of the previous story review seems here to be apotheosised. One house sublet in another woman’s name, and a lifelong recurring dream of a house haunting her from the few days days before Christmas, a house, with landing and grandfather clock, straight out of an Elizabeth Bowen Christmas (my favourite writer ever – my house for her here) and I wonder if Rucker is in Bowen’s soul, or vice versa, like the synergy of these two houses or two realities? Bowen also had a version of a fractured modernity in her fiction alongside the haunting and the aloneness to be disrupted by an Ames or a woman in the wood, like the Oregon reality here, a bus journey on a whim, leading from the hard edge of dream unreal to the soft edge of dream real, or vice versa. The tantalisation of never knowing. Sublet by time’s clock on the landing or blocked by modern contraptions, only thinking back through all these stories might give some clue of the whence and the whither of a deeper rhapsody. You’ll know when you get there.

    10. I will now read for the first time the introduction by Lisa Tuttle and the book’s story notes. I trust they will give me more food for thought but, meanwhile, I leave you.
      end

       


    :)