Thursday, August 17, 2017

TENDER by Sofia Samatar (Part Two)

Sofia Samatar

Part two of my real-time review continued from HERE




6 responses to “Sofia Samatar

    “I have a habit of meeting people right before they get famous…”
    Me, too. I am glad the text has just met me! “…and neither of us would have guessed you could even be a full-time blogger.” I looked ‘lanugo’ up on Google for this full-time blog of mine and it is worth doing. It sheds – or, rather, grows! – new light and new monkey hair on this story. I originally read it as a synonym for ‘ebola’!
    This amazing story of interconnections between Somali ‘sisters’ and the way people use others for fame (loyalty, nepotism, disloyalty, mutual support etc.) is a gestalt of various aspects of this theme, and, for me, the Xenophiliac book that I am concurrently reviewing here — as written by Jeffrey Thomas (serendipitously and fame-relevantly a long-term associate of the author of ‘Area X’ and ‘Borne’) — also has a kindred spirit with this Samatar story such as the aspects (“–for example, sculptures of extinct animals from upcycled trash!”) of modern gallery and conceptual art (see my review of JT’s ‘Mr. Faun’) and the animal-human contiguity (see my review of JT’s ‘Spider Gates’)…
    The opening act, finding the centre, a voice sounding full of bees, tent-orphans, tent-widows, a quarantine tent, earlier tent-poles instead of pillars, big space called Disneyland, “But actually we should all be screaming from horror all the time.” A story that you are pleased you met before it became famous.
    “It was old and hard and I scratched it off the sidewalk and placed it tenderly inside my pocket.”
  2. Fallow
    “‘Fill the slate,’ Miss Snowfall used to urge us, “to the edge.'”
    And so I shall. I put my lantern into Agar’s story’s or Miss Snowfall’s future-ancient outcharge so as to re-illuminate my work. This is some of the most exquisite story-telling, a work for which you would need go far to ‘fetch’ of hawl, with its own text’s miners or, strikingly, Miss Snowfall’s own head’s mining-lamp focussed on her reading. The hinterland of this story’s world accretes beautifully into your own head like a beam of light, as you gradually take for granted its historical givens. Is it our future as an alternate Earth or a space colony or something too rarefied to define? It seems to inherit, also, many of the themes from this book’s foregoing context, but equally stands on its own. Including the Ark, a bit like the previous pod now multi-populated. The sterilisation. The Fallow. The dustyard. The Castle. Agar and her sister Temar. ‘Writing is a noble pursuit’, says Miss Snowfall, to Agar. And we surely now know what she means. And the ending of this first chapter makes me think her called name of Snowfall becomes Snowfallow… (And so much more I can’t cover here.) [Incredibly, its pale deer is the deepest possible kindred spirit to the white deer in Jeffrey Thomas’ ‘Spider Gates’ that I already happened to mention above for another reason in my entry about the previous story.]
    “The pallor of the Earthman’s skin, her terrible solidity, seeped into my dreams.”
    As this work will work into mine, I reckon. All my gestalt real-time reviews are based on the first reading of any book, and I can sympathise with Agar’s own gestalt real-time reviewing for her studies of the Young Evangelists, via information from, inter alia, Brother Lookout and Sister Wheel.
    I know more now than I did a few hours ago when I wrote the previous entry above. But not enough yet. And what I have learnt would be spoilers to divulge.
    A wild card – Is the Earthman the author herself, I wonder, even against her own belief that she created her for this purpose? Wimsatt’s Intentional Fallacy as a literary theory? My first vision of the Earthman through Agar’s five year old eyes I will never forget. Nor the implications for Christianity and our future. Well, not our future, today! We are going through polarities now, or schisms as this work calls them. The middle path or the most extreme? Fog (from the burning of rice fields) or that earlier craft of ‘Clarity’ in this book.
    Sources of sources. Mining the Fetch. Hawling truth from fiction. Samatar as the lookout in the crow’s nest of humanity? Where has the Sunday light gone?
    “I pieced together the story of Brother Lookout over some time, from a number of sources.”
  4. 3. TEMAR
    “She was still there, like the light on the page.”
    Not Snowfall’s mining light but Agar’s sister Temar’s light, by dint of a letter left by her to Agar that Agar kindly shows us, of Temar’s life in the Castle. I feel that I myself follow different coloured arrows through the text of this work as through the labyrinth that Temar describes before vanishing and coming back arguably more tenuous. There is a sense of kneeling and praying, head pressed to the surface, as a paradoxical form of vertigo. Or of mining water with tanks and drills. A sense of a Biblical diaspora, in all its implications, when space is the desert to cross. Who was left behind, who still travelled, and who discovered the galaxy of Fallow. The logistics of this book do pan out somehow, unsure exactly. I wondered whether it was significant at that Lugran Moan’s name contains ‘lanugo.’
    A work teetering on the brink of transcending itself into a hard-headed prayer beyond the ‘grounding’ of words. “A fallen angel means there is a Heaven.” “A door is so precious, even if one never steps through.” Fade, fester, run or endure…. towards that ‘garden of pomegranates.’ The Father or father again… ” I hated him and loved him, like David loved and hated Saul. I used to imagine Father as Saul and myself as the boy David.” That Earthman called ‘she’. Temar or Agar as Samatar, JT’s left and right?
    End of ‘Fallow’ or Follow
    “Tag me.”
    A series of tags by Sahra as messages to someone called Fox, evoking but possibly not actually being our on-line message-tagging, or the real tag Fox left on Sahra’s wrist as a bracelet of remembrance, later creating a red line on her wrist after she breaks if off, given to her after they covered themselves in a blanket and spent a naive night together, whence a thread in this book as a well as a thread in real life, as boy and girl kids, not that ‘baby quilt’, a thread echoing this book’s earlier modernistic conceptual-art now as a tag across the land, like along vibrating telephone poles, during a Movement not only as a movement against some form of post-Trump repercussions but also as a movement as an ever-ongoing Diaspora across family-lines as well as across her dying Mom’s and Sahra’s desert in Dakota (similar to Agar’s across space as desert). Sahra’s tags are to a boy her Mom called Fox-bright, a boy (now man?) who Sahra hopes will reply and then blames him for things about her Mom’s illness and then cursorily tags him several times and for a last time…
    They lost her father when losing his books.
    “…how to keep the meshnets running, how to draw power tenderly from the world,”
    Tag me, tell me whether my own dreamcatcher is right.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

TENDER – Stories by Sofia Samatar

22 thoughts on “TENDER – Stories by Sofia Samatar”

  1. tender bodies

    “‘Do you know what this guy said to me tonight?’ Mona asked. ‘He wanted beef couscous and he said, I’ll have the beef conscious.‘”
    I am feeling my way with this author, shedding my skin to flay and flense my sensitivity towards it to the bottom bone, The Bone Zone, as the text itself suggests. Mona and the narrator, co-restaurant workers, two Sapphics (or so I naïvely infer) who are to leave together for landlocked Colorado, with backstories that Krohn, Ocampo or Lispector might die for. But front ones to live for?
    I left keys behind so that I could have excuse to go back and read it again.
    “Death is skin-tight, Mona says. Gray in front and gray in back.”

    “There is a strange pleasure in this writing and not-writing, these letters than hang between revelation and oblivion.”
    I know the feeling. A catalogue of ogres, with marginalia by the man employed to hunt them, addressing a woman called only Mary who is also part of the mission, and their employer’s obsession with ‘racial defects’. Equally, it could be about me the Ogre called O! in ‘Green Grow The Rushes, O!’, as I have placed real-time review marginalia (merely pencilled, I assure you) on the margins of this work’s own marginalia.
    Needs to be re-read and re-marginalised to establish whether it is revelation or oblivion. And all my gestalt real-time reviews are strictly based on first readings. But I did get a sense of East Africa, its myths and tangled Sunni or Shia or whatever, into my tender selkie or selfie sensitivity ready-flensed and flayed by the previous story. If stories, these truly are. Writing or not-writing. Reading or not-reading. Reader or not. Dreamcatcher or not.
    “Mary’s brother had set up a net between trees to catch him.”

    “…because I am almost on the edge of nerd,…”
    From marginalia to footnotes, this is a genuine fiction classic (mark my words), one emerging from that earlier gestalt of ogre-hunting definitions, building up already, here into a more naïve-mature exercise in writing a paper for school from a female teenager who has not yet quite mastered punctuation and spelling, but has an instinctive grip on semantics and on the essence of humanity, as she writes and addresses the Aunt of a boy she knows, the Aunt who is also the teacher about to mark the paper. A sense of not creation as writing but as creature, here WALKDOG, and songs, and missing boys, till they come back as thirty something men. I believed every word, thought I knew the writer and the boys and the ‘conjure mat’ that comes from an older generational female abeyance… and above all I knew WALKDOG,
    No way justice can be done to the accretion, accreation, accreature that is WALKDOG because only reading this authorially retrocausal freehold of its sub-authorial real-time leasehold can bring you the end of the song that is sung anachronistically. Beautiful. Mark my words.
    Only nerds can nurse words thus.

  4. I reviewed the next story in 2014 and I show below what I said about it in that context:
    Olimpia’s Ghost by Sofia Samatar
    “In the long twilight, while Emil reads, I go up and down, up and down the stairs.”
    An entrancingly twilit-atmospheric series of epistolary Old Vienna-connected communications, one-sided, from a woman to the man she knows as a family friend from childhood. This connects with a marionette-filled dreamworld stemming from ETA Hoffman, implicating a haunted Proustiana of unrequited love…This story is an optimum one for my taste. Especially as a few days ago I attended a live chamber performance of La Traviata (reported here) and there is some, if inexact, synergy between that experience and this story. An opera version is in fact explicitly mentioned in the Samatar.
    Whence or whither doth improbable comfort cometh? “And so: to the stairs.”

    “A love story. She forgave him.”
    …even if it was herself for whom she had to forgive him.
    From the connected marginalia, footnotes and epistles of the first three stories, here we have connectable versions of a would-be iconic fantasy tale like 1001 Nights or one by Salman Rushdie, with sections between addressed to a ‘foreign researcher’ of such tales. I am a ‘foreign reviewer’ and I have already added what I think about it in the title above, what you might call an eponymous fulfilment of its true title. (NB: I changed the spelling of ‘marvelous’ to my version.)
    I was particularly struck with the difference between shivering and shuddering in the moeurs of such tales’ transformations and transportations — and the significance, in that light, of the whole work ending with the words ‘I can’t stop shaking’, if that’s not spoiling your reading of it.

    “Then he starts shaking. He does it every night.”
    This potentially life-changing work is somehow both rhapsodic and nightmarish, with some Fair or fairy wings and perhaps invisible underarm nipples, and slick voiding with a need for clearance areas. Ostensibly, a dystopic vision of our world morphed without notice, few or fewer children, a desperate reach towards a nostalgic family visit to an easier seaside, and new moeurs of child rearing, even wanting to go in for them at all. I seemed to understand it all, visualise its gestalt, but it equally escaped from my grasp. Or it was as if I lived in their time and tried to visualise my own, the world where you are reading this. When a flying bear meant being Borne. My Bear, my Bear. The Vanishing Life and Films. Slick films.
    “All of his paintings were white.”

    “I met the ghoul in 2008.”
    I did, too, when I started gestalt real-time reviewing. I met myself, hawling, exhuming…
    This short short is about a female ghoul, reminding me felicitously of some Rhys Hughes work, except here the absurdism and ironic fantasy border even more felicitously on the avant garde. A tale of ‘my’ interview with the ghoul at the airport. And God’s meterors and eyes like illustrated pages. And much more.
    “Nothing is wasted.”

  8. THOSE
    “Perhaps some men never grow old.”
    …even when they are old.
    I know, I know, as I feel history through the words of this story, controlling its own dream even where it also implies dreams can’t be controlled. But if only they could be.
    An old man talking to his daughter, I suspect with some demented Trumpishness that often besets old men like me, about his younger friend George, nursed by his daughter’s eventual mother during a word-marked period of Colonial African history, their Belgian employer encouraging George to lash the natives, particularly one native, one who comes back in retribution as a stencilled plural – like a plague of ants.
    A telling treatment of race as a a myriad ogre defects made into a mass forming of what is a singular righting of wrongs, even in the mouths of THOSE dements who caused THOSE wrongs.
    A dream of daughters. A nightmarish river of words as squashed letter insects, Those, not that. Each em dash or en dash a lash upon lash. With no Nubian cushion between.
    “if you enter — that — you’re dead to me.”

    “When she got too tired, I carried her on my back. We collected the wrecked paintings and made a mosaic of them in the courtyard,”
    Her back held down with a stone? Or a diaphanous, ungraspable surrogate for menstruation and a life led beyond a clockwork Artificial Intelligence? What I love about these stories is that I feel as they are reading ME and can’t quite see to the bottom bone of my ticking. A reader more inscrutable than what is being read, when what is being read is arguably inscrutable enough – beyond measure, beyond time. Each of us with our lover on our back or within us, abandoned by Father or father, abandoned by death or by our eventual lack of faith, whatever the colour or gender of those we try to love as separate from ourselves. Tobacco colour or red. And Father kills father, eventually. But which the king and where the kingdom? And mother is a monthly bleed as timed by birth’s clockwork countdown, and then the bleeding stops, at least for while. Burnt paintings better than white ones? Cage’s 4’33” better than silence?
    “What is the nature of things? The mechanism works perfectly for years, then one day it breaks.”

    “I don’t know, are they poems? If they are, I don’t think they’re very good. A nap could be a door an abandoned car. Does that even mean anything? Eat my teeth. I know them all by heart.”
    Perhaps that was why Girl Cee used to dig down a toothbrush to encourage the puking up of the bug. Is this ‘camp’ a sort of what we once called a finishing school? A place to instruct in the bleeding, another Chamber where the Girl came out of at regular intervals? Or somewhere ‘mixers’ (and ‘queers’) could be socially and sexually acclimatised at gatherings? A Never Let me Go Ishiguro sort of institution? Or, most likely, the sort of schools in Woolf’s WAVES where they made ‘speeches’ to us and later left to be grown up? What is striking about this camp, is that there are things as readers we know not of, yet we grow, via the working of this work, inured to them, such as the Parental emblems or keepsakes to replace Parents, and Life Skills such as Forgetting? We all carry our bug within us and even if we manage to sick it up, who knows whether it’s replaced when we sleep. The Girl Tisha, this strikingly beautiful first person singular work is her Woolfian ‘speech’ to Girl Cee, amid an unrequited future. All by heart.

  11. tender landscapes

    “It blasted; it pounced; it bored its way into you.”
    Or this very day’s promise of Fire and Fury, the like of which has never been seen before?
    This is about a ‘tender’, a monitor of toxicity.
    A series of still resonating (as I write this about them) prose poems forms the gestalt of this tender’s story, the history of toxicity and connected inventions/inventors, and the way invented language itself is made into ‘trapped’ visions that are affected by love and toxicity. Tenders as the new priests. The creation or miscreation of others merely by their discarded residua into the single self. Self or cell.

    This was a perfect kindred spirit with a story I read about an hour ago, before, not after, both at different independent timings of creation. Hole in a living-room chair and a bore-hole in South Africa, south not just in compass direction but in the name of the place itself. The hole and holism or whole of being ‘both is and is not’ the self also exemplified in Brian Evenson here in a book I happen to be concurrently real-time reviewing, a real-time that still continues after as well as before. With a sense of Rushdie, too, not rushing but still in a race through to death or whatever…
    This Samatar — via the lands of Africa: a planet to me of elsewhere, as well as a gamut of wildly accrued philosophies and beliefs of alien lands in the guise of being foreign on the SAME planet as me — is full of mad as well as sane-sounding synchronicities of religion, race and philosophy. The racial, not racist people, by name, too, who thought through or raced through such religions and philosophies.
    The Nouns of God. The Stretched Scribe (I am sure I have met this scribe or someone stretched before in this book?). Being continuously turned over, because her skin was fragile. The Anklets of Obsolescence. Arriving everywhere at once but one step behind our enemies. Someone called Forehead. The Meadows of Happenstance. Sinking deeper into Evenson’s sand each year. Or Evensong’s dust?
    And a ‘too’ meaning ‘also’ without too’s immediately preceding comma. “‘You’re here too,’ I said.” And I do also mean YOU. As well as me and Sylvia. Is and is not as one.
    “On the last day I saw an angel fluttering on the wall.”

    “‘Then what he said is true, and the world is ending, and this is death.’
    ‘Death!’ she exclaims. ‘No. Only dawn.'”
    A work that is essentially a poetic ‘speech’, buoyed upon, I feel, those Woolfian Waves, by a young woman in employ of the Lady, prose-lilting about that Lady and the young woman’s love for the 17 year old gatekeeper who lets in the Lady’s three travel-filthed one-eyed visitors…
    I sense a fey unrequital here via an aging mortality of the individual or of the world itself, but with that hope of dawn. Schubert’s string quartet with a similar name as the title but gently morphed accordingly. With a strange refrain known as the Song of Controversy. A prophetic brink that is the brink we all now teeter upon today. “…the brink of the River of Terror, or the brink of the River of Truth.” But when this story was written, I sense there was still hope to take us beyond such brinks. A series of brinks like waves?

    “, like fragments of yellow brick.”
    Fifteen numbered paragraphs.
    Judy was 16 when she made the film, but how old was Dorothy in the book?
    Baum or Borne to stem from two different parental lands. This another series of Woolfian Waves, here between Africa and North Dakota. Flying like angels. OR witches?
    A landscape of still tender age?
    She has dined out on Dinesen and other links personal and literary, this author, I guess. Lands as gneiss or loess of belief. And a wonderful wordplay on being over it as well as the nation itself, to reveal which would be a spoiler.
    “Oh, flight! Oh, flight!”

    “Her hoop fell sideways so that it leaned against the wall of the hotel.”
    The Lean Hotel, in fact. This seems to follow naturally from Dorothy’s rainbow nation, here in five parts, parts that interlock and question each other, an academic essay or dissertation questioning a fairy story, or vice verse. Words giving birth literally (like Pomegranate), as well as borne or buoyed, an apotheosis of Leena (leaner) Krohn and of crone as witch, tinged with Lispector and Ocampo and towards the end (“in the country of the blacks”) with Area X – the women travelers or explorers – the VanderMeer, the male half of The Weird, as Navigator of Area X?
    “Their wingbeats whispered, ‘You will wear a black wedding dress.'”
    Lingering sentences, meanings meaning more than they mean.
    “At the bottom of the ladder we find an afternoon in an insect-haunted restaurant that smells vaguely of scorched rice.”
    The father and the Father again, and explicitly the mountaineer and Mountaineer. Some beautiful fantasy visions. And paradoxes of narrative, sub-narrative and self-critique. Real world flying and dream vision flying. Looking down from a plane on boring desertation not dissertation? Dream science. Even a dream lexicon. Kircher and Kush. “Notes. Toward.”
    “A shifting border is no border at all.”

  16. “Of his madness many things are told. He claimed to have seen fabulous Irem, or City of Pillars, and to have found beneath the ruins of a certain nameless desert town the shocking annals and secrets of a race older than mankind.”
    HP Lovecraft
    “Sometimes, after dark, I catch sight of a woman just disappearing around a corner. I recognise her from her photograph.”
    This is Iram the city of tent poles, not Irem the city of pillars. But for me, at the age of near 70, I remember I was once good at my own Daddy-dancing (which my daughter laughed at)…
    This story is beautiful one, an inferred autobiographical series of poetic Woolfian Waves of the author’s or narrator’s father and uncle and other memories, a Somali background, subsequent westernisation, the city of incomplete Iram, of “unconstructed streets” and teenagers putting up playbills and more.
    And the giant saw on the side of a car, cutting through the unconstructed fence at the side of the unconstructed road, I guess.
    How these stories really entrance you, I have not yet fathomed.
    “When you’re outside, you can picture exactly what you want it to be like, but once you get in, all you can do is follow along.”

    “Did you know that God is a potter?”
    Letters written from a pod in space, asking for an ever-extending extension of duty as “extraterrestrial janitor”. As a possibly telling backdrop, I originally had an otherwise quite dissimilar story showing the letter-writing from a space pod, a story first published in the 1990s, tantamount to asking for an extension towards immortality? …
    I wonder if X is a surrogate for the letter-writer’s own Mum, who is also mentioned. That and accounts of the letter-writer’s previous life on Earth, and African roots, the Dogon (not King’s Dogan) of Mali, and other stuff that intriguingly infiltrates my mind without yet being ratiocinated. A “superfluous tenderness”?


Sunday, August 13, 2017

Phantasm / Chimera


Phantasm / Chimera



An anthology of strange and troubling dreams.

Edited by Scott Dwyer

Plutonian Press 2017

When I review these stories, my thoughts will appear in the comment stream below…
The Wind, The Dust – Adam Golaski
Provisions for a Journey – Matthew M. Bartlett
The Bruised Veil – Christopher Slatsky
The Last of Liquid Sleep – Thana Niveau
The Hole – Brian Evenson
The Hotel Pelagornis, 1899 – Livia Llewellyn
Binding – Mike Allen
The Great, Grey Bulk – Jon Padgett
Chrysalis – John Claude Smith
Fiending Apophenia – Clint Smith
The Last American Lion Pelt – Jason A. Wyckoff

12 thoughts on “Phantasm / Chimera

  1. All by-line links in this review will be to my previous reviews of that author.
    THE WIND, THE DUST by Adam Golaski
    “…the house is ‘split funny.'”
    I mean this as an important compliment but I don’t think my hot wings have been so deadpanned as they have been by this nightmarishly languid, insouciant tale of Adam and his recently bereaved co-roomer Geoff (a kindred spirit to Griffin’s co-roomer in this book here), and Doris their new landlady where they are rooming now, a story so insouciant, with its sporadic vibrating text messages, Adam’s job lost through no fault of his own, his clumsy attempts at dating women, and the thing he finds in a closet, a closet that reminds me of my home’s eaves cupboard. And half-hearted wonder as to what may be haunting this split funny house… And the projected film he watches at a party, so utterly disarming. I finished reading it covered in dust, or so I imagined. The plot did not seem to care whether I was frightened or not, but I was. And felt a bit washed out like an old 1950s travel postcard.
    “It embraced the entire world, and blighted the lives of all men,….”
    Procopius of Caesarea
  2. …that old washed out postcard was a colour one, of course, you know the sort where things blur into each other, and colours are not edged but silting, too primary yet somehow still washed out. It was as frightening and perfect a story because it was washed out, but now…by contrast as if the two authors intended this effect, which I suspect they didn’t…all part of preternatural serendipity when you start hawling crazy books like this one…stories making provisions for each other…
    PROVISIONS FOR A JOURNEY by Matthew M. Bartlett
    “Mr. Whitenose had pulled Rickel from a grey job in a grey business in a grey city because Mr. Whitenose saw in him something no one else did.”
    An unwashed out, ungrey series of wild cruelties in something far out-reaching retribution, a hit man in a closet like that earlier eaves cupboard I mentioned but here described in an even later incarnation within this story as ‘stinking of wet dog and closed-off crawlspace.’ A hit man who comes out of that closet and literally then…no way I am going to spoil this story, and the shocklines of the blight with no ’tilde’ but a SPINE and plenty of retrocausal bite giving generational skirmishes towards ‘self-actuality’ and family furtherance of themselves and itself. But which generation blights and bites which generation? They say a Plus or Minus Reach always skips a generation. A question for our times when the Trump dynasty prevails. A Birds scene from Hitchcock at a children’s 5th Birthday party becoming worse than mere birds is only part of it. And only a hint of what happens.
    This is Bartlett in your face. You will never claw it off.
    “Such potential, squandered.”
    THE BRUISED VEIL by Christopher Slatsky
    “Like a printer error where the ink runs out and the words trail away into pale nothingness.”
    Or like when you need to prod a pencil into one of the holes of a cassette tape to get it back on track or torque. I started reading this story in the public library (as Carrie turned out to be in hers) and continued it in the waiting room of the local hospital while waiting for the regular six month meeting with my oncologist. It all seemed somehow terribly fitting as I methodically gathered the ratiocinative plot gradually by means of Carrie’s research and cassette interviews about the legend of the Slit Mouthed Woman. The forward slash in the book’s title seemed to embody that slit for me. Book titles do not often have forward slashes otherwise. It also deals with the Japanese internments in USA after Pearl Harbour, and it mentions Korea, too, evoking the Fire and Fury of today, things that the world has never seen before. The build up of facts about the legend of that woman, how she was created, whom she haunted, the historical symbolism involved, the people’s stories about her, the mafia hitman to embody again this book’s earlier revenge theme, dust storms, too, the mask the woman wore like a surgeon…. There is so much more to tell you about, and it all works subtly and cumulatively, leaving me with the ‘dying fall’ of a despairing thought that the story itself expressed better than I can about the world then and today –
    “The world no longer felt rational, no more a puzzle to be solved in the gathering of fragments and pieces.”
    And the two mile queue of parked untenanted cars made me cry more than any other story has made me cry, I guess. And the puppet-jawed face behind reality’s veil.
  4. THE LAST OF LIQUID SLEEP by Thana Niveau
    “A multitude of green eyes stared back. A mosaic of faces.”
    A gestalt of selves.
    As a spirit level of the soul, the narrative protagonist looks in the mirror and tries to home in on the essential identity being created by whom – this story’s author or an A.I. technician or the Mary Shelley eponym?
    And in which direction does identity travel?
    And how does the reader fit into a fiction’s filter-slit that allows flowing both ways?
    Intriguing. Another bruised veil? And who rooms with whom?
  5. THE HOLE by Brian Evenson
    “The landscape was gray, unvarying,…”
    Washed out, finding or seeking someone or something in the closet, that of Golaski and Bartlett? Here a hole, not a dustbin as in Godot-Golaski. A washed out planet, a vessel, crew looking for the captain. But also an existential search for identity as in Niveau, a spirited if laconic level search, with a sudden hole… one of us breaking their fall on another of us? A gestalt of us. A gestalt of US under Trump? Hole as holism. Whole. Whatever, this is a brilliant Beckettian deployment. Even also with this book’s eponymous forward slash or the hole or the slit in seeking puppet-jawed Slatsky, Slitsky, Slashky… which dream is yours or is it all our own single dream?
    “…and so leaned there as if about to pitch to one side, like an ill-made puppet,…”
  6. THE HOTEL PELAGORNIS, 1899 by Livia Llewellyn
    “– Do we dare?”
    I did, and so can you. Us together as in the Evenson. Here it’s an Evensong in a hotel in Manhattan that out-labyrinths my own labyrinth of real-time reviews in tentacular union. Manhattan, man eaten by the unsuspected cataclysmic erotic sex of the otherwise breast-scrawny “spinster, spinner, a sister”…
    This is powerful material, amazingly so EVEN for Llewellyn. Like the Bartlett earlier, it will be hard to claw it all off again, as it becomes continuous and forever over you like Slatsky’s mask upon a slit woman, at the monumental turn of Llewellyn’s eponymous century. Between a tipsy clumsy washed-out waltz and atonal violins being tortured.
    And the rapturous language aches to engulf you. Should we dare.
  7. BINDING by Mike Allen
    “Role-play gaming runs at its best when storytelling drives the collective delusion rather than chance dice rolls,…”
    A retold tale to a group of lively listeners of a story about sex enactments watched by ominous others, as involving something equivalent to the one mile high club in a library’s grimoire section on the sixth floor. Bound books that are sexy, even if you don’t read them? A workmanlike work that is not so shocking as the Llewellyn but capable of leaving a nastier taste in the mouth, one that some may like, others not. I rolled the dice, and lost.
  8. THE GREAT, GREY BULK by Jon Padgett
    “(he feels that his ghoulish animal/human hybrid experiment qualifies him for dad status)”
    Grey like this book’s own constructive/destructive grey, including the hybridity of the book’s eponymous forward-slash, and this story’s own bifurcatory eponymous comma,,,a story that boggles belief but hangs about, to worry you with its concept of onanistic parthenogenesis and late-labelling, instead of a god’s virgin birth. Even the shrink named Toi, I imagine, swallows his unshrunk head to become a pregnant belly. Plus a series of far eastern godheads and myths one would expect in a Salman Rushdie fiction. It is tantamount to the sort of drawing Consequences Game that I used to enjoy as a child, like drawing a head on someone else’s drawn body before I had seen that body already hidden under the folded paper. Each page of this story being a spined foldover in such a game.
    Laced with a Ligottian-like catchphrase that I fear will give me my own nightmares tonight.: “This is heaven here in the pig body.”
  9. CHRYSALIS by John Claude Smith
    “…a cruel slit that told her enough.”
    IMG_3549A ‘vagina raw’ that eventually became the slit her husband couldn’t find in a different direction of escape? Also, a growing apotheosis of this book’s washed-out greyness. Just on the FIRST page — of this disarmingly ‘dismal empire’ of woman-poet-suicidal (Plath, Sexton…) words — we read: ‘doldrums’, ‘dreary’, ‘listlessly’, ‘bleak, depressive’, ‘maudlin’…
    A consuming, disarmingly plain-spoken, attrition of Regina’s marriage to Derek, and the intriguing Muse-methods of the messages from a blackbird, a beetle, a TV and her own reflection that feed four lines in a new language to her poetry and the eventual dénouement of her marriage, literally.
    Including a reprise of that bodily Consequence Games I mentioned in connection with the Padgett.
  10. FIENDING APOPHENIA by Clint Smith
    “The sky had gone from flawless to flirting with overcast at some point, gray overhead punctuating the gray on the ground.”
    I have no hesitation to call this a potentially great story. It just needs thinking about more. And the context of the foregoing stories enhance it by their washed-out past-infection and those very stories are in turn even more enhanced themselves retrocausally by it. Despite the dodgy typesetting of dashes and hyphens in this story, it is clear how unquestionably well-written it is, with an often oblique power of apophenia or pareidolia as one sinks into its dope-dealing characters and scenario, then and now. The main character, now a family man and teacher, trapped by the iteration from his past, and by the REAL monsters haunting the corners of the sight, not imaginary/dream-nightmarish or drug-induced ones. And the past-infected need to submit to the dumpster of draining temptation. And to the gestalt real-time of fiends and friends. Enticed to resume that old fishing trip.
  11. THE LAST AMERICAN LION PELT by Jason A. Wyckoff (and HERE)
    “; on the right hand the four fingers were split two-and-two tightly together, with the Index finger bent to touch the thumb tip.”
    I have been reviewing ‘The Waves’ by Virginia Woolf while reviewing this book. Last night in Virginia, there was another once secret society in the streets. For me, and only arguably, the eponymous ‘pelt’ is a symbol for Trump (a squeaky roar inside and nothingness), and that quote one of his hand gestures. The story is also this book’s symphony’s telling coda; it even mentions the word ‘coda’ at one point. It is also this book’s slash, or here recurrently morphed into the word ‘sash’, a secret society that our protagonist Eben Tanzer – led there by Augrand, for Trumpish business purposes – survives but only to find Thana’s earlier vision of Thanatos self as that nothingness. On a simpler level or niveau, it is a compellingly strange rite of passage. One with relentlessly methodical descriptions. But again, for me, it has its own secret audit trail or path of words. “He wanted connections…”, friends or fiends from Clintish apophenia and iteration, passing between “two monolithic, basaltine columns” but no gate, no shutters on windows, an elevator with no door, a recurring “Ehhh?”, portraits with “a sash, or two sashes, or a sash with tassels, or two sashes festooned with medals”, “the sceptre/cane” bearing this book’s slash again, a split frame, a canvas folded over echoing the Padgett, Allen’s “bit of theater” or rôle playing, a plume of snickering as the story’s own coda, speaking from the side of the mouth, “in rents, rents”, an arm like a pendulum, and above all, by the end, “the perfect intersection” and “widening pupils”.
    I was originally captivated to purchase this book by seeing the authors listed. I was not to be disappointed.