Thursday, June 23, 2022

Vastarien, Vol. 5, No. 1



Jon Padgett, Editor-In-Chief

My previous reviews of this literary journal:

Work by Romana Lockwood, Wendy N. Wagner, Daniel Braum, Gwendolyn Kiste, Kristin Cleaveland, Armel Dagorn, T. M. Morgan, Erica Ruppert, Chris Brawley, Vivian Kasley, Lucy Frost, Lindz McLeod, Alvaro Zinos-Amaro, Macy Harrison, Erik McHatton, Logan Noble, Joe Koch, Kolbeinn Karlsson, Kyla Lee Ward, Ivy Grimes

When I read this book, my thoughts will appear in the comment stream below…

38 thoughts on “Vastarien, Vol. 5, Issue 1

  1. Tenebrous Ramblings
    by Romana Lockwood

    “You readers. You scum. You pull the words from my brain across space, across time, read them to yourselves in your heads as though they were your own. You read them in a toddler’s voice. You underline them with your sad pencils, highlight the passages you deem memorable….”

    And I do not beg forgiveness for quoting so much from your wildly personal diatribe against the readers of this book, if only to prove that it was only ME you had it in for! Everyone knows I use mucho pencil marginalia in the books that I real-time review. Now I’ve got revenge in mind for when I’m soon locked in wood like lead — you’ve now given me the means to escape as well as the ability to differentiate your doppelgängers from you!

    “gulches, mulches, and ulcers”

  2. Halogen Sky
    Wendy N. Wagner

    “The hotel employee sighed and extended an arm toward the far side of the
    lobby. ‘Room 113.’”

    I’m not sure of all the genders involved until later in the story just as I wonder what Oreos are and whether 113 was implanted here simply because it is the
    same as my house number in an often seemingly endless street where I have lived for the past 27 years! I certainly feel picked on after the previous work above, now amid this work’s Monet painting and the “bottled jazz piano” playing Girl from Impanema. An intriguing, suspenseful story where two characters are driving with their dog, and an incident with the dog forces them to stop on an already enforced route outside the scope of Google, at a place where new blocks of establishments (some still being constructed) are found where nothing should have been found in the middle of nowhere. The nature of the hotel and the local fast food and possible cross-identities of their staff with one of the characters and the fear that one of the characters already has for hotels from being in an endless hotel corridor when a child — while the dog, “licking our hands and elbows, desperate for reconnection”, reaches a new insidious incident beyond just being sick… making me wonder who anyone is, including whether it was meant to be me after all!

    “Maybe it was the sound of nothing. The sound of broken light fixtures. The true
    language of hotels and roadside places.”

    My previous review of this author:

  3. Twenty-Nine Palms in Reverse
    Daniel Braum

    “There is something kinetic in the stillness. It dawns on her it’s been too long
    since she’s felt this connected and alive.”

    Only connect with Yuli in what I gather is the intense genius-loci of a Californian desert and all its creatures predatory or otherwise, its axle-breaking routes to ridges, and a search for herself somehow by herself in counterpoint to her relationship with a stripper called Noam and a past one called Adam. A catharsis or purging, with the hope of something in counterpoint to the counterpoints themselves. Steve with Steve, too, and trees with trees, each tree called Joshua, and “before the Park was a Park.”
    Highly atmospheric and so thoughtful I shall still be thinking about its moments, fore and aft, as above and below. As Zeno-slow as a tortoise’s crossing.

    “…in the moment and being in strings of moments…”

    My previous reviews of this author:

  4. Return to Office
    Kristin Cleaveland

    A nightmarish call to working back in the office after working from home through the years of lockdown, this employer being a firm of Compliance Auditors forcing their own employees into an apotheosis of personal lockdown. The compelling nature of this work somehow strait-jacketed me from straying off-text towards this journal’s no doubt wonderful items of mind-opening artwork between the texts.

  5. The Case Against the Dream
    Armel Dagorn

    This is one of those reading experiences you are confident you will remember in future dreams as well as reality. A train driver dogged by his own ominously recurring dream, and the anxiety of shadow when his train approached a certain area of the track, and, while in regular conversational cahoots with an old timer, he even travels his own train on his days off. “…though he hadn’t once looked out the window the whole time he’d been in the cab, he must have felt each rail, each bolt in his bones, and known exactly where we were.”
    All factored into by memories of his late grandfather’s model railway in the attic, into the centre of which he and his grandfather had risen — a magically realistic panoply of cardboard reality around them, with backstories, some model people in black. A cardboard reality and a postcard’s ‘disjunction’…But not forgetting the buck stops here, at a place called Pleyber-Christ.
    A story on its “trompe l’oeil” track, its “thrum beneath my feet.”

    My previous reviews of this author:

  6. Pingback: At Pleyber-Christ | The Gestalt Real-Time Reviews of Books Edit

  7. Psithurism
    T. M. Morgan

    This story took me from Brahms, Berlioz and Bartok to the bathos of the Blue Danube Waltz. With special words for the soughing of wind in trees and for, of all things, face-blindness! Turn your face upside down, and see. Turn this story upside down, and see again. A prehensile, controlling house and interdicted rooms as well as the more welcoming room with your medicine, involving uncertain numbers, some numbers luckier than others, canoes and a lake and another person who gradually turns ugly. A found bracelet outside a room with a shut door, but that’s where I started. But at least things were clearer then, more amenable, more perfect, if perfect can be a comparative as well as a superlative, and the uncertain climax was still certain to come, uncertain whether I knew I was to be piled high in one of the rooms or there would be a different spoiler at the next time of reading the climax of this perfect disjunction of a story.

    My review of this author’s APOCTATRYPTAMIN® —

  8. Pingback: Psithurism — T. M. Morgan | The Gestalt Real-Time Reviews of BooksEdit

  9. For the Night is Long and I am Lost Without You
    Erica Ruppert

    “Eventually, she stopped writing altogether and only read, although she was never quite sure she understood.
    Dena moved in, seeking clarity. It always escaped.”

    One may feel holy in tune with such words in recent years, whatever gender is borne. I certainly gave up writing to only read, only connect … and the fulfilment and emptiness tussle with each other, giving birth to … what? This the transcendent story of Dena, as she writes upon the surface of water, to try to recapture her skills as a jobbing surreal poet before being drawn into this work, if not drowned into these rituals by a triangulated sisterhood. Water to stand in or swim in or give birth in (please see my very recent review of the Elizabeth Taylor threnody of Natation and Natalism HERE that miraculously acts as a spiritual synergy, by chance, with this Ruppert work). This is a house where we gradually gather around us Dena’s focussed place in it as we slowly did with the character in the previous Morgan story above of continued disjunction… and we are somehow involved in the actual impregnating or conception of what will later be borne, if possibly not born
    “Just one of those coincidences that happen if something goes on long enough.”
    And the seasons do indeed pass in this stylish work, long enough for the birth pangs to begin … both satisfying and desperate for the reader’s own attempts to fulfil the reading of this work, whatever its ending… with a hinge or trigger that somehow started kicking-in, for me, miraculously from this point in the text onward…

    “Her knees and elbows were great knots on her skinny limbs as what she carried grew.”

    My previous reviews of this author:

  10. Deep Sea Creature
    Vivian Kasley

    “I’d had my arms crossed but pulled them apart…”

    This is a well-written narrative from the point of view of the girl within it who feels herself ‘ugly’ and part of that ugliness are the ribbons they insist putting on her pigtails. And there is much more telling detail about the way she feels and her propensity to find closets whereby she can sink into her conjured-up darkness of ocean’s abyss. Evolution, as with the filter-systems provided by any literature containing them, works for this girl in either direction of flow, and thus she knows, here, within the words that contain her, which direction is the optimal one.

    “… tendrils, splayed them out for all to see…”

  11. Leviathan
    Lucy Frost

    ‘; in the sculpture by random explosion we call “evolution”—‘

    A truly astonishing … prose poem? technical or cosmic description? fiction story? absolute truth story? — about what I have been pondering without any help from such a creative work as this, except now this description of an entity-of-us somehow gives meaning to my own GESTALT real-time reviewing over the last 14 years while collecting these cells as story-or-truth words! — Also, there is this work’s own “connectivity” to the previous ‘stories’ above in the Vastarium, thus creating the culmination of their ‘evolution’ as natation and natalism, such cells as selves swimming in the abyss we call self. The hinged together parts of our body or bodies, too.

  12. Pingback: “sculpture by random“ | The Gestalt Real-Time Reviews of Books Edit

  13. Town Called Malice
    Lindz McLeod

    “Sometimes, some of Them would join the old One, cooing and sniffing, and acting as if they’d never had any greater pleasure in life than a limp petunia.”

    I hate seemingly arbitrary upper case words like that. So, naturally, I loved these taunting me, negging my number. A story of a woman who — like most of us these days — go along with the Them or the crowd and vote, en gestalt, for politicians that we hate, and who hate us. She once had a boy friend who did not care enough for her not to care for her, or did he care too much? She found a woman in the shelter who suited her better, so was kind enough to offer her a tin of peas without letting her have a spoon. Kisses better because they hurt more. This is the only story that has really described self-punishment properly. I loved it. Jealous that I hadn’t written it. Insert adjective here that I got it red at all.

    “She stuck to nouns and verbs. Functional words. To acknowledge color was to acknowledge beauty. Far too dangerous.”

  14. Pingback: Town Called Malice — Lindz McLeod | Träumtrawler Edit

  15. Pingback: Twenty-Nine Palms in Reverse — Daniel Braum | Nemonymous NightEdit

  16. Waiting for Golem
    Alvaro Zinos-Amaro

    “Ankles hurt. Elbows sore. Spirit sagging.”

    I usually hate reading plays on the page, but browsing this scatological and Ligottishly eschatological theme-and-variations, as I assume it to be, of Beckett’s Godot, where the characters’ stage directions often constructively obtrude, probably makes this into something worth exploring further. I tip my cap at it. I caught some perfect gems in it. In two Acts with 33 years between them. And the answer to Zeno’s Paradox…

    “No, the shortest distance between two points is found by erasing the points.”

  17. Earlier already written extracts from this ongoing review above…
    ”…it was only ME you had it in for!” — “I certainly feel picked on after the previous work above […] making me wonder who anyone is, including whether it was meant to be me after all!” — “The compelling nature of this work somehow strait-jacketed me from straying off-text towards this journal’s no doubt wonderful items of mind-opening artwork between the texts.” — “This is one of those reading experiences you are confident you will remember in future dreams as well as reality.” — “I knew I was to be piled high in one of the rooms or there would be a different spoiler at the next time of reading the climax of this perfect disjunction of a story.” — “a magically realistic panoply of cardboard reality around them, with backstories, some model people in black” — “both satisfying and desperate for the reader’s own attempts to fulfil the reading of this work, whatever its ending…” — “Also, there is this work’s own “connectivity” to the previous ‘stories’ above in the Vastarium, thus creating the culmination of their ‘evolution’ […] such cells as selves swimming in the abyss we call self.”

    8148C2A9-EC30-498F-BCBF-AAEC5BB2D7AFStraw World
    Erik McHatton

    “…if you give yourself over, the pieces will all fall into place in the end.”

    An unforgettable ineluctably immersive disturbing yet inspiring art installation described in words, and if I say more I will spoil its gradual effect on you, as it did on me.
    As it explicitly invited contributions to its gestalt, another of mine is the photo of yore.

  18. The Under Carnival
    Logan Noble

    “Whatever this place was, it was special. Why did he get drawn in?”

    Now, we come possibly to my own most self-involved story of all! It follows almost the exact profile of my own younger life. Nathan was in accountancy, me in insurance, I always carried a so-called ‘outdated’ photo of my wife and kids in my wallet (still do) and I spent much of my time going to hotels for business conferences and other business meetings, even examples of the so-called ‘outdated’ hotel in this work, and the ‘occasional shattered city’ And in those days I read much compelling fiction in plain-spoken style as this one, stories with exciting horrors on the front cover, and I later expanded into the carnivals of Ligotti etc. The rest is history. I left the “dull” and the humdrum behind and entered the hall of mirrors where I still live, reflecting the works I read. This story itself is engaging and page-turning, as I follow Nathan into the hotel with the evocatively described hotel’s Under Carnival, complete with smells, into which he is tempted as I was. And likewise glimpsing his grey-suited colleagues of yore just like mine were destined to become in memoriam! Did I say plain-spoken above? Well, yes, mainly so, except for items such as an “organoleptic feast”!

    “The man was clearly kind and dull. You don’t know that. He could be a serial killer.”

  19. Pingback: The Under Carnival by Logan Noble | Träumtrawler Edit

  20. Fugue
    Joe Koch

    “We woke up together,” I say. “One must presume we’ve already met.”

    An inferred translation somehow available of the “asemic” writing of the narrator telling us of his awaking, along with all of us, I guess, with complete amnesia other than the ability to see the reality around us, here the narrator awaking to the person in bed with him and, after getting up, the emerging concept of ‘children’ as some sort of guilt, especially when one of them touches the other’s arm. A numbing disjunction at right angles to this book’s previous disjunctions, I feel instinctively.

  21. Pingback: Fugue by Joe Koch | Nemonymous Night Edit

  22. This Attraction Now Open Till Late
    Kyla Lee Ward

    “They were all taught to never ever put their hands into the machine, but she isn’t
    inserting her hand. She inserts her stump.”

    “There was no before.”

    This seems almost too good to be true — such a story turning up on this monumental and momentous morning in the history of the UK where I live. It somehow seems to say everything how we cannot really celebrate, how we cannot work out the cause of the past few years of political plague and foulness. The stump’s trigger that crystallised the moment of things once going wrong, of monsters evolving, with the house fire flames out, yes, thank goodness, but the house is metaphorically gutted, as someone sensible said on the wireless this morning. The monster has not gone. That grim recent past we now share in UK and USA alike that made many good parts of us vanish perhaps forever.
    All paralleled, I feel, by this preternaturally inadvertent fable as an engaging story of a house of historic ‘fun’, a masquerade of horror, a story about the characters who dress up as its tableau’s characters, involving phantom limbs and morphing monsters as their paying guests.

    “There are wars happening that she didn’t even know about in countries she didn’t know existed.”

    “‘Little monsters,’ he mumbles, and something that sounds like ‘some on four.’”

    “…a grandfather clock whose hands are set at five minutes to midnight….”

  23. Pingback: “There was no before.”  | The Gestalt Real-Time Reviews of Books Edit

  24. Itch in the Party House
    Ivy Grimes

    “The universe was working through Shelley’s hands.”

    This is not only an equally engaging story as a kindred themed (Partygate?) house to that in the previous story above, but also a story that continues the parallel with my own world as it seems to have transpired since yesterday when I reviewed the previous story! The monster insidiously remains; in fact the monster is Shelley’s boss who has explicitly sent out her and her co-workers to tell lies to the public and try to sell a horror. You couldn’t make it up!
    It is the story of Shelley – a woman with rituals and idea-masochistic fixations. “The only other option was to live with a permanent itch in the brain, a nag a nag a nag that never went away.” And she is trying the sell the Party house for her implicated Estate Agent boss, a house that Shelley sees as Jane Eyre-like typhus themed with indoor pool and irrigable corridors, and a resident replicable old woman monster called Agnes. Like the earlier morphed monsters in the previous story, she seems unable to be be killed. 

    “Put one finger in the fire to see if it burns.”

    My previous reviews of this author:

  25. This Journal has some great literally involving stories and much striking artwork and a few academically thoughtful articles.
    An unkillable and invaluable organ of the Ligottish.


  26. Pingback: Itch in the Party House by Ivy Grimes | The Gestalt Real-Time Reviews of Books Edit