|from Kernow Coasteering|
|the Cornish Coast, from The Book Trail|
|from Kernow Coasteering|
|the Cornish Coast, from The Book Trail|
|"The Wet Woman" (p. 49), illustration by Reggie Oliver.|
"Oliver's work is notable for its style, wit humour and depth of characterisation, and also for its profound excursions into the disturbingly bizarre and uncanny"
and I have to tip my hat to this man who's given me so many hours of reading pleasure over the last few years, and to Tartarus as well for bringing forth this eighth volume of Oliver's stories. It is definitely one not to miss whether you are a regular fan of Oliver's stories, or a reader drawn to the realm of the strange or the weird. Don't be surprised if you find yourself feeling a bit off kilter after reading this book -- it's part and parcel of the Oliver experience.
most highly recommended.
"This is a place where at your most vulnerable, you will encounter no fairy godmother, no knight will rush in on a horse."
I couldn't agree more.
"ask whether children who do not have a good and peaceful death will definitely go to heaven; what the consequences might be if no glory awaits to compensate the child's suffering"
while also asking "what if the child is angry or even vengeful for their treatment in life and the fate to which they have been consigned?" These stories, as Baker also explains,
"revive, appropriate, and often merge domestic folkloric and literary traditions where the spirit of a wronged child would passively wander and bewail its fate with the darker traditions of non-Anglophone cultures, in which such spirits would terrorise and sometimes kill those who wronged them or even passers-by."
In between each story there are brief "snippets" of other literary works in various forms that "illustrate the sense of historical and cultural debt," all of which may send you on a quest to read the original source material once you've finished reading this book. At least that happened with me -- I am easily sent down that kind of tangential rabbit hole where I'm happy to linger a while.
|"Lonely Hearts" 1973; photo from sandra's first rule of filmclub|
"as lief see a son of mine in a Carolina slave-gang as to see him lead the life of a stow-away. What with the officers from feeling that they've been taken in, and the men, who catch their cue from their superiors, and the spite of the lawful boy who hired in the proper way, he don't have what you may call a tender time."
The boy's treatment is so harsh that one of the crew remarks that "Dead or alive," he will be the one to bring to his tormentor a "summons" to hell. Mark his words. "The Ghost of Little Jacques" by Ann M. Hoyt is also rooted in a strange household, but here the story unfolds almost like a whodunit, as a child is murdered and makes his way back to the household to point the finger at his killer. Unfortunately, the narrator to whom he first appears doesn't understand until much later, jeopardizing her own future. Again, much more at work here than an average ghost story but I'll leave that for others to discover.
|my photo, from the book's frontispiece, from "Walnut-Tree House," by Charlotte Riddell in Illustrated London News, 28 December 1878.|
"between the 1830s, when the popularity of geology and paleontology skyrocketed, up to the end of the First World War, when cinema began to offer its own primordial prospects."
there were many vampires in Peru, but they were swallowed up in the year of the Great Earthquake when the Andes were lifted up, and there was left behind only one 'Arinchi' who lived where the Amazon joins the Marañnon, and he would not eat dead bodies, only live ones, from which the blood would flow."
Local superstition also said that when a sacrificial victim was offered to "the Vampire," he would be "bound in a canoe," and after some time on the river, the canoe would stop in "banks of slimy mud" to a creek through which a "very slow current flowed," taking anything in the water there to a cave. Into this milieu comes a University professor and "mighty hunter of beetles" from Germany who decides to explore the cave for himself, his fate recorded in journal entries over the ensuing months.
Another fine Valancourt publication, Creatures of Another Age is neither limited to short stories nor obscure writers. There are poems, essays, and even a short play, as well as selections by more familiar authors such as George Sand, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Jack London, Arthur Conan Doyle and Thomas Hardy. While not all of the entries included here worked for me personally (as is always the case), in putting this collection together editor Richard Fallon hopes that readers will "see the distant past in a strange new light," and that's exactly what happened to me here. Very much recommended. What a great idea for a book!!
"it came from its box as ugly and as poisonous as a vampire bat"
"Like the bird, the book is beautiful and ugly, intriguing and upsetting, appealing and appalling, in its different, changing moods."
The Cormorant is not only effective as a horror story, but as literary fiction with a weird bent as well. The ambiguity here left me thinking about it long after I'd finished, going through evidence in my head for both the psychological and supernatural. Writing it down now, I'm still thinking about it. I cannot recommend this novel highly enough, although on many levels it is a difficult read, so beware.
Once again my many thanks to the very good people at Parthian.
"After you've lived in Mariana Enriquez's marvelous brain for the time it takes to read The Dangers of Smoking in Bed, the known world feels ratcheted a few degrees off-center."
It didn't take until the end of the book for that "off-center" feeling to take hold -- after the first story alone I had to stop, think, and sort of shake my head back into the real world before moving on.
"are quite rooted in realistic urban and suburban settings and the horror just emanates from these places,"
and in The Dangers of Smoking in Bed the author examines the darkness and the terrors that co-exist in "these places" side by side with every-day life -- as one character says so eloquently in "Rambla Triste" (one of my favorites in this book), "the incarnations of the city's madness." Most of her characters are women from adolescence upward, their daily concerns are normal, including appearance, sex, relationships, family, drugs, and so on. It isn't too long into any of these stories however before it dawns on you that you've made your way into a situation where normal has taken a bizarre turn. In "Our Lady of the Quarry," for example, a group of girls all hanker after the same guy who doesn't seem to notice them in the way they would like; they are jealous of their "grown-up" friend Silvia ("out of high school for two years") whom Diego does notice. A typical scenario, to be sure, but what one girl does in trying out "an infallible way to snag your beloved" provides the spark for what comes next as the story moves into the realm of the eerie. Elsewhere, a girl digging in a garden unearths bones that turn out not to be those of an animal as her father had told her; a young girl who looks in a well at the home of a "witch" becomes stricken with paralyzing agoraphobia; a homeless man who is turned out of a neighborhood leaves behind a terrible curse; gentrification leaves homeless ghosts walking the streets of Barcelona; two teenaged groupies take the words of their favorite singer to heart ... and more.
Nothing is out of bounds here -- fetishes, voyeurism and cannibalism included -- but as the dustjacket blurb says, the stories are written with "resounding tenderness toward those in pain, in fear, and in limbo." They also reveal a concern with economic and social inequality as well as Argentina's inescapable past. Two chilling stories in particular (which also happen to be my top two favorites) also highlight the anxieties of the period of the Dictatorship (1976 - 1983): "Kids Who Come Back," in which a woman who maintains the archive of lost and disappeared children begins to notice an unsettling trend in Buenos Aires, "this city full of ghosts," and "Back When We Talked to the Dead" centering on a group of five girls who spend time with their Ouija board as a way of asking the spirits about their relatives who had been disappeared. Violence and ghosts go hand in hand in this book.
I read a lot of supernatural and weird fiction but not a lot of what I'd call horror, but if more writers in the genre did it like Mariana Enriquez, I could easily go that route as well. Here the terrors leave in their wake a "city of ghosts" and women doing what they must to find stability in their unstable, even haunted surroundings. With the exception of "Kids Who Come Back," the stories are relatively short which, in my opinion, gives them an incredible measure of power. Whereas some readers have noted that the stories felt underdeveloped, I disagree. I don't need everything explained to me -- each story made an impact as is. Enriquez's work is original, fresh, modern and above all powerful, and while not all of these tales were to my personal taste, overall this is a stunning collection that should not be missed, except perhaps, by the squeamish.