Thursday, October 11, 2018

182. of the Best } of the Best of the.

An anonymous Publisher’s Weekly reviewer writes “[Ellen] Datlow’s 10th-anniversary volume of horror shorts [The Best of the Best Horror of the Year ] is a stunning and flawless collection” and that it’s “nothing short of exceptional.”

It’s unlikely PW’s reviewer read the whole book. But I have, and there are good stories in it: “The Nimble Men” by Glen Hirshberg, “Shepherd’s Business” by Stephen Gallagher, “At the Riding School” by Cody Goodfellow, “Grave Goods” by Gemma Files, "The Ballad of Ballard and Sandrine" by Peter Straub, “The Days of Our Lives” by Adam L. G. Nevill, and “Nesters” by Siobhan Carroll.

Files’ “Grave Goods” and Carroll’s “Nesters” were both written for Lovecraft-themed anthologies. “Nesters” is lovely—it’s all about two images juxtaposed: the dust bowl and the Garden. “Grave Goods”—on Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug First Nation land a transgender African American and an indigenous woman angrily argue identity politics while excavating the grave of an unknown species of hominid. It strikes me as problematic to posit one of Lovecraft’s racist creations from Innsmouth as the actual indigenous peoples of North America. It’s a compelling story. I’ll leave it at that.

I haven’t read a Best of since the first volume, published in 2009. All the stories—except for my own (“The Man from the Peak”) and E. Michael Lewis’ (“Cargo”)—are thus new to me. As are most of the authors. I’d be curious to know what folks familiar with the series think of the selections. I don’t mean to second-guess Datlow—she chose her favorites.

I'm often surprised by what people like and don't like. My favorites from vol. 1 are “The Clay Party” by Steve Duffy, “Loup-garou” by R. B. Russell, “Beach Head” by Daniel LeMoal, and “The Narrrows” by Simon Bestwick. I’m trying hard not to be too pleased that my story was included in place of any of those superior tales.

Friday, September 21, 2018

181. “Did you open my gift?” } “I’m saving it.”



“When I start to moralize, I remember shortcomings [ — ] and the urge dies” (from a postcard sent to me by Bella Bravo, Aug. 2017.

Three Crises from the trees arrived last week. Three new stories by Bella Bravo. I enjoyed especially the middle story “Concussion” in which a young lawyer protests police violence in a concussed state: “The concussion separated ideas as I cohered them.” A helpful store clerk participates (this is a favorite scene):
The old clerk ran past me and sent $350 in standard rolls of U.S. coin bound together with electrical tape through a floor-to-ceiling bank window—I wasn’t surprised when the crystalline structure of a single pane slipped and scattered into many symbols of the window to the sidewalk….
I don’t know if it’s possible to obtain copies of Bravo’s chapbook—her website makes no mention of Three Crises, nor does MonsterHouse Press (I assume the “W The Trees” is upside-down “M”-ster House Press).

Also, the front matter reads “First Edition of 23.” 23 editions? 23 copies? A mystery.

However—if possible, obtain. Three Crises extends her first (excellent) collection the unpositioned parts. Read this prose:
Traffic air hissed past. Sulfur sewered from the curb. Silent vibrations connected my muscles, the soft knit tissue caught in chemical fight, still strained to sustain their structural integrity against a nearly overwhelming force, against asphalt, against time.
Read this prose.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

180. On David Lynch's } Revenge of the Jedi.


What fauna is there is my Jedi essay? Fabulous fauna, I suppose. Wookiees and Ewoks, Jabba the Hutt and a Third Guild Navigator. (My Jedi essay = “On David Lynch’s Revenge of the Jedi,” Bennington Review, issue five—the “fauna” issue.)

Other fauna caught my eye.

Lesley Jenike’s “Exit, Pursued by a Bear” thinks about bears via natural history museums, children’s books, poet Norman Dubie, Elizabethans, essayist Jon Berger, and Werner Herzog. According to Jenike’s website, she’s writing a book that “mix[es] memoir and creative criticism,” built around “the creatures of the nursery.” “Exit…” can only be read in the print issue, but “The Birthmark” at Tupelo Quarterly will give you a sense of Jenike’s project. “Exit…” is far and away the best prose in the issue that’s not an essay about David Lynch.

Kalil Zender’s essay “A Contemplation of Beauty and Foulness” and Olivia Clare’s short story “What She Has” are good too.

I’ve no experience editing a journal that publishes so many authors—are there 70 in this issue? The following letters are not represented in the table of contents: I, Q, T, U, X, and Y. My hope is the next issue will correct that oversight.

Two new poems by Joana Klink appear among the verse. I like “On Wanting.” This stanza intrigues: “A child sees a stream / and thinks of sharks.” I liked Claire Donato’s “The [Redacted].” I was most delighted to read Meghan Maguire Dahn’s “Shrift”—it’s very good: “What thread I lent / to the endeavor.” Dahn was a member of the loose collective of Real Art Ways poets, along with me, Kristin Kostick, Andrea Henchey, and C. S. Carrier. Last we spoke, she planned to start a journal; apparently, it was The New Yorker.

Monday, August 6, 2018

179. Lacan & } The Crystal Geyser

Early this morning I found a cardboard box full of books on the sidewalk near my office. “Free” in Sharpie. Lucan’s Civil War, translated by Susan H. Braund caught my eye.

In my office, I flipped through—an eye out for notes, bookmarks (I’ve found pressed flowers, foreign currency, family photos). I found, on page 61, a single note in pencil. It’s difficult to read. I think it reads, “put on muzzling, as it quoth of.” This note is beside the underlined phrase, “he unlocked his throat, but no voice” (book three, line 738). There are no other notes in the entire book.

[This reminds me: last night, while reading an article about the thylacine, I found a single word circled: “Booth.” I said, “This is so strange. In the whole magazine, just this once word circled.” My eldest smiled and told me she circled it. I asked why and she said, “I thought it would be creepy.”]

Aside from the single note, I found two pages where the corner was folded: pages 21 & 44. I read page 21 (“Why war without enemy?” & “him I recognize, lying on the river sands, / an unsightly headless corpse”). I read page 44 (“and where Pomptine marshes are divided by a watery road, / where the lofty grove is”). And I read page 61 (Argus’ father, distraught at his son’s death, drives “a sword through his entrails” and dives “beneath the deep waters”—“he trusted his life to no single form of death”)  And, on page 61, I read how Argus’ father’s wound becomes “the crystal geyser.”

The phrase “put on muzzling, as if quoth of” makes (a sort of) sense in context of an unlocked throat without a voice—the lack of voice is the muzzle, “put on” by Argus and by death. “As if quoth of”—as if Argus spoke? Or: is the muzzle itself what was spoken? Argus speaks by not speaking (instead he seeks his father’s embrace, only to be denied by his father’s desire to die ahead of his son).

But it’s the phrase “crystal geyser” that electrified me. As in, The Crystal Geyser! I haven’t thought about it since I received pages from a copy of the book (a book I’ve yet to identify as real).

Why would you describe a wound as a crystal geyser? A geyser, sure. But crystal? Was it a sunny day on the battlefield? Would sunlight cause a geyser of blood to resemble crystal? I was reminded—inevitably—of my former student [x], who died in 2012, supposedly of a motorcycle accident, and about the story another student told me, that [x]’s organs were found crystalized.

The Braund Civil War offered no explanation. No endnote. I looked at other translations—the phrase “crystal geyser” does not appear.

Another dead end. And why should it be otherwise?

Saturday, August 4, 2018

178. Turn you on } dead man.


After Leatherface decides not to murder radio DJ Vanita Brock (about 46 minutes into The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, 1986), he rejoins his brother Chop Top in the front office of radio station K-OKLA. In Chop Top’s satchel are stolen LPs (while Leatherface was in the studio with Vanita, Chop Top rummaged through the station’s LP collection—he was excited about Humble Pie’s live album Performance: Rockin’ the Fillmore and he shouted, while flinging 45s, “Music is my life!”). We can only see one of the albums in Chop Top’s satchel—The Beatles’ Abbey Road.

If Toby Hooper (director of Chainsaw 2) wanted to be really obvious, he’d’ve put The Beatles (“The White Album”) in Chop Top’s satchel—the Beatles album most strongly associated with the Manson Family murders. But Abbey Road is obvious enough. It’s the only Beatles album I know with a song about a serial killer (“bang! bang! Maxwell’s silver hammer came down upon his head”); Chop Top murders the station manager a la Maxwell—with a hammer.

What would Chop Top do with his records? Listen to the Beatles sing in harmony about getting high and being inspired by love and making love and sitting in the sun feeling great in love? How does a Chop Top understand a Beatles album? Such musing leads no where.

Thom Yorke (of Radiohead) once expressed to Bono (of U2) his dismay in discovering fans of Radiohead’s music who were also politicians who supported positions antithetical to Radiohead’s politics. I don’t remember specifically what Bono said, but I think it was hopeful, something like, “You want your music to reach people whose minds you hope to change.” That sounds like Bono.

Another answer might be that once you put art into the world you cease to have control over it. The Family can misspell Helter Skelter in blood on a refrigerator door. Toby Hooper can put Abbey Road in Chop Top’s satchel.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

177. Volume control } THIS PAGE:


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