Saturday, July 23, 2011

42. "la Porte de l'Orient," } where I note things.

Dan T. Ghetu, the man enslaved by the beautiful and malevolent creature called Ex Occidente, has published The Master in Café Morphine: A Homage to Mikhail Bulgakov, the second in what appears to be a series of anthology tributes to European authors of the weird (the first is Cinnabar’s Gnosis: A Homage to Gustav Meyrink; the third will be This Hermetic Legislature: A Homage to Bruno Schulz). The Master in Café Morphine is under “real-time review” by D.F. Lewis at The Hawler, and my contribution has already been reviewed.

Tho I type “review” certain that it’s not the right word. Here’s a sample:

“…a Thomas Hardy, D.H. Lawrence, Anton Chekhov incident that haunts the stiff pages of this book, one of which pages might be used to funnel or chase dreams of forgetfulness in powder form… the sharpest funnel of all being the one that can deliver dreams of forgetfulness melted or distilled from the Winter of our souls by directly penetrating the skin with such a page’s words made fluid.”

I do know what Lewis means, by the way, and from his review it’s obvious he’s insightful. Chekhov was very much in mind while I wrote. My story is called “The Country Doctor” a title taken from Kafka, but also Bulgakov’s A Country Doctor’s Notebook.

Lewis also reviewed Cinnabar’s Gnosis. My contribution, “Her Magnetic Field,” is a story I am very fond of, which introduces Theophile, his amoral sister Monica, and his friend Philip (who once did battle in outer space with “the stone that thinks”). Lewis wrote:

“Proustian selves by cassette tape. Proustian selves as flies. This brings back for me the days of cassettes, when I recorded not only music from the wireless but echoes of sonorous existence from blank tape to blank tape and back again as sounds mounted sounds like randy insectoids…”

Proust! Thank you Mr. Lewis.

…and Lewis reviewed Old Albert: An Epilogue, another Ex Occidente title (in the Passport Levant series), this written by my friend Brian J. Showers. I’ve yet to read all of this revised and expanded version of the story, but I accepted the original “Old Albert” for New Genre #7, so I know at its core is a stellar story (I sold the rights to “Old Albert” for an astronomical figure, which explains why I’m writing this post from a club in Ibiza, for those of you who wondered). The book itself, as is the case with all the Ex Occidente titles I’ve seen, is gorgeous.

Earlier this year I heard Lance Olsen talk about books and their future (or non-future, says the hideous structure that once was a Borders). He said something along these lines: in the face of the e-book, many publishers of print books are showing us what the book can do.

What can a book do? The physical book lends atmosphere to the text it carries. Even the crummiest paperback, pages loose and yellowed, can enhance a text (what better way to read hardboiled detective fiction or Burroughs?).

The stately elegance of a volume from Ex Occidente is exactly the right setting for the collections and novels they publish. If I were in Romania, Dan and I would right now be standing over a table, smoking horrible cigarettes and examining the pages of the novel I am making in my head at this moment, and considering which silk ribbon bookmark and which silver foil stamp will best suit the horror.


  1. Having recently read Bulgakov's *A Country Doctor's Notebook* I'd say you did a tremendous job with your story in the Ex Occidente tribute volume... Chekhov didn't occur to me (it has been ages since I read any of his work) but your story was a pitch-perfect "sequel" or "outtake" to Bulgakov's collection of remote hospital stories. You're a damn fine writer, that's for sure!

  2. Mr. Hughes (I presume),

    Thank you. I have yet to see the Bulgakov anthology, so haven't had the chance to read your contribution to it. Dan says he'll put it in the mail and I hope he does so soon (along with some other titles, maybe yours?). I want to read more of your work.

    I very much liked your contribution to Cinnabar's Gnosis--it's terrific, and I think Dan was wise to put our stories back to back. There's a certain, ah, humor we perhaps share? (I also enjoyed--years ago, now--your story in Strange Tales II).

    The letters of Chekhov to his family and friends as he traveled across the Russian Empire were very useful. As an American who hasn't traveled much, writing stories for Dan--who insists on European settings--has been a challenge. Getting the character of the landscape just right... so I turn to books (of course).

  3. Mr. Golaski,
    Has your copy of "Master..." arrived yet? I'm also still awaiting my contributor's copy, I live in New York City. Just curious, and looking forward to reading your tale.
    -Adam Cantwell

  4. Mr. Cantwell of the wax cylinder,

    Master... has yet to arrive. Dan was in touch with on the 24th, saying he was on vacation but would send out the book the following week. I don't really expect to see my copy till mid-August.

    You might drop Dan a line.

    Have our paths not crossed? I'll drop by your blog and follow you there.

  5. Thanks for the response. I, in turn, will follow your weblog with interest, sir.
    I'm gonna drop you a line at the New Genre address, presently.