Wednesday, September 18, 2019

A Second Nature

A Second NatureA Second Nature by José Gabriel Alegría Sabogal
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is an art book. It is a book of esoterica. It is a meditation, and, if the author has his desire, an experience for the reader and viewer. It is a book to be used, not merely contemplated, though one would do well to slow down, not rush through, flipping from page-to-page. There is much here that can burrow between the folds of one's brain, slide behind the veil of the soul. This work demands more than just viewing and reading, it demands your participation in its journey, a path toward and, possibly, even to that hidden grotto inside yourself, beyond the pale of mere-sensory existence.

Granted, the art, which approaches the craftsmanship and style of the Renaissance masters (but more specifically, Durer), is beautiful, if work of such strangeness and morbidity can be laden with that descriptor. The writing is . . . overwrought, at times, but at times brilliantly insightful and poetic.

By definition, an esoteric work hides meaning from the uninitiated. This book can be enjoyed by the layman, simply on the merits of the surreal art contained therein. Sabogal's introduction (clumsily, at times) shows the beginning of the ways in which the work can be decrypted, but he leaves the work up to the contemplative to sort out, to find meaning for themselves. Those who will glean the most will be those who have sacrificed the most to be steeped in Wisdom and a knowledge of the Hidden. You know who you are.

Death plays a drum of human skin.
With a sound more beautiful and stronger
Than the beating of a human heart.
Therefore I must learn to dance.

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Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Night falls on the Berlin of the Roaring Twenties

Night falls on the Berlin of the Roaring TwentiesNight falls on the Berlin of the Roaring Twenties by Various
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

My initial desire to read this comes out of a snail-mail roleplaying game project that I am currently undertaking (using the De Profundis RPG rules, among others). The idea is to immerse myself into the Berlin of 1933, triangulating this book with Chaosium's Call of Cthulhu supplement, Berlin: The Wicked City (speaking of which, I need to buy myself a hard copy of that one!) and the Trail of Cthulhu supplement Bookhounds of London. I am just starting the actual play of the game, so we shall see how it goes. Getting people on the same page (so to speak) for a snail mail RPG is like herding cats, especially when you have several talented people with wide ranging interests and responsibilities. But I want to game with interesting people, so I sometimes have to deal with the "stop and start" a bit.

Whether you RPG or not (and if not, why not?), Night Falls on the Berlin of the Roaring Twenties is well worth your time and hard-earned cash. It is a Taschen book, which already qualifies it as "good," and it's one of the better Taschen books I've read, which is saying a lot. It is part graphic novel, part educational text, like the old Dorling Kindersley books, but for adults. And it IS only for adults! Nothing is held back in this expose of the roaring '20s. Nothing. So, please, don't let your kids go thumbing through this unless you want them asking "Mom, what's BDSM?" or "Dad, why are they all naked?"

On the other hand, with nothing held back, there's a lot to like here. There are several one page (or sometimes longer) biographies of notable people of Berlin from Marlene Dietrich to Max Ernst to Bertolt Brecht to Albert Einstein and a slew of others you've never heard of, from the police to the underworld, composers to criminals, politicians to prostitutes, it's all here. There are sections on the movies, hotels, traffic, airport, festivals, and brothels of Berlin, noting their features and, oftentimes, events that unfolded at each.

But this is not just a history book, it is a book of cultural unfolding, decadence, and collapse. Its scale is epic, for a work about one city in one decade. This focus provides an immersive experience for the reader. The inclusion of a CD with several recordings of songs from the period help in the immersion, an unholy baptism into the wicked city. You may come to this volume an agnostic, but you'll leave a believer!

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Saturday, September 7, 2019

The Book of Jade

The Book of JadeThe Book of Jade by David Park Barnitz
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

While I love poetry, I am far from qualified to analyze it in any depth. For me, getting The Book of Jade was an attempt to deepen my ability to read and dig into poetry with greater depth. Because of the breadth of this volume (all the writing contained therein that are explicitly not poetry), I feel like this was a fantastic way to take a deep dive. This is not to say that I don't appreciate (what I consider to be) good poetry - I really do love the form. But I'm just not very good at plucking out themes and some poetic subtleties like others can. That's also not to say that I don't have opinions. About half of the poems here are ones I would consider "good" poetry - and, no, I'm not even going to attempt to define "good" here. That's all subjective: I know it when I see it. Your identification of a "good" poem will likely disagree with mine. Such is art.

Barnitz opens with a dedication "To the Memory of Charles Baudelaire" - an auspicious start, before the poetry has even begun! You can do much worse than to lead with that.

I will also play the coquette (or whatever the male equivalent is) by not telling you, title-by-title, which poems I considered the best. Here, I give only a faint gloss on the poems themselves because this volume is so much more than the mere poetry.

"Sombre Sonnet" is a goth manifesto. I approve. I've always had a little goth, who hides behind my heart and peeks out occasionally - most especially when I am writing fiction. The poem's first stanza is:

I love all sombre and autumnal things,
Regal and mournful and funereal,
Things strange and curious and majestical,
Whereto a solemn savor of death clings:

This is made abundantly evident throughout. It is Barnitz's morbidity, more than anything else, that stands out to fan and critic alike.

"Nocturne" is a poem worth quoting in full. Alas, I don't have the time, stamina, or legal team to successfully transcribe this four-page-long love poem. If you have goth friends who are planning on getting married, offer to read this at their wedding, then at their respective funerals. They will not be disappointed!

If you are prone to a mid-life crisis, do not read "The House of Youth". It is not for the sentimental, nor the nostalgic, especially if guns, pills, ropes, or cutting tools are near at hand. It hurt to read that poem, which, to me means that, yes, it was good. But bad. In a good way.

My single favorite line amongst all the poems is: "Until the dead stars rot in the black sky", found in the poem "The Grave". Neither Ligotti nor Lynch could have done better. Barnitz occasionally leaves the merely decadent and rises through the dark clouds to the sublime.

"Fragments" is, ironically, the most cohesive and comprehensive poem in the entire Book of Jade. It might be Baritz's best (though I'm confident that the critiques I read disagree with me)! At eight pages, it has breadth, but does not meander. Every word is chosen carefully, and the meter escapes the sometimes-trite rhyme schemes that make some of the works in The Book of Jade seem dated and even "twee".

Barnitz also wrote essays, which are included in this volume. In the first, he utterly annihilates Rudyard Kipling in what I can only call an Anti-eulogy for the dead writer (though Kipling was not dead when this was written - Barnitz asserts that Kipling's writing was symbolically dead at the time of writing. In point of fact, Kipling outlived Barnitz, who died early either from suicide, heart failure, or drug overdose, depending on which sources you believe). Essentially, he destroy's Kipling's reputation by saying there is no reputation there worth destroying. If I were to define the word "scathing" by way of using a literary critique as an illustration, this would be the one.

Barnitz's essay "The Art of the Future"(1901) is an intriguing overview of the state of affairs in American art, music, and literature at that time. There's acknowledgement that not much is happening, but an overly-hopeful patriotic streak runs wide throughout. Barnitz is an excellent essayist, and I would have liked to have read more, even if I didn't fully agree with him or his stylistic choices.

There is a biography included, as well, which shows Barnitz to be a contrarian, plain and simple, one of those people who channels his high intelligence into focused spite. Normally, I might laud Barnitz's snarkiness toward his father, but while reading this biography, I am feeling more and more that he was just a petulant jerk of a son. It's too bad he died young, or he might have gotten over himself and proven a great contributor to dark poetry, maybe even philosophy. Middle age tends to do that to a person.

With so much happening with decadence in and around Harvard during the time Barnitz attended there, it's a wonder that we have very little direct evidence that he interacted with his poetic peers. One wonders if he was a misanthrope or even sociopathic? In any case, he died ignominiously and his work was forgotten until discovered by those who "discovered" H.P. Lovecraft, who mentions Barnitz in a couple of his letters.

Many of the contemporary reviews of The Book of Jade are damning. Most of the critiques of his work are unforgiving, merciless. If you asked the critics, it's a wonder that Barnitz was ever published at all, though I think this is an unfair assessment. Still, I've gotten in trouble on GR for writing reviews like these!

Following the reviews is a section replete with various biographical sketches and references to Barnitz. I realize that this section is meant to satisfy the completist, but I grew tired of it quickly. It's like a really, really boring phone game in which people ("scholars") perpetuate and morph errors again and again. Make it stop!

Next follows a series of essays, and this is what I consider the brain of the book (the poems themselves being the heart, of course, the previous section of biographical sketches the bowels and bladder). K.A. Opperman's essay "The Perfection of the Corpse: Necrophilia in The Book of Jade" is exactly the sort of scholarship I was hoping for in the extra material of this volume. It's a careful thematic analysis focused on one aspect of the poems that draws the subject of necrophilia to the forefront. Now, necrophilia might not be your "thing" (it's not mine, either), but the treatment of the subject is an amazing piece of scholarship, not too academic, but exacting enough that one must take it seriously.

The essay "The Grotesques: Sins Against the Afterlife" by Ashley Dioses really helps my appreciation of Barnitz's ouvre. As I've said, I'm not a good poetry analyst. I'm learning, but I'm far from erudite in this regard: a real amateur! So, it's great to read an essay like Dioses' that I can apply as I go back and reread the poems in my efforts to become better at reading poetry. I'm making progress!

If it was illustrated with cartoons, the first segment of Matt Sarraf's essay on "Barnitz and Pessimism" would read like a reverse Jack Chick tract on anti-natalism. That said, Sarraf does an excellent job of concisely laying out the philosophical war between Hegel and Schopenhauer and arguing (successfully, I think) that Barnitz based his text for the poem "Hegel" on Schopenhauer's arguments against the Hegelian view.

Chuck Caruso, in his essay "I am Weary of that Lidless Eye", gives a fantastic line-by-line analysis of Barnitz's "Mad Sonnet". He also explains Hegel's "abyss of subjectivity" quite well. But his reading of the poem "Hegel" misses the mark and his analysis of Barnitz's poems through the lens of Hegelian philosophy is strained and unconvincing. Interesting that this essay should follow after Sarraf's. Score: Sarraf +1, Caruso 0.

Gavin Callaghan's critique of Barnitz's critique of Rudyard Kipling, "Two Dead men: Park Barnitz and Rudyard Kipling" rightly points out some of the inherent hypocrisy in Barnitz's essay on Kipling. But there is a decidedly pro-conservative bent to the whole essay that becomes as derisive of Barnitz as Barnitz was derisive of Kipling. It's good to have the balance of views, but taken by itself, the essay was off-putting.

Barnitz's poems range from trite to awe-inspiring. If this volume only contained the poems, I might be wont to give it a three, possibly four-star rating. But, given the inclusion of so much scholarly material (so much that one can easily grow tired of it, honestly) of varying viewpoints, this is clearly much more than that. If you are an aficionado of decadence with an eye for scholarly criticism being bandied about, this is your book. If you are, like me, an aspiring comprehender-of-the-poetic, you would do well to pick it up and dive deep into the "loathed sty"!

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Thursday, August 22, 2019

Revenants & Maledictions

Revenants & MaledictionsRevenants & Maledictions by Peter Bell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Last month, my wife and I took a holiday to Europe – England, Wales, Germany, and Austria. We had a fabulous trip, and I hope, someday, to make it back again. As with any vacation, choices had to be made, and potential destinations had to be dropped. If we go back again, Scotland, Ireland, and more of Germany are on the list. Alas, I had to take my trips to Scotland and Ireland via Bell’s book. Or maybe “alas” isn’t quite the right word. And maybe it’s best to leave well-enough alone, to specifically not travel to the areas that he’s written about so as to preserve my imaginary view of these ancient, strange places. Bell paints an evocative series of pictures of the British Isles (and one of Iceland). Let’s explore:

Our first stop is "Apotheosis,” a somber, moody piece about a visit to a Hebridean isle. The narrator finds that he is or was an unknowing stranger visiting strange shores. I can't say it was "heavy handed", but the fingers fell just a touch too bluntly on the "X" of the plot map, and I like more subtlety in my reading material. Still, a four-star story and well worth the read.

"The House" is clever, with the perfect amount of creepy. Much is left to the imagination in this self-referential mobius-strip of a meta-story, pulled off to perfection! The story is a trap for the characters, but not one the reader can anticipate. Five stars to this excellent tale, a primer on how to creep your reader out! Fantastic!

Having been lost, alone, on an unfamiliar mountain at night, I had a strong reaction to "The Executioner". While not everything correlated internally, I know the sense of fear that comes with that situation. California or the Outer Hebrides, that fear is the same! This story is a horror of nature, along the lines of some of William Hope Hodgson's work. Respect nature, because it won't respect you, haunted or not! Four stars.

"Many Shades of Red" is a prettily written story set across a stretch of sea, in Iceland, but it was not very effective at pulling an emotional reaction from me. Three stars.

"The Virgin Mary Well" gave me shivers. Stories don't often do that to me. Reality maps on phantom reality in spite of efforts to contain or banish malevolent spirits. Not precisely the ending I expected, but a nice (that is, nasty) bit of a surprise. Bell caught me off-guard with this one. I shall not look at wells in quite the same way now, especially when young ladies are present. Five twisted stars.

"The Island" was well-written, but standard fair for an English-isles ghost story. Bell did well, James did it better. Three stars.

"Wild Wales," with an introductory quote by Aickman, is on the border of what I might call "Aikman-esque," but not quite up to the same standard. Still, what struck me is the strength of the voice in the story. The narration itself heralded the predilections and preferences of the narrator himself: His likes, his comforts, his dislikes, his fears. It was a view into the soul, through a glass, darkly. For this, and a story well-told, four stars.

Maybe "Sithean" wasn't the right story for me to read on the same day I had browsed travel information on the Isle of Skye and just returned from holiday in the UK AND the same night my wife is flying home from having visited her mother. Now I'm spooked. Five annoying stars. Thanks a lot, Bell. (P.S. She made it back here safe and sound. Still . . .)

Anyone who fell deeply in love in the summers of their youth will feel the sweet tugging of old joy and the profound sadness of loss upon reading "Blackberry Time". I can't tell if the ending was too abrupt or exactly terse enough. I'm leaning far enough toward the latter to call this a five-star story. Uncanny and melancholy, this story might set its hooks (in the form of blackberry thorns) into you, too.

Here, in "The Robing of the Bride," all my expectations for what I was anticipating when I bought this book are met - gothic atmosphere, a revelation of hidden things that ought not to be, an unholy masquerade un-veiled. Or, rather, veiled. To quote the sound advice of one character "it is best you do not see". Also, the history here correlates closely with what I am currently reading in Robert Grave's The White Goddess, which has added some verisimilitude for this particular reader/ing. This story, previously unpublished, shows that often in collections, the new works are the best. Five stars

Not a bad trip at all. Outside of a couple of flat spots that seemed all-too familiar, the scenery here is (darkly) beautiful. Stamp your passport and take the trip!

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Saturday, August 3, 2019

Folk Horror Revival: Field Studies

Folk Horror Revival: Field Studies - Second EditionFolk Horror Revival: Field Studies - Second Edition by Andy Paciorek
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This (second edition) of Folk Horror Revival: Field Studies . . . wanders. But, not all who wander are lost.

I recently returned from a trip to the Cotswolds (after a 32-year absence from the UK) where wandering was a good part of our purpose there. We, my wife and I, were “all over the place,” as they say. Our itinerary was packed, but packed in such a way as to not overload us in any particular area or town, outside of a long hike through the country from Moreton-in-Marsh, past Blockley, down to Longborough, then back up to Moreton. 12 miles of magic, with several cases of becoming utterly lost and having to discover our way again, whether by pure serendipity or with the help of strangers. We trod across forbidden areas (because we did not know any better and wished to “pick up the trail” again – a strange turn of phrase, that: “pick up the trail”. From behind you? Or ahead of you?) and broke the boundaries many times (apologies to the many farmers whose land we innocently crossed).

Funny, then, that I should have finished this book right before our journey. This was perfect timing, both thematically, and because this is a huge book and I needed room in my luggage for other books I was hoping to find and bring back from the UK, especially because we were going to the famous booktown, Hay-On-Wye, for a day. And, yes, I did bring several books back, but that is a different story.

This book, also, wanders. It becomes lost. It finds the track again. Then loses it. Ad infinitum.

My readerly advice: become lost with it. Keep it by your side, but don’t worry about your next destination. Just go along for the ride. Yes, there will be moments when you will want to tune out and complain that your feet hurt and you are thirsty, with little water left. There are a few essays that you will skim or skip, I know I did, though I was surprised at how few there were, to be honest. The vast bulk of the book was at the very least enjoyable and sometimes a burning revelation, like the sun in your eyes when you wake up from having slept outdoors. Whether your interest is literary, cinematic, musical, historical, religious, or philosophical or, like mine, a combination of all of these, anyone with interests in the ever-widening circle of Folk Horror will find something amazing here.

Please allow me to share some of the highlights of my wandering . . .

In my travels, there are a few souls who I’d like to meet. Yes, there is an excellent Thomas Ligotti interview herein, and I am a big fan of his work, to say the least. But I don’t know that I’d much like to sit down and have tea with the man.

Gary Lachman (ex-bassist for Blondie), however, is a sort of kindred soul. So much of what he said in his interview resonates with me on the level of “spirituality” (a term he spurns, but principles he lives), a fondness for much of the same art, and shared experience regarding the evolution of taste in music. I would love to spend a few hours with him.

Nick Brown's essay "Ghost, Landscape and Science" hews very closely to my most speculative and wild thoughts regarding quantum mechanics and the spirit world. I don't plan on writing about this, as it's all rather speculative and very, very personal. But I'm glad to see that someone else is thinking in the same general direction as I am, even if we aren't diving down to the specifics. I'd love to chat with Brown.

There are others I should like to meet, not because of them as people, per se, though I’m sure they are fascinating people, but because of the subject matter of their essays and their fantastic treatment of such.

First among these would be John Harrigan, whose essay "The Sacred Theatre of Summerisle" is a profound look into ritual itself based upon the Wicker Man celebration. It is an incredibly insightful piece and lends some reassurance to those of us who do believe that ritual itself carries power to infuse life with meaning. Fabulous essay!

Cobweb Mehers' "One Small Step for Man: Hunting the Nephilim" is a remarkable dive into the archaeology of knowledge: the origins of giants, the evolution of myth, and the contemporary social relevance of stories far older than the Bible from which we know them. This was fascinating and has my philosophical wheels spinning so quickly that my brain is shooting sparks. I could read volumes of this type of work.

One of the more intriguing essay titles comes from Aaron Jolly in his essay “Kill Lists: The occult, paganism and sacrifice in cinema as an analogy for political upheaval in the 1970s and 2010s”. I was a bit wary going into this, as historical recusivity can sometimes be imposed upon evidence, rather than being arising from it. There are some connections here, I think, with Mark Fisher’s ruminations on the slow cancellation of the future, though I would need time to ferret out and clearly identify the threads and how they tie together. In any case, “Folk Horror Historiography” is now a thing, thanks in part to this essay.

It took some research to understand that Jim Peter’s essay “The Wanderings of Melmoth” is a sort of multi-media piece about music, but without the music. You’ll have to go find it online. Here is a sample. Listening to this whilst reading this most excellent and playful essay might take you to realms heretofore unknown or might drive you mad. Perhaps both, at once.

And speaking of music, there are several excellent essays about music, the best of which is Clare Button’s “’See Not Ye That Bonny Road?’ Places, Haunts and Haunted Places in British Traditional Song”. This is an incredibly well-researched and carefully documented essay that thoroughly and critically examines the subject matter without becoming academically stodgy. This is the only essay in the book for which I used the term “amazeballs” in my notes. This should speak volumes.

Another well-documented essay is Phil Legard’s “The Hunted Fields of England: Diabolical Landscapes and the Genii Locorum,” in which he provides the psychogeographical connective tissue between pagan tradition and post-Christian diablerie. I must add here, also, that Legard and his partner, Layla, perform as the band “Hawthonn”. Their album Red Goddess: of this men shall know nothing is one of my absolute favorite pieces of Folk Horror music. I cannot recommend it strongly enough!

One final essay that caught my attention featured Chris Lambert quoting Tony Redman in his treatise on M.R. James: "Wherever you've got a margin between two types of culture and two types of landscape you often get a deeper awareness of the supernatural and the spiritual". This rings true to me, who lived overseas most of my childhood and loved (and still love) to wander the "spaces between". This is especially true given our recent trip (back) to Europe (my wife lived in Austria for a year and a half in her early-twenties), where we stepped across several liminal boundaries, cultural, geographical, and psychogeographical. I could go on, but should probably do a blog post about this some time.

Folk Horror Revival: Field Studies is a wild and wooly volume like
A Year in the Country: Wandering Through Spectral Fields, which is to say that it’s not easily defined or corralled. And I like that: variety is good. I may re-read A Year in the Country alongside Folk Horror Revival: Field Studies, as the volumes complement each other quite nicely. Both of these volumes have given me a thousand threads to chase regarding the subject of Folk Horror. That makes me a very happy reader!

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Saturday, July 13, 2019

T-Minus 4 days

In an earlier post, I had mentioned my upcoming trip to Europe. That time is almost upon me, and I've made general announcements that I will be off social media for a couple of weeks, so I thought I'd make the same announcement here. I hope to be off social media, including the blogosphere, for two weeks. Technically we don't fly to England until July 18th, but I may turn things off sooner than that, even, so I can concentrate on getting ready and enjoying our once-in-what's-left-of-a-lifetime trip.

What exactly will we be doing and when? Glad you asked!

We will start our trip flying from Chicago to London. We're going to try to stay up all night and through the next day to get our body clocks adjusted. We'll see what these old bodies can do. If I was in my twenties again, I'd say "no problem". But I'm turning 50 while we're in Europe, so . . . 

Next day is our trip up to our AirBnB, with a stop in Oxford. I love Oxford. When I lived in England, I made a few trips there with friends (it was about two hours away by bus) and fell in love with that city. But we won't have a ton of time there. I'm hoping to see the Bodleian Library and The Eagle and Child, the pub made famous by it's patrons J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, and, I think, Mervyn Peake (I could be wrong on that last one). Then we will wander a bit and then head to the little cottage we're staying at on the north end of the Cotswolds.

Saturday, we road trip to the famous Welsh "booktown" Hay-on-Wye. I'm not bringing any books with me except these:

I am really hoping to focus on my writing while we are away and plan on taking extensive notes on oddities, story ideas, experiences, etc. So I am not taking anything to read. But I am saving some space in my luggage for books that I will surely buy in Hay-on-Wye. I hear from people whose opinions I value that Hay Cinema Bookshop is not to be missed!

Sunday, we go off to Bedford, near where I used to live as a teenager. We'll go to church with my old congregation. Here's to hoping that I'll see some (very) old friends there! Then we will tour The Priory at RAF Chicksands, the haunted priory that my friends and I used to . . . visit . . . late at night . . . through a window . . . often.

Monday will be our actual "tourist" day in the Cotswolds. We have booked the day through Kooky Cotswold Tours and are very excited to tour with them! We shall be seeing Cirencester, Bath, and Bibury as part of that itinerary. Tuesday we will take a self-guided walking tour, also courtesy of Kooky Cotswold Tours. We are very much looking forward to some long walks through the English countryside! Of course, we will take pictures!

Wednesday we have the morning before we need to get to London to catch our next flight. I am hoping we can quickly visit one of the many ancient monuments in the area (barrow mounds, roundhills, standing stones, etc). I've got some advisement on must-see locations, now I just have to pick one or maybe two.

We fly from London to Munich Wednesday afternoon. We will pick up our rental car, a Mercedes convertible (yes, I am very excited about this!), spend the night in Munich, then test the Autobahn the next day. We will need to make our way down to Vienna by that night, but I am hoping to hit some unlimited stretches of the Autobahn on the way down and see just how fast this car can go! I'll have to start out slow, though, as I will have been driving on the wrong side of the road for a week and will need to get my frame of reference back.

Alright, I need to cut this short - things to do. Short story: 1 week in Austria (Vienna and Salzburg): Kunsthistorisches Museum, National Marionette Theater performance of The Magic Flute, The Eagle's Nest, then a day in Munich. See ya!

Monday, July 8, 2019

Songs from the Black Moon

Songs from the Black MoonSongs from the Black Moon by Rasu-Yong Tugen
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I'm an existentialist, at heart, but not an earnest nihilist. While I do enjoy staring into the abyss from time to time, I don't dangle my feet over the edge for too long.

When I bought Songs from the Black Moon, I expected something dark and brooding. But I should have known from Ligotti's endorsement ("A book of beautiful and strangely tranquil outbursts of disaffection and dissolution. I wish everyone on earth lived by the sentiments expressed within it." (note the absence of exclamation points)) that this work is just a little too hopeless for me.

That's not to say there isn't beauty in this book. Ligotti is correct on that point. Whether it is in longer stretches of prose poetry:

I remain open to all the songs of abrogation that seem to course through my brain in the tear-laden sleep of cognition. You remain open and remain more open, infinitely open - even, and especially, open to what I most fear. You remain open to the seraphic and invertebrate dusk, to what could be or should have been, to our hermetic and deep mauve moonstone sleep. In myriad dimensions tarnished chromatic pieces of bark and branch and lichen fall upon your slender fingers and wrists and your reverberant and tranquil black hair.

Or in some of the "outbursts":

Across your tranquil, tenebrous forehead pass apparitions retrieved from the dimly-lit dusts of oblivion.

the Baroness de Tristeombre's words are resplendent.

And, yet, they are often too self-aware, in the way that poetry shouldn't be. I'll with-hold examples here, but there are many times when the works are full of blatant gothic posturing, odes to depression for the sake of depression, devoid even of a sense of rebellious energy. Just a big bag of giving up.

And I'm not about that. Here we have some diamond flakes among just too much coal. I would have liked things, if not shinier, at least a tiny bit less enthusiastic about an utter lack of enthusiasm.

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