Monday, April 5, 2021

In That Endlessness, Our End


In That Endlessness, Our EndIn That Endlessness, Our End by Gemma Files
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I don’t hide the fact that I’m a fan of Gemma Files’ work. Her writerly reputation is solid, and deservedly so. Take, for example, her previous novel, Experimental Film, frankly one of the best horror novels I have read in many, many years. I had read and enjoyed Files’ stories as they appeared in various publications, but felt like she had hit a new watermark with Experimental Film. I was, admittedly, amped-up to read In That Endlessness, Our End. I even pre-ordered it, something I rarely do with books. But I had pre-ordered Experimental Film and loved it, so I felt that being an early adapter for this collection was a pretty safe bet.

And I was right.

Like any collection, there are “danglers and outliers,” but really, these fifteen stories hung together quite nicely. There are no bad stories among them. And because of my very high expectations, the one story that I rated at three-stars (out of five) might have just as well had something to do with my mood or something I ate (or didn’t eat) the evenings I spent reading it. Keep in mind that, at three stars, I still liked it. And overall, I loved the collection. The tales are sometimes horrific to the point that you wonder if the author poisoned the pages themselves, but many of them have a subtext of intimacy – not explicit sexual intimacy (though that is implied, in places), but familial intimacy and the intimacy of close friends. This, I think, is what sets Files’ stories here apart from much of the horror field – the foil of these intimate relationships against an uncaring or even inimical universe is profound and stark, casting love and friendship into relief against hatred and selfishness.

Note: Hatred and selfishness win out when you least expect it to. Some of these stories are heartbreakers, full stop.

Without further ado, here are my (slightly edited) notes from each story:

"This is How it Goes" posits a split. I won't go into detail, but suffice it to say that doppelgangers are compelled to kill their originals. Many Worlds Theory comes into play here in a quantum apocalypse unlike any other you've read about, guaranteed. The horror comes both from without and from within, the apocalypse arising from and further fomenting the horror of literally facing yourself and conquering your demons. Four stars.

"Bulb" skirts the border between creepypasta and cosmic horror. You might not want to turn the lights on after reading this. Makes me want to extend my social media "fasts" indefinitely. If you're at all averse to technology, this story is one giant trigger. A fantastic tale that will have you questioning every source of electricity around you. Five dazzling, electric stars.

"The Puppet Motel" is a haunted-house story for the 21st-Century, a modern take on some old tropes that doesn't feel like a modern take on old tropes, but feels like something absolutely unique and terrifying. It's not your "typical" ghost story, but something far more Weird or, when one really thinks about the story, Weird and Eerie, in the Fisher-esque senses of both words. Five stars.

So, what happens when the haunted house comes to you? And do you regret taking notice of some things, when you could have lived in blissful ignorance your whole life, but that one thing you took notice of consumes your life, consumes you? The characters in "Come Closer" have to ask these questions. And they don't get the answers they want. The characters here are extremely compelling, making us care for them, despite their broken-ness. Four stars.

Take the twitter account Pagan Hollywood, add the Eastern European legends of the Night Hag, and trace the story of an obsession through a multi-document approach, and you get "Cut Frame". I am enamored of all of these things and I absolutely love the method of using disparate documents to point readers to the story behind the story (I am a trained historian, after all). A tragic story leading to the abyss. I love this style of storytelling (both as a reader and as a writer), and Files excels at it.

"Sleep Hygiene" is . . . difficult. Because I've seen, up close and personal, a mental breakdown caused by lack of sleep. It's not pretty. It's terrifying. The narrator in this story ends up damaged in ways that, thankfully, the one I know did not. The fact that it hit so close to the mark is a testament to File's ability as a writer. After this, you might not trust a therapist ever again. And, Public Service Announcement here: please, please see that you don’t skimp on sleep. The effects are truly horrific. Five stars; reluctantly.

"Always After Three" has a decent premise and characterization. For me, though, it lacked a natural sense of dread, like it was forced. I think it could have been longer to allow the characters and their situation to develop a bit more. I liked it, but didn't love it. Three stars.

"Thin Cold Hands" is a morbidly beautiful story of possession, both of the ghostly kind and of the kind that binds mother and daughter in their relationship to one another, even if both parties aren't exactly willing. It's a clever subversion of that relationship, as well as the apocalyptic threat that would arise if such relationships were to multiply as, statistically, they must. Shades of Doris Lessing’s “The Fifth Child” here, folks. Five stars.

The collective unconscious has spawned something inexorable in "Venio," and it's coming. The more you try not to think about it, the closer it is. And you want it to be as far away from you as possible. But its visitation is inevitable; only a matter of time. Here Files develops her familiar themes to a sharpened point, leaving the reader no escape, entrapping them in the story. Five stars.

Folk horror meets vampirism in the guise of a pseudo-Fisher King in "Look Up". The shifting viewpoint is at times confusing, always kaleidoscopic. The motivations of the main subject seem to ebb and flow, winsome and immature with indecision, then stubborn resolve, then submissive acceptance. Tropes of inheritance, destiny, choice, and change swirl throughout the tale, both clarifying and confusing. Four stars.

"The Church in the Mountains" is Files at her best. Varied viewpoints, sepia tones, the hidden interstices of media at once so familiar, yet so alien, the horror of becoming that which we don't want to be, but inevitably must. A written story finds validation in a long-lost film and concludes by folding external reality into internal realization. A symphonic, tenebrous collapse into fate. Five stars.

Science fiction or horror? "Distant Dark Places" has an emotional resonance missing from much of modern dark fiction. It's a big story, yet personal, as big as a planet (or three), yet as small as the misfiring gaps in the human neural structure. The tale takes conspiracy theories and "prepping" to a cosmological level, yet never leaves the human sphere. The undulating scope of the story never loses focus. Five stars

"Worm Moon" is a highly poetic piece of infestation, metamorphosis, and unwanted discovery. A horrific voyage into a murky realm of self: what was self, what is self, what is to become . . . something else. Four stars.

"Halloo" is an utter gut-punch. I don't even know where to begin: the bottle? The therapy? The relationship between Isla and Amaya? Between Isla and her mother and Nan? It's all so wrong and just when you think it's going to turn right, it goes even more wrong. Ugh. This was an excruciating read, but in the good way. Yeah, the good way.

Note: Rorcal's album "Mulladonna" was the perfect background music for reading this story. Definitely the right mood.

Five stars (to Files and Rorcal)!

Much more poignant than horrific, "Cuckoo" asks tough questions of a (autistic?) child's parents. The myths of the Changeling are explored throughout as a means to examine the themes of dedication, love, duty, and disappointment. This is an evocative meditation, if you will, on fate and responsibility, on a universe that gives not one whit about you, and yet calls on you to reach deep to find compassion inside yourself. Five stars.

On balance, I am giving In That Endlessness, Our End a full five stars, despite the one story I only "liked," because I loved the rest to varying degrees. I strongly recommend getting the hard copy - believe me, with many of these stories, you'll want to be able to close the pages quickly when you reach the end . . . so you can pull the covers over your head and hide.

But you can't.

Can't hide.

You can't hide;

It's coming . . .

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Monday, March 22, 2021

Samuel Beckett's The Complete Short Prose. 1929 - 1989


The Complete Short Prose, 1929-1989The Complete Short Prose, 1929-1989 by Samuel Beckett
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

About once a year, I like to read what I consider to be a really challenging book. Moby Dick comes to mind, as does Ulysses. Gödel, Escher, Bach was a back-breaker. And I have more heavy challenges sitting on my TBR pile: Proust's Swann's Way, Joyce's Finnegans Wake, and Heidegger's Being and Time. They stare at me at night, waiting . . . lurking . . . seething.

Why do I hate myself read such works? Well, a sick part of me actually enjoys the challenge. I love puzzles. I tend toward jigsaw puzzles (though never simple ones and never under 1000 pieces - booooring!) and doing crossword puzzles helps keep me from mentally falling apart with fear when I'm flying, though I have this superstition about finishing all the "across" words before working on the "down" words - it's probably a control thing, but I digress. I do love puzzles. I like challenging my brain, though I like doing so on my own timeline, when I don't have to. And there is the side benefit of actually knowing what the heck I'm talking about when talking literature, philosophy, etc., with random strangers I meet (or whom I hope to meet in a post-pandemic world). Nothing quite like talking Gödel's theorem with someone on the shuttle to the rental car place, you know? Heartwarming.

This isn't my first dance with Beckett. Many years ago, probably about twenty years or so, I took a train ride from Chicago to Salt Lake City for work (yes, I do have a fear of flying, but I'm better about it now then I was then). During that trip, I tortured myself read through Beckett's "trilogy" of novels: Molloy, Malone Dies, and The Unnameable. It was a harrowing experience, not because of the subject matter, but because of the sheer tediousness of it. But I wanted to understand them. So, I plugged ahead. It was slow going. It took a two day trip one way, reading every night for a week while in Salt Lake City, and a two day trip back. In fact, I don't think I even finished it then, but had to slog my way through a few more days after I got home. It was, in a word, agonizing. And yet, I couldn't pull myself away from it.

You see in those novels, you just have to know what happens to those characters, and you have just got to know what happened to them in the past. They are like human train wrecks that you can't look away from. I am reminded of Jim Morrison's (in)famous childhood encounter with a car wreck in which he saw bodies strewn all over the road and heard the screams of the wounded and dying. He claims that an Indian's soul leapt up and took over his body. I feel the same way about Beckett's characters. They leap up and jump into your soul. You can't get rid of them without an exorcism, and I don't know the method for doing so or another person who does. If you don't want to be possessed by Beckett, it's best to just stay away.

But for those who won't or can't, here are a few of my disjointed notes. The analogy of watching a car wreck just kept coming back to me again and again as I read, so you might find strands and echoes of this throughout. These notes are not in the order they appeared in the book, as the order really doesn't matter except to contextualize "more experimental" and "less experimental" periods or, one might say "more readable" and "less readable". I find Beckett's short fiction to feel like a long, aimless meandering walkaround and through the liminal places, the little used alleys an abandoned lots, of a town. Not a city or village, but something between, and only those spaces in between. Whereas the 3 novels are like a marathon, this is a series of day trips. You just concentrate on whatever interests you, with no compulsion to "see the sights".

Beckett is the master of entropic literature. The old black | white partitioned sandbox with the child running clockwise, mixing it all up. Send him back around counter-clockwise and it doesn't reverse the process, it makes even more chaos. This is actually an appropriate analogy to the works throughout the volume. Beckett's masterwork is undoing, and I can't help but watch, fascinated, like seeing a passenger trainwreck in slow-motion or watching a cow being folded and crushed in a meat-grinder. Utterly disgusting and fully engaging. One feels simultaneously sickened and fascinated.

The story "Fizzle 1," however, just left me feeling sick. I'm continually amazed at how a story like "Fizzle 1" can trigger in me such a feeling of claustrophobia that I have to remind myself to breathe while reading it. Exhausting and uncomfortable, Beckett knows how to wriggle into your brain and flood your insides with oppression. It's like having a bull sit on your chest, slowly crushing the breath out of you.

I am more than willing to give Beckett's experimental works the benefit of the doubt, but "The Image" was a complete flop. Probably should have just kept this one on a private notebook or sent its ashes up the chimney flue a'la Kafka. That said, I was greatly intrigued and entertained ("enjoyed" is exactly the wrong word) by the other experimental work in the volume. There is a smartness to most of the works that isn't "oversmart". This story was "oversmart". It just plain tried too hard and looked stupid doing it.

In "Fizzle 4" consciousness asserts its independence from the body. A rather successful little piece of experimental fiction, possibly the most successful of the fizzles. I think that this is what Beckett was trying to do with his trilogy of novels, or something akin to it. But this little piece did it without becoming in the least bit tedious. I rather liked this one.

I suspect that Brian Evenson read and was influenced by "The Lost Ones" early in his writing career. Perhaps I'm wrong, but boy does this read like an Evenson tale. That's a good thing. This was possibly the most "approachable" of the stories in this volume, while also being the most strange and surreal. I would loved to have an entire collection of Beckett stories in this mode, but alas, such stories don't exist beyond this one. A definite favorite.

"Heard in the Dark 2" is Eros and Thanatos, entwined in a car wreck. Messy, but you can't stop looking. I warned that this analogy was going to keep coming back. It's like herpes - you can't get rid of it!

I would be remiss if I didn't quote the man himself. So here is a nugget that stuck out to me because it exemplifies the mindset of many of Beckett's characters; so much so, in fact, that one wonders if Beckett even had more than one character, or if this poor sap was trapped in an eternally-recurring loop of dissolution?

Where would I go, if I could go, who would I be, if I could be, what would I say, if I had a voice, who says this, saying it's me?

Here you have Beckett's short-story oeuvre, in a nutshell.

As an addendum, something dawned on me as I was reading the end-notes (talk about tedium!).

The "Notes on the Texts" gives a perfect example, under one cover, of Machen's differentiation between Art and Artifice. This section is as dry and soulless as a ledger, while Beckett's short stories, while difficult and sometimes near-undecipherable, clearly have "soul" and at least approach, in their own strange way, that "ecstasy" that Arthur Machen spoke of in Hieroglyphics: A Note Upon Ecstasy in Literature, as defining Fine Literature. It's an excruciating road to get there, but rewarding to the mind and heart, whereas these last notes are just pure academic/bibliographic dross. A car wreck you really can't be fascinated by, no matter how hard you try, unless you're just trying to look smart.

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Saturday, March 20, 2021

Malevolent Visions: The Art of Der Orchideengarten - 1920 - Issues 9-15


Malevolent Visions: The Art of Der Orchideengarten • 1920 • Issues 9 - 16Malevolent Visions: The Art of Der Orchideengarten • 1920 • Issues 9 - 16 by Thomas Negovan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I supported the kickstarter for this volume, the fifth in the series, mostly because I could get the book and a set of postcards featuring art from Der Orchideengarten for about the same price as just buying the book later. I'm using the postcards as postcards for a snail-mail roleplaying game that I am participating in, which is set in the year 1921. What better way to add authenticity than by using postcards showing macabre art from the year 1920 in a snail-mail RPG set in 1921? I've sent one thus far, and it seems to have done the trick of giving the player to whom it was sent a visual to go with the (handwritten) words of my character to his. Verisimilitude helps.

And what of the book itself? I'll admit that, because I was so focused on the use of the postcards, I didn't read or didn't absorb the fine print in the kickstarter. I had expected (ignorantly) that the book would include facsimiles of all the issues of Der Orchideengarten for the stretch of issues indicated. I was mistaken. While there is some interesting commentary about the stories and their authors, there is little directly quoted from them. There are decent summations of many of the stories, but they are merely summations. The information about the artists lends a bit of depth to the book, especially as it relates to how the artist's political sympathies were manifested, in time (you can imagine why), but the real focus of the book is the art itself.

At this, it succeeds wonderfully. Certain artists predominate, most notably (the notorious) Karl Ritter, who did the majority of the covers for the issues examined in this volume, but there is a variety of styles shown throughout. Wilhelm Heise's "Nocturnal Garden" is akin to a black-and-white illustration in the style of Der Blaue Reiter; Paul Neu's illustrations for the story "The Elevator" and Carl Rabus' illustrations for "Giulio Balbi's Disappearance" are heavily-influenced by cubism, but with an art-deco flair, and Ritter's work is composed of grotesque, but fine line work with a sort of Aubrey Beardsley depth, albeit far darker in both its subject matter and its artistic tone. There are also several illustrations that are purely anonymous, which somehow seems appropriate for a periodical focused so much on the grim and macabre arising out of Germany's interwar years art scene.

The book is, as you might imagine, lavishly illustrated with plates showing full-color covers and even one maquette of Karl Ritter's shown opposite the final cover for issue eleven of Der Orchideengarten, an intriguing pseudo-diptych of the expressionist work-in-progress alongside the finished product. One wonders why various changes were made by the artist, what led to the alterations? It also shows that this cover, at least, wasn't just a fever-dreamed off-the-cuff outpouring of artwork, but something more methodical and thought-through. Many critics of "modern art" don't understand (or don't believe) the crafting that goes into many modern (and "post-modern") works. Such dismissiveness is, I believe, to be dismissed. Here and elsewhere, Malevolent Visions shows both the art and artifice needed to generate these enduring (if somewhat forgotten) works of strange art.

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Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Hieroglyphics: A Note Upon Ecstacy in Literature

Hieroglyphics; A Note Upon Ecstasy in LiteratureHieroglyphics; A Note Upon Ecstasy in Literature by Arthur Machen
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Of course, I am a huge fan of Machen's ethereal, even oneiric fiction. His non-fiction, at least in the case of his exploration of Art versus Artifice, Hieroglyphics; A Note Upon Ecstasy in Literature shows a great level of precision in its arguments, even as the narrator confesses that the largely-inexplicable, but precisely knowable concept of "ecstasy," is difficult to pin down because of the slipperiness of language, or, rather, the slipperiness of our use of the language in trying to describe and categorize that which is nearly indescribable and far from easily categorizable. Still, at least a part of Machen's early career was taken in cataloging (works of the occult, no less), so he brings a level of exactitude to the argument eventually, after circling around the subject, like a whirlpool spinning his interlocutors around in a dizzying series of arguments before pushing them down into the depths of his logic.

This doesn't mean that he is entirely successful. At least not in the end. His assertion that all ecstatic works are "Catholic" is less than convincing, perhaps because I, as a reader, see the capital "C" and assume that he is talking about the institutional church of the same name, rather than the concept of universalism, which might have been a better word choice around which to center his final argument. Yes, I know he didn't mean The Catholic Church, but using the term "Catholic" with that attention-grabbing "C" and all it implies, distracts from what could have been a more elegant argument.

Still, I find it hard to argue with his assertion that: A gold nugget may be as pure and fine as you like, but it is not a sovereign; it lacks the stamp; and it is the business of art to give its stamp and imprint to the matter of life.

And: . . . you must never tell me that a book is fine art because it made you, or somebody else, cry; your tears are, emphatically, not evidence in the court of Fine Literature.

This doesn't make Machen a high-falutin' snob. Far from it. He admits to the enjoyment he takes in reading laugh-out-loud books and enjoying a well-spun yarn, but he does not yield in his argument that Fine Literature is fundamentally different than most "popular" books. I use the word "most," because Machen admits that even within Fine Literature, there are matters of degree. He also says that many of these more popular works might have elements of Fine Literature, but without the ecstasy that he struggles so long to explain (and which I will not explain here), they cannot cross that line. He uses Austen, Dickens, Quixote, Collins, and Rabelais as examples to form his arguments, and with great effect. Now I need to read Rabelais!

Two interesting sub-theses stuck out to me. The first, about poetry, states:

The most perfect form of literature is, no doubt, lyrical poetry which is, one might say, almost pure Idea, art with scarcely an alloy of artifice, expressed in magic words, in the voice of music.

He goes on to argue that lyrical poetry, rather than being artifice, as he has defined it, is highly natural. This seems to contradict his earlier arguments that artifice is largely a manner of structure that lacks true spiritual inspiration. Poetry, however, he claims, is a different matter. Think of children out playing - if they are by themselves, they quite naturally form "poetry" of a sort as they learn that words have cadence, that rhymes can be pleasing, etc. Because these things happen at a very young age, Machen seems to see this kind of structure as emerging from the very soul of innocence, whereas the artificial construction of popular stories, novels, etc., stray from this innocence into a form of connivance.

The second argument I find extremely intriguing is how Machen ties in drinking in literature with Dionysian worship, of a sort, man becoming divine through wine. He points out that if we miss this, we might be missing the entire point of some Fine Literature. This, to me, is a very interesting take on the Mysteries, that sacramental truths can be revealed in the drunken-ness of the characters of Fine Literature. Perhaps he sees this as akin to returning to child-like innocence and, thus, the shedding of the shackles of "civilization"?

If so, I'll accept his "catholic" views, so long as they remain with a lower case "c". Case matters.

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Thursday, March 11, 2021

A New Hobby Emerges: Bookbinding!

 As if I don't have enough things taking up my time, I got "the bug" to want to try my hand at bookbinding. I've watched a couple of youtube videos and subscribed to Vintage Page Designs channel, started following some book-binders and paper marblers on Instagram and Twitter, etc. But the best thing I did was purchased a DIY bookbinder kit from the American Bookbinders Museum

The kit comes with instructions and everything you need to create a small bound book. The instructions were fairly straightforward and the quality of the materials was excellent (so far as I know, but I'm just a newbie). After familiarizing myself with the instructions by reading them a couple of times (just to be sure - measure twice, cut once, right?) it took about 45 minutes from the moment I started folding to the time I put the finished book between some heftier books to flatten and dry. Not too shabby! Here are some pics of my progress:

No pics of the finished product yet, but if you look at that last picture and imagine another black, book-cloth-bound board on the right side of it, that's what it will look like. I'm already thinking about the next project(s). I've been thinking of doing some incredibly over-priced RPG supplements or adventures, hand-made. I'll need to save up to buy some more materials, however. You do need the right materials. And I have a thing for marbled endpapers . . . I mean: a Call of Cthulhu or Trail of Cthulhu adventure with marble endpapers - what's not to like (except for the price - this won't be inexpensive, I'm guessing)? This might be the start of something, who knows? And I might just make some books for myself and friends, too.

Like I needed another hobby!

Saturday, March 6, 2021

The Feathered Bough

The Feathered BoughThe Feathered Bough by Stephen J. Clark
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Books are books, except when they are performative grimoires, the sort of book that opens itself to the reader as the reader opens their soul to the book. This is one such grimoire, a ritual descent into a labyrinth of madness and memory, and the shutting out of memory. It is no mere mechanical work, however, being suffused with a spirit of both sympathy and vengeance, a human spirit.

I've made no bones about my love of Stephen J. Clark's fiction. Thus, I was pleased to see a sort of continuity here with his astounding novel In Delirium's Circle. A "sort of" continuity because the protagonist of The Feathered Bough has completely forgotten that he is the protagonist of In Delirium's Circle, or at least they share the same name. The twist here is that the traumas suffered in the first book lead to a willful disavowal of the person in the former by the (same) person in the latter. The man who has found The Feathered Bough wants nothing to do with the man who existed in his body, who looked through his eyes, In Delirium's Circle.

As with any work of fiction, that is merely one reader's interpretation. The wonder here is that, as a grimoire, different acolytes will be led to different forms of gnosis. Though the ritual is the same for all, the insight gained from its performance is keyed to each individual's experience, capacity, and need.

Regardless of your personal gnosis, however, we all descend into another world, exploring its dark, verdant caverns echoing with the caws of rooks and seething with shadows, until that world prolapses into our own, turning an escape-route from trauma into an explosion of such into this dimension. Reality, then, is turned inside-out, as above, so below.

The author helps this along by illustrating the work throughout in his signature artistic style, letting that other world seep deep into our own through our eyes, directly into our brains. It is at times sinister, at other times almost playful, but whatever the emotion evoked, the visualizations help to add yet another dimension to this darkened place.

This is a book-as-artifact that should not be missed. Zagava has bound this as a "tight" package, each part supporting the other. It is as immersive as a book can be without a soundtrack (though I do have a recommendation for that, as well). And while the subject matter may trend toward the esoteric, the book is readily available in paperback, numbered limited-edition hardback, or an absolutely stunning lettered edition. Whichever way you enter, tread carefully, and with eyes wide open.

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Thursday, February 25, 2021

The English Heretic Collection: Ritual Histories, Magickal Geography

The English Heretic Collection: Ritual Histories, Magickal GeographyThe English Heretic Collection: Ritual Histories, Magickal Geography by Andy Sharp
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Finding "the" starting point for this review is impossible. Though the book is contained in space, its ideas expand out in a herky-jerky supernova of stochasticity. The omphalos here is present, one can sense it, but to define it is to understand the entire work at once, an impossible task (I suspect, impossible even for the author, Andy Sharp himself). One can discern layers on the surface of the navel-of-the-world such as the grand trifecta of folk horror movies The Wicker Man, The Blood on Satan's Claw, and Witchfinder General, or the earth-shattering pop-tragedies of Hiroshima and November 22nd, 1963, or the creepier-than-is-proper-for-"good"-English-folk television of the 1970s (Robin Redbreast, Children of the Stones, Doctor Who, et al). There are feverish spikes into the occult underground and dives into the deep chambers of haunted Britain.

But to identify a "theme"? Practically impossible here.

Which is to say, I loved it. Like De Santillana's Hamlet's Mill or Sebald's The Rings of Saturn, we have her a work that is absolutely recognizable for its coherence, yet absolutely unexplainable in its breadth and diversity. These layers upon layers of seemingly-unrelated bits of academia, psychedelia, and cinemania churn in a veritable stew of potential conspiracy theories. But where the Q folk might take themselves far too seriously for the rest of the world, Sharp is fully aware that as he points one finger at the strange phenomena of the world, there are three other fingers pointing back at him in abject self-mockery. The humor saves us from what might otherwise turn into a panicked revelation of a Grand Conspiracy concocted from the paranoid dreams of those who would make too many connections where they should not, "seeing" "reality" for what "it is". No, Sharp is clear (and, pardon the pun, sharp) that while this work can be seen as a Working (in the esoteric magical sense of the word), it is not ritualistic, in that no one is expected to take an oath of fealty or secrecy or even to take any of this seriously.

But the connections are intriguing. And this Working is one of seeding the imaginal, of altering consciousness by pointing out the threads that at least seem to tie the strange underworld of the English isles (and, to a more limited extent, their distant American cousins) into a cohesive, meaningful whole. I use the word "seem" carefully. Because it's not these fallacious connections that stir the imagination, it is the possibility of such that calls on the reader to make their own connections, to carry on the Working into their own sphere of intellect, spirituality, and, yes, even their sense of humor about the ridiculousness of the cosmos and our self-important place in it.

So, welcome to the Working. Don't worry about when or where it will start. As you will see, in the stratums psychogeography, between Kennedy, Stonehenge, Baphomet and Brighton, peeking out from behind Fulcanelli and Manson, between the pages of the Necronomicon and and the astral-drenched walls of The House on the Borderland, there is no beginning, there is no end. Careful where you step - that rabbit hole might go down to forever, or never.

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