Saturday, September 3, 2022

The House of Silence

 

The House of SilenceThe House of Silence by Avalon Brantley
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

RIP to the late Avalon Brantley, whose novel, The House of Silence was released in the same year she sadly passed away. It sounds like a platitude, but it's not: Brantley's passing was a true loss of some incredible young talent, and The House of Silence is proof-positive of her excellence as a writer.

Truth be told, for the first 100 or so pages, I found little to no evidence that this was a horror novel.

I should have been more careful . . .

Brantley will pull your heartstrings with sympathy and respect for the protagonist, she will make you love them for all their weaknesses and foibles: but she is only setting you up for a long, loooooong plunge into horror.

And what kind of horror? All kinds. Brantley here plays with tropes of gothic, folk, supernatural, cosmic horror, psycho-geographical, and post-apocalyptic horror, and even a dose of what feels like sword and sorcery. She has claimed that Poe was "Virgil to my Dante", and it shows in all the right ways. This is no pastiche, but an infusion of Poe. But even more so, this work rings with echoes of Gene Wolfe's best work, especially in terms of a non-linear plot, replete with long memory gaps, flash-backs that might be flash-forwards, and just an overall churning of time itself.

Furthermore, there is a great deal of vagary regarding who is and is not a friend or foe. The mistrust engendered here adds to the confusion, occasionally knocking the reader off their balance. This is true right up to the end, where friends become foes and foes become friends - ulterior motives are hidden until they explode on the scene, but in an organic way. Nothing here feels forced.

It's rare to read a novel that has so many disparate elements ("something for everyone to love/hate") and yet feels like a tightly-coiled whole, especially when said novel has a staccato structure and such whirling emotional highs and lows, all of it done in a highly poetic style that flows like a river.

A river of blood.

Those who know, know . . . You really should know!

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Monday, August 15, 2022

The Ballet of Dr Caligari and Madder Mysteries

 

The Ballet of Dr Caligari and Madder MysteriesThe Ballet of Dr Caligari and Madder Mysteries by Reggie Oliver
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

With few exceptions, I have come to love the work of Reggie Oliver. While I was lukewarm about Flowers of the Sea , I was head-over-heels about The Complete Symphonies of Adolf Hitler and Other Stories and Mrs. Midnight and Other Stories . I had heard mixed reviews from readers I respect and admire, so I was curious where this volume would fall.

I began with misgivings. While the opening story, "A Donkey at the Mysteries," had some great moments, the ending fell a bit flat for me. I loved the subtext of unknowingly participating in rites one does not understand, but I was hoping for a moment of anagnorises that never materialized. The story had momentum, a series of setups, then . . . nothing. If this was authorial intent, the potential was under-utilized. Perhaps this is because I had read and quite enjoyed Brian C. Murarescu's investigation into ancient Greek and Roman cults of psychedelia(?), The Immortality Key . I had been (pardon the pun - but I am a dad) keyed up for the read, but was disappointed. Not upset. Just disappointed. Have I mentioned I'm a dad?

The second story was a touch better. "The Head" is a double entendre laced with Oliver's bleak humor. It's a strange admixture of sitcom and dread horror that devolves into an absurdist experimentalism. I really do like the two main characters (as much as one can like a madman and a disembodied head), and, as with other works by Oliver, his characters really shine. A worthy story, not his best, but a good read nonetheless.

When I started to figure out the subject matter of the third tale, I was prepared to be really, really disappointed. As a rule, I hate werewolf stories. But I might have to make an exception for "Tawny". I didn't love it, but this English social comedy with a lycanthropic twist was an amusing read.

Then, suddenly, the collection hit its stride. "The Devils Funeral" is peak Oliver. Clergy, madness, corruption, decay, and the near simultaneous death of Dante Gabriel Rossetti and Charles Darwin as a sideshow that leaves lingering questions. The question that keeps being posed is "who is the enemy"? It's a seemingly simple question with a dastardly labyrinth of possible answers and meanings, most of it unanswerable and meaningless. Existentialism reigns above. And, as above, so below.

A sinister comedy, or a comedic tale of horror? "Baskerville's Midgets" displays Oliver's insider's insight into the actor's life beyond the stage. This (and other stories about the intersection of horror and theater) is a story that only Oliver could have written. His background as an actor, playwright, and fiction author find a fitting culmination in this story, which will have you checking under your bed for (?).

Oliver next completes an M.R. James fragment "The Game of Bear". The transition, though carefully documented, would be fairly seamless without the indicator, which only serves to sever the tale in two. Oliver does an admirable job of mimicking James' voice, particularly in the climax of the story. Of course, James did put a strong personal stamp on the structure and tone of the English ghost story, so no surprises here.

"The Final Stage" is an existential tale that only one who has acted onstage can fully appreciate; not only because of the settings and situations, but because of the attitude that one must take to truly become immersed in their characters, not just the willful suspension of disbelieve, but the willful deceit which one must not merely engage in, but wallow in, if one is to be "a brilliant actor". There is a price to pay. But how are the funds exchanged? Does the character take from the actor, or the actor from the character? The economies of "real" life and faux-life are powerfully in play here.

With the introduction of a certain trope about mid-way through the story, I was ready to write off "The Endless Corridor" as just another vampire story. It is not just another vampire story. It is, in fact, much more nuanced and much more sinister than that trope led me to believe. Oliver, with considerable panache, twists the old trope into something entirely new and more horrifying. My trepidation was allayed, but my frisson was piqued.

Oliver continues to unveil the "back" of the theater in his mystery "The Vampyre Trap," an excellent, if old-fashioned tale of jealousy and ambition behind the curtain. One wonders who the actors are and who the characters are, as these roles become muddled. What better place for a murder or three in a place whose sole purpose is deceit and drama? There are strong resonances between this story and "The Final Stage" earlier in the volume, not because of direct subject matter, but because both hint at a certain sinister something taking place behind the masks of the masks of the masks.

The title story is the most brilliant story in the volume, but only those who have watched Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari will fully appreciate its impact. If I were to teach a class on the "O'Henry ending" I would show the movie, then have students read this. Textbook. And fantastically well-crafted. This is a Reggie Oliver masterpiece; one of his best stories ever.

How can I resist a story about one of my favorite eras of painting, that of the Pre-Raphaelites? I can't. Nor can the protagonist and victim(s) of "Love and Death" resist the alluring illusion of beauty, over-shrouded by the absolute victory of decay and death. Everyone in this tale is caught in this trap. Perhaps only the reader can escape. Perhaps not. But the allure remains.

"Porson's Piece" is as solid of an English ghost story as I've ever read. The village in which most of the action takes place shares half a name with <a href="https://forrestaguirre.blogspot.com/2020/06/a-day-hike-in-cotswolds.html>a village in the Cotswolds that my wife and I hiked through in 2019</a>, and I think I might know some of the "fictional" spots described. One path in particular (a photo of which is at my blog) was described in such a way that I cannot shake the feeling that this very path was the one Oliver here described. This added to the verisimilitude for me, but maybe I am just hallucinating, like the main character. Or maybe not.

Oliver begins "Lady With A Rose" with an ekphrasis of a Titian painting. The story is erudite and the characters colorful (pun intended), but not as startling as many of his other works. The final "twist" was to be expected and sort of just . . . ends there.

This collection has some real gems in it, but the opening and closing stories were unspectacular. An odd way to construct a collection.

The great in this collection carries the less-spectacular tales. Perhaps I've read too much of Oliver and am a bit jaded? I don't think so. He still astounds me, at times. I would hate to discourage anyone from reading "Porson's Piece," "The Ballet of Dr. Caligari," "Baskerville's Midgets," or "The Devil's Funeral," all of which were outstanding stories. But I can't give it a perfect five. Nor can I drop it to an "average" rating of three stars. I'm firmly in the four camp with this one.

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Saturday, August 13, 2022

Thousand Year Old Vampire

 

Thousand Year Old VampireThousand Year Old Vampire by Tim Hutchings
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Three years ago, I started an ill-fated attempt to run a snail mail RPG campaign. Part of the issue was my own motivation, some that of my correspondents. I think we were all enthusiastic about the prospect, but in retrospect, I think we (more importantly, I) foundered on the rocks of chance. Or precisely not-chance. Though we all had strong characters and motivations, compelling settings and circumstances, the few interchanges became quickly mired in a sort of "all-over-the-place-ness" where we started off in different directions and didn't want to push each other into our own individual story-arcs. At least that's my observation.

We were missing, in essence, that random-determined-ness that is the generative catalyst for roleplaying games. Without stochasticity and a push from fate, I foundered on being centered on my own story. By design, there was no game master - we were all equal players - and, thus, no one moved the narrative along. And this, I'm afraid, needs to happen. Otherwise we are cats without herders. There needs to be a shepherd, whether in the form of a human or just an algorithm, even a simple algorithm.

So why am I going on and on about this failed attempt in a review of Thousand Year Old Vampire? After all, this is a solo RPG game, not a group play game such as I attempted.

Other Goodreads reviewers have complained that Thousand Year Old Vampire is nothing but a series of writing prompts, essentially. I think this is unfair and doesn't acknowledge the potential depth of solo play one might encounter in a session or sessions of TYOV. Now, that said, I have not yet played the game. As I do (and I will), I will report on my blog regarding the playability of the engine. For now, though, I'd like to concentrate just on the book itself (which, incidentally, is the most beautiful RPG book I now own).

Yes, one playing the game should be ready to do some writing. There are two ways to play it, quickly and slowly, and the slower version will require some writing . . . and eradicating. There is a diary, which need not be extensive, but needs to be written. Experiences and memories are gained and lost though the course of the game. The Vampire is, in essence, a palimpsest in the truest, most physical sense of the word. This is part of the horrific tragedy of it all: losing one's humanity, friends, family, and memories in the course of immortality.

To generate these memories and experiences and losses, there are a series of prompts throughout the book. Each time a prompt has been given and the experience had (or lost), the player rolls a d10 and a d6. By subtracting the d6, one generates a number between -5 and +9. This tells them how many prompts (and which direction) to move within the book. Each prompt has three possibilities which are to be used, in order, first, then second, then third, if one falls on the same prompt more than once. Statistically speaking, the likelihood of worming their way down (I use the phrase intentionally) to the third prompt is very, very low, so such events are typically very big deals.

Now, I haven't read all the prompts, because I'm saving them for my own foray into the unlife of a vampire. But the mechanic is brilliant, and I can see it working in principle, if not in practice.

This is what my snail mail game lacked: the prompts. Therefore, I wills et about getting a series of prompts written up for my own snail mail campaign. I'm hoping to take the best of TYOV, De Profundis, and English Eerie (which I am hoping to use as inspiration for both prompts and the method of navigating them) and do a more manageable campaign that lasts.

As a warm-up, I'm going to live a thousand years and see where that journey takes me in the meantime. I am both eager and terrified to embark.

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Sunday, July 31, 2022

Upmorchard

 

UpmorchardUpmorchard by R. Ostermeier
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

My expectations were high for this little book. The publisher, Broodcomb Press, is making some fantastic limited-edition books centering, it seems, around tropes of (mostly folk) horror set (mostly) in south-western England. This is the second Broodcomb title I've read, after the outstanding The Night of Turns, by Edita Bikker. I have heard great things about Ostermeier's work, and their short-story collection A Trick of the Shadow sits on my shelf waiting . . . looming . . . staring . . .

But for now, my attention is turned fully to Upmorchard. It's a beautiful little book, perfectly sized in both dimensions and content, for my tastes. I'm not sure of the word count, but I'd guess it is in the long novella range, a slice of reading (and writing) I have come to love more and more.

Though I would ultimately characterize this as horror fiction, there is little by way of horror until the stark, terrifying end, which took me by surprise. Yes, there are hints and foreshadowing, but nothing that fully prepared me for the revelation(s) at the end. There are no jump scares here, but Ostermeier keeps much cleverly hidden, only revealing enough to prime the reader a tiny bit for what is to come. And even then, the story retains a great deal of mystery regarding the strange stones and their origin, as well as the motivations and secrets of the characters. Here, Ostermeier takes cues from the great Robert Aickman. If you're looking for a tidy ending where everything is explained, forget about it. You're going to have to do some work thinking about this.

That doesn't mean it's inscrutable. Far from it. The prose style is easy and quick reading, sprinkled with some amazingly clever "tricks," if you will, to keep the reader engaged and paying attention. Take this little bit, for example:

The drop was sheer, and the water below was filled with sharp. There was no need for a related noun. The hole was filled with water and sharp.

Breaking the fourth wall? Not quite. But not quite not breaking it either. I like these kinds of nods to the reader occasionally, but without an accompanying corny wink and smile. Ostermeier gives just enough acknowledgement to the reader's intelligence to involve them, but not so much as to call them out in a crass manner.

What is the story about? I'm not about to give the plot away (which is the primary danger in writing reviews about novellas), but suffice it to say that it is strange, witty, human, and contains supernatural elements. One thing that makes it stand out from other dark novellas I've read lately is the light it sheds on the tyranny of academia. This seems to be a theme throughout, and one I can understand, given my experiences in graduate school and the experiences of friends and acquaintances who work in the academy. Yes, the horror is external to those considerations, but they definitely play a part in driving the plot forward.

It's a proper book-as-artifact in itself, worth the investment. But you'll want to find a copy soon, as Broodcomb is making a name for itself among those who read the literature of the fantastic. Don't miss out!

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Saturday, July 23, 2022

Anatomy of the Devil

 

Anatomy of the DevilAnatomy of the Devil by Walerian Borowczyk
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I have to admit that I was brought to this book by three facts: 1) The Brothers Quay, my favorite movie directors, supplied a nifty postcard to go with the book, and I am just a sucker for all things Quay, 2) I like small presses and small bookstores, and 50 Watts Books, from whom I procured the book, is both, and 3) I have am slowly becoming enamored of work in translation (to English) by heretofore little known or unknown authors from Central and Eastern Europe.

Who is Walerian Borowczyk, you ask, and why have you never heard of him? Why had I never heard of him until I picked up this book?

"Boro" as he was affectionally known by those who worked with him, was a Polish movie director who later expatriated to Paris, whose work was highly influential on certain key movers in experimental cinema. Watch his short film Renaissance and tell me that this didn't have an influence on both Jan Svankmajer and The Brothers Quay. The imprint is unmistakeable. As far as Boro's personality and work with others, I'll refer you to the excellent interview with the translator of these tales, Michael Levy, in which he gives an insider's view of what it was like to work with Boro. It's an excellent little biographical window.

One of the things that Levy makes clear in his interview is that Boro didn't want to be known as a cinematographer who happened to write. He wanted to be know for his "art," as he terms his writing, on totally separate terms from that for which his films were known. So let's just the stories on their own merits.

We start with "Blessed Poverina, Patron of Wicked Little Girls," which walks us step-by-agonizing-step through what appears to be a seduction to engage in pedophilia. Spoiler: nothing of that sort happens, but two people die. However, you won't see it coming. The voice of the tale is meticulous, exacting, but with a good deal of soulfulness, too. A hint of cynical humor underlies it all.

The first word that comes to mind regarding "The Golden Room" is askance. The whole story, from title to history to plotline to resolution, feels like a look askance - with a dim glimmer of decadence - something barely seen, peeking out of the shadows. But all on the psychical plane, not the physical (though physicality plays a central role in this sidelong maze). A delicate story, construction-wise. Borowczyk does an excellent job of walking the swaying tightrope over what could have spiraled into full-fledged kitsch. He doesn't fall.

The title story is too clever, by far; meaning that by breaking the fourth wall it loses some of its savor. Still a clever story, but it would be even better, much better, near perfect, in fact, with the last line removed. The tail, in this instance, takes away from the body (and the tale).

Part surreal, part linguistic exercise, part absurdist, part history lesson; in the end, we learn in "The Beauty of the Disorient-Express" that absolutely none of it matters. Carpe diem is the appropriate action here, all pun-infused intellectual acrobatics aside. This very short story (if it can even be called that. "Anectdote,"perhaps?) contains everything and nothing, with full emotional vigor!

"Manuscript Found in a Briefcase" - Victor, you naughty, naughty boy. And such a clever way to invert the waking world into the world of dreams. Not a groundbreaking story, by any means, but that inversion - so very clever.

I obviously missed something important in "The Inheritance". Perhaps it was a well-regarded family name, a symbolic spiritual reference, or a famous event I am unaware of. Or maybe the story was just that banal. I don't have a clue.

I'm not sure who "Ralph Krutmann" is, but I did like this blasphemous, sordid little ditty (in the form of a three-act play) of cosmogical shenanigans among the powers that be.

Man's best friend might not be in "The Gold Washers," an intense, stress-inducing story, to say the least. It's a trifle of a story, but well-told.

"The Ear. Signed Vincent" is a very . . . erm . . . Stylish story. The sort of thing you'd read in The New Yorker. Here Van Gogh may or may not travel in time to a Tokyo art collector. It might be real, it might not. The difference in your "take" might reflect if you're subscribed to Asimov's or The New Yorker. It's a little too hyperbolic for my tastes, but I'm no great critic.

It's a mixed bag, if I'm being honest. I was hoping to be submerged in a marionette-infested darkness (did I mention I like The Brothers Quay?), and though some of Boro's stories approach the darkness, few of them actually dive in for any length of time. I guess not every Central and Eastern European author can be a Marcel Schwob, Géza Csáth, or Stefan Grabinski, eh?

But, hey, if you can recommend any other Central or Eastern European authors with a dark, weird bent, please do let me know in the comments!

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Monday, July 11, 2022

The Dream and the Underworld

 

The Dream and the UnderworldThe Dream and the Underworld by James Hillman
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Clearly an innovative work, I could not help but think that Hillman's admixture of psychology and esotericism was often strained, or at least at odds with itself. This is what happens when one tries to wrest both psychology and mythology out of their "traditional" contexts (the ones our intellects are accustomed to) and place them in a new, unique relationship. Hillman eschews many aspects of Freudian and Jungian analysis, while embracing others (particularly the idea of "depth psychology") in his new paradigm.

My issue in trying to fit The Dream and the Underworld in my head is the habit of Hillman in seeming to reject certain aspects of the waking world in relation to the sleeping world.

What one knows about life may not be relevant for what is below life. What one knows and has done in life may be as irrelevant to the underworld as clothes that adjust us to life and the flesh and bones that the clothes cover. For in the underworld all is stripped away, and life is upside down. We are further than the expectations based on life experience, and the wisdom derived from it..

This seems intuitive, on the face of it. But later in the book, Hillman espouses the need for therapy (which inevitably takes place in the waking world) that encourages the patient to immerse themselves in their dreams and simply run with it. There's really no clinical diagnosis taking place (none that I can see, anyway) beyond just encouraging people to dream and dream deeply, rejecting any imposition of waking world ideas on the sleeping world.

There's a certain pedantism present also. For example, Hillman lists three "habits of mind that impede grasping the idea of the underworld as the psychic realm": Materialism, oppositionalism, and christianism. I see his points and at least partially understand each one, but I find it interesting that rather than explain how the underworld can be understood as the psychic realm up front, he first sets out to imply that misunderstanding such is an error in judgement. That may be true, but there is little coaching (as one should expect from a clinical therapist) on how rejecting these impediments help the patient to get any kind of resolution to their issues.

Now, I probably sound like I hated this book, but that is completely untrue. I laud Hillman for "freeing" the dreaming world from the waking world. Rather than trying to translate dreams into waking world analogues, he encourages us to dive deeper, to plumb the depths of the underworld, with the understanding that it is a dangerous, strange place, an internal hell (in the Classical Greek and Roman sense of the word, not in a Dante-ish sense) that is intentionally separate from our day-to-day experience.

I admit that after having read this, I have allowed myself to delve deeper in my dreams, to leave the workaday world behind, and have felt a fresh breeze of good mental health, as a result. Ironically, one of the dreams I have had since reading this, a darkened hell-scape in which I met three witches over a pentagram, resulted in one of the most resful nights of sleep I've had in years. There was no night terror, no fear at all, really. I felt that I was embracing the place and that these crones were more guides than guardians. I don't remember all of the details, nor do I want to. I want the incentive to return and see where things go now.

One personal note: Hillman notes that dreams and death are closely intertwined, as if dreams were a practice run for death (which is reminiscent of the argument that Brian Muraresku makes in The Immortality Key that practitioners of ancient religion may have descended into the underworld by "dying" while taking psychoactive drugs in the well-known phenomanon of "ego-death" that often occurs while tripping on a heroic dose of psilocybin, for instance). Sometime during the early stages of the Covid outbreak, before I moved to my current home, I had a profound, extremely intense dream in which I saw and spoke with my deceased maternal grandmother (another crone, perhaps?). I saw her crystal-clear, as I remember her when I was a child, but with bright light streaming from her - an angel in the darkness, you might say. We spoke briefly, and I had the most profound sense of love and gratitude that I had felt in a long, long time. The dream ended when I "burst" with love and "died". I have no other way of putting it. I exploded with love and felt it in every single atom of my body, then, I simply expired. I awoke shaking and crying (for joy, not for sorrow), but felt physically exhilirated (resurrected, perhaps?), ready to face the many changes that were taking place in my life at that time.

I was told by a friend once, who had clinically died after a stroke, then came back, that "dying was the coolest thing I've ever felt." If that's what dying feels like, I'm really not worried about it at all. In the meantime, though, I'll be satisfied to dream a little deeper. I've still got a lot of things to do in the waking world!

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Monday, July 4, 2022

Descended Suns Resuscitate

 

Descended Suns ResuscitateDescended Suns Resuscitate by Avalon Brantley
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I had heard rumors about Brantley, but only read a couple of short stories before getting my hands on Descended Suns Resuscitate thanks to Zagava Books' publication of the collection in paperback. As others have pointed out, she sprang on the scene with 2013's Aornos to immediate acclaim. As one other reviewer states, Avalon seemed to spring forth onto the scene like Athena from the head of Zeus, fully-formed and at the height of her powers . This volume is a testament to the breadth of her writing prowess and a sad vision of what might have been, as she passed away at the age of 36. I have a (again, paperback) copy of The House of Silence, which I am definitely looking forward to reading after having enjoyed this volume so greatly. My only wish is that she had lived longer and that we could have seen the full growth of her substantial talent.

Before the fall of the Roman empire was its decline. We are thrust headlong into this decline in "The Way of Flames," an incredibly-well researched tale of corruption and, ultimately, collapse. The story is immersive, one feels what it would be like to be on the edge of a civilization that is about to be plunged into utter random chaos and oblivion. I now may have learned everything I need to know about Rome.

I dare not reveal too much about "Hognissaga". Though the subject matter might be a subject of which I have lost interest long ago, Brantley has enjindled a flame in me with this story. I was nearly as surprised as the young prince in the tale. But I can't tell you why, for fear of . . . No, I've already said too much, even if in vagiries. Oh yes, the mis-spelling is intentional.

John Dee meets a demon in "The Dunwich Catharsis," but not the kind of Renaissance demon one might expect. The story is a nested framework of letters, books, and conversations about a heretical Christian sect replete with revelations aplenty, both light and dark. A fabulous tale that gives one pause and sends the reader to the history books to peel away fact from fiction, if such a thing is even possible.

Love meets necromancy meets revenge in "The Regretting Pond". But what is the emotional toll of one who weaves such a web of vengeance. Can satisfaction ever come from justice's answers to tragedy? Or are some festering wounds, no matter how ill-deserved, best left to rot? Moral ambiguity abounds in this tale of love lost. Who is justified in their taking from another? There are more questions than answers here.

"The Last Sheaf" is a folk horror story with all the expected tropes. Not as evocative as the other stories thus far, it is still "effective". Had I not read a fair amount of folk horror lately, I might not be as jaded about it. It's very well-written, with enough twists to set it apart from many stories of its ilk. But nothing spectacular. Still, I'm glad I read it.

"The Window Widows" is a Scottish ghost story par excellence. Perfectly told, when it needed to be, and perfectly untold at just the right moments. Brantley paints with a chiaroscuro-heavy brush here, and it works amazingly well. This is the kind of short story writers of the "weird" should aspire to. A perfect economy of "weird" and "eerie" in a credulous, if sublimely-poetic, voice.

Take, for instance, this description, which sets the absolutely spectral undertone for this chilling tale:

The day that followed was hardly fit to be called so. Heavy clouds blanketed the close tangles of leafbare trees nearest the house, turning the world into vague shapes and textures, and when the wind rose up it seemed to rip shreds of the fog and send them fleeing across the world, like ghaists in flight from a greater ghaist ,or perhaps born therefrom.

Brantley assumes the persona of an avatar of the dread goddess Kali in "Kali Yuga: This Dark and Present Age". It's a piece of social existentialism bordering on despair for modernity and its paramours. The voice is beautiful, with echoes of Beckett and Burroughs, with all the darkness engendered in the same names. But it is clearly Brantley's own apocryphal tale which, like Beckett and Burroughs, no one will heed.

An afterword by Brantley gives the provenience of each story. She lays out the influences for each story and gives some insight into her writerly process. A valuable scrying stone into the work of a writer who was taken from the world far too soon.

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