BLACK HORSE and Other Strange Storiesby Jason A. Wyckoff



The Night of His Sister’s Engagement

“…he’d failed to notice she was, in fact, singing — mixing velvet humming with honeyed nonsense syllables in a drifting melody.”

In fact, all the stories so far seem to conclude, both in plot’s audit trail and text’s stylistic tone, with such an open-ended, but constructive, ‘dying fall’ from the art of music, having passed through prior resonances and poetic frissons: resonances themselves resonating with such writers as Aickman, Ligotti, Sarban, Elizabeth Bowen, even Lawrence Durrell and Proust – yet, so far, I sense Wyckoff is essentially a one-off. This story, for me, stemming towards such a ‘dying fall’, starts with Geordie’s younger sister’s engagement to someone their father possibly saw as a worthier man that Geordie himself. And in a moment of solitary foolhardy challenge to himself, Geordie embarks, armed only with a lighter, upon the vast lake near home, having seen a creature or dark shape he couldn’t explain in the water earlier – where eventually he faces some sort of inscruatble sexual challenge from some young women whom he discovers on one of the lake’s deserted islands in the dark…,and, later, an encounter with what I would inscrutably call an even more inscrutable ‘cone zero’ symbol…and an ultimate duel with the watery creature itself. This is a genuinely compelling, page-turning tale, whatever its more subtle resonances. (4 Mar 12 – another 3 hours later)

The Bells, Then the Birds

The asymmetry in the final verse was unusual, though hardly unique – an alteration in the closing stanza was  sometimes used to signal the end of a song, though the change was more often manifested in the chord progression or by repetition of a final line than by a structural deviation in the middle.”

I know a lot about the fulfilling enjoyment of listening to music, but nothing about its technicalities. But is that quote above from this next story, as I suspect, akin to the concept of ‘dying fall’ that I mentioned instinctively in the previous entry of this review before reading”The Bells, Then the Birds”? Meanwhile, leaving thaat question hanging, I enjoyed this effective ghost story stemming from the verses about Eulalie (The Bells, The Bells; Eulalie? Am I missing something but aren’t they both connected with Poe’s poetry?) — Zach, an ethnomusicologist, hears the verses in a folksong that has been preserved  Homerically but which he manages to record audially when hearing it fortuitously sung in an Irish pub. Gradually, he road-tests the folksong’s verses’ background, when researching local news reports and the gossip of customers in a hair salon amid a community that seems in mass self-denial about their own time-wheeling resonances of hidden legacy (my phrase, not the story’s)…And Zach eventually meets his own ‘dying fall’…? [Brainstorming: “The simple melody swelled and drooped, always threatening to soar but never breaking the undulating tension“. Like this story itself. And other stories in this book? As preserved by fictionologists like Tartarus on their own life-giving versions of retentive memory: paper and print crystallised, like the Iliad, beyond the world’s eventual electronic silence? Reminder to self: re-read ‘The Raven’ by Poe.] (4 Mar 12 – another 2 hours later)

A Civil Complaint

‘But what purpose could there be in making the house look old?’ / ‘So that it could squat.’ Burke stuck his chin out, confident in his deductions.” 

And something not a million miles from an authorial force is confident about its own deductions: using town-planning bureaucracy as an absurdist chain of logic towards the acceptably illogical as logical, by tapping into the art of not so much satire but that of the the non-Euclidean artist who, in a new hindsight of the word ‘strange’ in ‘strange stories’, particularly in the displacement-accreting panoramas of this book’s first two stories, comes to live next door by bringing next door with him retrocausally. A cross between a Monty Python sketch and Rhys Hughes fictionatronics with Pinter (dressed in the role of a wizened crone) uncharacteristicaly filling in any pauses.  Yet to see how all this continues to pan out when the whole book’s gestalt is done and dusted by further reading … this story is not so much a surprising jolt as an expected jolt. (5 Mar 12 – 9.15 am gmt)




3 responses to “*

  1. Re ‘The Night of His Sister’s Engagement’, please see ‘Westenstrand’ here: https://classicalhorror.wordpress.com/138-2/

  2. In my review of ‘The Bells, Then the Birds’ yesterday above, I accidentally mentioneed Tartarus in the same sentence as Homer’s ILIAD. Amazingly, when I wrote that sentence I had no idea that Tartarus is actually mentioned in in the Iliad.
    Wikipedia: “In The Iliad (c. 700), Zeus asserts that ‘Tartarus is as far beneath Hades as heaven is high above the earth.'”

  3. Secret Europe / Black Horse (Index)

    Two real-time reviews that I conducted together for no other reason than they were there to read:

    Here is the index-linking for each real-time review’s parts:

    SECRET EUROPE – by John Howard and Mark Valentine: OneTwoThreeFourFiveSix

    BLACK HORSE and Other Strange Stories – by Jason A. Wyckoff: OneTwoThreeFour

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