The WEIRD (12)
Real-Time Review continued from HERE.
The WEIRD: A Compendium of Strange and Dark Stories
Edited by Ann & Jeff VanderMeer
First published in Great Britain 2011 by Corvus, an imprint of Atlantic Books Ltd.
26/11/11 – two hours later
Worlds That Flourish – Ben Okri
This next story is, for me, a series of dead-pan yet tantalisingly meaningful non-sequiturs with, to quote its text, “inscrutable volition” and is what I call the second example in this book of ‘Weird Weird’. Therefore, I intend, quite gratuitously, to launch upon a series of non-sequitur venues for this real-time review, which, reading between the ley-lines, is justified, even prompted, by this particular Okri work.
Firstly, regarding my own regular ‘Tentacles Across The Atlantic’ articles for the acclaimed 1990s Horror magazine DEATHREALM, this extract below is from one of those articles in 1995:
<<Recently, I had the pleasant surprise of discovering a mainstream novel which won the prestigious British Booker Prize for literature in 1991. This book is literally crammed with wonderful moments of sweaty nightmare: bloated insects and woodworms lurking in every corner and people changing shape (growing into monsters at the drop of a hat and being nasty to the protagonist at the slightest whim) and a surrealism so original and surprising it sizzles the pants off you. I am not the best person in the world to expound on the novel’s purpose as a work of literature – but, like all such so-called mainstream stuff, it is indeed sadly burdened with a reason for existing outside its own delight of sheer words. Indeed, as a general point, not needing to possess a worthy message really differentiates the horror/fantasy genre from other types of fiction; horror/fantasy, to my mind, being the purest art-for-arts-sake form of writing. In spite of its ‘purpose’, then, THE FAMISHED ROAD by Ben Okri – which, now you know it by name as well as by its high smell of horror, you must search out – is chockablock with an array of full-blooded horrors that DEATHREALM readers are bound to relish. Good on you, mates.
“He had lost both his arms, one side of his face was squashed, and both his eyes had burst. He had bluish wings. He was the saddest ghost in the house.” From THE FAMISHED ROAD by Ben Okri>> (Deathrealm #24 1995)
Today: I think I may have changed my approach since 1995. Now, I see non-sequiturs for what they truly are: non-sequiturs for their own sake. Did I really discover didacticism in ‘The Famished Road’? If so, I don’t actually give any evidence above for it having a so-called ‘purpose’. That earlier Proustian self can only be recognised for what it was; weird weird!
I do, however, in tune with all my real-time reviews, seek leitmotifs to create a gestalt in ‘The WEIRD’ as a whole as well as within its separate works. So which of my selves is crazy now? The question – is any such gestalt to be didactic or art-for-art’s-sake (when I finally focus on it at the end of ‘The WEIRD’ and, from it, define the Weird fiction genre as ostensibly demonstrated in ‘The WEIRD’)? I think today I’d see it as more spiritual, even arguably religious in the form of, inter alia, a tantric outlet (e.g. the Ellison and Shepard stories), or at least believably Fortean in its srednidipity and allusion / illusion / elusion.
This Okri story at first reminded me of Horror in Ligottian Corporate mode just as I saw (but decided not to say) that the Ellison story showed typical Ligottian ‘pessimism’, at least till you reached the end of the Ellison. All pretty arguable. But things often go through a reader’s mind in real-time temporarily and are never recorded because they turn out to be wrong-headed.
Meanwhile, staying in my mind more than temporarily are Okri’s eyes going missing, handwriting on faces and hands (wouldn’t make much sense in an ebook!) and… “I told them I was going to visit my mother who was ill in the village“. — “Dead cats floated in the gutters.” — “Thorns of the forest cut into me. I didn’t bleed.” — “That was when I discovered I had temporarily lost the names of things.” A tardis tree. “I experienced the weird sensation that people were staring at me through the eyes of the animals.” And a series of ‘absurd’ reversions or inversions. This story is more than corporation Kafkaesqueness. It is dead-pan ‘temporaneity-creep’ – edged with glances of truth with no eyes. The WEIRD-zoo/experimentality “scientific robbery” of the literary gestalt-bounty hunters among us. Or merely an attempted robbery, with a reader like me. I can make sense of anything. Except my self.
Continued as THE WEIRD (13) HERE.
Index of this whole real-time review HERE.