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The WEIRD (36)

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.

2 Dec 11 – three hours later

The White Hands – Mark Samuels

“‘I believe,’ Muswell once said, ‘that mental isolation is the essence of weird fiction.'”

At first a MR Jamesian fictionally academic investigation but – by accretive degrees – it becomes an obsession like that in HPL’s ‘The Hound’ and the Poppy Z Brite story in this book, but the story that works most in synergy with ‘The White Hands’ is Steven Utley’s ‘The Country Doctor’ inasmuch as that which emerges in both the Utley and the Samuels from the darksome juices of earth, as if coming from the alien core itself, provides a solution to what once puzzled me about the Samuels story (and perhaps about Samuels himself whom I’ve known in person (but only sporadically in recent years) since the late 1980s).  And this book as a whole so far has taught me much more than I ever knew before about this classic horror story by Samuels (which you all must have read and, so, don’t need me to tell you about its plot): i.e. not taught me by the book’s story notes or its introductions (as  yet unread by me) but by its gestalt context: the immediately contiguous context with the Evenson story which is now inverted tellingly from the point of view of any bodiless hands, plus the ‘spiderous symbiosis’ (here now clearer than ever before by means of the story’s own synergy with the previous context of this book) and the WF Harvey-type hands as connoted, inter alia, by the Crawford and the VanderMeer – all disguised within this traditional tale of horror & of  literary compulsion amid skilfully perpetrated graveyard-creepy trappings.   “Do not mistake silence for indifference”. The only story where an exhumation is brought straight (still within its coffin!) into my house (not Muswell’s house, not the narrator’s, not Samuels’, but mine!) “‘Loneliness,’ he said, ‘can drive a man into mental regions of extreme strangeness.'” Like, not only the blending of flesh with flesh, author with author (eg. Muswell and narrator), idea with idea, but text with reader, each page shuffling like flimsy playing-cards into the pages of the caged soul. While “…attending some lecture about that charlatan, James Joyce“, I asked someone sitting next to me: ‘What is the difference between Horror Fiction and Weird Fiction?’ Silence. To define the Weird, everyone does need to factor in this Samuels story somewhere.  That’s its “literary legacy“.  Or are printed words always silent, with indifference not far behind: the indifference of death. Or the Earth riven to its core so that even ebooks (as well as physical books) vanish into the ether? Meanwhile, on a more personal note, my own Lilith Blake is Elizabeth Bowen. The buried burr.

Continued as the WEIRD (37) HERE.

Index of this whole real-time review HERE.

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