"The only joy in the world is to begin...." Cesare Pavese

"The only joy in the world is to begin...." Cesare Pavese

Sunday, November 17, 2019

You never beat the devil: Reading “The Moon Will Look Strange” by Lynda E. Rucker and "Tragic Life Stories" by Steve Duffy



I've never read Rucker. This is a satisfactory place to start. A man participates in a ritual with a mage, thinking he will bring back his dead six year old daughter. Thinking he will beat the monkey's-paw pet-semetary logic of horror story iron necessity. 

...."I only wanted to bring her back to us," he pleaded. "Yarrow and me, we were doing some—magick," the k at the end of the word like an unfamiliar aftertaste. Yarrow always called it that: magick. Colin was sure that once Ann understood that she wouldn't be mad any longer. "You're sick." That was all she would say. That, and "Yarrow's sick too. I hate you both." She was frightened but wouldn't let him touch her. Later, of course, he realized she'd been right. It always went wrong in stories, after all, like that one, about the monkey's paw. He went to see Yarrow, to tell him to stop the experiments, that he'd changed his mind. The experiments had increasingly frightened him, anyway, even as they'd seem to embolden Yarrow. What had begun as a way out of his madness had come to seem like a harrowing path into something deeper. The last thing they'd done, the thing with the live rats that left the mess in the tub, had left him feeling sick and shaken for days.

     Yarrow laughed, yellow teeth clacking behind thin lips, and said, "Too late, brother. It was always too late."



Duffy delights me each time. I wrote about The Night Comes On here. He has also written the Lovecraftian "The Oram County Whoosit" and that sublime Americana frontier tale "The Clay Party," which trumps any U.S. horror writer's treatment of the matter of North America.

...his hallucinations were clearly no longer confined to the visual, or indeed the tactile. Pouring himself a drink, Dan collapsed on to the sofa and tried to sort out what was going so spectacularly awry in his head. He was way too freaked to even consider writing—not tonight, not even to see if his Prospero grasp on his characters was holding under the strain.

     You read about cases like this, he knew. At one time, soon after discovering his particular eidetic gift, he'd been quite interested in the topic. (Privately, he'd always worried that there was something not quite right about it—and, by extension, about him). He was aware that some of these threshhold experiences could tip over into out-and-out hallucinations. Stress, they said, could do it—it didn't have to be anything more organic than that. So, hey, stress? Bleakly and without enthusiasm Dan picked over the succession of wrecks and forced reverses in his life over the last few months. First Angie, then the house, then the book deal, gone, gone, gone: where did you want to start?


17 November 2019

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