"And is there Hell, or do we make our own on earth?"
"The dead don't stop"
“Poison spreads like ink in water.”
"This isn’t some half-assed morality tale."
Said the devil.
Two encompassing themes to this collection: primarily, the evil of solitude, or how solitude equates with or drives one to madness; then boundaries, blurring and pushing them (of reality, knowledge, perception, life and death, even geography)
Celephaïs: Gorgeous in spite of the cold reality. From Kuranes dreams to mine... yeah, that's not disturbing at all.
From Beyond: The type of story one expects when one hears "Lovecraft". And it's freaking good.
Hypnos: *blink* Erh... OK. Like this wasn't disturbing, a final twist. I would have said it bore serious homo-erotic tones, but then... Begs for a second read. Or a tenth.
The Temple: That's what I call a bit of Karma for a stubborn nationalist.
Note: for some reason (and what I mean is lazy translation), it's titled as Santuario (sanctuary) in my Spanish copy instead of the closer Templo.
The Tree: Did not take the expected turn. And sent me on a wiki-walk that ended landing me on the seven wonders. Pretty imagery.
Actually, the whole collection, for all the horror elements, is powerful on beautiful and vivid imagery. The kind that plays as a magic-movie on your mind, fills you with wonder as you read and stays with you.
By the way, I went looking into the publishing date, and in typical wiki walk style, ended up learning about the difference between horror and terror. I need a new shelf, because this one goes into the second without question.
Points I can praise without spoiling (much):
The way everyone chats and snarks, cool as cucumbers while all the shit is going down. At times it made me laugh, at times I would tilt my head and wonder whether everyone was just crazy, and at times I would go back a paragraph wondering if I had miss-read
about the freaking blood/writing/thumping.
The dialogue (again), and how it crosses, goes over each others lines, interrupts, repeats, mixes conversations. Very natural. And sometimes confusing. You have to be engaged, because it goes fast.
Eleanor's thought process. Yeah...
All the commentary on social interaction. Jackson is a scary observant woman.
"She knew, of course, that he was delighting in exceeding his authority, as though once he moved to unlock the gate he would lose the little temporary superiority he thought he had—and what superiority have I? she wondered; I am outside the gate, after all. She could already see that losing her temper, which she did rarely because she was so afraid of being ineffectual, would only turn him away, leaving her still outside the gate, railing futilely. She could even anticipate his innocence if he were reproved later for this arrogance—the maliciously vacant grin, the wide, blank eyes, the whining voice protesting that he would have let her in, he planned to let her in, but how could he be sure? He had his orders, didn’t he? And he had to do what he was told? He’d be the one to get in trouble, wouldn’t he, if he let in someone who wasn’t supposed to be inside?"
Not able to comment on without spoiling:
The deep uncertainty that comes from viewing this story from Eleanor's head. Was she just that deranged, lonely, needy and possibly in-denial-lesbian? Or was she not deranged (the other are more or less foregone) and the house gave her a last push? There is also the opening, that if I were take on the context of Eleanor's situation, could mean that when all her illusions and daydreams were ripped from her, she had no avenue left but suicide. She could not cope with her absolute reality.
At any rate, an excellently written spook.
“God God—whose hand was I holding?”
I understand now why this one is classified as European lit all the time. I haven't researched it, but I'm pretty sure this one was written after Cortázar left Argentina, because the five stories in this volume are all set in Paris.
I was not that dazzled by this too much at first but then, my bar with Cortázar is "Bestiario", and that's a hard one to upstage in the wow (weird, awesome, uncomfortable, puzzling) factor.
Cartas de Mamá, leaving aside the historical parallelism that some scholar or other wants to saddle on it, was an excellent exercise on revealing the past through the present. Many authors could learn a thing or two about how to do back-story. Of course, back-story is the whole issue here: sins and regrets that turn into silences, and that end that is half fantasy, half delayed acknowledgement. And the great opening line:
"Muy bien hubiera podido llamarse libertad condicional."
Los Buenos Servicios was a very scathing look at how moneyed people use "the help", many times frivolously, and often callously, and how hollow the "throw money at it" approach is, which is more jarring (and ridiculous) from the poised view of Francinet. She had more class than any of the cast.
Las Babas del Diablo is a POV nightmare. As it tends to happen when I read magical-realism, I enter a weird state where I'm paying close attention, but at the same time relax my mind and just go with it. Like suspension of disbelief, but I just suspend logic and sometimes even grammar. I find it pays off with many complex or weird plots, or speculative fiction too. Triggers galore in this one, and one VERY uncomfortable suspicion.
"El Perseguidor", now here is the jewel of the book, and the point where I started to love this collection. It was absolutely engrossing. I understand why it has been known to be edited as "El Perseguidor y otras historias". This one got to me, emotionally-wise, and I'm not even quite sure why. I guess it's that desperate search.
"Las Armas Secretas" you know how it's going to go almost from go. Or maybe it's that I've read enough Cortázar to understand the clues he leaves. Or, maybe more, this sense of having read one of his before, about a big house in San Isidro, that has similar elements, but I can't remember to which collection it belonged to contrast.
You know, the more I write, the higher I want to star this. I realize it made my brain jog, and my thoughts come back to it whenever I wasn't reading.
Not his best, but for "El Perseguidor" alone, so worth owning it. I predict re-reads.
And there it goes my 4th of July extra. I devoured it, lol