Tag Archives: Literary

Big Dark Hole

Hermetic Library Fellow T Polyphilus reviews Big Dark Hole: and Other Stories [Amazon, Bookshop, Publisher, Local Library] by Jeffrey Ford.

Ford Big Dark Hole

Big Dark Hole is a collection of fantasy and horror stories by Jeffrey Ford. Comparing it to his previous collection A Natural History of Hell, I find that the Hole is more this-worldly in its choices, with only two stories (“The Inn of the Dreaming Dog” and “Sisyphus in Elysium”) set in realities that do not at least seem to be our world within the possible stretch of living memory.

In fact, there are a number of stories where the speaker is Jeffrey Ford, an aging writer of stories and teacher of writing, one who likes to spend the evenings at his Ohio farm house drinking wine on the porch with his wife Lynn. But these stories, which notably include “The Match,” “The Bookcase Expedition,” and “Five-Pointed Spell,” are not a bit less weird in the events they recount than the bizarre carnival story narrated by a man with two faces (“Hibbler’s Minions”) or the one in which a perennial dinner guest turns out to be no one’s friend or relation and perhaps not human at all (“Thanksgiving”).

There’s a bit of additional self-referentiality in “Five-Pointed Spell” where a Hex Doctor tells “Ford” that “In real life, the supernatural declines to explain” (186). This refusal is supposedly different than in fiction, where “it must” explain. Yet in most of Ford’s stories here, the characters grope for explanations, largely in vain, when confronted with horrors and wonders outside the scope of the mundane. If the reader is able to settle on a rationale, Ford’s touch is light enough that it will seem like a discovery.

These pieces are largely reprints from multi-author collections and periodicals, but I had not read any of them before. This book confirmed Ford as a favorite of mine among twenty-first century writers of weird fantasy.

It was the sort of idea that might easily decondition the more unsettled minds among the higher castes—make them lose their faith in happiness as the Sovereign Good and take to believing, instead, that the goal was somewhere beyond, somewhere outside the present human sphere; that the purpose of life was not the maintenance of well-being, but some intensification and refining of consciousness, some enlargement of knowledge.

Aldous Huxley, Brave New World [Amazon, Bookshop, Publisher, Local Library]

Hermetic quote Huxley Brave New World idea lose faith sovereign good purpose of life consciousness knowledge

Mason opened the door, said, “Ground floor, ladies and gentlemen. Department of frame-ups just ahead of you—separate cells, phony confessions, telling the daughter her mother’s confessed, telling the mother the daughter’s confessed, throwing in stool pigeons and detectives as cell mates, and all the usual police traps, right this way!”

Erle Stanley Gardner, The Case of the Lazy Lover [Bookshop, Amazon, Publisher]

Hermetic quote Gardner Case of the Lazy Lover ground floor all the usual police traps

Pterror Over Paris and The Eiffel Tower Demon

Hermetic Library Fellow T Polyphilus reviews The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec Vol. 1: Pterror Over Paris and The Eiffel Tower Demon [Bookshop, Amazon, Publisher] by Jacques Tardi. (Also, by the by, there’s a film adaptation.)

Tardi The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec Pterror over Paris The Eiffel Tower Demon

The intrigue of the Blanc-Sec graphic novels starts in media res in this first volume, made up of translated reprints of the first two numbers of the French series. “Pterror over Paris” is pretty bewildering–a complicated plot is only further confused by a passage of three pages or more where it seems like everyone in 1911 Paris is running around in dark glasses and false moustaches! Despite numerous murders and maimings, it seems that little has been resolved by the end of this episode.

The second number “The Eiffel Tower Demon” offers a more conclusive ending, and also provides a brief reprise of the previous one that gave me some needed reassurance that I had understood the story to that point. Throughout these yarns, there are no especially noble or heroic characters, although protagonist Adele is gradually coming into better focus. There are competing criminal elements, dangerously idealistic scientists, and cops who are alternately incompetent or corrupt. 

Tardi’s art is great fun, and reminds me somewhat of the virtues of Ted McKeever. The Thompson translation of the text seems quite able.

People may start out with an initial prejudice against tyrants; but when tyrants or would-be tyrants treat them to adrenalin-releasing propaganda about the wickedness of their enemies—particularly of enemies weak enough to be persecuted—they are ready to follow him with enthusiasm.

Aldous Huxley, Brave New World Revisited [Bookshop, Amazon, Publisher]

Hermetic quote Huxley Brave New World Revisited tyrants treat them to adrenalin-releasing propaganda about the wickedness of their enemies