Horror’s characteristic preoccupations with the filth and violation of the human body are present in Barker’s “meditation,” but it is neither horror nor a story in any conventional sense. It has the abstraction of nihilistic philosophy, expressed through largely emotionless vignettes. There is a metafictional frame tale—an “I” who sits on the riverbank, observing the sordid dealings of his fellow men and contemplating “the familiar crisis of a middle-aged man.” Women are gutted; men squat in excrement; the river rolls by, oblivious. Occasional glimpses of Christian salvation inspire their recipients with nothing but the desire for oblivion. “It would not have made a good book, I think,” the narrator says of one such musing, and he’s right. The metaphorical exegesis of the insights that drive Barker’s more traditional and successful fiction may be of interest to scholars and completists, but it doesn’t stand on its own. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 10/14/2013 Release date: 01/01/2014 Genre: Fiction
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