To Charles Fort, with Love
Caitlin R. Kiernan, . . Subterranean, $25 (270pp) ISBN 978-1-59606-034-0
Kiernan ranks as one of today's finest practitioners of "the art of disquiet," as Ramsey Campbell notes in his perspicacious afterword to this remarkable collection. Her enigmatic short stories are written in lyrical prose that sweeps the reader completely into strange dark worlds where characters choose to embrace madness over the mundane and nightmares offer guidance as well as fear. Even when subtly alluding to H.P. Lovecraft, as many of these stories do ("So Runs the World Away," "The Dead and the Moonstruck," etc.) Kiernan's voice remains unique. In these evocative tales, bathrooms can transport you to an alien sea ("Onion"), paleontology can lead to damnation ("Valentia"), and even a mud puddle can touch on the unknowable and its terrors ("Standing Water"). The volume's sole original entry, "La Peau Verte," weaves a multiplicity of truths and the attractions of the forbidden into a small masterpiece of mystery. Exquisite interior illustrations by Richard Kirk enhance these 13 "love letters" to Charles Fort, collector of strange and anomalous phenomena.
Reviewed on: 08/01/2005