cover image Undiscovered Territories

Undiscovered Territories

Robert Freeman Wexler. PS, $35 (326p) ISBN 978-1-786365-89-7

Strange forces and the casual uncanny populate these 14 opaque surrealist shorts from Wexler (The Painting and the City), as everyday experiences take on the high-register, declarative stylings of Arthur Machen or M.R. James. The strongest entries allow Wexler’s accomplished prose ample elbow room: odd, beautiful metaphors and rich sensory detail characterize the Orwellian “Sidewalk Factory: A Municipal Romance,” in which a lonely factory inspector’s affair opens his eyes to his paranoid, imperial city’s flaws. “The Baker” adapts Lovecraft’s “The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath” as a football player-turned-baker struggles with insecurity over professionalizing his hobby during trips to his mentor’s dream-city. Weaker pieces rely on repetitive motifs and uncanny concepts stretched too-thin: bread speaks in “Tales of the Golden Legend,” but has little to say, and the video game–style mechanics of “Travels Along an Unfurling Circular Path” ultimately sputter. These inaccessible narratives will frustrate the casual reader, but devoted fans of surrealism and the New Weird will savor Wexler’s prose. (Nov.)