“The sky has gone underground.”
I have Paul Tremblay to thank for his recommendation by way of speaking the names Michael Cisco and existential Horror Master, Thomas Ligotti in the same breath. I dove in to Cisco’s debut novel, The Divinity Student and felt amply rewarded for my efforts. And effortful it can be: Cisco demands full concentration and attention: the only other writer I felt compelled to read only in out-loud recital tempo was the Irish playwright and poet (and novelist of the modern-day Odyssey, The Whereabouts of Eneas McNulty), Sebastian Barry.
I’ve just finished, by recommendation of another writer friend, the brilliant Nikki Guerlain, the next in what will certainly be a traversal of the Compleat Works, The Great Lover.
As with The Divinity Student, one is immediately struck by the hallucinatory flavor and tone of the writing, the dispassionate recounting of apocalyptic and phantasmal set pieces as could only be occasioned by being narrative born of dreams; even more to the point in this nightmarish Stream of Consciousness centered on the deepest and most abyssmal milieu, the NYC Subway System, dreams not of the living, but of the dead and nearly dead; scraps and screams of the psychotic and paranoid. Plot is non-apparent; there is only the crystalline chrysalis of each moment of insight, philosophy, myth, wrought in lapidary prose (equal parts Byron and Barthes) and constantly aware of the perspective of narrative of our, the reader’s world, versus the universe comprised of psychic detritus, a cloaca of unease. There are occasional moments that have a sense of the real, but we are mostly conversant here with the dreams of the dead. In the truest sense, we are witness to the ‘sky’ going ‘underground’: this is the True Afterlife, not a place, a goal, a respite forever, but more like the cacophonous simultaneity of all the psychic and spiritual ephemera, worn into the bones and walls and sewers of centuries; Hell is the repository of all the thoughts and schemes, damnation and doubt, or all presaging and desiccated generations.
I have not adopted an inner monologue voice or persona with such relish and keen anticipation (I’m just now starting on Cisco’s latest, Animal Money) since Ulysses’ Leopold Bloom. This is great stuff.
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