Skip to main content

Review of "And Her Smile Will Untether the Universe"

Alright, first full disclosure. The author of "And Her Smile Will Untether the Universe," Gwendolyn Kiste, asked me to contribute a blurb to this collection. So let's classify this review as not entirely unbiased. I have enjoyed her stories since the first one I've read and my fandom of her work has only grown since. But I will plow ahead regardless because the simple fact is I would like you to buy this book and read it. 



I say that because I figure if you're reading these words, what with all the innumerable blogs, e-zines, and pod casts to enjoy then we may share some interests. Perhaps a similar taste in the strange and macabre. Maybe a desire to read and appreciate works crafted with subtly, passion, and power. If you like to think and feel deeply about the weird quiet places of the world, then Gwendolyn Kiste's work is for you. It was written for you. You should read it.

The anthology includes fourteen of her best short stories. Most of them have been published in markets like "Nightmare," "Bracken," "Shimmer," and "Lamplight" but there are some excellent unpublished works here as well. I'd classify most of her work as horror but not in the sense that word usually conveys. There are very few monsters here, and mostly the terror here is of the white-knuckle existential dread variety. The stories describe hauntings, the ghostly relationships, connections, and drives that propell otherwise intact people into desperate actions. And always in these works, the void yawns below. There are dark blank spaces just to the other side of a distressingly permeable veil. Push a toe length beyond the curtain and invite a quick plunge into the unknowable abyss. The power of Kiste's fiction is that this abyss is not always described as such a horrible thing. The characters in my favorite Kiste story, "Ten Things to Know About the Ten Questions," for example, seem almost relieved when the absence calls to them. They smile at their own vanishings, and cheerfully unmoor themselves to set sail into the black. The heroine of "The Red Apples Have Withered to Grey," is almost wistful about the strange tendency of the fruit of her family's orchard to cast women into deep slumbers. The title story of the collection revolves around the love for a film star murdered years before the narrator was even born. And yet, the lingering power of the actress pulls the narrator, and reader, through the chasm to a moment of obliteration.

These are odes to the abyss and the scariest thing about them is how welcome and kind that void sometimes appears.


TABLE OF CONTENTS

“Something Borrowed, Something Blue”

“Ten Things to Know About the Ten Questions”

“The Clawfoot Requiem”

“All the Red Apples Have Withered to Gray”

“The Man in the Ambry”

“Find Me, Mommy”

“Audrey at Night”

“The Five-Day Summer Camp”

“Skin like Honey and Lace”

“By Now, I’ll Probably Be Gone”

“Through Earth and Sky”

“The Tower Princesses”

“And Her Smile Will Untether the Universe”

“The Lazarus Bride”

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Reading Response to "A Good Man is Hard to Find."

Reader Response to “A Good Man is Hard to Find” Morgan Crooks I once heard Flannery O’Connor’s work introduced as a project to describe a world denied God’s grace. This critic of O’Connor’s work meant the Christian idea that a person’s misdeeds, mistakes, and sins could be sponged away by the power of Jesus’ sacrifice at Crucifixion. The setting of her stories often seem to be monstrous distortions of the real world. These are stories where con men steal prosthetic limbs, hired labor abandons mute brides in rest stops, and bizarre, often disastrous advice is imparted.  O’Connor herself said of this reputation for writing ‘grotesque’ stories that ‘anything that comes out of the South is going to be called grotesque by the northern reader, unless it is grotesque, in which case it is going to be called realistic.’ This is both a witty observation and a piece of advice while reading O’Connor’s work. These are stories about pain and lies and ugliness. The brutality that happens to characters …

Reaction on Utopia Versus Dystopia

Are stories about utopias morally superior to stories about dystopias? By writing about futures where governments break down, resources run dry, pandemics run rampant, and zombies wolf down unsuspecting pedestrians, are we making those things more likely to happen?
Give credit where credit is due, +Robert Llewellyn asked a provocative question in his post to the the sci-fi community the other day. Does the preponderance of dystopian, post-apocalyptic (a word he doesn't actually use, but I feel fits his description of most zombie movies) come from the fears of the ruling class (predominantly white, anglo-saxon and rich)? Are these futures presented to us because that's the future the elites fear, one of rapidly reduced power and prestige? 
Robert quickly back-tracked from his question on whether or not dystopias are ever written by the under-privledged. Of course there are, from all over the world. There are also plenty of writers from conservative or elite backgrounds more th…

Review of I Wish I Was Like You by S.P. Miskowski

Even 23 years later, I remember 1994 and Kurt Cobain's death. I experienced that moment as a kind of inside out personal crisis. I felt ashamed by his death. As though his exit in someway indicted my own teenage miseries. "I wish I was like you," goes the verse in 'All Apologies,' "Easily amused." I felt as though a check I hadn't remembered writing had just been cashed. 


SP Miskowski's book, named after the first half of that line, is in the words of another reviewer, a novel that shouldn't work. The narrator is unlikeable, unreliable, and dead. The plot is almost entirely told as a flashback and long sections of the novel concern the inner processes of the writer. The daily grind to summon up enough self-esteem to carry a sentence to its logical conclusion is a real struggle, people, but it ain't exactly riveting.

But the thing is, this novel works. It is one of the best things I've read all year and a real achievement in weird ficti…