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have been published in markets like "Nightmare," "Bracken," "Shimmer," and "Lamplight" but there are some excellent unpublished works here as well.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”
Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Solemn Treasures

In Gilead, the transcendent novel by Marilynn Robinson, a 76 year old man confronts his impending mortality and the sense he cannot provide for his young son after he is gone. He had not expected to meet his son's mother in the twilight of his life, not expected to have a son. If he had, he tells his son in a lengthy letter forming the substance of Robinson's novel, he might have set something by for him. Some sort of savings or investment. It pains him to think that when he is gone, all that he can leave are a few words.

What words.

As mentioned in a previous post, I set myself on the task (is that really the right word here? maybe endeavor would be better) to read as many of the 'great novels' of this young century as I could. After reading Hillary Mantel's "Wolf Hall-" which was also fantastic by the way - I made my way to Gilead. One of the many quietly strange things about this novel is that it's actually the second novel from Robinson. Her first…

New Story Acceptance!

As mentioned last week, I do have a bit of happy news to share. I am excited to announce that my story, "The Yuru-chara of Hector, NY," will appear in the next issue of the Electric Spec Magazine at the end of the month. I am tremendously excited about this for a few reasons:
Electric Spec is simply awesome. I've been reading this magazine for awhile and never been disappointed by a single story. To have one of my stories selected is beyond humbling. I can only give an earnest thank you to Lesley L. Smith for choosing the story.I love this story dearly. It has one of my favorite protagonists and shows in the clearest way I've managed where I'd like to go with my fiction. Electric Spec also gave me the chance to reflect on this story and its meaning in a guest blog which I am sharing below. Without being spoilery, this blog expresses some of what resonates about "The Yuru-chara of Hector, NY," with me. Guest Blog at Electric SpecAt the moment, I think the…

"The Yuru-chara of Hector, NY" is now available!

My new story, "The Yuru-chara of Hector, NY," is now available in the current issue of the Electric Spec magazine. I'm very proud that this story is getting published at Electic Spec for the simple reason I've been reading the magazine for years, dreaming of the day I might get a story published there. Well, it's finally happened.

The story of "Yuru-chara" is pretty simple: a young girl wakes up to discover that her old virtual friend, a seven-foot-tall yellow monster named Tama Bell, has come to life. While navigating through waves of other virtual creatures released through a world-wide hack, the young heroine tries to come to grips with her responsibility to her forgotten friend and the losses inherent to growing up.

I hope that you enjoy my story and that you give the other stories a try. They're awesome!

Thank you for your continued support.