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have been published in markets like "Nightmare," "Bracken," "Shimmer," and "Lamplight" but there are some excellent unpublished works here as well.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

Writing Horror

I'm wary offering advice to other writers. 

First of all I've got the whole imposter syndrome thing and whatever advice I give feels like a good way of revealing how little I know about anything. Second, what I've learned mostly relates to solving problems in my own writing. What advice does a dog have to offer to a duck on how to swim? 
However, for Arisia 2018, I'll be participating on a panel of doing just that - giving advice to aspiring horror writers about writing horror.

So, what truths can I impart?

Some advice feels absolutely true, if a bit self-evident.

You must read. If you're trying to write horror then you must read horror. Not just one novel. Not just one author. You should make a sincere effort to read everything by everyone. The more recent the better. The classics are always going to be there, but if you want a sense of where your stories could fit, you need to see what is being published out there.

You must write. I do not think you have to write …

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 …

We Have Always Lived in Haunted Houses

As my final pre-Arisia post, I'd like to tackle ghosts. Metaphorically, of course, because ghosts are intangible and also don't exist. 


I don't believe in ghosts. Not the sort of ghosts, anyway, that float around decaying old mansions or scare impressionable media personalities. Physics, at least the way I've grown up understanding it, precludes the existence of energy that cannot be detected reliably. Put another way, physicist Brian Cox stated that if ghosts existed the Large Hadron Collider would have almost certainly found one by now.

So, when I say I'm a fan of ghost stories and tales of haunted houses, am I being hypocritical? Possibly, but I also think one can appreciate ghosts and haunted houses in a different way. Even though they might not exist in a 'peer-reviewed' and 'experimentally replicable' fashion, phantoms absolutely exist as a potent symbol of the past.

When we talk about ghosts what we're really talking about is that annoying…