Friday, 29 July 2011

Worse Than Myself - Review

A somewhat late review, this, for the second edition of a remarkable book. Adam Golaski is a poet, and while many poets have written short stories relatively few have written tales of the supernatural. Walter de la Mare is generally considered to be the main man in this regard, but he is also deemed rather challenging – perhaps a bit too elliptical, seldom doing the decent thing and saying what he means. Stories like 'Crewe' and 'All Hallows' do not grab you by the throat. Well, here's another poet who shows no interest in writing slick horror stories that you forget as soon as you finish them. They make demands on the reader, and offer no simple pay-offs.

That said, the subject matter in Worse Than Myself is often very straightforward. A diverse bunch of passengers on a Greyhound bus have strange dreams heralding a nightmarish experience; a family stop for a break during a long drive and find a strange museum; someone goes to a party and hears talk of strange cults before making a disturbing discovery. But the style, the execution, the refusal to offer up a warmed-over and simple explanation or denouement – these are marks of quality in my book. (My book may be a rather obscure and dusty one, I admit.)

Reviewing a collection of short stories by a poet makes me feel inadequate. So let me try to construct a poem of sorts from the carefully-weighted phrases the poet has chosen to include. This is not an original idea. I believe it was pioneered by someone called Mo Truvay.

I listened to the radio for three days

Mathilda was on the ceiling

'Snow in December,' she said. 'How perfectly unusual.'

I listened to the radio for three days

People had driven out of Billings to get a better look at the star shower

Hanging from the trees are long, filmy shreds of white cloth

I listened to the radio for three days

'Some of the towns out here are riddled with underground passageways'

When the undergraduate dropped down onto all fours, its blond hair brushed the floor

pp212; Raw Dog Screaming Press 2008; £15.99 (hardcover) £7.99 (paperback)
ISBN 978-1-933293-66-0


James Everington said...

Wow this sounds great, and is that a Ramsey Campbell recommendation I see on the cover?

Not heard of this author until now, so thanks (although looks like my wallet's taking another hit this weekend...)

valdemar said...

It's a brilliant book - no Campbell plug, however.

valdemar said...

I should say, no Campbell plug on my edition. Now there's a funny thing...

David Surface said...

On your recommendation, David, I will definitely check this book out. I rather admire Adam's journal, New Genre, but am not familiar with his writing. Also didn't know he's a poet. (BTW, nice job with the "poem" in your review..!)

valdemar said...

Thanks, David. I always find reviewing books difficult - the better the book, the harder it gets. I think I'll create poems in future. Adam's stories are quite brilliant and I defy not to remember them for a goodly while, albeit in nightmarish flashes rather than whole 'plots'.