Essence of Laughter and Other Essays, Journals and Letters – Charles Baudelaire

Engrossing essays by Baudelaire on art, hashish,and the essence of laughter. Prior awareness of painter Constantin Guys a must for the art section since it’s basically all about his works, but at least I found out about him even if later than sooner. Especially interesting was Baudelaire’s discussion of the satanic nature of laughter. Also, inclusions of some notes, journal entries, letters, and prose versions of several poems from The Flowers of Evil. As well written an essayist as de Quincey, although not quite as broad.

Zoo or Letters Not About Love – Victor Shklovsky

Brilliant. A man suffering unrequited love is permitted by the object of his affections to write her only if he stops talking of his love (for Christ’s sake, you’re a pest). He does until he realizes that the woman he obsessed over was only the realization of a metaphor, that he’d invented this (superficial b*tch) and love in order to make a book of misunderstanding, about alien people, about an alien land. Interesting the way the animals of which he talks of seeing in the zoo are really other Russian expat friends of his. A novel of a displaced Russian living in Germany. He finally wises up.

Who Was Changed and Who Was Dead – Barbara Comyns

A sweetly horrific nightmare of a tale. And the baby piglet “all pink and dead”. Where CAN one find prose like that? Complete with an appalling grandmother a’la a grotesque Shirley Jackson’s Mrs. Halloran from The Sundial. Who Was Changed could be a Stefan Kiesbye’s Your House Is On Fire, Your Children All Gone, lite. Very lite. Kiesbye’s ducks would not be “quacking their approval” as they floated and in the flood, but his hens might commit suicide by dropping falling off their perches into the muck below. And his character could most certainly carry a dead kitten in his pocket. One of my favorite authors Brian Evanson wrote the prologue to this pitiless portrayal of human relationships in this time capsule of a novel that takes place in Warwickshire during the “Summer about seventy years ago”.

Come Closer – Sara Gran

Taut, tightly written with a beautifully timed flow to the climax. An excellent book on the subject of demon possession. Gram expertly laces the ambiguity between possession and mental illness in a manner that brings to mind Henry James’ The Turn of the Screw. The reoccurring and sensually hypnotic scenes on the crimson sanded beach with the blood red sea are still behind my eyes.