Tuesday, 3 April 2018

A Twist in the Eye

Charles Wilkinson
Egaeus Press

Throughout the sixteen stories collected in this remarkable book Charles Wilkinson explores themes of place, ritual, identity, death and transmutation with a rare, if not utterly unique, confidence. They are enigmatic but never vague, dreamlike but never illogical, horrifying but only occasionally visceral. Few writers can write ‘weird’ with so convincing a voice.

I first read a Charles Wilkinson story in issue 35 of Supernatural Tales, it was a thoroughly enjoyable slice of weird fiction with an ending that I thought arrived far too suddenly which slightly marred the experience.  I was really impressed and invested in a copy of his collection issued by Egaeus Press back in 2016 and having spent the last two days immersed in it I'm still impressed, with reservations, but definitely impressed.

There are two or three obvious touch points to Wilkinson's writing - Robert Aickman, Arthur Machen and Algernon Blackwood - and from the first he takes the sense of the strange in the mundane and in the liminality of new homes, guest houses and childhood abodes and in the unapologetic stylistic conceits of the jump cut endings and an oblique take on narrative flow.  From Machen and Blackwood in particular we see an embracing of the elsewhere and the otherhere.  The worlds within and beyond the natural where soul, spirit and anima are as ephemeral, as elusive and as dangerous as smoke.

As for my reservations well it remains the same as from my first reading.  Wilkinson crafts a beautifully realised story into which we are dropped and instantly and wonderfully submerged and there are storyworlds here that I could happily inhabit for days but with Wilkinson the ending is apt to burst through at any moment jarring us back into the mundane world.  It seems to me that many of his ideas could do with a bit more room, a novella (or even longer) would allow his ideas room to stretch and for their conclusions to arrive more organically and with a more deliberate pace.  But, and I want to stress this next part, this is just a reservation.  I adored this book and if I read another one half as good this year I'll be very happy indeed.

Available from the publisher at the link at the top of this review.

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