October 15th, 2008


I don't really think it's a hallway at all. It's a maze.

Good thing I can type in my sleep. Because this is only a simulacrum of wakefulness. And not a very convincing one. Last night, we managed to get into bed by 2 ayem, and I was awake at 9 ayem (though not out of bed until 9:30), because we are scrambling for more daylight, as the winter rushes towards us like an angry bull yak.

Yesterday, I really needed to go to the sea. I needed to go in the worst way. But I wasn't done with the writing until 4:30 p.m., and sunset was about 6:30. By the time we reached Moonstone or Point Judith, or just about anywhere else worth reaching, it would have been twilight, and very cold. I probably should have gone anyway, but I was so tired and spacey. Maybe this evening.

Yesterday, I wrote 1,261 words on Chapter Eight of The Red Tree. A scene of great importance. An epiphanic moment for Sarah Crowe. And when I was done, and after Spooky had read it back to me, I was terrified that I'd not even come close to saying what I'd tried to say, even after borrowing a few lines from Joseph Conrad and Henry David Thoreau. How do you hope to describe the effect that seeing the "face of a god," any "god" or "goddess" or "divine" or "infernal" androgyne? And, in this case, it's a very, very terrible god-thing, awful in the original sense of the word. How do you tell another person what it has done to your perception of the universe? How do you even tell yourself?

So, I was left fearing I'd not even come close to accomplishing what I'd set out to do.

Fortunately, there was a wonderful, long review by S.T. Joshi of the third edition of Tales of Pain and Wonder waiting for me afterwards. Truly, it may be one of the two or three best reviews I've ever received. It will eventually appear in Dead Reckonings (Hippocampus Press), but I have been told I can quote a few lines here:

Kiernan has inexorably ascended the echelon of supernatural horror with an array of distinguished novels and story collections that have already led some critics to rank her with such luminaries as Ramsey Campbell and Thomas Ligotti. The comparison with Campbell seems to me particularly apt, for there are few writers in the entire history of supernatural fiction who have simultaneously mastered both the short story and the novel and who have combined such copious productivity with such a high level of meticulous craftsmanship.


This fusion of the cosmic and the personal is also a keynote of Kiernan’s work. It is not sufficient to say that she adopts the visionary horror of Machen, Blackwood, and Lovecraft; especially in contrast to the last-named, Kiernan’s work features an intense focus on the shifting and at times contradictory emotions of her characters, and their ability or inability to deal with domestic, social, and sexual——particularly sexual——traumas.


Tales of Pain and Wonder...is the cornerstone of Kiernan’s work in short fiction, and as such may be a seminal and landmark volume in the history of the genre. Kiernan’s career currently spans scarcely more than a decade, but there is hardly a doubt that she deserves a place, and perhaps a lofty place, in the canon of horror literature.

So, yeah, it helped to take the edge off that sense of futility.

Otherwise, yesterday, well...we made it to Eastside Market, and we checked the p.o. box. There was a wonderful "care package" from txtriffidranch, which, among many other things, included the Dimetrodon figure from the British Museum's set of prehistoric animals. I began collecting these in 1984, and only the very rare Dimetrodon has eluded me. I got close once, in a gift shop in the American Museum of Natural History in NYC, back in February 1996. But the clerk was mistaken and they'd sold out. Anyway, now, twenty two years after I scored the Elasmosaurus and Pteranodon, my set is truly complete. Oh, and there was also a platypus in the package, which now has a place of pride on my desk, watching over me that I do not stray too far from the path. So, thank you, txtriffidranch. You rock. With carnivorous plants, even.

Later, after round two of the wonderful chicken stew, we watched Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn in Walter Lang's Desk Set (1957), which was as delightful as I remembered. Unfortunately, afterwards, we watched an episode of Fringe. Yikes. I mean, I knew it wouldn't be The X-Files, but I had no idea it would be unwatchable. The acting was flat. There was no chemistry between any of the characters. I couldn't decide if the show was serious or going for some sort of deadpan black comedy. The script was...well, I'm assuming there was a script. Anyway, yikes. No more, please. Still later, Spooky read me Poe's "MS. Found in a Bottle" (1833), just before sleep, which got most of the taste of Fringe out of my brain.

Oh, please have a look at the current eBay auctions. Bid if you are able and so disposed. Thank you. Now, I go down to the platypus....

Postscript (3:07 p.m.): Let me just take a moment to be appalled that the spell checker for MS Word knows any number of trademarked neologisms, but doesn't know "highjack." Then again, I see that neither does LiveJournal's spell checker.....
  • Current Music
    ABBA, "When All Is Said And Done"