What is "Metaliterature"? It is literature about literature, in this case, views, reviews, and thoughts provoked by stuff I've read. I'm hoping this might be a chronicle of the brain of a life-long reader as guided by intertextual coincidence. If you like what you read, read what I like.
Currently domiciled in the Vale of Glamorgan.
Fans of Neil Gaiman beware – I just might compare these two authors at
some point in this review, as what they write shares a feeling for the magic
inherent in daily life. One finds Carroll* dwelling in some rather splendid
fictional landscapes at times, and it’s only the merest pin-prick away via the
thin veneer of supposed reality. When I need a dose of magic realism that doesn't involve sleeping with whores, being in a Latin American country or incurring the
wrath of an imam, Carroll and Gaiman are the two to which I would most regularly turn.
The good kind of magical realism?
In this, an early work, the narrative is centred on a woman with the
unlikely name of Cullen, who as a discombobulated young person has an abortion
which she both regrets and is relieved to have had. She inhabits two different
realms, one “real” and one a dream-scape; one where she finds unconditional love
and peace with the man she should have been with originally; and one where she is
guiding a small child named Pepsi through a land towards some as yet unseen
goal, accompanied by benevolent (so she thinks) monster animals with hats. The
clued up amongst you will probably have spotted the pretty obvious device here,
and frankly, it wasn’t really a shock to me either. Pepsi appears to be (and is
later confirmed as) her aborted son.
At this point, I might want to say that as far as stories about the
lives aborted foetuses may have had go, this fares particularly poorly when put
up against something of the scope of Where
The Dead Live by Will Self, a blisteringly brilliant novel on many levels.
In fact, I might go further and say that I feel the author is often living in
his own world, occasionally spilling bits onto paper and allowing the reader
vaguely connected but incomplete access thereto. Look hard enough at his work
and you will spot cameos from many characters in other books – in this case the
director Weber Gregston, star of what some
might call a “morbid yet subtle psychological horror story”, AChild
Across The Sky. Recurring characters and motifs, and preposterous fantasy
realms make for some difficulty in suspending disbelief sufficiently for me, a
properly jaded reader, to enjoy his novels properly.
And yet (he says again) enjoy them I do, even if not in their entirety.
Carroll has a disturbing flair with his dream-like situations, and produces
works which are moreish even as they are fleetingly remembered. Whilst not whole
and hearty fare like that of Gaiman, it is delicate and dangerous, to a degree,
and definitely a worthwhile addition to a fantasy fan’s library. Horror,
however, these books are not. For a fuller exploration of just what horror is
(pre-Saw splatter fests), please refer to Brian
*Forgive the sporting reference at this point, but as a Liverpool (Football
Club) fan I find myself uneasy with such regular use of the name “Carroll” and
will therefore try to limit it from here on in.