Cloudscapes (Mystery Novel)
A mystery surrounds the events on Stelzhamerstrasse in Salzburg, a mystery that runs beneath the Mönchsberg and through the Austrian alps like a vein of gold and lands in the lap of a marquise whose peculiar locks have befuddled Karlova’s finest thieves. Rousing her coach and horses, i.e. her driver and her BMW, she takes off to Brussels, where the narrator (non-participant) first sees her coming out of the American embassy. He (I’m assuming the narrator is a male, the book doesn’t say, but the author apparently is) follows her to the train station, where she catches the Talus to Cologne, a city I’ve spent little time in, my business taking me more often to Bonn where Fuller filmed Dead Pigeon on Beethovenstrasse. The marquise takes no lover in Cologne, calls no one, emails and text messages ditto. Pages and pages of the description of the sky over the Rhein valley, many of them, it seems to me, lifted from other novels. I wander off to the kitchen, return, wander off again, return again, take a nap, do my laundry, answer my mail, do my taxes, rewrite my will which I do at least once a day, and when I return again the marquise is in Salzburg with a dead man at her feet and an unfired revolver in her hand, and the people and traffic on Stelzhamerstrasse are frozen in the posture of those who no longer can distinguish reality from dream.
The Hesperides Syndrome (Science Fiction Novel)
“Nothing ages faster than the future,” said the toad-like silicon tree on the planet Numania in the Hesperides Cluster, the region where Melissa’s mom Adrienne winds up after a quick-witted mouse an evil empire wishes to kill lands in her purse and recruits her in his desperate scheme to save mice everywhere. Melissa remembered too late to mention to her mother she had left the cake in the oven, and from this mistake we spring from Little Rock to Farflung in a tale whose diegetic space encompasses the multiverse. Says on the lurid cover the author’s name is Bulwer Zetford, surely a house name used by numerous word slaves at DeBase SF. But why is the mouse so sad, so mad? Won’t he unwind his anfractuous tale and win out in the end, just like the lowliest of the low should? Why as I read this space opera do I feel the need to sit in a smoke-filled French café? Are all novels existential?
The I and the Not-I (Paris Novel)
A young woman rents a maid’s room on rue de l’Université. She’s in Paris on a research grant, just like an Anita Brookner character. In fact her name is Anita, but in no other way does she resemble that estimable author’s characters. Our Anita is no wallflower or scholar of 18th century art, she’s a 21st century murderess. And not only a murderess but a highly acclaimed novelist and theorist. Her theory that the space between the “I” and the “not-I” is expanding at a rate proportional to that of the universe has just set the world of critical theory on its ears. She’s the toast of Paris, her books the champagne of contemporary thought. I’ve read several of them myself and can attest to their efficacy. Like a Kierkegaardian truth they edify. But what is a Danish Protestant doing here? Hasn’t he made enough trouble for Europeans already? Anita thinks so, since it is Kierkegaard who continues to baffle her. Descartes a breeze, Hegel a hoot, semiotics a child’s alphabet blocks—but S. K.’s simple leaps and trembles flummox her. Why? She wanders Paris at night relieving her misery by random slaughter. One day (p. 501 of 1000) she accidentally murders her mother, at which point, fearing a turn toward Dostoyevsky, I quit reading. What right do the French have to despair?
The Pounding (Panic Novel)
When I think of all the times I’ve left the apartment without my keys, all the times I’ve refused to answer the phone out of fear of what I may hear on the other end, I don’t doubt this novel’s authenticity, no matter how inauthentic its style. In a barren landscape such as the one herein presented, thanks to light and scale, anything can happen. Who is the “I”? The “I” is always, or at least a little, the reader. Which is why the pounding of my upstairs’ neighbor on his keyboard reminds me I should give up this panicked tale and go for a stroll in the Kräherwald, get some air in my lungs other than this nicotine-induced madness that rises from the novel’s pages. You’d think I was the mother whose child had been abducted in the metro, husband slaughtered, and whose own mother refuses to believe she’s in trouble. And then, suddenly, as I turn to the last page, I’m in Paradise. The husband was not really dead after all, in fact the whole kidnapping and subsequent crimes were all his doing. Let it never be said, the novel announces, that misogyny as a plot device or in reality is dead. I’m amazed at the alacrity with which she dispatches her husband to hell with a meat cleaver. What a relief the novel of panic sometimes is!
Tom Whalen’s fiction has appeared recently in Agni, Fiction International, The Hopkins Review, The Literary Review, Marginalia, and New Ohio Review. The Birth of Death and Other Comedies: The Novels of Russell H. Greenan is now available from Dalkey Archive.