Jeff VanderMeer's Shriek: An Afterword: part four of several

i’ve just turned the last page on part one of Jeff VanderMeer’s Shriek: An Afterword, and it seems appropriate here to go over some of the things i’ve said about the book thus far:

first off, i should like to amend what i said earlier about the menace being in Janice’s and Duncan’s words: not true. the menace does not emanate from the words, but from the spaces between the words

i also failed to note earlier that the initial impression of being a ‘difficult book’ fades soon after the first few pages, and reading the book soon feels as natural as talking to yourself, or eavesdropping on a conversation in your head, or waking from a dream to a dialogue between ghosts over your grave...

a kind of frustration remains, however, though it no longer lies in Janice’s stultified narration (her ‘false starts’ now fail to interrupt the flow of her narrative; instead, they have become welcome markers, signposts on the strange journey through this life in Ambergris & its environs, reminding us of where we are in the overall scheme of the book; Duncan’s interruptions, while still occasionally jarring, have also become a welcome commentary: apart from being ‘illuminating,’ they also have the almost calculated tendency to echo our own sentiments, such that when he exclaims ‘get back to the underground adventure!’ or something to that effect, we find ourselves in complete agreement); no, the frustration now stems from the impression of Janice’s (and by postmodernist extension, Jeff VanderMeer’s; or is it the other way around?) seemingly overwrought ‘checklist’ approach to her (his) narrative: have i told you of my time at the Voss Bender Memorial Mental Hospital? no, i don’t believe so, and yes, i met someone there you may remember from City of Saints and Madmen…inconsequential, perhaps, perhaps not, but undeniably necessary to the integrity and interplay of this and that work, not to mention an interesting and fun way to weave them all together…aren’t i simply too clever for my own good?...check.

mind you, while it arouses suspicion, it isn’t out of place: i wouldn’t be at all surprised if Janice really did have a mental checklist of all the things she wanted to put in this ‘afterword.’ (and the fact that i have been referring to Janice and Duncan as being the ‘real’ writers of this ‘afterword’ is either a testament to Mr VanderMeer’s talents, or to the questionable state of my own reality-testing.)

either way, nevermind: the suspicion bears mentioning but is of no consequence. Because, it seems, Mr VanderMeer really is too clever for his own good.


it still manages to surprise me (in a good way) how the books i read seem to send tendrils into the ‘real world’…today, as i turned the final pages of the first part of Shriek: An Afterword, and the first move had been made in what would ‘later be known as the War of the Houses,’ the skies over the coffeeshop to which i’d decided to take the book and my reading this Sunday afternoon turned the sudden, sickish shade of a gray cap, but refused to break.

it was pleasantly surreal, this interplay of realities. i’m glad this universe isn’t above engaging in such paltry games with us mere mortals.


at this point, it must be obvious that this book has thoroughly absorbed me, and it no longer seems important to me that this book deliver its promised revelations; or, perhaps, it already has delivered: the book has invaded my reality; even now, i feel it is an experience i should have regretted foregoing (if it were possible to miss something and still know what one missed), and i cannot now imagine scraping the spores of Ambergris from my flesh before reaching the end…

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