Please note, this is a little spoilery. The book is full of tonal reveals I discuss, even if I have avoided some of the plot points you will encounter.
Falling into madness is difficult to express for protagonists. On the one hand you’re telling the story, so you have to be able to convey it to the reader — but when you’re not so sure about reality anymore it’s sometimes easier to fall back on some politeness and the shape of normal things rather than bare it all. In this case, reliability goes out the window Lepidoptera scale encrusted window.
In Mothlight by Adam Scovell, published by Influx, our hero, Thomas, becomes increasingly obsessed with a moth expert, Miss Ewans, who he knows from the family relationships of his childhood. Through a rift created over the death of her sister, and her apparent lack of compassion, the family relationships fall away. Yet, Thomas is drawn to moths, and Miss Ewans’ walks in Wales — so when they meet again, he realises that he has somewhat followed her life as a shadow.
It has a certain House of Leaves element to it, the narrator getting closer to the truth through unearthed documents. The novel contains several photographs, which when they are first introduced are as banal and dull as the character’s early interactions. It’s a similar curve of dread as we have with the sanity of our protagonist however, their banality is a cover for a lurking truth that — if only we knew how to look and dissect better, we would be able to uncover effortlessly.
The madness descends with the sound of mothwings, and even before some unfortunate events, our hero is plagued by visions and experiences that place him outside of his own timeline, and into hers. He feels he loses his identity in these moments, that he is being consumed by her and her memories, having somehow to relinquish his own. He is haunted by Miss Ewans throughout the story, although — this is unfair and conventional — it’s more like he is moving into her spaces, he is haunting her memories. Thomas is the ghost of the story, denying that he is.
Thomas is unreliable as our narrator, spending time at first discussing the future descent into madness and then, obscuring parts of that descent from the reader as to when it happens. Suggesting they didn’t notice their dishevelment, or hiding behind dry, polite language to say their studies and work worsened. The reality is that this acceptance of the slide into the pit of madness and the obscuring of their breakdowns at work are there to stop us abandoning the story. This is the central theme of denial and repression in the story — he has to lie to us to lie to himself.
Thomas’s search is one to free himself of what by the end of his story he describes as Miss Ewan’s illness. He distances himself from the problem, moving the burden on to her, as he moved himself into her life so he could care for her and extract some personal value from her — as is she was contain to contain some truth for him.
Pick up Mothlight from Influx here.
Blake butler has a new story in Wigleaf titled:
False testimony of primary cell manufacturer’s marketing mouthpiece under duress of witness to his last employer under the old lights of the golden soundstage no one can remember; or, 4820298.9839208394028394.0939889384893493.938493849a.2
It’s what we usually get from Butler, which is great — disembodied violence, a kind of vicious and viscous travelling through a body. It’s a difficult read, not for the faint of heart, but it does do that thing I enjoy with Butler of generating a horror mythology through connected bodily trinkets thrown at your feet.
(I read this a few weeks ago and thought it was superb, but had no newsletter-worthy thoughts to crack open on to the scorching sidewalk that is the blank pages of this newsletter. It’s very worth reading though, so please do!)
Song of the week is this extremely chill thing from KOKOROKO:
Etch To Their Own was lovingly hammered into these chiclets by @CJEggett — a man whom “sometimes guesses the right order to put the words in” applies. I helped edit this book, which seemed to have been well received. And they say Australia is dangerous. I am looking forward to a Monday off, some important exploration of cocktail menus tomorrow and maybe too much snow beyond both. Please tell your friends to sign up here for variable quality, but reliably delivered literary nonsense. If you spot a typo, let me know, quietly.