Richard Gessner's The Conduit and Other Visionary Tales of Morphing Whimsy was published by Rain Mountain Press in September 2017.
Information about Richard Gessner:
Richard Gessner's fiction has been published in Air Fish: an anthology of speculative work, Rampike, Ice River, Coe Review, Another Chicago Magazine, Happy, The Act, Sein und Werden, Skidrow Penthouse, The Pannus Index, Fiction International and many other magazines. A collection, Excerpts from the Diary of a Neanderthal Dilettante & The Man in the Couch was published by Bomb Shelter Props. Gessner's drawings and paintings have appeared in Raw Vision, Courier News, Asbury Park Press, Rampike, Skidrow Penthouse, and exhibited at Pleiades Gallery, Hamilton Street Gallery, Cry Baby Gallery, The Court Gallery and the Donald B. Palmer Museum. He lives in Montclair, New Jersey.
Information about The Conduit and Other Visionary Tales of Morphing Whimsy:
"What Gessner does best, perhaps, is create microcosms - self-contained worlds in which he has made up the rules and established the action. I'm reminded of a drop of water, which, under van Leeuwenhoek's microscope, turned out to be teeming with alien creatures possessed of varied modes of swimming. I am reminded of Blake: Gessner dramatizes the Romantic poet's belief that there is a world in a grain of sand. The Conduit, one of the more visionary pieces, demonstrates Gessner's ability to expand space and uncover its inhabitants in a seemingly infinite regression. It begins as the tale of a man who has been stabbed in the heart crawls into a sewer pipe to die, but the pipe is an existential anomaly - 'Huge, wide, longer than all-seeing memory' - and harbors not only the wounded man, but also a good chunk of the universe.
"The surreal aspects of Gessner's stories recall the work of French author Raymond Roussel (1877-1933). In Roussel's novel Locus Solus, for example, we encounter a scientist who has invented a balloon-powered, road- building machine, which, using human teeth of varying hues of brown, is assembling a mosaic of a Native American warrior. While this is the sort of oddity a reader shouldn't be surprised to turn up in a Gessner fiction, the language Roussel uses is Victorian in its formality and almost scrupulously objective - at least in translation - as might befit a scientist. Roussel's novel is carried not so much by his style as by an array of ingenious curiosities. Gessner strikes a more equal balance between the poetry of the prose and the parade of strangeness, between whimsical wordplay and the progression of the tale itself.
"He is also relentlessly funny. Virtually every paragraph in Excerpts from the Diary of a Neanderthal Dilettante - the title is self-explanatory - presents the reader with material worthy of a stand- up routine." - Vincent Czyz
A REVIEW OF RICHARD GESSNER'S THE CONDUIT AND OTHER VISIONARY TALES OF MORPHING WHIMSY
Richard Gessner's The Conduit and Other Visionary Tales of Morphing Whimsy is an enticing and impressive feast of literary surrealism and playful prose. It's a no-holds-barred thrill-ride into the wondrous world of unexpected and whimsical happenings that are anything but ordinary.
The Conduit and Other Visionary Tales of Morphing Whimsy is one of the few collections which perfectly encapsulate what literary surrealism is all about, because it has unexpectedness, whimsiness and - above all else - beautiful and lyrical prose. The unexpected and whimsy elements are gorgeously displayed in the stories.
I love the author's prose, becase it has a lyrical feel to it. He effortlessly delivers delicious sights and wondrous vistas to his readers. His literary playfulness and his unique writing style is reminiscent of Brendan Connell. I was impressed by the prose, because I enjoy reading literary prose that is filled with details and evokes a sense of strangeness.
This collection may not be to everyone's liking due to its strange and surreal contents, but that's one of the most important reasons why it should be read. I strongly believe that we need more collections like this one, because they invigorate literary surrealism and bring freshness to it.
This collection contains the following stories:
Excerpts from the Diary of a Neanderthal Dilettante
The Ink Device
Arbitration, At Goo...
The Unpatented Universe
The Parallel Between the Cake and the Tail
The Olfactory Inversion
The Widow's Peak Ghost
The Funeral Service
The Man in the Couch
Lady in Transit
The Battery Song
What suprised me most about these stories is that they have plenty of depth and layers. Surreal fiction is seldom as multilayered as it is in this collection. I found myself being amazed by the subtle complexity of the stories, because they give quite a lot of food for thoughts.
One of the most intriguing things about this collection is that the author has created self-contained microcosms with rules of their own. These microcosms are filled with delicious and imaginative details that will astonish readers and they are distinctly different from what other authors have created.
"The Unicyclist" and "Arbitration, At Goo" offer readers surprisingly original and memorable visions of surreal strangeness. In "The Unicyclist", clusters of duck-billed platypus eggs are multiplying in the scrotum of a unicycling nomad as he pedals onward and protects the precious bluish eggs. In "Arbitration, At Goo" two continents are linked by a pipeline through which babyfood flows and links the respecting populations by their diet, and the inhabitants of both continents have regressed to a permanent condition of teething.
Surreal strangeness does merely appear in the above mentioned stories, but can also be found in other stories. "The Conduit" tells of a man who has been stabbed in the heart at the edge of a pipe. The man crawls inside the pipe to live with the wound. What follows next is a veritable banquet of surreal imagery ranging from the ancestors of the victim and assailant to enemy remoras. "The Widow's Peak Ghost" is an excellent piece of flash fiction, because it tells of a man who travels the route of his hairline and finds the ghost of his widow's peak buried in a pore of scalp oil dust.
"The Funeral Service" offers readers a quirky vision of medical school where an anatomy teacher is half tiger and half rubber ostrich and lives inside a cadaver on a dissecting table. I like this story very much, because it is simultaneously amusing and macabre. What becomes of the medical student when he becomes a graveyard for the dead is simply amazing.
"Excerpts from the Diary of a Neanderthal Dilettante" is a brilliant story that consists of short diary entries. It's a wholly original look at such things as art, literature, students and teachers, because the author approaches them from a new direction and examines everything in his own unique and amusing way. I have to mention that this story left me wanting more, because it is not often that readers are given an opportunity to read this kind of stories.
I enjoyed reading about the protagonist, his past and his condition in "The Hermit", because the author writes intriguingly about him and created a multilayered vision of his life and deeds. The German sentences have stuck to my mind, because German is not often seen in literary speculative fiction (I studied German for a few years at school). It adds a level of fascination and excitement to this well-constructed story.
In my opinion, "The Parallel Between The Cake and The Tail" is a fascinatingly weird and thought-provoking tale about a groom and a surreal wedding feast. It was truly intriguing to read about how the groom felt about cutting the cake, because the story takes a leap into the fantastical realm of the surreal. This story is a perfect example of subtly complex literary fiction, because it has several elements that are playfully yet strangely logically bound together.
The tranformation described in "The Fool" intrigued me with its strangeness, because I have a soft spot for fiction in which characters experience transformations that defy the laws of nature. The way the author explores the fool's fate and how his appearance changes has an uncanny feel of freshness to it.
The combination of surreal, thought-provoking, metaphysical and philosophical elements works perfectly in these stories, because they have several layers that are gradually revealed to the reader. The layered (and complex) structure makes them unique. The author fluently explores the human condition, self-awareness, metamorphoses and identity by means of literary surrealism.
The author's way of writing about strange changes and metamorphoses feels vivid and has a strong sense of wonder and curiosity to it. He fluently describes what happens to his characters and how they envision their environments and situations. In some of the stories, his characters have springs stuck through their bodies, a dead man is worried that worms won't like his enbalming fluid and a man uses albino mice to cure his baldness etc. It was enjoyable to read about each of the characters and their fates and predicaments, because their situations are mind-bogglingly peculiar and thought-provoking.
Richard Gessner's quirky and twisted humour strongly appeals to me. I find his sense of humour highly enjoyable and wonderfully strange. It's great that he has spiced up his stories with quirky humour and has dared to experiment with unconventional elements, because it marks him as a unique talent in the field of literary surrealism. In my opinion, Richard Gessner is an author to watch, because I have a feeling that this collection is merely a taste of what is to come.
The Conduit and Other Visionary Tales of Morphing Whimsy will please the appetites of those who are willing to read something different and allow themselves an opportunity to be seduced by beautiful prose and imaginative stories that push and stretch the boundaries of surrealism in a whimsical way. It's one of the most original collections of the year and should not be missed by readers who love literary fiction and speculative ficton.
This collection has a few elements that strongly remind me of stories written by Brendan Connell and Rhys Hughes. It also contains elements that are reminiscent of Franz Kafka and Raymond Roussel (especially Roussel's Locus Solus comes to mind when reading this collection).
Richard Gessner's The Conduit and Other Visionary Tales of Morphing Whimsy is one of the most pleasant and most unique reading experiences of the year. I sincerely hope that the author will continue to write more stories, because he has his own voice and he dares to write his own kind of stories. I highly recommend this collection to everyone who loves surrealism and beautiful prose.