The Conduit and Other Visionary Tales of Morphing Whimsy
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The Conduit and Other Visionary Tales of Morphing Whimsy

by Richard Gessner
Release date: September 1, 2017
Type: speculative fiction
Genres: fantasy, magical realism, short stories
Tags: surrealism

"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

(updated 2017-11-04)

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