From the first few pages of “The Aneurytic by Andrew Wilmot,” I knew that I’d opened a book that was a step above. The prose is bold and out on that cutting edge you hear about, but seldom experience. A new savior, tearing down art to save the world. It wasn’t the plot that caught my attention, it was the intensity, and the quality of the prose. It might have been a fluke, and I’ll admit, I was ready for that to be the case. Very seldom do anthologies even manage to hold a theme in more than tentative fingers, let alone maintain a level of style and creativity that makes the entire book feel like a creation, rather than a collection of creations.
There is an elegance to this anthology that speaks to a vision, something more than a showcase for individual talents. There are standouts. There are a few that fall slightly short of the pinnacle set by the whole, but even in those you feel a striving, a sense that the author is reaching beyond the bonds of comfort for something – something that will hurt and touch and scar, so that even while forming slightly weaker links, that inner tension bridges story to story.
I’ll mention a few stories that (in particular) worked on all levels for me. Hailey Piper’s The Deep end of You, “ “I’m the Last Person I’d Want to be,” by Ira Rat, “In Thrall to Your Cathode Star,” by Matt Neil Hill (My favorite of the entire collection ), and “All the Rapes in the Museum,” by Joe Koch. These are stories I will remember, and think about, and remember lines and scenes from, for years to come.
What I am trying to say is that this is a very literary, very exotic book. None of these authors failed to push their limits, to try and create something beyond monsters and serial killers and the standard fare of horror. Their visions of what it might be like to be the model, the inspiration, the catalyst of stories, or art, or film, are remarkable. You will not find a lot of collections like this because reading this book requires almost as much commitment as went into the writing. You have to love words, and images. You have to love style and deeper thought. You have to be willing to be enticed and disgusted in the same sentence.
This is the best anthology that I read in 2022 without even a close second.
“Bones remain, they are like tiny birds…”