Des Lewis commiserated with me when I was feeling poorly (and yes, I did notice that none of the rest of you did).
His ‘reward’ is for me to reprise a really, really old review that appeared in The Third Alternative #39 back in 2004 or thereabouts.
I don’t think the book is available from the publisher any more, but you can snag a copy on Amazon for a £100 upwards.
Here’s the review exactly as it appeared back in the noughties:-
WEIRDMONGER: D. F. LEWIS
Prime pb, 383pp, $19.95
This is billed as ‘A Retrospective Showcase of Work by D. F. Lewis’, and while 67 stories might seem a tad extravagant to some it is actually rather restrained when set against the total body of the author’s published work of over 1500 stories. Just reading the list of credits at the end of the book is like stepping into a museum of the Small Press, a treasure house of magazines and anthologies now all gone to some far better place and living on only as names from yesteryear in the appendices of collections like this. Yep, reading Weirdmonger is gonna make you feel nostalgic as hell.
For me the defining characteristic of Lewis’ work has always been that he is a writer who is in love with words, intoxicated with the possibilities of language, and while that claim could be made of almost any worker on the pit face of modern fiction the stories in Weirdmonger hint at a concern beyond the simple matter of moving the narrative along. Here is a character in one of Lewis’ stories talking about his father, ‘From him I inherited the everpresent search for the exact words to describe things. Language for him was the placing of idiosyncratic and little used words upon a potter’s wheel and moulding them beyond their meanings.’ Reading this in the greater context of Lewis’ oeuvre, the almost obsessive productivity that typified his heyday, it is easy to believe that the author is also referencing himself, the quest that incessantly drives him on. At the sentence level I can think of few writers whose command of their craft is greater, with each word carefully chosen to fit in with the whole, a remarkable feat considering the sheer volume of his work, and each image a dazzling gem to beguile and enchant, disturb or alarm. It is perhaps best to approach Weirdmonger as you would a volume of poetry, delighting in the descriptions, the quality of thought and emotion that is conveyed.
The main problem I have with his work, and certainly it’s not endemic, is to do with the plotting. Yes, it is possible to follow most of his stories in a linear progression, a chain of cause and effect, and yet there is often a contrived feel to it, a sense that things do not happen like this in life and what we are seeing is the random in action, so that you could maybe, in one of the longer stories, turn past a page and not even notice what you’ve missed. Of course the random nature of events could be seen simply as art imitating life and yet I feel a certain rationality is at work here, the logic of the dream and nightmare. The defining quality of those internal psychodramas is their brevity, with the suspension of disbelief destroyed at any greater length. Similarly, with Weirdmonger, for me it was the shorter stories that worked best. To take just one example, ‘The Christmas Angel’ is a mere two pages long, but within that distance it sets the scene perfectly, with a lushness and eye for detail that completely enthrals the reader, only to then deliver an ending that is as shocking as it is appropriate. It is at this length that Lewis is a master and Weirdmonger contains many such small gems, bringing to mind nothing so much as the arch weirdness of Eraserhead sliced up and fricasseed by Lord Dunsany. Lewis may well be an acquired taste, but one well worth cultivating and for those who wish to do so this is an ideal introduction to his oeuvre, though I do recommend a cautious approach, dipping into the book and sampling its delights piecemeal, rather than attempting to swallow it all down at once.