Read This: Darren Speegle

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May 15, 2015 by Laird

Resurrecting a post from 2007 about one of the best weird fiction authors. And when it comes to weirdness, Speegle is only matched by the likes of Brian Evenson and Michael Cisco.

Regarding Darren Speegle:

I think it appropriate to begin with Speegle as he recently announced his collection, A Dirge for the Temporal will be reprinted in hardcover by RAW DOG SCREAMING PRESS.

Someone at a message board asked, if given their taste for the works of Ligotti, Mark Samuels, and Don Tumasonis, and other writers of the weird, would he enjoy Speegle…

My response, lifted from the board:  “If you enjoy Tumasonis, I think you’ll enjoy Speegle. They share a lot of qualities and explore similar themes — strangers in strange lands, the uncertainty and mutability of relationships, geography as a mirror for the mind, an extension of dream state. Both produce work I find grandly elliptical and consummately dark.”

Gary Braunbeck also answered the above poster. He described Speegle’s work as “Hallucinations on paper” among other superlatives. Gary isn’t wrong: My reaction to a concentrated dose of  Gothic Wine and A Dirge for the  Temporal in a brief period was one of profound cognitive dislocation. Speegle’s tales frequently approximate lucid dreams, his protagonists often interchangeable with the author, if not the reader. Seldom has the unreliable narrator been so smoothly accomplished. As is the hallmark of much heavyweight literature, immersion in this guy’s world may affect one’s own dream state.

BOOKS-dirgeforthetemporal

The elliptical nature of Speegle’s prose, its elegance and simplicity is striking as evidenced by this passage from his short story “Lago di Inquita”:

“We did Florence, Venice, and Verona, in that order, during the first three full days of our seven-day vacation. In the presence of Michelangelo’s David one reassessed one’s opinions about the nature of things; all the superlatives, no matter how soulfully or originally uttered, became instant cliché. Lovers’ Venice, with its watery streets and sighing bridges, was a much easier distraction. As was Verona, which ensnared one in Roman history rather than the elusive and delicate Renaissance.
“Somewhere in the middle lay the dark ages, my real reason for being in Europe again.”

Speegle has lived in Europe, spent a significant amount of time exploring the landscapes, the cultures. These influences are unmistakable, indeed, inseparable from the fiction itself. His horrors, the intrinsic darkness of his themes, derive from the angst of the American as outsider, the barriers of language, custom, the very weight of history no process of naturalization is likely to ever fully breach.

This is an author who continues to be criminally overlooked despite his regular appearances in the small press. This may be due to the complexity of his work, its obliqueness and reticence to resolve in neat endings. Speegle works in the seams of fiction; he inhabits the twilight land between psychological horror and the supernautral. He produces fragments and stream of thought vignettes and is content to permit the reader to shoulder the load; the culmination of these fragments assembling into something of a warped mosaic that defies ready categorization. Even when his terrors would seem explicit in the context of genre tropes and expectations, Speegle slyly yanks out the rug, introducing a dozen rational explanations for the irrational machinations of the universe. Time will tell if his audience finds him. I suspect it will.

Do yourself a favor and get thee to Amazon and pick up one or both of Darren Speegle’s exemplary collections.

One thought on “Read This: Darren Speegle

  1. Reblogged this on John Edward Lawson and commented:
    Here are some provocative thoughts from Laird Barron regarding the writing of Darren Speegle, whose collections A Dirge for the Temporal and A Rhapsody for the Eternal we had the pleasure of publishing.

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