THE CRONING | LAIRD BARRON
Another one from the October reading list. This time it is The Croning by Laird Barron, which was originally published in 2012 by Night Shade Books.
This is my first time reading Laird Barron and went straight into his first novel. Already an established short story writer, Barron does cosmic horror/weird fiction, and if you like that kind of stuff , this may be of interest to you.
Strange things exist on the periphery of our
existence, haunting us from the darkness looming beyond our firelight.
Black magic, weird cults, and worse things loom in the shadows. The
Children of Old Leech have been with us from time immemorial. And they
Donald Miller, geologist and academic, has walked along the edge of a chasm for most of his nearly 80 years, leading a charmed life between endearing absent-mindedness and sanity-shattering realization. Now, all things must converge. Donald will discover the dark secrets along the edges, unearthing savage truths about his wife Michelle, their adult twins, and all he knows and trusts. For Donald is about to stumble on the secret... of The Croning.
From Laird Barron, Shirley Jackson Award-winning author of The Imago Sequence and Occultation, comes The Croning, a debut novel of cosmic horror.
So, where do we start with Laird Barron’s The Croning.
I suppose that the obvious place to start is the beginning.
Laird Barron is one of those authors that is talked about in the circles of cosmic horror fans as being the epitome of the genre.
Now, if you are going to read this, let me tell you to expect some serious mind fuckery! The story goes all over the place, from now to past and back again, skipping decades like the turning of pages. You are never quite sure what is going on, and when you do, you are never quite sure what is going on. Yep folks, you will probably come out of this book with more questions than when you went in! And if you are ok with your brain been addled, then diddled and then addled again, then you will most certainly get along with this book.
The story start off with a retelling of the Rumplestilskin fairy tale, except this is one fucked up retelling that invovles a page who may have feelings for his sister, who then gets sent out to find the true name of the dwarf who spun hay into gold, but finds himself involved in ritual sacrifice and old gods that like the taste of tiny ittle babies (there is nothing explicit in this tale, but it is there!).
After this retelling of Rumplestilskin, we then go into the story proper, with us centring on the main character of Donald Miller, a geologist who is married to his adventress wife, Michelle, who he really lives in the shadow of.
Throughout the book, a number of odd events happen, but we find that there are holes in Don Miller’s memory, incidents and experiences that he has no recollection of.
At first we get a seemingly innocuous tale of a man and his wife, merrily moving along in their dotage, making a life for themselves now that their children have gone. In some ways the story is quite sweet as we learn of Don’s devotion to his wife Michell, and how he has never really mind living under her shadow. In fact, he quite likes the anonymity and is able to do his own pursuits without the interruptions.
At first, the plot seems to be all over the place, and as this was my first introduction to Laird Barron, I was kind of thinking where’s the cosmic horror stuff then? This seems to be something about an old man and his Mrs. However, when I had finished I realised just how bloody clever Laird Barron is. I realised that the nonchalant little side incidents are the things that have an impact, and as they begin to mount up about 2/3rds of the way in the story you think, eh? Where’d that come from then?
I loved this book immensely. Laird Barron writes absolutely sublime prose that has you wondering if you have opened the wrong door and you are in fact stepping into a world of Hemingway and Borroughs, with a bit of Hunter S. Thompson thrown in. He has that similar gravelly and laconic voice that you expect with these writers. However, when the other stuff sidles its way into the story, the immensity of the plot is breathtaking.
This book was a delight and I enjoyed it so much.