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Kadath Press Presents Neurotica – Second Edition

The second paperback edition of Neurotica is now available on Amazon!

If you like my blog, please support me and buy a copy – or help spread the word!

The Surreal Adventures of Anthony Zen is also available for your reading pleasure!

 

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Praise for Neurotica:

“With a healthy sense of the absurd, Straughan’s stories reflect our modern predicament and without question represent some of the best writing I’ve come across in years. Reading the tales included in ‘Neurotica Volume II’ made me remember the wonders to be found in Gogol’s ‘The Nose’, and Dostoevski’s ‘Dream of a Ridiculous Man’. Straughan’s stories are unique to our common every-day experience, and deserve a larger audience. If you’re looking for something different to read this summer, I suggest you give it a try.”
— C.F. Kennedy BIBLIOFANTASIAC/NECESSARY PRESS

Reviewed in the United States on October 31, 2014

 

“Since the beginning of time, the thankless job of hammering the inexplicable into something familiar and approachable fell into the hands of the story teller. He created myth and legend – stories to make the bizarre commonplace, spicing them with metaphor that paralleled man’s own real hardships and foibles, and often hinting at answers to the greater spiritual questions we all eventually ask or are confronted with.

In Neurotica – Volume 2 Cameron A. Straughan continues that tradition. He seamlessly juxtaposes the real with the fantastic, portraying a world where an angel might well stiff you for the bill in a coffee shop or where time is measured in feet and inches and beleaguered watch salesmen are running overheight having to deal with radios nipping at their heels and old women insisting on foot massages before they’ll agree to a sale. You’ll find a how-to tip for keeping cats out of garbage cans (which would probably work!) nestled alongside an Orwellian tale of a man with a machine permanently attached to his head and drilling into his skull!

The vehicle throughout this lunacy is an “everyman” character, who may be momentarily confused by the goings-on around him, but who still manages to take it all in stride.

As I read through this collection, I thought it screamed for short film adaptation. Each story has a Twilight Zone quality to it, often ending with a punch line that hit me like a cream pie in the face. More than once I found myself smiling contentedly as he managed to tie all the craziness together neatly.

Straughan is a writer committed to disseminating his unique vision and it’s clear that, with each new anthology he produces, his work gets stronger and more engaging, and I enjoy watching that growth. Kadath Press offers you a rare glimpse into the mind of one of Canada’s most interesting surrealist literary talents. Don’t miss out on the opportunity!”
— S.R. Duncan RAIN CITY REVIEW

 

To attempt a definition of surrealistic or expressionistic fiction is to waste one’s time. Liberating mind and emotion from those constructs of time, supposed logic, and linear plot that traditional literature and the murky world of academia have long used to control the artistic impulse, surrealism as genre or written form exists as a healthy defiance against order (or at least an alternative way of perceiving it).

Even the terms genre and form barely do justice to the impulses and masterful sense of non-logic that the best surrealism manages to evoke. It’s rather ironic that a majority of fantasy and speculative fictions – artistic forms that offer alternatives to the often banal realistic and post-modern fictions shoved down our throats like bitter cough syrup in school rooms and libraries across the nation, often serve to reinforce the narrowly constructed boundaries of thought and logic that frame much of Western culture. The monster dies at the hands of science, religion, or, worse yet, the purity or sexual wantonness of the scantily clad female. Spirits are captured in dully colored vases, demons expelled for bad behavior, and the fantastical or bizarre element that caught our attention in the first place dissolves like memory.

All is well by the last page. Society and mankind, symbolic of progress and the triumph of reason, is championed. But what if chaos and reason, reality and dream, should be found so interwoven that there was no separation line – no method of sizing one extreme up against the other? What then? What, dear reader, do we do in worlds devoid of either reason or sense? Existence without direction, the only road map our own deceitful mind?

Neurotica (2), a symphonic blitzkrieg of fictions that defy categorization, leads the reader into such terms of existence and mind, pushing you into a room where the ceiling teeters and the floor caves in. So deft is the author’s hand, that you barely even realize you’re falling. Revealing the “experience” beneath external conceptions of waking life, the tales in this deceptively simple collection are carefully sculpted attacks against reader’s expectations.

Straughan’s worlds and characters are neither substance or illusion, fact or fiction. Existing (or not) along spiraling back- drops of pain and un-reason, men dream, think, react and doubt in a universe that joyously defies any reason outside the conflicting thoughts and perceptions of their own being. Whereas most subversive fictions of horror or fantasy either casually layer their odd or macabre events alongside realistic settings, or start readers off smack dab in the middle of a secondary world, the surrealist artist often uses as part of his arsenal the technique of finding (and showing to the reader) inconsistencies already an integral part of their worlds and characters. In such works as “The Flame,” “The Life Of A Thinker,” and “No Strings Attached,” conventional perceptions of intelligence, relationships, and community are challenged by settings and sophistication of theme quite impressive by any standards. “These are our worlds,” the author whispers beneath the words, and the reader begins to discern both a humorous and horrible relationship between the fictions and his own life. Most poignant was “The Life Of A Thinker,” exploring the communal ignorance that passes for wisdom in the in-human condition. Straughan’s depiction of ‘the thinker’ is at once both absurdly funny and terribly depressing. How can it not be, when within his own bleeding-heart struggle against emotional lethargy we see reflected our own time?

Straughan’s style is so assured and stealthy that, at times, you don’t even question the absurdity of events in his stories. And this is surrealism at it’s best – the impossible made probable and convincing. Although occasionally laced with darkness, a majority of the tales in this impressive collection expose a sympathy and humor for characters. Because the author cares for his suffering, loving, confused people, we care also. These are people and creatures we want to survive and prosper even when we’re hoping that they won’t – this would rob us of the pleasure of following them through conflicts and absurdities that we use as road maps through the secret geographies of our own condition.

Whereas many collections fail by offering tales that simply read like extensions of one another, ignoring variety of approach and theme, Neurotica manages to merge the lightly whimsical with more grim visions of human angst. In “A Call To Duty,” a short story of understated hilarity and poignant social criticism, a man is roused from slumber by the prime minister to walk the early morning streets for donations. Like the best straight men of Vaudeville comedy, this tale remains so very effective because the inherent absurdity of events is consistently displayed with a calm authorial voice and straight face. We’re left to make up our own mind as to wether we should laugh or yell angrily at the characters.

Not afraid to poke sly, good-natured fun at characteristics of life that are simultaneously tragic, “During The Lunch Hour” combined the bizarre humor of “A Call To Duty” with a darker undertone of repetition and irony. Once again, we’re treated to a depiction of the surreal intruding on everyday life as a man is visited in his lunch hour by an angel prepared to sum up the course and sum of his life by a straight line. In this fiction, as in others that comprise the collection, seemingly insignificant symbols take on a character of themselves and give intricate sub-text to the story. I could expound more on this delightful entry, but I refuse to rob any of you of the joy of experiencing it yourselves.

Perhaps one of the better (and darkest) entries in this collection of honestly told, painfully suggestive stories is “The Package.” Bleeding with a tragic sense of inevitability reminiscent of Kafka or Becket, a man wakes to be told he’s dead by his interfering neighbors and local firemen. The package – an inanimate object worthy of Strindbergian expressionistic drama- is treated by the characters as a priceless essence of identity and life . . . and something more. Something, I suspect, that each reader may construe differently, depending on his own values and outlook of existence. The images of the delivery man chasing the hero through crowded streets with his ‘package’ leave a macabre impression long after the story is finished.

Madness, irony, and dark surrealism presented more convincingly than logic, Neurotica (2) makes the reader question experience at the very same time that it inspires laughter, dread, and a good, healthy injection of revelation in a world grown numb with recycled wisdom. Never preaching, Straughan’s work is all about the joy of story. And isn’t that what we really want?

— William P. Simmons PROJECT PULP

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