Saturday, August 10, 2013

Buddha Nostril Bird, by John Kessel

I have returned to The Secret History of Science Fiction for some more stories--today's is Buddha Nostril Bird.  And the link is to a full version of the story, which was by complete coincidence recently published in the Weird Fiction Review. 
It definitely qualifies as weird fiction, in that it's strongly surrealist.  But not so far as mere Dadaism.  It's on the edge of coherent, one can definitely follow a story.  Kessel tells a story of a contest between Objectivism and Relativism (as he uses the terms, though the usage is close to the vernacular and not much like what philosophers mean).  Our protagonist is in prison, resisting the calls of the jailers to use the Well and become protean like they are.  He escapes and reconnects with his old faction in the city.  But he doesn't understand it anymore, though he thinks he does.
Challenging fiction like this takes an accomplished author to have a hope of pulling it off, and Kessel definitely is.  Reading something like this is mental yoga--makes you feel good to achieve the posture (or be able to follow the story).  And feels good afterward too.  Worth the stretch for 3 stars.

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