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Black Static

New Horror Fiction BLACK STATIC 82/83 OUT NOW

The Late Review: The Tired Sounds, A Wake

11th Feb, 2023

Author: Peter Tennant

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The Tired Sounds, A Wake by Michael Wehunt was released by Dim Shores in 2016 in a limited edition of 200 copies and is shown on the publisher's website as sold out.

This novella is told in alternating sections, with 'The Tired Sounds' segments giving us the perspective of Lorne Campion while those titled 'A Wake' are related from the viewpoint of wife Gwen. It's a troubled marriage. Gwen abandoned her job at their insurance agency to take up painting at which she is surprisingly good, a life change that prompted a hostile reaction from Lorne, the destruction of her painting 'A Wake', which depicted him lying in a coffin. Ever since Lorne has been desperately trying to make things up to her and save their marriage, to which end he proposes that they renew their marriage vows at Decroux House as a way of marking twenty five years together. But the two are dogged by sinister mimes, a male for Lorne and a female for Gwen, who seem intent on conveying a message they simply can't understand, and waiting for them inside Decroux House is a moment of epiphany.

I suspect there is something going on here that may well have gone over my head. There's all the stuff with mimes and then there's Decroux House and its custodian the enigmatic Étienne, which got my reviewer sense tingling and so I googled Étienne Decroux (and you should too). According to good old wiki, Étienne Decroux (1898 - 1991) was a French actor whose lifelong obsession was with 'corporeal mime', defined as 'an aspect of physical theatre whose objective is to place drama inside the moving human body, rather than to substitute gesture for speech as in pantomime'. It's fascinating stuff, but I'm not quite sure how it ties into The Tired Sounds, A Wake, though the use of the name in a work where mimes feature so prominently suggests intent.

But while greater knowledge of such matters would no doubt deepen appreciation of the novella, it's not necessary to enjoyment of the narrative as a work of weird fiction. Wehunt is superb at portraying a marriage on its last legs, the emotions of the two people involved, how they feel not only that they have betrayed each other, but in part how they have betrayed themselves. Each has sacrificed so much, has so much unrealised artistic potential, and perhaps Lorne's resentment of Gwen's painting is down to the fact that she is pursuing a path he didn't take. There is the suggestion in the art Gwen creates of hostility towards Lorne, something seen most explicitly in 'A Wake'.

While this dimension grounds the book, gives us people and a situation we can believe in, perhaps even identify with, as the narrative veers into ever stranger territory, what makes the book stand out from similar work is the use of mimes. As Wehunt writes them, the mimes are intrusive and supremely sinister figures, peeping out of the scenery, peering over toilet doors, crawling out from under the bed. And yet there is also an element of helplessness to them - the fact that they cannot speak mimics the lack of communication between Lorne and Gwen, while the invisible barriers they try to bypass could serve as a metaphor for the difficulties in the Campions' marriage.

Despite all the suggestiveness and creepy atmosphere, the narrative didn't quite come together for me, with an ending that felt too abstract for its own good. Nonetheless, as a depiction of both a failing marriage and the artistic impulse, Gwen's unbridled creativity juxtaposed with the similar yearnings Lorne has stifled, it was an intriguing and highly enjoyable journey.




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