An Unforgiving Oblivion:  David Peak’s CORPSEPAINT (Word Horde, 2018)

There’s a dark identification in Corpsepaint (Worde Horde, 2018) on which Peak knowingly seizes, capitalizing on what exists in the often unmentioned dungeon of our conscience.  I’m a fan of Peak’s aesthetic, and the novel offers a bit of his range and impressive palette:  moments stripped bare while others hum with literary electricity.  An unforgiving piece of fiction that needs to be trusted in its execution and appreciated in its endurable scope.

Peak pleasingly name-drops the usual, classic- and Black-Metal suspects:  Bathory, Maniac, Judas Priest, Darkthrone, and throughout there are obvious nods to the infamous Mayhem (Peak even delivers a sly ball-breaker in the form of a “tech-death metal band in Indiana,” which, owing to my Midwest stomping grounds, elicited a grin).  In fact, Bathory’s indelible, 1988 album, Blood Fire Death, might serve as a succinct review for Peak’s novel by its title alone.

The novel, while bleak, was a swift read for me, owing mainly to Peak’s unforgiving urgency to extricate readers from comfy convention in exchange for the frigid, bloodlessness of primeval rumination and ancient instinct.  Corpsepaint ultimately operates like a ruthless gaze, one which, while cold, urges us, at first, to acknowledge the darkness, before turning our gaze in on ourselves.

Who Has the Key to Room #118?

Genuine friends and partners nudge and shove each other to be, in general, better — better people, sure; but what I am really aiming to say is that a byproduct of the mere adherence, and dependence, of friends expands what intrinsically exists as we’re compelled toward potentials of our chosen disciplines.

Creatively speaking, it’s a benefit when those friends are writers who consistently challenge me to perform at a progressive pace.  To grow.  (It’s lost on me, and I’m grateful for, just how many talented, literary allies exist in my epistolary network.)

Over the past several years, I’ve come to know Adam Golaski as not only a friend, but primarily as a writer with whom I can calibrate my own growth as a writer. As a teacher and lecturer, Golaski is insightful and encouraging; he’s also critical, but, like most competent educators, he also knows what the hell he’s talking about.

On his blog, Golaski recently made mention of the forthcoming Looming Low, Vol. II (Dim Shores), and noted my short-story contribution, “Lovenest.”  (The line-up for this anthology is so astonishing that I’m afraid someone’s going to ask, “Who invited this dude to the party?“) Colleagues and readers are so much better at portraying what occurs in my stories than I am (note:  I’m not a clueless creature, but often my audience repeatedly lands bullseyes about the content of my tales better than I ever could), and, to our benefit, Golaski maintains jewelers-loupe scrutiny.

Hotels and motels figure into my fiction (and into my formative years, for that matter, not to mention the more turbulent segments of adulthood) owing to their transient nature:  a temporary “home” — complete with the neon seduction of VACANCY — a palliative to the exercise of travel (or, to look at it another way, the lure of Midwest “mobility” as an antidote to potential stagnation).  I can think of a few of my stories where hotels are critical settings (“Fiending Aphophenia,” “The Undertow, and They That Dwell Within,” and an early one called “Mums”), but my derelict locale in “Lovenest” occupies a significant portion of the action and thematic rumination.

I open the story with an excerpt from one of my most personally-influential poets, Charles Simic — this from his poem, “Paradise Motel” (A Wedding In Hell, 1994):

On the pay channel, a man and a woman 

Were trading hungry kisses and tearing off

Each other’s clothes while I looked on

With the sound off and the room dark

Except for the screen where the color

Had too much red in it, too much pink.

Speaking of poetry:  I know there’s a significant contingent of Golaski-fiction fans in my network, and though I can’t speak for him, I can (I think?) mention that there are projects slowly ascending to the surface of our literary community. Golaski wrote the introduction to my 2020 collection, The Skeleton Melodies (Hippocampus Press), and so I am indebted to the man for that gesture alone. But I encourage his audience to remain current with what’s he’s doing. What I mean: you’d do well to keep an ear to the rail.  A trusty method is to check in on his blog from time to time.  Check it out here.