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At Vacuum's Edge by Michael Mc Aloran - novella Review by Ross Breslin

As an author and editor I consider myself just about well-read enough as one would have to be in those dual positions and not much more. It’s a source of personal concern, an insecurity I assuage by assuring myself that, while I may not be all that well-read, what I have read, I have read well. It gets me through the day.

Now that that disclaimer is out of the way, I can honestly say that Michael Mc Aloran—the mesmerizing, disturbing and eviscerating style of his signature “disembodied voice” perspective—is unlike any other poet or writer I’ve ever read. And it is both poetry and prose (and perhaps, even, it’s neither). As I said, it’s different. It’s hypnotic, unsettling—somehow viciously-grotesque and lyrical at the same time. If they happen to sing lullabies in Hell, if demons and devils have babies who seek comfort in the retelling of the horrors endured by the humans above, these are the words they might sing.


“... /yet clamour of spinal outstretched in velvet sands flecked with blood (the) ruination of/where one cannot go/ yet butcher’s laughter yes bellows’ laughter an ancient language of desire vibrating in meat-drenched bones an affluence of collectively forgotten/ as pulse white bends in a holocaust of eradicate/ ...”


I said Mc Aloran’s signature style is unlike any author I’ve ever read, though there is one work I know of which perhaps deserves a comparison. Like Finnegans Wake by the great Joyce, At Vacuum’s Edge begins in media res—perhaps even mid-sentence—and could certainly be read in a similarly cyclical way. Like that work too, Mc Aloran does not shy from neologisms and portmanteaus when his narrative demands them (“Silenteeism”, “Collideoscopic”). I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s a primary influence.

I am reminded too of some of Beckett’s more obtuse and unsettling on-stage soliloquys, I could see At Vacuum’s Edge suiting very well as a stage production, the transition would be seamless, expressed from barely lit lips, muttering from some darkened stage. (Although I imagine one might lie awake long into the night after witnessing such a performance). Certainly, I found the novella worked better for me when I read it aloud to myself, enunciating each syllable, feeling the wet crunch of the meter in my own corporeal throat. It’s a song of the damned and perhaps it is so effective because we each have something in us that resonates with that call, responds to the agony, the futility, of existence expressed in these pages.


... /spinal outreach fingers grip obscene amber nothing of conceded lest there ever having other shine black blood leaking from a breast in half light/ abounding/ ...


Perhaps then, that agony is the most salient narrative of the work. There is no story here, no plot-beats or protagonists, no Hero’s Journey. The story is pain and suffering, the story-teller is the voice, or voices, of the subconscious. Of what we push away and bury. No wonder then that it’s so disturbing (disturbing and yet illuminating) to read. That too makes it difficult—much more so, in fact, than the experimental, disjointed prose, which flows and mesmerizes surprisingly well. (This last surely is a testament to Mc Aloran’s lyrical skill. It seems like words of such convoluted horror simply shouldn’t be so easy to read.)

So what the hell is this book about? I don’t know. It feels to me like a sluice of horror falling into nothingness, into the void. Perhaps it’s the death throes of the subconscious, somehow dictated aloud—at vacuum’s edge, so to speak—before sliding into the abyss and vanishing forever. That interpretation makes sense to me, but the notion that I could be completely wrong about that makes as much sense. I suppose only the author knows. As for me, I may not completely understand it, but I know talent—a work of art in the true sense—when I see it and this, at least, is that. Give yourself a treat, a taste of something different, and read it too. I think you’ll find it worth the effort.


Pick up your copy of At Vacuum’s Edge now!


Michael Mc Aloran was Belfast born, (1976). He grew up in Co. Clare. He is the author of a number of collections of poetry, prose poetry, poetic aphorisms and prose, most notably ‘Attributes’, (Desperanto, NY, 2011), ‘The Non Herein’ & ‘Of Dead Silences’ (Lapwing Publications, 2011/ 2013), ‘Of the Nothing Of’, ‘The Zero Eye’, ‘The Bled Sun’, ‘In Damage Seasons’, (Oneiros Books (U.K)--2013/ 14); ‘Code #4 Texts’, a collaboration with the Dutch poet, Aad de Gids, was also published in 2014 by Oneiros.


He was also the editor/ creator of Bone Orchard Poetry, & edited for Oneiros Books (U.K 2013/ 2014). A further collection, ‘Un-Sight/ Un-Sound (delirium X.), was published by gnOme books (U.S), and ‘EchoNone’ & ‘Of Dissipating Traces’ were also released by Oneiros Books...‘breath(en) flux’, a chapbook, was recently released by Hesterglock Press. Black Editions Press recently released ‘in absentia’ & ‘In Arena Night’, ‘bone silences’, plus two ‘Untitled’ projects & ‘At Vacuum’s Edge’...


Ross Breslin is the Chief Editor and co-founder of the Scum Gentry Alternative Arts & Media and the author of the gothic noir novella Black River. He resides in a house in a housing estate on a hill overlooking Galway City, where he wiles the days away.


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