Illusory Flowers in an Empty Sky

Barry Graham, Scottish Author

by Barry Graham

Of Darkness and Light by me. It’s been making people sleep with the light on since 1989.

The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner by James Hogg. In my opinion, the greatest Scottish novel ever. I wrote about it, and others, in this essay.

Carnacki the Ghost-Finder by William Hope Hodgson. A classic, far ahead of its time. Here’s an essay I wrote about it.

The Devil Rides Out by Dennis Wheatley. Another classic, but not at all ahead of its time. The racism, classism and general Little Englandism of this book sometimes reads like parody, but it’s still a great page-turner, still scary, and it arguably invented the occult novel as we know it.

Julia by Peter Straub is haunting in every way, and still this author’s best work.

Full of Days by Bart Lessard is elegant and horrifying, my favorite work of one of my favorite contemporary authors.

The Least of My Scars by Stephen Graham Jones is my pick for the creepiest of his brilliant, creepy books. Read his werewolf book Mongrels too. Better still, read all his books.

The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins. Read this, okay? You’ll thank me. Then read The Moonstone.

Fragments of Horror by Junji Ito. You can't go wrong with Ito. I love his graphic novels Uzumaki and Gyo, but this collection of short tales is my favourite. ​ The Empty House and Other Ghost Stories by Algernon Blackwood. What I said about Wilkie Collins applies equally to Blackwood.

#horrornovels #books #barrygrahamauthor


by Barry Graham

Girls Against God by Jenny Hval

The Care Manifesto by The Care Collective

Breasts and Eggs by Kawakami Mieko

The Missing by Sarah Langan

Gulp by Mary Roach

And rereading:

A Lover's Discourse and Image Music Text by Roland Barthes

Ghosts of My Life by Mark Fisher

The End of the Affair by Graham Greene

#books #barrygrahamauthor


by Barry Graham

Authors are, with few exceptions, worthless scum. But, knowing that, even I was flaggergasted recently when I picked up a collection of stories by Chekhov, with an introduction by Richard Ford, and found the book had a biography of Ford... but not of Chekhov.

One of the few exceptions to the rule of authorial narcissism is the Icelandic novelist and poet Sjon, who, as editor of the Nordic writing anthology Dark Blue Winter Overcoat, didn't include any of his own work.

#chekhov #richardford #narcissism #authors #writers #sjon #books #fiction #barrygrahamauthor


Today is publication day for the French translation of my book on Zen practice, Kill Your Self, published by Pocket as La Vie Apres L'Ego. A deep bow of thanks to Mikael Demets, Charlotte Lefevre, Elise Boulay and Ghizlaine Guevel.

#zen #buddhism #meditation #mindfulness #barrygrahamauthor #dogobarrygraham #lavieapreslego


by Barry Graham

What some warmly call “community,” others may experience as a mob. In 2019, a friend of mine who’s a crime fiction author told me they were glad that the Mystery Writers of America had withdrawn its Grand Master award from Linda Fairstein, who, before becoming a novelist, was the prosecutor of the Central Park Five.

“I don’t think there’s a place for Fairstein in the community,” my friend said.

This told me I didn’t want to be part of “the community,” though, in Gary Snyder’s terms, my friend is probably mistaking network for community, as community includes people who don’t like or agree with one another. In an interview in the 1970s, Snyder pointed out there are networks of poets and networks of dentists. He said he had “followers” in the poetry network and the Zen Buddhist network, but not in the community in Northern California where he made his home.

No one could dislike Linda Fairstein, prosecutor, more than I do. I have no opinion, positive or negative, about Linda Fairstein, author, because I haven’t read her books. But I do know her books haven’t prosecuted anyone, innocent or guilty. And the books that made the MWA decide to give her the award have not changed since the decision to withdraw it. In giving in to pressure from those who dislike Fairstein the person, or their idea of her, in making a judgment ad personam rather than literary, the MWA showed itself to be not a literary community but a personal network.

Community is inclusive, not about who is “in” and who is “out.” In community, no one has the authority to exclude, to say who belongs and who doesn’t. In community, by definition, we’re all in it together. A network may be about cool kids and outcasts, Brahmins and Untouchables, but community can’t be.

My friend fell out with another crime writer on social media. The other writer had posted a quote from Mike Tyson, about boxing, and my friend responded by reminding them Tyson is a rapist. The other writer blocked my friend, who didn’t explain how a quote about boxing was invalidated by the criminal history of the former world boxing champion who said it. It seems no matter how authoritative a person might be in their field, if they don’t meet a certain moral standard in their personal conduct, then not only they, but their work and their expertise, are to be shunned. Whether or not they are proven guilty, whether or not they are imprisoned for a period of time, their livelihood, and their personhood, are to be denied indefinitely.

We should hope whoever finds a cure for cancer isn’t a rapist.

#cancelculture #virtuesignalling #socialmedia #community #lindafairstein #garysnyder #barrygrahamauthor


by Barry Graham

The latest book from my publisher, Dockyard Press, is Black Body and Other Stories by Bart Lessard.

Work in a neglected flower garden unearths a vengeful corpse. A drunken executioner befriends a voice from a bottomless pit. Gangster pals indulge in psychopathic pranks. A hoaxer pretending to be a ghost gaslights tenants into health and happiness until a sadistic exorcist calls. Actors in toon costumes wage a cold war against amusement park security. A woodland enclave conspires to vanish from the map. An assassin plays games with a hotel concierge on the swinging ’60s Las Vegas Strip. A wet nurse finds that the infant in her care is far from toothless.

There goes the ordinary in this new collection by Bart Lessard, home to god, fraud, crook, and devil. In these yarns, frightful and funny dwell side by side or are one and the same. Lessard’s books have shown him to be a master of the elegant grotesque whose fearsome imagination rejects all fetters—and this brilliant, audacious volume may be his best to date.

If you buy the e-book direct from Dockyard Press, you'll also get his previous collection, Full of Days and Other Stories, free.

#bartlessardauthor #fiction #crimefiction #horror #books #dockyardpress


by Barry Graham

winter morning — daylight arrives without a story

snow plunges from tower block ledges like falling bodies

duckling left behind paddles to catch up with mother and siblings

children playing in ruins of mill me 40 summers ago walking by today

young woman pushing pram bruise beneath her eye morning rain

zazen together, one breath 4000 miles but no distance between us

winter street — dog turd on pavement shape and colour of autumn leaf

First published in Northwords Now, spring/summer 2020

#barrygrahamauthor #poetry #haiku #zen #glasgow #scotland #scottishpoetry #mononoaware


by Barry Graham

I like Mark Haddon's novel The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, but I love this graphic short story published in The Guardian. Beautiful, sad, compassionate and unsentimental.

#markhaddonauthor #graphicfiction #comics #socialdistancing #covid19 #coronavirus #shortstory #barrygrahamauthor


by Barry Graham

I first read this novel two years ago, and thought it one of the best I'd read in the last decade. Last year, I went to Reykjavik, where it's set, to get married, and it turned out to be my favourite city I've ever visited. That love of Iceland, and the awfulness of COVID-19, made me decide to reread it recently, and I liked it even better the second time.

It's set in 1918, during the Spanish flu pandemic. The protagonist is an orphaned teenage boy who lives with an elderly relative, sells sex to local men and visiting sailors, and has two obsessions: cinema, and a local girl. Then the virus arrives and spreads through the cinema crowds.

This is a short novel that tells a huge story of loneliness, class, secrets, love and friendship. It's grim and beautiful, and a book for the present time.

#sjon #barrygrahamauthor #books #fiction #bookreview #reykjavik #iceland #pandemic #covid19 #spanishflu1918


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