Paula Guran Reviews Corpsemouth and Other Autobiographies by John Langan

Corpsemouth and Other Autobiographies, John Langan (Word Horde 978-1-956252-01-9, $21.99, 304pp, tp) May 2022. Cover by Mat­thew Jaffe.

John Langan explores – as Sarah Langan phrases it in her introduction – “families in peril” in this aptly titled short story collection. In the strong opening story, “Kore”, a family’s Halloween tradition turns far eerier than expected as a door to a dark cosmos is opened. That entryway into the weird is made accessible again and again in the 10 stories that follow. A bully is defeated by a boy’s Godzilla toy in “Homemade Monsters”. Reality is altered with Lovecraftian effect in both “The Open Mouth of Charybdis” and “Shadow and Thirst”. In the title story, a visit to the ancestral homeland of Scotland brings knowledge of an ancient monster. Another monster is confronted over a lengthy period by a father, son, and friend of the father in “Anchor”. Another dimension of cosmic horror is breached – this time through rock music – in “Outside the House, Watching for the Crows”. “What is Lost, What is Given Away” tells of an encounter with a dishonored ex-teacher. A mysterious book provides a different and far more pleasant life than the one currently lived – at, of course, a cost – in the poignant “The Supplement”. A teen boy in “Mirror Fish­ing” finds a horrific pathway to what he desires. A mother reveals how, during a WWII bombing raid, she heard a haunting song in the tome’s single original, “Caoinead”. These are intimate weird tales written in storytelling style, often as a first-person narrative. Occasionally some patience is required for what, as one character puts it, might be considered “too much information,” but that never detracts from the overall high standard of the writing.

Paula Guran has edited more than 40 science fiction, fantasy, and horror anthologies and more than 50 novels and collections featuring the same. She’s reviewed and written articles for dozens of publications. She lives in Akron OH, near enough to her grandchildren to frequently be indulgent.

This review and more like it in the July 2022 issue of Locus.

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