In this second volume of his journals, Matt Cardin continues his ruminations on the subjects he has made his own—the theory and practice of weird fiction, the complexities of religious belief, and the relation between these two seemingly disparate realms. We find fascinating synopses of stories written and unwritten; reflections on films ranging from Alfred Hitchcock’s Notorious to Chariots of Fire; accounts of bizarre dreams that have plagued the author; analyses of such writers as Thomas Ligotti (whose work Cardin has studied in great detail), Bruno Schulz, H. P. Lovecraft, Ray Bradbury, and many others; and intimate glimpses into the fluctuations in Cardin’s personal life. Throughout, the author brings an incisive sensibility to the problems of life, thought, and feeling in the modern world.
Cardin again finds consolation in art and writing, but at times even that fails him, as he struggles with writer’s block and the fear that “sin includes an obsession with books and the worlds of thought and imagination that accompany them.” Those concerns preoccupy him in the early 2000s, when the “apocalyptic sense of life and the world” went from being “merely or mostly aesthetic interest, a subject for science fiction and horror entertainment, to being a matter of real existential fear.” Cardin’s religious interests have always been entwined with his fascination with cosmic horror, and here they often predominate, as he contemplates both heady theological matters and the more practical question of how “Jesus’ original message has become so obscured by the structures and mechanisms of the church.”
In the possibility of fiction he finds hope. One story idea: “The writing and/or enjoyment of weird fiction as a practical fulfillment of Jesus’ injunction to ‘be in the world but not of it.’” Cardin also celebrates and wrestles with his reading (including Lovecraft and Ligotti, but also Henri-Frédéric Amiel, Robert Frost, Bruno Schulz, Sara Maitland, Eckhart Tolle, and more.) Accounts of exploring a shack, teaching students with limited frames of reference, and of recognizing a grandparent’s apparent sadness as a sign of life—“a determination to live instead of drowning in hopelessness”—all resonate.
Takeaway: A weird fiction authority’s searching, incisive journals of this millennium.
Comparable Titles: Eleanor Beal and Jon Greenaway’s Horror and Religion, Timothy K. Beal’s Religion and Its Monsters.
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