Search the Cinema Head Cheese Archives!

March 26, 2013

Book Review: The Circle by Bentley Little (2012, Cemetery Dance)

Bentley Little is an iconic writer of the macabre. King, Barker, Matheson, all of them have lauded Mr. Little with much-deserved praise for many years and it is an absolute shame that he doesn’t have a more mainstream audience. That is what I’m supposed to say. What I want to say is this: I like that Bentley Little is our little secret (pun not intended). Oh, sure, there are tens, maybe hundreds, of thousands of people that have read his work over the years, but he is still, kind of, our secret. He is an almost-underground psyche saboteur that relishes the trauma he puts his readers through. Like Charles Bukowski, complete with devilish grin, but a flair for stepping just beyond the comfort zone.

That is what we have here in Mr. Little’s sinister new novella from Cemetery Dance, The Circle.

But it HERE.

Oh, how we American’s love our suburban cul de sacs. The safety and homogeneity of our gated communities allows us the freedom to casually disregard the rest of the world. The notion that Judeo-Christian beliefs are predominant (from the bubble of our Judeo-Christian beliefs) allows us to pass judgment on the world outside of our HOA’s boundaries and manicured lawns without impunity. Until, that is, something terrible comes to visit. Something that hours and hours of canned news and reality television shows about toothless men that fish with their index fingers could never prepare us for…

And that is what The Circle is all about. The novella is a collection of three interconnected stories that all take place in an average suburban neighborhood. Stories of a practicing witch in the ‘hood has a group of teens ready to pray at an altar that supposedly gives you your heart’s desire. If we’ve learned anything from a culture and genre influenced by monkey’s paw scenarios, we know that this isn’t going to go well. Our first story details the awful, scatological demise of the first couple in the cul de sac and is followed by the bridging story, the story that gets us around the concept of exactly why this pagan practitioner of the dark arts wants to see her little neighborhood pay. Finally, Little presents us with a first person account of a single suburban man’s struggles against the paranormal.

What impresses me the most about Bentley Little’s work in general, and in each of the stories presented in The Circle, is that he gleefully flies in the face of accepted taboo. Nothing is sacred, nor should it be. I understand that the stories had been printed years before and are collected here for the first time (and well done, as always, by the crack staff of Cemetery Dance, the hardcover novella is beautiful). Taken as components, I don’t think they are as strong as when they are presented as a complete narrative here.

If you haven’t read any Bentley Little, do yourself a favor.

No comments:

Post a Comment