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The Visible Filth Paperback – March 31, 2015
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The story begins with an apparently idle observation. Will notices an abundance of cockroaches in the New Orleans bar he tends. Later he watches a vicious fight between two patrons. When an acquaintance jumps in to stop the violence, Will becomes aware of his own hesitation.
Following the fight, Will finds a cell phone left behind by a customer. Will pockets it with the intention of returning it to its owner. Instead he begins a strange personal journey.
I won’t describe the rest of the story because the final, chilling scenes rely on the slow build Ballingrud has masterfully constructed, based on the circumstances and psychology of the main character. The story chronicles Will’s growing awareness that there is something not right about his life, his outlook, his soul. This is one of the best modern tales I’ve read on the banality of evil and its cancer-like ability to attach to, and gradually overwhelm, our consciousness.
I'm not surprised the novella was a finalist for a Shirley Jackson Award. Highly recommended.
What a great introduction to this author. I am constantly searching for adult books that are dark and twisted and this really hit the spot. I've heard Nathan Ballingrud's name mentioned in various podcasts as being one of the premiere writers of the weird and dark fiction genre. Winner of the prestigious Shirley Jackson Award and a finalist of the World Fantasy, British Fantasy, and Bram Stoker Awards, this relatively new writer has taken the dark fiction world by storm.
Atmosphere is one of my favorite elements to seek out in horror, and this book delivered, and then some. Solid characters, believable dialogue, and an intriguing mystery make The Visible Filth one of the best horror Novelette/Novellas of the year. My favorite type of writers are ones that are as strong technically as they are in telling a great story, and Ballingrud fits the bill perfectly. Perhaps the ending revelation could have had a smoother transition to what was happening, but it is sometimes nice to fill in the blanks with ones imagination.
I've already purchased Ballingrud's short story collection and as long as he writes material this strong, I plan to buy everything he puts out. This disquiet little tale, although short, is well worth your time and money. I believe in quality, not quantity, and this story is a real gem of quality. Highly Recommended.
Ballingrud's tale is an examination of just that, whether in the literal sense of the communication devices we take for granted (a laptop; a cell phone) that open our lives to the world in ways we can't always anticipate, or in the metaphorical sense of the petty vanities and jealousies that chip away at love affairs and friendships.
The story is simple: there's a fight in a bar, and someone leaves a cell phone behind. The bartender, being a good citizen, takes the phone home for safekeeping, but can't keep himself from prying when the device starts receiving strange text messages later that night. One thing, as they say, leads to another.
If you're familiar with Ballingrud's essential collection of short stories, "North American Lake Monsters," you'll be ready for the exacting detail with which he pries apart human relationships, and the fun he has spinning familiar Gothic tropes forward for the contemporary world. There's a sinister old tome here, for example, but it's a tertiary player behind the kinds of things you can see on your computer screen or that your phone's camera can show you.
The horror is all the more effective for being suggested, mysterious, partially explained: the way things are, as it happens, in "real life." "The Visible Filth" is a short, tantalizing hint of what Ballingrud is capable of. I'm very excited to see what he does next.
It’s about Will, a lowly bartender who, after a bar brawl one night, discovers a smartphone left behind on the floor. Finding the phone plunges his life into a living hell.
Someone–or something–is watching him, following him, toying with him, and Will’s world begins to slip further and further into madness.
The Visible Filth is a tense, paranoiac experience which I dug every single minute of. I highly recommend you experience it for yourself.
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The Visible Filth is a novelette centered around Will, a bartender at a New Orleans dive bar.Read more