In the Dark Room
Paperback, 85 Pages
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"The mannequins are here again. I can feel them throbbing in my ears. They’re standing around in the kitchen, impassive as stone. But inside they’re laughing. I’m not getting out of bed for them, not this time." In the Dark Room is a surreal novella written and illustrated by James Knight, author of Head Traumas. The story is narrated by a bedridden man who finds himself besieged by memories, fantasies and the mannequins at the bottom of the stairs. Knight's combination of words and pictures invites us into a strange yet familiar world, governed by the logic of a dream.
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Jul 29, 2014It is intimate, like the ever present thoughts you never share, but are always there, haunting you. It is like madness, like the one you don’t realize you have, like the one you like to deny. It is the reflection of your lost twin, coming back as a mannequin. It is like being in your house, with your mum and dad, as weird as always. It is like your dreams. No, not those ones, the other ones, the dreams you don’t confess. It is like a memoir. Like the one Punch and Judy implanted on your mind one sunny afternoon.
Jul 24, 2014Let me at least try and describe the basics of In the Dark Room for you. The narration takes place from the point of view of a bed-ridden man, whose monologue makes up the prose within the book, each thought on its own page and separated from the next by some of James' trademark spectacular "oneirograph" dream-photo compositions - clashing colours, overlapping shapes and highly disrupting imagery doing to your eyes what the surreal stream of consciousness in the words does to your brain. Or at least that's how I read it, you may read it differently. If you can just imagine a man lying in a room talking to himself, or a nurse or carer as they work, passing comment on things that are happening and the thoughts that come into his head, telling stories, that is what this is. The mannequins, an invention of James' that first surfaced on his Twitter account @badbadpoet are very much centre stage this time as protagonists, or antagonists, although The Bird King, James' most famous,... More > or infamous, character to date does get an oblique mention on occasion. There are seagulls having arguments, a forest in the stripes on the bedroom wallpaper and shop mannequins in the kitchen making toast. And it is all told so matter of factly that it all makes perfect sense. I am a huge fan of James' surreal ideas, both in his written work and his art. This book is very different to Head Traumas but don't get me wrong that isn't a bad thing, not a bad thing at all. The thing I really like about this book is that each page flows to the next with consummate ease making it much more of a complete work, rather than a dip into poetry book like Head Traumas was. These are not disparate works in a compilation, this is an intermingling of recurrent themes building a complex whole that becomes so much more than the sum of its parts. Each story/poem/thought/stream of consciousness/whatever you want to call it is self contained and makes perfect sense as such but the train of thought between story and image and story flows so beautifully that it is criminal to pick just one. As with all of James' work, not everyone will understand or even appreciate it, but this is the same for all works of genius. And I realise that this review doesn't make much sense because trying to describe genius adequately is far more difficult than being one. Just know you NEED a colour copy too just for the pictures in addition to this black and white version that you need NOW to read the words.< Less
Jul 23, 2014The blurb for James Knight’s new book, In the Dark Room, describes the novella as being “governed by the logic of a dream”. I was happy to discover that in true Knight fashion, it certainly is – perhaps even more than his previous works involving more of the Bird King, Snowmen, Punch and Judy, and so on. In the Dark Room is truly surreal. There is just enough grounding in tangible reality to make the off-kilter aspects of the text hit harder when they smack you upside your head. The narrative begins with a bit of calm paranoia – the threat of mannequins are milling around downstairs is relayed to us by our bedridden narrator. But it starts also as it means to go on, with beautifully unsettling oddities like this one: “Everything’s the same, really … A table, a horse, a joke, pity.” As the story progresses, the narrator tells us more but makes less immediate sense. The effect is brilliant, claustrophobic at times – not unlike a Kafka story, but somehow more threatening. If you are at... More > all familiar with James Knight’s work, you’ll be familiar with oneirographs, and recognise the style of illustrations instantly. If you aren’t, read it and enjoy the discovery. The title seems to be a clever play on “darkroom”, as in, a room where one develops photographs (old school, I know), and also the inner darkness of the narrator. One of the things I enjoy about Knight’s books is how the reader is guaranteed to find several hidden things like this in the text or in the illustrations, whether intended or not. Knight’s work is, after all, largely intuitive and symbolic, and In the Dark Room is no exception. The biggest marvel is perhaps the sheer smoothness of the disjointed prose. Nothing is as it “should” be, but nothing feels out of place. You’re there, in this world, in the pages and the words, and it’s all completely acceptable, if also bone-chilling terrifying in places. I forgot I was reading at times. On that note, perhaps the greatest recommendation for reading this book is from In the Dark Room itself: “It’s just sensible to have a book, so you can look at words and wonder at their odd shapes and try to fathom their meanings. Stops you thinking about other things.” It’s good to stop thinking about all things now and then. Read this, and allow your unconscious to guide you through your own dark room (darkroom?), stockpile of symbols, and dreams.< Less
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- James Knight (Standard Copyright License)
- First Edition
- Cipher Books
- July 22, 2014
- Perfect-bound Paperback
- Interior Ink
- Black & white
- 0.39 lbs.
- Dimensions (inches)
- 6 wide x 9 tall
- Product ID
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