Thursday, February 9, 2012

Dark Passages: Southern Gods

Southern Gods is a terrific--and terrifying--first novel by John Horner Jacobs.  The book deftly melds genres, working as a combination of Faulknerian Southern Gothic, an occult detective novel (think William Hjortsberg's Falling Angel), and a Lovecraftian tale of cosmic dread.  Jacobs writes incredibly vivid prose, as can be seen in the following excerpted passage, in which one of the book's protagonists leafs through the pages of the infamous Necronomicon:
Sarah breathed into the phone, staring at the gruesome rendering [repetition of "r" sounds reinforces the idea of a shivery reaction].  She turned the page.  And gasped again.  Another illustration, this time of two toddlers, each one gouging out the eyes of the other.  Men and women watched the gory combat [note the contrast here between blindness and the act of witness], their faces like gargoyles [a mere simile to suggest stoniness, or an apt description of grotesque disfigurement?].  Blood ran from the children's eyes, down their bodies, pooling on the floor.  One gargoyle-faced man used the blood to draw an enormous picture of a clawed hand with thirty coins in the palm.  Sarah turned another page.  A woman standing at a bench, a knife in her fist and her own severed hand lying on the floor [ominous juxta-position of images of bribery and self-mutilation].  A horrible silent O for a mouth, as if she was singing.  Through the door, a field.  On the field, a black figure, watching.  Sarah turned the page.  A gigantic face with a dog in its gaping mouth.  The dog's maw held a serpent, and the serpent's tail punched a hole in the back of the face, curved around underneath and became a gigantic phallus with a miniature face at the tip.  In the face's mouth stood a dog [serpent/dog/phallus: base variation on the Ouroboros symbol?].  Sarah turned the page.  A monstrous octopus-like creature [shades of Cthulhu] looking up from the bottom of a well, eyes black and liquid.  Around the rim of the well, tiny people [underscoring the insignificance of humanity in the cosmos] hurled children into the abyss, to plummet to their deaths.

Sarah felt uneasy on her feet, and the room began to distort and skew perspective.  Her stomach tightened and her limbs ached as if she had a fever [the reader of Southern Gods perhaps has the same dizzied, horrified response as Sarah does to this catalogue of atrocities].

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