“A Map of the Everywhere”
I have been seeing Matthew Cheney’s name all over the place of late, but had yet to figure out who he was–so I was glad of this chance to read his work and see what he’s all about. This story is hands-down the weirdest one I’ve seen in the anthology. I would go so far as to say weird for the sake of weird, which Cheney seems to confirm both in his author comment and in the story itself. As his main character puts it:
“‘Look, I already have enough surrealism in my life, and I really don’t have the patience for more.'”
Which isn’t to say the great cacophonous phantasmagoria of cuckoo clocks, jetpacks and plastic-clad molemen isn’t lovely to read. It is. It just makes the lesson of the story (about a man finding himself, in spite of himself) more allegorical than real, makes the whole story feel, not exactly dreamlike, but set in a dreamworld which need not necessarily correspond to our own. As I read it I feel like…I dunno, like I’m watching a ballet or a puppet show, or looking at a collage of magazine clippings mixed in with chopped up sections of Heironymous Bosch’s Garden of Earthly Delights. Yet in spite of that disorientation, I do find a poignant, human story here. I think maybe that story might have come across stronger if there had been fewer earthly delights involved–but it’s pretty impressive that he manages to spin all these disparate madnesses into a story at all.