In and Down

Brett Alexander Savory’s second horror novel delves into the psychological and physical terror that subtends patriarchal family life. In In and Down, Michael and Stephen live with their emotionally absent father in a suburban everytown. The boys–motherless, anxious, and growing up in a cloistered environment of icy secrecy, lazy mendacity, and outright misogyny– recede into a shared psychological unrest. Stephen is mean, reclusive and plays obsessively with a pair of sticks that act as prosthetic buffers between him and the world. Michael, on the other hand, falls into a dream-state in which he embarks on a quest for his mother, who supposedly abandoned the boys when they were young. What ensues is a disturbing and entertaining approximation of what Freud might have written had he gone deeper into the sickening ramifications of psychosexual subjectivity. Michael’s obsession with his mother’s absence leads him into a shadow realm of dark attics, “freek” carnivals, human bowling balls and cannibalistic clowns. Confronting the horror of heredity, the revelatory aspects of not knowing and the dialectic of creation and identity, In and Down captures the gothic elements of everyday familial life, and the suffocating discord between the real and the ideal. Like most genre writers, Savory sometimes falls prey to convention and clunky prose–on more than one occasion, I found myself scribbling, “show don’t tell!” into the margins of the book. He does, however, paint an adroit portrait of the brothers’ tense, sadistic and paradoxical relationship; at times, we are given a glimpse of their complicity, of the bond that links all siblings. Yet their relationship is far from normal, and it is the quiet battle between them that pushes the narrative forward. Going oedipal at the carnival has never been more fun, nor more terrifying. (Erin Gray)

Fiction, 224 pgs, by Brett Alexander Savory, $17.95, Brindle & Glass Publishing, c/o 100 Armstrong Avenue, Georgetown, ON, L7G 5S4, brindleandglass.com


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