THE DOOR TO LOST PAGES
By Claude Lalumière
In this new collection of linked short stories Montreal author Claude Lalumière imagines a used bookstore, Lost Pages, that exists somewhere in an alternate-reality version of his hometown (the bookstore seems to have no fixed address, and the doorway to it comes and goes). Two characters, Lucas and Aydee, discover the store as children, with Lucas going on to take over the management of it and Aydee becoming his assistant.
Lost Pages, home to a number of shaggy dogs as well as shelves of “incunabula and esoterica,” also operates as a kind of metafictional nexus, a place with a toehold in different slices of Lalumière’s mythic multiverse. The basic framework, or surreality, has the amorphous hosts of nightmare, led by a tentacled demon with the appropriately Lovecraftian name of Yamesh-Lot, locked in an eternal struggle with the feathered angel armies of the “Green Blue and Brown God” (only “supposedly benevolent,” as with most such deities). This conflict between demons and angels frequently spills over into our own world, while some “normal” characters, including a young monster-hunter named Billy, are able to go down the rabbit hole. In the penultimate story reality splits, as Aydee is shown to have dual identities inhabiting both planes, and in the “Coda” Lalumière himself steps both out of and into his own text.
It’s a weird, entrancing book informed by a unique vision, told in a plain, fairy-tale style but including lots of steamy sex as well. Throughout, Lalumière is fascinated by different states of mind or vision, often introduced in dreams, through the use of drugs, or during sex. For some characters the doors of perception are blown outward in consciousness-exploding orgasmic epiphanies: “Sandra loses all sense of herself; she experiences life – simultaneously, chaotically, beautifully – through the bodes of countless creatures . . .”, “I am a boy looking at myself everywhere in the world. I am everyBODY in the world. I gorge on my own flesh . . .” (this goes on for a couple of pages in the same vein). For others, elevation takes the more serene form of being lost in a good book . . . or magical bookstore. Either way it makes for a good trip.
Review first published in Quill & Quire, April 2011.