A Brief (and Incomplete) Guide to Norman Lock’s Fiction


I’m not exactly an unobjective reader of Norman Lock’s fiction. Ever since he took part in a reading that Vol.1 Brooklyn and Big Other assembled in 2011, I’ve been tracking down his books, sometimes waxing evangelical about them to readers who might appreciate his own particular window onto fiction. And it’s a welcome one: at once referential and playful, occupying a similar post-Borges space to the short stories of Stephen Millhauser and Neil Gaiman.

What follows are thoughts on the books of his that I’ve read; given that he has a new collection, Love Among the Particles, out now — and will be reading at Community Bookstore next month with Matt Bell — this might well be the time to delve into his work, if you haven’t done so already.

Shadow Play: Lock’s novel of romantic obsession, shadow puppets, and perception, is one of his most beguiling. In it, a puppeteer re-creates his lost love — though questions remain as to whether this is a genuine resurrection or something else. Memories and betrayal abound.

Grim Tales: My first exposure to Lock’s fiction, this collection of short works hovers somewhere between fairy tales and aphorisms — except for those moments where narratives seem to overlap, and a hidden (and sinister) hand seems to be at work. With the imminent shutdown of Mud Luscious Press (who released an edition of this in 2011), one hopes it will return to print soon. 

The King of Sweden and The Long Rowing Unto Morning: Lock has also written numerous plays, and his talent for voice comes up in these two novels, each of which is essentially a long monologue in which the narrator looks back over their life. For The King of Sweden, it’s a disjointed one on the fringes of society; for The Long Rowing Unto Morning, it’s a subdued one, surrounded by unclear politics and looming mortality.

Escher’s Journal: Almost exactly what the title suggests: a selection of short vignettes and observations, ostensibly by one M.C. Escher, in which narratives and timelines bend like the perspectives in his illustrations.

A History of the Imagination: Lock has a fondness for riffing on pulp entertainments from the early 20th century — there’s a story in Love Among the Particles about a mummy hired to consult on the film being made around him — and this book takes that even further. Here, a group of Westerners make their home in a sort of dream version of Africa; questions of perception and geography are raised.

Pieces for Small Orchestra & Other Fictions: More dream settings are to be found here, with surreal logic occasionally becoming nightmarish. Here, Lock himself appears as a character (as he does in his most recent collection), interjecting a note of autobiography into the proceedings.

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  1. … & don’t forget Land of the Snow Men, which he did under the guise of George Belden.