One of the first books to come from the mysterious but promising new press, Inside the Castle, is M. Kitchell’s Hour of the Wolf. Deceivingly thin, Hour of the Wolf is a dense assemblage of an incredibly readable but decentering book.
Kitchell divides the books between cycles (first, second, third, fourth, and final). However, before and after the reader arrives at the first cycle, Kitchell’s book begins a slow transition into the dark of dreamless nights. Beginning with a gray page and progressing then, stepping rather, into black pages, then to black pages with fragments of text, such as “The tell stories of the night…,” “They tell of desperation…,” and “The tell of men who lose the ability to sleep…” Like fading into sleep, to dreams that come in fragments, that warn (or prepare?)—soothsayers in small towns wandering into frame to say, “beware, beware” only to be ignored by the passenger who has unwitting transgressed into some forbidden territory.
Kitchell introduces us to M, a dreamer of bleak dreams, a wanderer in the night, an insomniac who’s afflicted with sleeplessness for one hour, precisely, according to M, between three to four A.M., the hour of the wolf, as he terms it. Some nights, he finds himself paralyzed, other nights, he wanders freely about the darkened streets, trying desperately not to disturb his partner, who finds sleep much easier.
Hour of the Wolf is a book trapped in thought. Each cycle locked tightly in the internal logic of its characters. M, whose outlook is often terrifying, asphyxiating, and somehow slightly tragic, is a prisoner of his condition. His thoughts, though often beautiful in their gloom, are obsessive. For example, on the second night within the first cycle, Kitchell writes:
Often, the realm of chance from which one assumes to encounter the impossible is simply reducible to a complete dissatisfaction with the banal; an ennui perhaps. Within this static nature one will look for that which appears supernatural, an annulled grasp at something outside of the ordinary that can then be explained as only the impossible, something derived from chance. The surrealists were useless because they could never bring themselves far enough beyond their obsessions with dreams and vaginal intercourse to accomplish even the smallest step toward an unknown beyond.
Here one can see the way in which the internal logic of the character functions, for he is critical of those things that present themselves to him and critical of his own thoughts to the point where his unreliability seems to knock the story off its hinges. That’s when Kitchell introduces D, M’s lover.
D’s perspective, though still entrenched in an internal logic, void of any real-time interactions or conversations, are kinder than those of M. D has a soft touch. His view of M is compassionate, tender, loving. This is where Kitchell really sings as an author. The form begins to switch from rigid philosophical paragraphs into poem-like prose paragraphs, then to fragments of writing, moments perhaps of erasure where pages are dominated by space and punctuation marks. M sees the world in a less rigid way. Where M pontificates the complexities of the dark, D thinks predominately of M. For example, when discussing of M, D considers:
[…] because N understands nightmares—but this doesn’t mean he enjoys the nightmares, rather it means that somewhere in the back of his head he is prepared for them, ready to accept them—perhaps even to embrace them, to make them his own […].
Here we see the way in which M and D are radically different. Certainly M seems to rationalize through his world of dreams but his perspective is that of a prisoner; D, on the other hand sees M as a redemptive character who claims his nightmares and turns them into a new reality, that is until M Vanishes.
The end of the book then begins to unravel in a very unsettling but pleasing way, until it seems that there is nothing left of M or D. As a book, The Hour of the Wolf is very interesting and complicated in a satisfying way that requires us to puzzle through it, engage with the text to form connections in the active construction of meaning. The assemblage of forms, images, shapes, and text formatting work together quite well and form a most lovely book object. Clearly the time Kitchell put into designing and formatting the text pays off for him here.
Hour of the Wolf
by M. Kitchell
Inside the Castle; 106 p.