Fungus of the Heart by Jeremy C. Shipp
A Keith Dugger Review
WHEN I WAS THREE, I took my brain out of my skull and placed it on a bamboo cutting board. I gently and lovingly sliced it in two crosswise. No, not lengthwise; not segmenting the left from right, the creative from logical. No, I chose to separate front from back. I don’t know why. I held my front section in my tiny left hand and my back section in my right. I studied them closely making sure that I’d cut cleanly and evenly; I had to be sure that each was properly proportioned.
Once satisfied that I’d completed the job properly, I stitched the halves together with a length of used dental floss in the best ragged crisscross pattern a three-year-old without a brain could do. Then I put my brain back in my skull and went about my life as anyone might who’d taken their brain out and sawed it in half at the age of three.
What does this have to do Jeremy C. Shipp’s collection of short stories that swim about in Fungus of the Heart? Nothing. But I walked into the kitchen this morning after having finished reading it and caught myself holding my brain neatly cut in two, one half in my left hand and one in my right. The old dental floss had broken down, absorbed by my years of growth and learning, but the uneven scars where the jagged holes had been all these years dotted lines at the edges of the cuts.
Shipp’s writing is like that. It makes you want to take your brain out and examine it closely to make sure its pieces and parts are put together in the right order. I was sure that I’d done the job wrong as a toddler. Now, after reading the thirteen stories that make up this collection, I’m not sure I even did the brain trick in the first place.
If you are a fan of Shipp and his writing style, this makes perfect sense to you. He has an uncanny ability to reach you through a story, grab you by the neck and shake you until your eyeballs twitch. And this isn’t as bad as it sounds; no, he makes you want to read more, and makes me want to live one of his stories.
If you haven’t read Shipp, you certainly forgot to put your brain back in its place at three years old. Or, you sewed the halves together backwards or upside down maybe. I’m not sure, but if you read Fungus of the Heart, it will certainly snap you back to the world you wished you lived in. And then some.
This collection is scheduled for release in October, 2010, but you can pre-order Fungus of the Heart from Shipp’s publisher Raw Dog Screaming Press today.