The overriding emotion which signals to me that a book is striking a chord with me is jealousy. Sickly green I think: I wish I could have dreamt this up.
I have taken to focusing my writing here on running, and reading about running, but The Vorrh is a book which made me want to talk about it. And we can’t let our lives revolve around one point of gravity, can we? Running has a strong pull, it is as much a lifestyle as it is a hobby, but obsession is overrated. I like to be eclectic. So let’s veer off the running road for a moment.
What you need to know (other than that I highly recommend this): the Vorrh is a forest, beyond ancient. Within, perhaps, is the Garden of Eden. Within, for sure, is unknowable, strange, eerie. The wind doesn’t blow there, it is sucked, pulled. Visit too often, linger too long, and it will take away your memories. Even all this doesn’t deter the great machinery of colonisation. A european-styled city prowls at it’s edge, housing great timber companies there to seek fortune, using Vorrh-addicted slaves to take their harvest. Secrets stir in a well beneath the city. Strange machines raise a one-eyed child. A white man harvests his dying, native wife to her precise instructions, constructing a living bow to traverse the Vorrh with. An ex-policeman hunts him down with a charmed weapon, once gifted to him by the very same man who he seeks to make his victim. Real historical figures weave themselves, somehow, into this darkest of fantasies: Eadward Muybridge, innovator of photography, searches for ethereal, eternal truths in his photos. One gets the sense that truth leads to the Vorrh, that Muybridge will be carried on that inward wind to the heart of the forest, which is in turn perhaps the heart of the world. But, it does not. The Muybridge thread becomes a tease, a tangent.
This is what The Vorrh is so good at.
There is no fear of veering off the beaten track onto a path which leads nowhere.. This is a story which is as concerned with cumulative effect as it is with individual storylines and still, on a micro level, each page reads like poetry. Out of context the writing is lyrical and evocative. Within context, as each page and chapter and storyline layers atop each other, a tremendous world of fantasy is created with utmost care and mystery.
Reading it, I felt as if I were learning something, though I cannot tell you what. It feels as if there is truth in its pages, despite its fantasy, or indeed because of its fantasy. As Muybridge seeks the truth through photography, we seek that same ungraspable truth through reading.
Whether we find it or not is unimportant, it is the process which is telling.