The Atmosphere of Heritage and Haunting
A Review by Michael Aronovitz
Hidden Folk: Strange Stories
By C.M. Muller
Hidden Folk: Strange Stories by C.M. Muller is a spellbinding collection that takes the reader on a journey into the mysteries of lineage and the manner by which ghosts can linger in familial haunts. All or most of the stories are themed, or are at least threaded around, some sort of family obligation that must be attended to or avoided, opening the door for wonderful rocking chair tales, secrets between generations, old fears, and nightmares passed down like inheritance. It also yields Muller the opportunity to have a wide variety of characters with opposing and colorful viewpoints and perspectives, making his writing not only multi-dimensional, but rich and surprising.
Plainly, some of the language in this collection of short stories, is poetically admirable. In the tale “Lost in Arcadia” for example, Muller describes touching an elderly woman’s hand as such: “It felt so fragile, like a bird nest grown brittle with years.” In “Omzetten,” Muller utilizes artful setting description and clever economy with: “After a time of walking, though, we did begin to hear distant sounds: a hammer banging metal, a high-powered water hose spraying debris from cobblestones, the cooing of pigeons – all seemingly ghostly echoes of the past.” Moreover, the sketch of barrenness along the landscape in “Vrangr” is effective in its blunt and realistic depiction of what is missing: “If he read the map correctly, Vrangr should only be a few miles distant, though he had yet to glimpse any telltale signs of a town; no church steeple rising above a copse of trees, no water tower, no opposing traffic or wandering souls.”
The best stories in the collection are “Vrangr,” a tale of inheritance and disembodiment, “The Dust Child,” a journey into delusion and horrific self-recognition, “Slattergren,” the classic venture into the deep of the woods, and “Resurfacing,” that which demonstrates a second person voice and wonderful surprise ending.
When reading Muller, I get a feel from the prose similar to Ursula Le Guin or George Orwell. Muller takes the reader to a place that is familiar, one’s own life blood, and the dark arteries and channels it flows down.
Michael Aronovitz is a horror author, rock reviewer, and Professor of English. He has published two collections and three novels, the most recent – Phantom Effect, Nightshade Books.