My Eyes Are Nailed, But Still I See by David Niall Wilson and Brett Alexander Savory

Nikki Tranter

I found my brows had furrowed, my fingers were numb, and I wanted to put the book down and run away. And then I realized -- that's why I read horror fiction.

My Eyes Are Nailed, But Still I See

Publisher: Delirium Books
Length: 132
Display Artist: David Niall Wilson and Brett Alexander Savory
Price: $45
Author: Brett Alexander Savory
US publication date: 2005-06

Why do we read horror fiction? I don't think I've ever pondered that question as hard and with as dry a throat as I did following my awesome struggle through the opening paragraphs of David Niall Wilson and Brett Alexander Savory's My Eyes and Nailed, But Still I See. Aside from the dry throat, I found my brows had furrowed, my fingers were numb, and I wanted to put the book down and run away. And then I realized -- that's why I read horror fiction.

It's all about the rush and Savory and Wilson know it. Only available by pre-order from Delirium until 30 April, My Eyes are Nailed is anything but an easy read. It features a plot so tightly wound around the freaked-out mind of a young boy that what is real and what is crayon-created on his therapist's desk is never entirely clear. Its imagery, too, is some of the most gruesome this side of Laymon's The Beast House. What works here, though, is the authors' dedication not to grossing-out the reader specifically, but to the language used doing it. Immediately appealing is the book's casual blending of the old-fashioned, evocative stylings of Poe and Lovecraft with a more modern, cutthroat approach. This works to bypass simple frights and create lasting, visceral reactions.

The book opens in a therapist's office-nothing too sinister. Requisite for any such tale, a dark mood is immediately built, in this case via a spider-like shadow looming on the wall behind the therapist as he interviews Johnson, a young boy with a crayon in his hand and a dead look in his eyes. Something's going on with this kid; he's not happy at home, he's got a problem with certain members of his family and it seems a stuffed pig talks to him. Before we can make any sense of it all, everything takes a gross turn and Johnson is strapped to a table surrounded by jars of human parts, talking spiders and that leathery pig that could be made out of human skin. From here, the story, essentially about a boy journeying through his hate, Wilson and Savory refuse to let up, building Johnson's world with whimsy, aplomb and balls-out brutality.

Take Johnson's unfortunate position on that table. This sets the scene in the doctor's office:

He wishes for another color: Red. It is impossible to draw black blood with any hint of clarity, and Johnson wishes, more than anything, for a quick moment of that. Blood and clarity are synonymous in that instant-one unattainable, the other dependent on that attainment.

...before we're taken into Johnson's bent mind to find him strapped down, enduring the torture of his older brother, while receiving communications from his pig companion, who is receiving some severe punishment of his own by way of nails shoved in his eyeballs:

Johnson's intestines rested in a loose pile on his lap, carefully contained in a large green baggie, packed with Jell-O. Green Jell-O. His abdomen had been carefully cut open, the skin folded back and his large intestines unraveled like a bad tapestry, coiled and tucked away with only cursory care.

Similarly, when Johnson's hate trail takes him to the banks of Scotland's Loch Ness, the gloomy highlands-at-night are vividly evoked:

The water rippled with bright moonlight. Johnson's line sliced deep through the silvered waves, taut from the weight of sinker and bait. The wind ruffled his hair, and his collar was pulled up tight to ward off the chill. Nothing moved. Nothing in the water. Nothing behind or above him. Nothing but the wind.

And horribly shattered:

A blanket of shadow fell over the goat; it bleated in pain as it was ripped to shreds, bits and pieces flung this way and that. As muscle separated from bone and blood splashed the nearby trees in wide arcs, Johnson slammed his eyes shut and wished he were back home.

This back and forth continues throughout the story, as Johnson takes us deeper and deeper into his emotional depravity. The mix of styles allows the authors to effectively engage the reader in Johnson's spaced-out fantasy, while at the same time generating a sense of complete reality through gritty descriptions of his more unpleasant moments. It's almost as if, while we're not entirely sure who is doing the torturing -- Johnson's brother or his mother? The pig, the spider, himself, all three? We never doubt it's indeed taking place. As readers, we believe the reality inside the fantasy, and that's what counts.

But what does it all mean? Well, the difficulty deciphering the story and the authors' apparent desire to keep the reader permanently in the dark can be read either as a clever storytelling technique that allows the reader his own interpretation based on his or her own psychoses, or because there is no story to wrap up. Either way, the book manages to grip, twist and scrape along until its dreadful conclusion without feeling overdone. It's a cool, modern take on classic horror by two strong voices who know the reasons we read horror fiction and exploit them as often as possible.

In Americana music the present is female. Two-thirds of our year-end list is comprised of albums by women. Here, then, are the women (and a few men) who represented the best in Americana in 2017.

If a single moment best illustrates the current divide between Americana music and mainstream country music, it was Sturgill Simpson busking in the street outside the CMA Awards in Nashville. While Simpson played his guitar and sang in a sort of renegade-outsider protest, Garth Brooks was onstage lip-syncindg his way to Entertainer of the Year. Americana music is, of course, a sprawling range of roots genres that incorporates traditional aspects of country, blues, soul, bluegrass, etc., but often represents an amalgamation or reconstitution of those styles. But one common aspect of the music that Simpson appeared to be championing during his bit of street theater is the independence, artistic purity, and authenticity at the heart of Americana music. Clearly, that spirit is alive and well in the hundreds of releases each year that could be filed under Americana's vast umbrella.

Keep reading... Show less

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.

60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

Keep reading... Show less

The Best Country Music of 2017

still from Midland "Drinkin' Problem" video

There are many fine country musicians making music that is relevant and affecting in these troubled times. Here are ten of our favorites.

Year to year, country music as a genre sometimes seems to roll on without paying that much attention to what's going on in the world (with the exception of bro-country singers trying to adopt the latest hip-hop slang). That can feel like a problem in a year when 58 people are killed and 546 are injured by gun violence at a country-music concert – a public-relations issue for a genre that sees many of its stars outright celebrating the NRA. Then again, these days mainstream country stars don't seem to do all that well when they try to pivot quickly to comment on current events – take Keith Urban's muddled-at-best 2017 single "Female", as but one easy example.

Keep reading... Show less

It's ironic that by injecting a shot of cynicism into this glorified soap opera, Johnson provides the most satisfying explanation yet for the significance of The Force.

Despite J.J. Abrams successfully resuscitating the Star Wars franchise with 2015's Star Wars: The Force Awakens, many fans were still left yearning for something new. It was comforting to see old familiar faces from a galaxy far, far away, but casual fans were unlikely to tolerate another greatest hits collection from a franchise already plagued by compositional overlap (to put it kindly).

Keep reading... Show less

Yeah Yeah Yeahs played a few US shows to support the expanded reissue of their debut Fever to Tell.

Although they played a gig last year for an after-party for a Mick Rock doc, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs hadn't played a proper NYC show in four years before their Kings Theatre gig on November 7th, 2017. It was the last of only a handful of gigs, and the only one on the East coast.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.