|Art by Dadu Shin|
“The Ghoul Goes West” by Dale Bailey (13285 words)
No Spoilers: Ben is informed of his brother Denny’s death, and travels out to where Denny lived in Hollywood to try and make sense of what’s happened. Examining the distance between the brothers as well as the ways they were linked through a love of cinema and monster movies, it’s a piece very much about dreams and disappointment, about the hungry nature of films as an industry. Alternating between numb and raw hurt and loss, the piece is dense and draws the reader into the past and the nature of ruined potential.
Keywords: Cinema, Siblings, Hollywood, Alternate Reality, Acting
Review: This story does a thorough job of exploring the relationship between two brothers, Ben and Denny, through the lens of films, and dreams, and broken promise. Ben, the narrator, shared a love of films with his brother, but in very different ways. Ben is academic, Denny is more hands-on. Ben is a scholar hoping to enter academia and writing a piece in part on Bela Lugosi, while Denny is living in Hollywood trying to be a screenwriter, living under the specter of Lugosi, the drive and the hope and, ultimately, the tragedy. For me, the story becomes about Ben trying to find some way to make sense out of Denny’s death, out of something that to him was avoidable. After all, Ben moved in a different direction, saved, and has done all right for himself. Denny, on the other hand, is after the dream of Hollywood, of living as if he had succeeded already in hopes that it would somehow transubstantiate into the success itself. At the heart of both of their experiences, though, is a lvoe of movies and a sort of romance about them. A romance that makes the story of Lugosi, which the piece zones in on, especially meaningful because it deals with addiction and success, decline and despair. He encapsulates the way that Hollywood works, seemingly at random, granting fortune and then snatching it away. Ben arrives with the desire to make sense of his brother’s death and in some ways to clean up his mask, and what he finds himself is a story that gets into him just as it got into Denny. It’s a difficult and winding story, one that looks at nostalgia and the magic of movies contrasting the harsh reality of them. And in some ways it’s about all art, and especially commercial art, the promise of so many people who might have been, kept out not because of lack of talent but because they didn’t get their lucky strike, or if they could they failed to capture it in a bottle. It’s a piece that looks at the tragedy of the devouring nature of movies and a lot of art, that attract dreamers and leave their bodies in its wake. What happens is magic, but it’s not a magic that happens without a cost, a price, and it’s a difficult world to explore, a difficult wound to describe. But I think the story does a good job of it, not clean like a Hollywood movie but rather haunting and appropriate to the nature of the best. A great read!