Jordan Krall (ed.), Mighty in Sorrow: A Tribute to David Tibet and Current 93 (Dynatox Ministries, 2014)
If you’re a fan of British Dark Folk band Current 93, you don’t need me to tell you you need this book. This isn’t a review for the established fans; this is one for the folks who may not have ever heard of C93, or its brilliant, insane, workaholic, polymath of a frontman, David Tibet. Tibet is a man of wide-ranging, often obsessive interests, from the mundane (Enid Blyton’s relentlessly optimistic elf Noddy, Louis Wain’s cat portraits) to the dangerously “evil” (the works of Aleister Crowley and Byron Gysin). All of which makes his music endlessly fascinating, once you’ve developed a taste for it. More to the point, it serves as the broadest of launching pads for a literary tribute. Tribute albums come out all the time, with other, usually lesser, bands covering the work of the masters. When’s the last time you heard of a tribute book to a musician? The rarity of the concept alone should draw you in.
I can’t remember the last time—if ever—I came across an anthology that isn’t variable in quality. Mighty in Sorrow is no different, but I stress that this is a book that comes down heavily on the side of the angels. I’ve already thrown around very good words about the collection’s centerpiece, excerpts from In a Foreign Town, In a Foreign Land, which Thomas Ligotti wrote in collaboration with Tibet during the nineties, and “Mourn Not the Sleepless Children”, Bob Freeman’s tale that, coincidentally, I ran across in Burning Effigy Press’ chapbook Fresh Blood just a few months ago. I’ve also thrown around good words about a few other writers who appear in this collection, though not about these specific pieces, Nicole Cushing (whose How to Eat Fried Furries is a bizarro treat) and Hyacinthe L. Raven (whose closing poem here is not quite up to the level of the work in her recent collection Seventy Times Seven, but it would be cruel of me to hold just about anything up to that level and expect it not to wilt). Of what is left, three new-to-me authors really stood out. Ross E. Lockhart’s “A Garden of Cucumbers” is somber, middle Eastern, full of the mystic, the magic, and the mournful. James Champagne’s “The Withering Echo” is the most musical story in the collection, and perhaps the one that cleaves most closely to the spirit of Thomas Ligotti (who, in my head, is somewhat inseparable from Tibet); a chap obsessed with a sixties psychedelic rock band travels to their hometown and finds out far more than he expected to. The real winner of the collection, however, is one Ian Delacroix. I have never heard of Ian Delacroix before. He seems to be Italian; in any case, the only book Amazon lists by him as of this writing is in Italian, Il Grande Notturno, and costs sixty bucks used. But isn’t that a title that says “buy me now!”? And after you’ve read “The Man of Crosses” (a title that puts me more in mind of C93’s labelmates Sol Invictus than it does Tibet and co., but I’m not complaining), you, too, may well consider trying to learn Italian just so you can pay sixty bucks for this book.
As for the… less compelling…work to be found here, I won’t say it’s bad. But it doesn’t hold a candle to the best work here. (Rule of thumb: if the title is all in lowercase, proceed with caution.)
I will stress again, however, that the number of pieces in this book that won’t make you wonder why it took you so long to buy this book is far smaller than the number of pieces that will. Sometimes creepy, sometimes funny, sometimes enlightening, always intriguing, Mighty in Sorrow is a collection that will have you wanting to hunt down more work by a number of the artists therein; that is never a bad thing at all. *** ½