Inside the Walls of My Own House: The Complete Dark Shadows (of My Childhood), Book 2, by Tony Trigilio. Buffalo, New York: BlazeVOX books, October 2016. 152 pages. $16.00, paper.
Inside the Walls of My Own House
Every shadowy story should invoke the uncanny. Tony Trigilio keeps dreaming (and writing) of his uncanny space, at home with his mother in front of the television screen. Space and time billow and unfold as he remembers watching Dark Shadows and being transported to gothic Maine:
an electronic portal opened unto
the spirit world, a supernatural
transmitter documenting the undead
life of the 208-year-old creature who
lived inside the walls of my own house;
I took for granted that our TV functioned
as a conduit for a “two-directional exchange
between occultism and technology,” as media
scholar Stefan Andriopoulos describes
the earliest precursors of the television:
19th-century optical devices designed
for remote viewing and clairvoyance,
leading many early 20th-century viewers to
believe that to watch TV was to experience
“the uncanny occurrence of the supernatural
or marvelous in one’s own living room”—
This is a hybrid, vampire text. A hallucination. A story told through the red haze of a fantastical curse. It grows more complex as time stretches, changes, and is infused with information about the show, the past, and the present-day state of the world.
Collinwood becomes an extension of Trigilio’s childhood home. The characters appear like family members with terrible secrets watched from afar. Every detail of the house and the characters is remembered, re-viewed, and obsessed over.
The book begins midway through the show’s run. Previous episodes are sometimes mentioned, but it is not necessary to have read the first book or seen the first episodes of Dark Shadows to immediately become hooked on the story of the Collins family, by way of Trigilio’s childhood fascination.
The Complete Dark Shadows
It is an enormous task Trigilio has set: to contain his past as well as the entire run of Dark Shadows within a book trilogy. Each time a present moment seems close enough to touch with an outstretched hand, the text suddenly grows hazy and flashes back to Trigilio’s past, which leads to the years 1967-1968 in Dark Shadows and then back yet again to 1795 as the Collins family is also transported into the past. Then, back again.
“Try to be sensible,” Dr. Hoffman
Counsels Vicki, which is probably
The worst remark a shrink could make
To a desperate person trying to erase
Post-traumatic time-travel recollections
Of her own witchcraft trial and execution.
Time is peered into like a crystal ball. We as readers/viewers are hypnotized by the overload of odd details. Every time and place and memory has a shadow, extending infinitely. Each shadow is illusive. Together, they are all encompassing and overwhelming. We are in a child’s nightmare haze. How do we walk through the dark?
(Of My Childhood)
In examining the past, Trigilio is able to look back with more knowledge. He knows how the story ends. He looks back with new eyes toward the characters. He knows their weaknesses. He has more awareness of the actors and plot and production mistakes.
After 95 episodes in 1795, the show
stumbles back into the 20th century:
“During one tick of a clock in 1968,
months have passed in 1795,” Carolyn
says in episode 461’s introduction—
but the last time the antique grandfather
clock in the Great House parlor actually
ticked was in 1967, during the séance
Time is a nightmare. The horrific image of Barnabus Collins returns and returns, scary no matter the year. The show’s influence is incessant, like Angelique’s dream curse that seems never-ending or, worse yet, long unforgiving stretches of time. What could be worse for a vampire? “Time has been more cruel / to Barnabus than any witch could ever be …”
Soap operas live forever. A viewer can enter at any point. One episode disappears into the darkness, a recap reminds us of what was there, and a new dramatic web is spun in its place.
Each stanza tries to contain and limit the vast content of the show, but the sentences run through line after line, twisting into new and unexpected subjects. The form cannot contain the supernatural overflow. The words are like blood rushing through a body, but the pulse is too quick. The author is being stalked. The blood rushes faster and faster, sped on by each episode and the thought of Collinwood.
The exercise that Trigilio has set up for himself, to write one sentence in response to each episode, leads to an excess in each sentence. How can one whole episode be contained and coursing through one sentence? It wants to overflow. Content wants to spill from form. The details want to spill over into the next sentence. This flow of warm liquid down the page seems inevitable.
If you read this book, don’t be surprised to find that you yourself are experiencing the five stages of vampirism:
Kubler-Ross’s five stages of vampirism:
one, fever delirium—hearing your mother’s
botched lines spoke in underwater reverb
two, blurred vision; three your witch-bride
throws open the curtains and you
shriek at the daylight coming through
the window; four, you’re suddenly
compelled to wear psychedelic,
Pre-Raphaelite smoking jacket;
five, the bat-bite puncture wounds
on your neck won’t stop bleeding
and your undead eye shadow
thickens with each new scene.
Jayme Russell has two chapbooks forthcoming in 2017: PINKification (Dancing Girl Press) and PINKpoems (Adjunct Press). Her writing can also be found in Black Warrior Review, Diagram, Tiny Donkey, and elsewhere. She received her MA in Poetry from Ohio University and her MFA in Poetry from The University of Notre Dame.