AN EMPORIUM OF AUTOMATA
by D.P. Watt
Publication Date: September 2010
Sewn hardcover, strictly limited to 150 copies, 222 pp with end papers and a full-color frontispiece
Whether it be recalling the fading entertainments of the British seaside and the infant graves of a forgotten Welsh lead-mining town, or conjuring a troupe of fantastical travelling players that divert a mediocre Soviet official, the tales gathered in An Emporium of Automata embrace collectors and obsessives whose passions corrode even the narratives that enact them. History and storytelling collide in these peculiar literary manifestations, often interrupted by a vengeful narrator intent on disturbing both story and reader.
An Emporium of Automata draws together stories spanning a decade of writing. From the incredible clockwork mechanisms of ‘Erbach’s Emporium of Automata’ to the disturbing images on a grainy reel of film in ‘Dr Dapertutto’s Saturnalia’, section I: Phantasmagorical Instruments unearths the magical transformations of matter and the desperation of memory. The determinations of the book enthusiast are revealed in ‘Of Those Who Follow Emile Bilonche’. The cunning rituals of an ancient tradition offer a destitute woman otherworldly hope in ‘They Dwell in Ystumtuen’. And ‘The Butcher’s Daughter’ continues the family business in a fashion most unwelcome to the new tenants of her old home. The pomposity of a fading traditionalist is mirrored in the fate of a left-wing radical in ‘Room 89’. ‘The Condition’ finds the destiny of culture to be somewhat other than one might expect.
The five stories collected in section II: Genealogical Devices circle around a curiously ordinary femme fatale, Roberta Reid, whose quiet mystery captivates those who encounter her. But is her past as certain as it appears? Under the watchful gaze of a powerful, and decadent, landowner these characters reveal a local conspiracy that undermines the very tales themselves.
Section III: Ex Nihilo begins with two tales from beyond, erupting from the authors’ lives they were written against. The stories continue bookish themes as an academic encounters a living archive hungry for knowledge in ‘Bibliophobia’. ‘1 = 0’ find the perpetual battle between theology and philosophy enacted between father and son, with unfortunate consequences. An ageing collector has a few surprises for his dubious visitor in ‘Memento Mori’. ‘The Comrade’ gives a bereaved and broken man a new direction in life following the teachings of his new companions. We end with a tortured fable of power and madness in ‘The Tyrant’.
So, roll up! Roll up! And witness this phantasmagoria of metempsychosis. Stick a penny in the slot and marvel as these mechanical tableaux come to life; be careful though that their covetous gaze does not finally come to rest upon you, for the hollow eyes of toys and dolls are nothing less than visions of our own decrepit souls.
D.P.Watt is a writer living in the bowels of England. He balances his time between lecturing in drama and devising new ‘creative recipes’, ‘illegal’ and ‘heretical’ methods to resurrect a world of awful literary wonder. His first fiction collection, Pieces for Puppets and Other Cadavers (InkerMen Press) was published in 2006.
I: Phantasmagorical Instruments
Erbach’s Emporium of Automata
Of Those Who Follow Emile Bilonche
They Dwell in Ystumtuen
The Butcher’s Daughter
Dr Dapertutto’s Saturnalia
II: Genealogical Devices
Zarathustra’s Drive Inn
III: Ex Nihilo
Archaic Artificial Suns
Pulvis Lunaris, or, The Coagulation of Wood
First Editions: An Afterwords
An Emporium of Automata is a sewn hardcover book of 222 pages with dust-jacket, silk ribbon, endpapers and a full-colour frontispiece. Edition limited to strictly 150 copies.
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