Ponckhockie Union (Recital Publishing, 208 pages) is a novel for the connoisseur of the uncanny. The story is about Ben Rose, a documentary filmmaker, who stumbles into a vortex of metaphysical uncertainties when trying to make a film about a Revolutionary War historical site. He is estranged from his wife, doubtful about his future prospects, and vulnerable to having his bedrock assumptions upended. The more Ben grasps, the less stable his life is. The tipping point in the narrative comes when Ben encounters – or encounters again – a lying sociopath who may or may not be an assassin and may or may not get murdered. Ben is held hostage in a cellar for two weeks before escaping, realizing only too late that the way out had been available all along.
I don’t want to let the cat out of the bag with too much detail, but the narrative seesawing is on par with Kafka or Borges. Once certainty is asserted, it is as quickly diminished. Add to that a dollop of paranoia a la Philip K. Dick, and you get the drift. If there is a cat to be let out of the bag, it is Schroedinger’s.
The overall atmosphere is of a thriller. An intense thriller. The notes of ominous transformations are quietly sounded in the introduction of the sociopath calling himself Les Spanda:
He gave me a wide grin and reached out a broad meaty hand. As I shook it, a vague sensation began to dawn in me that I had met this man before. I couldn’t grasp any specific memory, so I just thanked him, and walked back to my car.
Later, we learn that “spanda” is a Sanskrit word meaning divine vibration or pulse inseparable from being, a cosmic expansion, and contraction. Breathe in. Breathe out. Now hold your breath, and keep holding, holding, holding. That’s the mood Robison seems to be after. Continue reading