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The Exchange

Nicholas Sporlender (Jeff VanderMeer)

Illustrated by Louis Verden (Eric Schaller)

Hoegbottom & Sons

Ambergris Chapbook

ISBN 0-000-00000-0

Publication Date: 08-08-08

32 Pages; $7.99

Date Reviewed: 02-10-03

Reviewed by Rick Kleffel © 2003



Fantasy, Horror, Non-Fiction

11-23-02, 03-26-03, 06-12-03, 08-22-03

Hoegbottom & Sons is the educational imprint published by writer Jeff VanderMeer. In the works published under this name, he continues his exhaustive documentation of and fiction from the non-existent city of Ambergris and surroundings. 'The Exchange' is a lovely little chapbook of merely 32 pages that manages to be more evocative than works more than 10 times as long, as well as being 10 times easier to read than any of those longer works.

Packaged in a beautiful brown envelope, 'The Exchange' presents a very creepy short story about a gift exchange between an old couple as witnessed by third person, the storyteller. It's the reader's guess who is the weirdest of the four people -- including the author-- directly present in the booklet. The prose is deliberately poetic and highly evocative, which may for some readers prove to be a bit of a problem, as what the writer is evoking is not always the most pleasant of feelings. Readers who like finding cold wet wriggling things inside their intimate wear, in their food and dropping from the ceiling into their hair will find this work a happy romp in the evening. Those who find such sensations not so amenable might not be so inclined to enjoy the clearly skilled artistic effort that went into creating this publication.

That an artistic effort is involved is clear from the first second the reader opens the chapbook. Schaller's illustrations are beautifully and heavily printed onto the high-quality paper. The images are simple and grotesque, very much in the style of Edward Gorey without being slavishly so. A lovely mutation takes place as the pictures progress.

'The Exchange' is a nearly perfectly put-together publication. Every aspect is of the highest albeit often the strangest quality. Even the advertisements that clutter the back pages are a pleasure to read, as they offer more glimpses into the odd world that Mr. VanderMeer and Mr. Schaller have created. If it's a madness that created this oddity, then it's a very consistent madness. And if it's simply creativity -- then perhaps our notions of madness are in need of some updating.