Sleeping Fish is, like many experimentally-based journals, not a collection of stories or even fiction in the traditional sense, but more the evocation and exploration of a single aesthetic premise: in this case, the unconscious mind at work. To say that its content is driven principally by wordplay goes without saying, even if titles like “The Mushroom Withdraws Among the Roots” and “The Bearded Favor” didn’t suggest this beforehand.
Most stories cultivate a single thought or situational development, potted on a page or less of real estate; occasionally this transition from world to world becomes a bit too much to handle, and reading more than 10 or 15 pages at a time is not recommended. The “works” vacillate between ultra-compressed narratives, mental ruminations, and surreal sketches. Familiar tropes are explored: Joshua Cohen’s vignettes carry the same logical obsessions as stories and novels. Stephen Graham Jones’s amorous liaison between a calorie doctor and his overweight patient contains all the elements of a longer story. Brian Evenson’s excerpts from “The Drownable Species” contain the same tropes of brotherhood and curiosity towards archived violence as his monumental “The Open Curtain.”
This is not a journal to be read for its descriptions of coffee houses and swishy-tailed cats, where metaphor is used as a “hook” to draw readers into a description of character. This is a journal where the swish of the cat’s tail might be appreciated for its metonymical qualities before the cat suddenly leaps off the balcony and into a cloud. It’s easy for a story, even an “experimental” story, to follow this train of thought down through the cloud and to the cat’s descent to street level; Sleeping Fish is often content to leave us in suspense. This will inevitably aggrieve some readers. Fans of surrealism, however, will find continual delight here. [www.sleepingfish.net/]