Photographs of Madness: Inside Out by Alec Ivan Fulgate

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When I was 14, I had this massive crush on my friend Ana from my art class. She was a couple of years older, and as effortlessly cool as I was effortlessly awkward. She lived this bohemian life in a hippieish Parisian flat with her mum and brother (who I also had a massive crush on.) She was also a killer artist, mastering loads of techniques including China Ink, which I never could. She was a decent writer too, innovative, fearless. Her tortured vision of life was fascinating. She introduced me to some authors and artists my much more classical (stuck up) education (parents) had not yet broadcasted to me extensively.

She taught me about Andre Breton’s Ecriture Automatique, a writing technique used by the Surrealist movement in which you try to let your subconscious guide your writing. The idea is to write quickly, without worrying about grammar or sense or morals, to try to get into some sort of hypnotic state in order to completely free oneself from the narrow fields of consciousness and achieve deeper artistic creation.

Alec Ivan Fulgate is like my friend Ana, innovative and fearless and a master of many techniques, playing with genres, forms and even fonts. He is also like Andre Breton in his exploration of Surrealism, his sporadic use of punctuation, his poetic rhythm and his exploration of the deeper consciousness and the subconscious.

“The sunny sky so wet I drink from it and plant other things like bonsais that grow instantly to be fifty eight hundred feet tall I am a green garden green forest green gardens love me they play with my hair when I sleep rocks on giant leaves to sleep and dream of the green gardens green gardens green vomit spilling over the landscape I toss up no meals only the bile from my own sickness something I cannot avoid I remember telling Kyle we are only keeping him around because the girls like him only because the girls like him.“

Photographs and madness : Inside out is a four-part novella set in the same place at different periods in time.

A delicious and irresistible, warm, spicy smell emanates from a closet in one of the bedrooms from a block of flats in Little Street, of an unknown US town.

The first story, set in the 1920s, is told by Shelly Grinswold, a grieving and guilty widow seeking oblivion in too many men and too much bourbon.

“Fucked fucked god I’m slowed walking out of here walking with men in both arms both arms and leaving them pissing on the sidewalk when the coppers come to take them away but not me not me I’m too fast too much for them I struggle toward the night crowd I bump shoulders say watch out look out say out loud I am almost home and then I am home.”

Shelly is the first one to stumble on to the “handle of pig iron bleeding all rusty red orange on a white trapdoor” and to venture through, incapable of resisting the warm spicy smell, her own curiosity and the knowledge that whatever might happens, she isn’t leaving much of a life behind.

In November 1962, Linus Dixon, grieving his brother’s preventable death, follows into Shelly’s footsteps, from the closet down into the sinister hatch.

“The silence as I crawl is something I’m sure would make a weaker person hear things, see things. The only thing I believe I could compare this place to is an acid trip, only without the fun, only an ego death and a great deal of thinking about yourself in such depth it’s frightening.”

Linus’s progress down the narrow crawl space takes him to dark places, literally and figuratively. The inability to escape what comes across as a morbid purgatory forces him to look inside himself and at his guilt, his demons.

“My eyes I need to pull them apart my eyes my eyes back from the vision of the couch the couch”

In the 1990s, pothead bandmates Kyle and Schaefer squat in the very flat, whose bedroom has been rumoured to be haunted. When the smell – “lots of spices like some Whole Foods or something” – starts emanating from the closet, Kyle, ever Scheafer’s dogsbody, investigates first for never to return. Scheafer comes to his rescue but too late, and trapped in a hatch full of visions, he is left alone to face a lifetime of remorse.

“Kyle was your friend. Kyle was your friend. Kyle was your friend. Kyle was your friend. Kyle was your friend.“

It is only a couple of decades later and in the final chapter that the actual fate of the protagonists is revealed through the paper a teenager works on for a school project.

The author unveils some information which anchors the story into reality, providing answers to decades of mystery, while always preserving the abstruseness and imagery surrounding the hatch, leaving the reader to interpret its meaning as they wish.

The powerful style, the impressive ability to characterise in very few words along with the exploration of tones, styles, smells and textures throughout, provide the reader with a complete immersive experience.

Alec Ivan Fulgate writes with his gut and edits with his head, delivering a tight, visceral and haunting read.

Photographs of madness is the very talented Cavin Bryce’s Back Patio Press first publication. Get yourself a copy, you won’t regret it.

Photographs of Madness: Inside Out is published by Back Patio Press and is available here.

Alec Ivan Fulgate

Alec Ivan Fugate is a young writer residing in Fort Wayne, Indiana. He wrote PHOTOGRAPHS OF MADNESS as both an escape and as an experiment. He found solace from his day job as a dishwasher and the dying light of a long-term relationship by pushing prose further into poetics, exploring how a story can be told using only the aesthetics of language.

Twitter: @alecifugate
Published Work
Buy his book

Reviewed by B.F Jones

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