Lost Pages wasn’t the only bookshop I frequented, but the books I found on its shelves were… unique. I never saw any of these books anywhere else. Bizarre Bestiaries. Dictionaries of dead, obscure languages. Maps to lands that may never have been. Essays on religions with unfamiliar names. Obscure mythologies. Accounts of wars no history teacher had ever mentioned. Such were the wares of the bookshop that fed my teenage dreams.
Claude Lalumiere’s The Door to Lost Pages is a strange meta-exercise in writing, and for the creative process of book publishing. Lalumiere uses short fiction, some of which has previously seen publication, to construct a tenuously linked novella of surreal encounters, bookended by a fourth wall-shattering dissection of the writer’s process—which, on a conceptual level, holds a mirror to the nigh-mythical Lost Pages bookstore and the dark god Yamesh-Lot, whose tendrils infect the world with fear and nightmares: one is a source for inspiration and salvation; the other is a bestial devourer of creation.
As was evident in his collection of short stories, Objects of Worship, Lalumiere writes with a delicate-yet-perfunctory sense of style, playing simple colours to high effect, as with the recurring uses of green blue and brown—life, sky, and earth respectively, representing an earthly realm apart from the heavens. The Lost Pages bookstore, a salvation metaphor for both the characters and for the avatar of the writer-as-self, as depicted in the coda, is North on a compass—a point of grounding for those who need it, for those who seek to lose themselves in the fantasies of possibility, because the admission of one’s reality as truth would be more disastrous than they’d care to accept. It’s existence is a questionable fact, appearing when it is needed most to defend against the nightmares that encroach upon the world.
The takeaway from the mythology these loosely connected tales provide is that salvation will not come with ease. It must be fought for, and an understanding between one’s desired self and a past or present more closely tethered to reality must be earned through confrontation. It absolutely cannot be won hiding from one’s nightmare vision of the truth amongst the stacks of a fantastical bookstore, no matter how tempting that may be.
As an exercise in creating a universal theme through short fiction—simultaneously crafting a book that is equal parts surrealist fiction and subjective first-person authorial examination—The Door to Lost Pages succeeds more on the merits of its structural experimentation than it does the implementation of its skin-thin fantasy that exists beneath a surface scraped raw.