This review first appeared in The Short Review
The Cafe Irreal is a quarterly webzine that presents a kind of fantastic fiction infrequently published in English.
… in an irreal story, the unreal is continually juxtaposed against the real such that the reader can never find a ‘point of rest’ because he or she is never certain which ‘reality’ he or she is in.
-– appended essay by one of the editors, G.S. Evans
For the Irreal imagination, both the accidental and universal symbol refer to the source of bewildering, destabilizing trauma.
-– appended essay by Dean Swinford
For those new to this type of fiction, reading this collection will require a re-boot of the brain. Gone are the familiar toeholds of character and plot. Gone too is any claim for the piece to be descriptive or symbolic.
What’s left is the experience the piece is designed to evoke. That experience may include anxiety, bafflement, awe, a sense of beauty similar to how we perceive a sculpture or music, and maybe even frustration. Reading these fictions is akin to a stroll through a gallery of modern art. The viewer steeped in realist portrayals may take a moment to adjust, to “get” what’s going on. And to push the art gallery a step further, there will inevitably be those who give up on some pieces impatiently.