– An example of truly horrifying beauty
Fungal imagery lends itself very well to stories of obsession and madness. There is something fascinating and slightly hypnotic about the sight of gross decay, even when you only ‘see’ it with your mind. The Fungi That Talk Softly holds attention, gently, but firmly, without demanding that its words be consumed. It generates a black mood. Not a morbid one, for all that brightness drains out of the story as Rostislav Kazakchie descends into ever greater obsession with the mystical nature of fungus. Morbid is too lifeless a word for this reading experience, too grey, too final. ‘Fungal’ is a white word, a blooming word. It carries with it a sense of growth and life, though both are slow and seeping. The black mood is slothful, not hopeless and it is appropriate then that the fungi of the story take such pride in the softness of their speech. It is also appropriate that they are the basis of Rostislav’s madness, as madness is an upset of order, and fungi, blooms of eerie beauty amidst repellent decay, are a contradictory sight. Harry Markov understands the emotional impact of her imagery. He uses it well, weaving the vision into a well-paced account of a man obsessed with mould, and crafting a tale gross, yet attractive, gripping, yet gentle, and fascinated with the life amidst decay.