Published by Lethe Press
In Search of and Others by Will Ludwigsen is a collection of weird fiction that flirts with the fantastic, using absurdism, gothic settings, ghosts, and meta-narratives to communicate complex themes of family, past, emotional damage, and so much more. What is special about this collection is that it rarely—if ever—dips into maudlin sentimentality. The stories collected here are romantic, yes. But they feel authentic.
Ludwigsen’s voice—whether expressed through the third person, or through the perspective of one of his many compelling narrators—never comes across as saccarine or phony. In the hands of a lesser writer, the plots and conceits of many of these stories would come across as emotionally cheap. Instead, Ludwidsen wields his words to strike at the heart of melancholy, of regret, of wisdom borne from pain—and yes, even of hope.
This is not a horror collection per se. I would categorize it more as weird or fantasy fiction. Elements of the supernatural (or the bizarre) are present in most of his stories, whether implied or explicit. Whether the protagonist is a sentient house, a possibly-deceased (or possibly not-) mental institution doctor, a young boy on a camping trip with Charles Fort, a girl studying dream time, a person stuck in a well forced to witness a bizarre puppet show over and over again, or even you—yes, you—the stories ring with haunting, emotional truth.
This is a collection that flirts with romantic ideas, but isn’t afraid to show us the harsh underpinnings of human existence and moral frailty. Some stories are easier to interpret than others, sure, as a few are puzzlingly obtuse and scant on explanation and exposition alike. But reading all of these stories through a literal lens would be a mistake. It’s better to coast on the prose’s dream-like river, with its ebbs and flows of mood, theme, and bizarre (if ultimately relateable) pathos.
Each story should be read in a single sitting—and then left to percolate in the reader’s mind. Drink them in like cups of robust tea, and let the ideas and characters and images seep. If this all sounds a little abstract and a little flightly, well—Ludwidsen’s style is a bit infectious, but rarely pretentious.
In Search of and Others is deep, compelling, and fantastic—in both senses of the word.