High Static, Dead Lines
Written by Kristen Gallerneaux
Review by Roy Peak
Lou Reed exclaimed in song that "Electricity comes from other planets," and he may be more right than he ever knew.
Reading a book should expand one's knowledge as well as entertain. It should take you to places you have never been to before, that you would not have been able to arrive at on your own. It should be a journey of openness, with mysteries revealed layer by layer as you read deeper into its pages. Once you have finished a book -- a really great book — you should be a different person than when you started.
After reading High Static, Dead Lines: Sonic Spectres and the Object Hereafter by Kristen Gallerneaux, I am undoubtedly a different person. Before putting down my cell phone after a call, I hesitate — What was that noise on the line? Receding electrons or the proverbial ghost in the machine? Switching channels on my car radio causes me to listen for voices between the stations, might there be lost souls in the ether attempting to refocus my attention? The caw of a lone crow high in a tree invokes a primitive response in my brain. Do I answer? Should I call out in kind? Is this a warning or a simple hello? Is it mimicking another bird or something less animalistic, perhaps a car alarm or cell phone ring? Those voices that awaken me at night, that rattle around deep within my skull, could they, perhaps, come instead from somewhere outside of myself? A lost soul trapped sonically within the very walls of my house? What long hidden messages are trying to escape from the wood of my acoustic guitar, to fall upon daylight, safe yet tired from their long journey?
Touted as "A literary mix tape that explores the entwined boundaries between sound, material culture, landscape, and esoteric belief," High Static, Dead Lines is full of past century mystics, possibly-haunted houses, fractured families, inter-dimensional seances, radio transmissions from Mars, cryptotechnologies, masers, lasers, ghosts of the still living, phone phreaks, hijacked television signals, computerized human speech, fuzzy memories, magnetic time shifting, ghost armies with inflatable tanks, the trauma of Meniere's Disease, and conversations from the past intruding upon the future as they overtake the present.
Gallerneaux's hauntological passages invoke as many questions as they answer. History, much like memory, is often subjective. Gallerneaux herself is an artist as well as a sonic researcher, and works at the Henry Ford Museum in Detroit, Michigan as Curator of Communication and Information Technology and holds degrees in art, media, and folklore. This combination has served her well, you never know where these tales are heading with their wayward electric ghosts and twists of fate. The stories and events she describes in this book are eclectic, fully researched, and as weirdly mesmerizing as the best short stories by Kelly Link, as historically intriguing as Norman Cohn's breathtaking Pursuit of the Millennium. I found myself further researching several of the events and people essayed within these pages for days after finishing the book. I really didn't want these tales to end.
It may be a mite bit early in the year to declare that this is the best book of 2019, but I can most assuredly declare that everything else for the next eleven months is going to have a helluva tough time topping this one.
Roy Peak, 1-11-2019
Roy Peak has played electric bass in more bands than he cares to remember for more years than he can remember. He wrote the theme song for the Utica, New York radio show "Hey You Kids, Get Off My Lawn" on WPNR-FM. His solo debut album, All Is Well, has been called "Loud, cacophonous, and beautiful by a truly unique artist." His short fiction has been published in The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature and he writes music reviews for the King Tut Vintage Album Museum of Jacksonville.