Book Review : Juliet Escoria - Black Cloud (2014)
Juliet Escoria has earned quite a reputation in indie publishing since the release of her debut collection Black Cloud in 2014. I've gotten acquainted with her work myself last Summer and was blown away like the others. Her writing feels passionate and violently alive. Which Hunt was one of my favorite reads of 2016 and prompted me to immediately order Black Cloud from Amazon afterwards, which is THE Juliet Escoria book everybody talks about. And it's now my turn to talk about it. I don't know if I have anything new to say about Black Cloud, but I can confirm you it's got the allure and the heartbreaking transparency Juliet Escoria's writing is known and celebrated for. It's quite different from Which Hunt, but it's a rabbit hole worth exploring in its own.
So, Black Cloud is a short story collection. Several things differentiate it from other short story collections out there, but what sets the tone so brilliantly is that every story is introduced with a negative emotion: confusion, apathy, guilt, fear, etc. It's intense. I did have some favorite stories, although I believe Black Cloud is meant to be read like a diary with memories and anecdotes. Here is a Ghost Story gracefully narrows the lines between reality, hallucination and fiction. The Other Kind of Magic conveys the weight and meaning of bad choices and paints a clear portrait of how it completely overhauls the protagonist's existence. It leads her to tough questions, which bridge the gap between personal and universal experiences. The stories in Black Cloud feel so vivid because they're things that could've happened to anybody.
I didn't research Black Cloud a lot, but it didn't feel like a collection you could pull apart and analyze story-by-story. I believe it was meant to be taken as a whole and I think this is why the book is brilliant. It made me doubt what was reality, perception or straight out fantasy in there. I don't know how much of it was inspired by real events in Juliet Escoria's life, but probably a lot. Black Cloud is really an exploration of memory, perception and meaning. Escoria connects the dots between the stories for us with emotions, which influences our reading and leads us to a path where the line between reality and fantasy has been blurred. I admit to being blissfully ignorant of Black Cloud's context, but if you told me there was equal parts reality and fiction in it, I wouldn't be any surprised. This is what makes the book unique. It has a flawed narrator, but it is not necessarily unreliable.
Black Cloud was, once again, a lot of fun. Juliet Escoria dragged me into uncharted territory and made me feel like JCVD at the end of Bloodsport, trying to find my bearings. I enjoyed being challenged when I read and this was definitely the case here. Juliet Escoria is one of the most exciting voices in indie publishing today. She created a paradigm that it entirely her own. I've enjoyed her subsequent release Witch Hunt slightly better, but you could argue that it's easier to like to due its abstract nature. Black Cloud is so rooted in experience and intimacy it almost feels voyeuristic to read. Anyway, I'm a fan. Juliet Escoria is the real deal. She is a fierce and original voice in contemporary literature. The future belongs to fearless women like her.