Gorxungula's Curse

by Duncan Bowsman profile

Surreal
2008

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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful:
A Dadaist shish kabob that somehow tastes… delicious., April 13, 2017
by J. J. Guest (London, England)

How Gorxungula’s Curse came seventh out nine entries in Abbie Park's Odd Competition, I'll never understand. Eight years have passed, and apart from the one I wrote, it's the only entry I remember. It remains one of my favourite Duncan Bowsman games. I suppose we gravitate to people we admire, and not long after the Odd Competition I got in touch with Mr Bowsman and mooted the idea of collaborating on a game - sadly that association has yet to bear fruit, but I live in hope.

Duncan is a prose stylist who varies his style according to the needs of each project. Here, he writes in the herky-jerky fashion of a carnival ghost train. Abruptly changing direction and crashing through our expectations like bang doors, his writing leaves the reader with the same weightless feeling in the stomach as a thrill-ride. You never know what's coming up next, but it's always the last thing you expected. Bowsman possesses the admirable talent of being able to take elements that have no business being together and forge them into a seamless whole. It looks effortless, but I suspect that this is an illusion, and like the proverbial swan Bowsman’s legs are going like the clappers beneath the surface of the pond.

Gorxungula’s Curse might look at first glance like something thrown together in five minutes, but then you look at the detail, and it’s like a Fabergé Egg, albeit one made from odds and ends from a wizard’s attic. He’s a consummate wordsmith, raiding the second-hand stores of literary history for forgotten treasures and stringing them together like a Dadaist shish kabob that somehow tastes… delicious. He is not afraid of inventing a new word when nothing in the dictionary will suffice, or of resurrecting some archaic term to do his bidding like an Atlantian mummy in a Clark Ashton Smith story. It’s this love of words, and the sheer joy of jamming them together that give his work such energy and colour.

Don’t get me wrong. Bowsman is quite capable of writing a straight story with beginning, middle and end all present and correct and in the right order. Irvine Quik, though quirky, is a great example of this. But it’s these bold experiments of his that I enjoy the most. They’re the text adventure equivalents of Captain Beefheart songs, and in a medium increasingly full of audience-pleasing pabulum, that’s sometimes exactly what we need.