Real-Time Review continued from HERE.


11 responses to “*

  1. bs3

    Stray Dogs – James Cooper
    Her impression of James Stewart is worse than my father’s,…”
    A substantive, impressive short fiction that has hopelessness as its cursor at every turn, stretching poignantly toward the mistaken intentions that besiege those accused so much these days of what they may not have done in the sense that they were assumed to have done something – via an alienated boy’s relationship with another alienated, but younger, boy and with a compliant dog; and via a child’s make-belief of reality and truth from old-fashioned handleable toys (at least old-fashioned for those children themselves besieged by screens of electronic fabrication as they are today)…
    They’re the undercurrents, for me, at least, as the older boy, experiencing a version of Renfield’s syndrome, taps the veins of all of us in a most horrific sense of that concept, yet skilfully muted somehow in the sense that we can predict the wonderful ‘James Stewart’-type cure-all by the end. But do we get it? All I know is that the experimental ‘copying machine’ or ‘conjuror’s box’, as this story has it, causes me to believe that the real toy and the copied toy respectively represent the reality of felt reality and the sheer text that conveys that reality while in synergy with it…i.e. the copy ironically comes first. The first story ever that has caused me consciously to grapple with the concept of fiction in quite that way. So, yes, a major experience.

  2. tallest1
    Dust Storms – Tim Casson
    “…but dragging an ugly shadow into their home on the occasions he was there.”
    As in the previous story, there is a Maglite, a boy (here gone missing) and a dog. There is also contamination by dreams, as alienation seeks its own healing, but now it’s an alienated man who uses all the tropes of darkening rich greens at dusk, dust ghosts, the imam, crusading eastern warfare, self-sacrifice as redemption, a gestalt of so many things that I shall sleep on it, having read this story quite late into the evening for me, – knowing that it is the concomitant of the Cooper story in so many indefinable ways, but separately powerful in itself, down to the boots, the boy’s red boots like a startling image in a black and white film (but then darkening like those earlier rich greens), the boots later reunited with their owner, now the man (his father) lost in a cross-fire of tropes and images and misgivings… This story will certainly haunt me overnight.
    “The woods are too dark for a little boy of seven…”

  3. tta2
    It was thus overnight – and, via this morning’s early reading, Casson’s crusading understory perhaps dovetails with the previous trip on the Pakistani border by the adventurous characters (as they dovetail further with the earlier living body that vanished from its boots) in…
    Rain From A Clear Blue Sky – Andrew Hook
    “The world became monochrome, our shadows became ourselves.”
    At first I thought this was merely a run-of-the-mill, if very well-written, adventure story of risk-taking trippers who regularly travel the world exploring together for individual personal excitement, all planned in the Cittie of Yorke pub in High Holborn, sown with talk of ominous ghostly legends about the area to which they are travelling (here a snowy pass near Russia). But it is insidiously built up, including a ‘third man syndrome’ amid coldness (to contrast with this magazine’s earlier warm-blooded Renfield syndrome) and with a crisis of self-identity that is masterfully done as a discrete element of this story, but also significantly resonating with Cooper’s earlier ‘copying machine’/’conjuror’s box’ experiment. A third alternative indeed.

  4. dogstone1y

    Signs of the Times – Carole Johnstone
    “…blinking at each other, breathing twin fogs of November breath…”
    Out of the stories by this author I’ve read, this is her masterpiece so far. And that, of course, says it’s helluva special. A novelette that conjures up the ‘genius loci’ of dereliction and docks on the edge of the North Sea, the Scottish part, not where I live along its edge further south, but in my eyes it’s dead right for here, too, as if Carole’s dog-heads, in the eventual catastrophic dystopia of freak weather, riots etc depicted as both strident and skilfully muted, are filtered through by their own sad leaky eyes and the idea of cone-things to stop the head biting their own wounds, or did I dream that up? The dog-heads have people bodies, and one real person is the main protagonist, Pete, the son of the caretaker of the zoo where the dog-heads are semi-imprisoned. The dog-heads can talk to him, too, until they’re inveigled into talking to us all, even googling till the internet goes pop! Pete stokes some human-animal symbiosis with dog-head Vinnie, a symbiosis remarkably prefigured by the blood-exchanges between dog and boy in the Cooper story. But is there a watcher that bides its time? Finally Vinnie ‘himself’as Pete’s watcher? Tempted by a female dog-head into animal instincts he perhaps wanted to resist? Or is God the watcher? Or you the reader? I think Carole herself cannot decide, with the special art of an author never to have complete control, an art that few writers can manage. There is so much to speak about with reference to this important work that I’d end up filling a book myself about it. About dog-heads who once peopled the past.
    “He tried to rewrite our past even as the world rewrote its future […] a fiction only ever considered in abstract, in transitory guilt.”

  5. Also the dog/man symbiosis in the Casson.

    [The dogstone photo is mine, first shown here: https://nullimmortalis.wordpress.com/2013/01/30/dangerous-dogstone/ ]

  6. bs4

    Sometimes Everything Gets So Strange It Starts To Make Sense – Gary McMahon
    “…reminding him of prison and the burglary that had sent him there.”
    McMahon always wins me over, at least by the end of each story. Sometimes, he wins me over right from the beginning, but this is not one of those. Sometimes, I think McMahon is a one trick pony, with the messianic urban bleakness that is his trademark, but then again, it strikes me as unbeatable, and I first read him in the late 1990s, then published a couple of his stories in the mid-noughties, and published another a few years ago. I’ve read and/or reviewed a lot of his stuff over the years, but in no way read anywhere near his complete output. This story is about his fiction opus (so far) with its dark passions of family, its zombie bereftness, tough love, the brutalist architecture of humanity, coming back to haunt him, as its author, in the shape of a clinging puppet. My theory. It won me over in the end, as they always do. But I have no idea where it fits into the gestalt of the fiction in Black Static #33, unless the final story gives me a clue when I’ve read it…

  7. Perhaps the puppet is McMahon’s own version of Cooper’s copying machine / conjuror’s box experiment. The Nemo as Hook’s third alternative to the Ego and Id?

  8. insole7
    [above image by Tony Lovell]

    Turn The Page – Michael Kelly
    “She is Dorothy in Oz. She is Peter Pan, Captain Hook, and John Carter. She is Lucy in the wardrobe.”
    This short short or prose poem is the bluest of grey skies, to echo its author himself elsewhere. It’s a portrayal of an author as victim of her own work, eventually and ultimately the perfect beneficiary of it, too. It is a most beautiful piece and, with the McMahon, acts, after all, as the perfect coda to the other stories. For me at least.


  9. PS: McMahon’s puppet , I’ve decided, after sleeping on it, was an intriguing version of the man-dog relationship in these stories, as well as the author-literary opus relationship of the Kelly story.

  10. On re-reading McMahon’ s MY BURGLAR (2004) – possibly his greatest story – both that and the above story take on a new light together, but I am even more convinced my interpretation is a viable one.

    My list of reviews I’ve made of McMahon work: http://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/746-2/

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