Real-Time Review continued from HERE.



11 responses to “*

  1. tost3

    Pages 7 – 12
    Kalmán visits Tosterglope in Lower Saxony to further define the ‘shape’ of “the vanished prodigy” Spinne — whom Kalmán is biographising — define him against the bland town and townees whence Spinne once singularly emerged. Here, Kalmán spots a harrassing ‘madman’ … “The caved-in brow and rotten nose…”
    Kalmán, at the end of his first day here, thinks idyllically of his wife doing her needlework back at home, but something in his mind seems to be tugging at him guiltily…

  2. tost4

    Pages 12 – 17
    “He was not the only casualty of the law of fashion that visits the radical of yesterday with the curse of quaintness today;…”
    Yesterday or, an extra mutated appendage, as yesterfang?
    Spinne turns out to have been a complexedly revolutionary/celebratory composer and pianist who vanished a long time ago, a man with a decorated third thumb … and Kalmán visits a museum kept by a woman with a snub that makes you feel you didn’t even exist in the first place.
    I will not continue reciting the plot as I go through what I feel is already recognisable as a remarkable book, but I shall try to reflect its theme and variations. Please rest assured that the prose is evocatively well-crafted, and the mystery of Spinne, Kalmán’s biography subject, builds and builds even in the few pages already read … and I am particularly interested in this as I am a self-confessed adept of listening to revolutionary ‘classical music’ – and its aesthetics. I am glad I have decided to conduct a RTR of this book as this process usually makes me stop, dwell, savour and accrete.
    I seem to have a happy knack of choosing such books to RTR.

  3. tost6

    Pages 17 – 22
    Astounding is too feeble a word to describe his ‘Variations on an Original Theme.'”
    …with my own photographed rocks being Variations on my Reading-Mind, bearing perhaps little relevance to the book I am reviewing!
    And what a book! It is developing with great Gothic atmosphere and the prose style to match, while we learn more of the ’13-fingered’ chords that I infer Spinne must once have spanned … and the core of darkness in the music that Kalmán, the protagonist, finds distasteful or dissonant (he is only a journalist it seems, not a music critic!) and the atmosphere in Tosterglope itself, lending paranoiac fears to every following shadow….and Kalmán’s own core of guilty darkness?

    [In case it becomes relevant to the universal gestalt during the course of this review, I confirm that I am simultaneously and quite coincidentally real-time reviewing two other books here and here.]

  4. tost8Pages 23 – 28
    …as if someone had left his stylised fingernail-trenches when desperately failing to stop himself slipping off the roof of a several storey building.
    Kalmán’s waking dreams concern the incident in his telling backstory – which I won’t divulge here. But it is one that seems to strobe between guilt and justification…
    This text is compelling, page-turning, as well as textured and eloquent. But I am still determined, by my fingernails, to stop, dwell, savour and accrete.

  5. tost9

    Pages 28 – 32
    To meet Spinne on the plane of inconceivable mutation by growing a second, uncorrupted heart!”
    We now enter more rarefied philosophical territory about Spinne – including Kalmán’s own reaction to his growing knowledge of Spinne and the reaction of another, as yet anonymous, Spinne student (apparently with chest pains!) to whom I may need to compare my concurrent review of ‘The Magic Mountain’! – all of which I find fascinating.
    In fact, Spinne now reminds me of the iconoclastic and complex personality of Rameau’s Nephew – a book about whom I serendipitously reviewed recently here.

  6. tost10

    Pages 32 – 41
    “‘Insecurities in the Fabric’ […] the problem of symmetry and asymmetry […] ‘Twin Hearts’ […] a maze of thwarted inter-destination […] Melodies do not create ‘waste’.”

    No ‘waste’ in this book but many undercurrents like a tenuous bedrock of insidious paranoia that even the reader feels emanating from the page, i.e. possibly making you the madman of the book’s title in parallel with the imputed effect of Spinne’s music…
    Kalmán’s own pragmatism (ends justifying the means in his personal life) seems hung upon the comfort of cigars just like Hans Castorp in ‘The Magic Mountain’…
    If I attempt to clarify much further, this will spoil the need to clarify it at all. The book perhaps is spawning spoilers for a different book you might one day read from the dark, untidy bookshop in this book itself?

  7. tost11Pages 42 – 53
    “…the walls were slick with damp […] the black, slimy pavement […] the cobbled road…”
    This book, without giving away too much of its plot, is, so far, a singularly paranoiac whodunnit or whatwasdonetowhom, tinged by the atmosphere of Aickman fiction, Daphne du Maurier etc, and threaded by what I have long absorbed (through much reading and reviewing) as the Ex Occidente ethos of post-modern traditionalism in European stalagmighty, stalactight halls and caverns of dark absurdity and mentally-twisted rationalism. Often clogged by the rubble (or ‘waste’ in this book) along the channels of thought, channels or configurations often converted into word-musical structures or resplendent esplanades or spiritual balconies amid Mittel-European-historical genii loci. Here, in this book, there’s a unique flavour as Variations on such Themes, a flavour which you shall need to discover for yourself – but beware the ‘ear worm’ or ‘jack-in-the-box’ waiting to pounce from between the lines of the text itself. Seriously.

  8. tost12Pages 53 – 62
    “It was pocked with cavities that suggested the retreats of living things. Just at present his eyes were dim…”
    This section is the book’s coda with an aspirational denouement or deligottiment by some ‘authorial detective’ as we are shown, through other characters’ eyes, the outcome of this book’s moral didacticism? One’s sins come home to roost? The symmetry of justice? The soul of its music? The twin hearts of symbiosis? But, no, I believe too many things about this book to believe any of that all of that none of that…. clawing my fingernails against slipping down the roof of my own mad-angled interpretations.
    I am left with many questions: e.g. which was Rameau, which the Nephew? And can this wonderfully tantalising book actually stand up?
    It was just the sort of collapse you would get if you propped a rag doll against the window sill,…”




  10. I forgot to mention the reference to Mozart’s Golden Mean in this book.
    Cf my review of ‘Magic Mountain, by Thomas Mann and ‘Rameau’s Nephew’ by Denis Diderot here respectively:



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