World Wide Web And Other Lovecraftian Upgrades – by Gary Fry
An on-going review pasted from here: http://www.knibbworld.com/campbelldiscuss/messages/1/1661.html?1236522315
World Wide Web – And Other Lovecraftian Upgrades
by Gary Fry
Humdrumming Ltd – 2007
(I have not read the Introduction by Mark Morris or the Afterword by Gary Fry)World Wide Web
A long story that I really enjoyed. It seemed to encapsulate for me why I have took sustenance, all my life, from the type of literature represented by both Proust and Lovecraft.
Jung and Big Brother TV reality.
Not exactly culture and trash – but this dichotomy is at least touched on here. One transcends the other (as explicitly demonstrated by this story in form and content).
The relationship of the boy with his Mother in this story is Proustian. The catharsis is Lovecraftian.
The story is about a web and is a web. A web of interconnections.
Black static of technical things these days (a theme of much modern horror literature, not only Fry’s).
This is also a story of meta-horror and inter-generational adolescent problems, including another discommoding Dad. Awakening sexuality. And a vastly-canvassed Quatermass-like finale with detached cosmicity.
A tale of chemistries within us all.
The Horror writer whom the boy meets reminds me of Elizabeth Bowen (if anyone has read my essay ‘Towards The Drogulus’). This is what Fry writes about him:
“Philip’s fractured narrative had starkly conflicted with the elegant prose he employed in his fiction. And he’d experienced some terrible episodes in life – the events of the Second World War among them…”
Another key passage: “…the chalk paintings were merely embellished fancies, their form rooted in the genuine fears of people…”
This story is of breasts and spiders.
“Experience is never limited, and it is never complete; it is an immense sensibility, a kind of huge spider-web of the finest silken threads suspended in the chamber of consciousness, and catching every air-borne particle in its tissue.”
Henry James from ‘The Art of Fiction’ 1888
Hilarious and apocalyptic (if not apocryphal) M.R. Jamesian skit on various philosophical and scientific and economic tenets with monstrous results…
The credit crunch becomes larger than life?
I do believe language is life, btw, like Peter Crowley.
[On page 1 of this story: ‘reactionary’ is not the opposite of ‘conservative’. And who is Richard?]
The Servant of the Order
Larger than life again – from that Aickman story into a Fry-Ionesco written, Lucien Freud / Max Ernst painted Lovecraftarama playing on the Necronomicon’s potential existence as a fiction or non-fiction book…but not both?
But why go to all that trouble? The cheque could simply have been stopped?
I enjoyed this literary absurdity, and it also seemed to fit in with my current activity of reading many other stories centred around a zoo for ‘Cern Zoo’. This one a miniature zoo but not necessarily of miniature exhibits!
Somehow it seems apt that this story was published by an outfit called Humdrumming … still throbbing inside my ears like an ever-bloating tuneless tinnitus of Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn!
“…her jowls jangled jauntily…” Nwoooo!
Three Is One Too Many Or Too (Two) Few
I like serious. I like funny Horror stories but basically I like serious. This story is serious. And it’s seriously good, I’m not afraid to say. I was drawn into it by the protagonist being like me when I was young (if I can be ‘unnemonymous’ for a brief moment): a working-class only-child who didn’t step on pavement cracks! This story although it is serious has a life-line link to the previous ‘absurd’ story: i.e. Picasso in a window (I seem to recall). (Maybe Lovecraft, too, but that’s not obvious). And there is an echo, too, of Picasso art in the self-viewing via a dictaphone recording (an old Horror device of something being left behind by the protagonist to tell the narrative of self in his own language after he is dead and with immediacy (Cf. our debate on ‘I’ stories in the review of ‘The Impelled’)) and a mirror: “Oh God, at the moment I don’t know what’s inside and what’s outside me!”. And language underpins the reality of this story: “With words, we’re able to arrange memory and perception…” and when there is a slippage in language (a fate akin to Mr Krook’s in ‘Bleak House’ and also Cf. Peter Crowley’s tenet in ‘Unnaturally Selected’) then there is a slippage in reality here, in the actual structure of reality. Perhaps into a cubist nightmare. This story has really spooked me.
[I didn’t know one of my favourite writers, (Anita) Brookner, was a composer of music! Or was this the way the protagonist spelt the name?]
[I’ve hedged my bets with the title as the one in the contents list is different from the one at the head of the story.]
“The nemo is an evolutionary force, as necessary as the ego. The ego is certainty, what I am; the nemo is potentiality, what I am not. But instead of utilizing the nemo as we would utilize any other force, we allow ourselves to be terrified by it, as primitive man was terrified by lightning. We run screaming from this mysterious shape in the middle of our town, even though the real terror is not in itself, but in our terror at it.”
– John Fowles 1964 (from ‘The Necessity of Nemo’ in ‘The Aristos’)
In The World
Starts with a quote from that geezer Merleau-Ponty. Seriously, it waa a very apt quote as is, I think, mine above for the story’s ending.
Fry’s stories seem to use traditional horror genre devices and philosophy in a mutually transcending way, so neither is off-putting to any exponent or fan of each.
This is a story of a pre-credit crunch Estate Agent working for the intriguingly named ‘Intention Estates’! There unfolds a SF-trope of an alternate world (amid the horror tropes) that, in some intangibly effective way, symbolises (before its time of this story being first published in 2007) the current credit crunch itself – and the human emotions that go with it.
I think I may have identified the leitmotif of this book: faces at windows imaginary, real or painted. Also, perhaps, shapes seen out of the corner of the eye (Fritz Leiber?). People blubbering amorphously behind the front door.
Out of Body, Out of Mind
Just read it. Merleau-Ponty … Picasso … Poe … Blackwood … Lovecraft. This is a story where the leitmotif I identified above comes home to roost in several places, but here I sense that the protagonist himself is the face in the window — as he suffers a Lovecraft-tinged angst and visionary cubist-perception about his girl friend, his Mum and his discommoding Dad.
This story has a plot paralleling Stephen King’s ‘Duma Key’ but is essentially Fryesque. However, if Fry sometimes ‘shoe-horns’ certain ideas into the fiction (as some I believe have said), this story is indeed an example of that in a negative way, I’m afraid. But as I’ve made clear, I hope, in most of his stories (read so far), Fry’s methods certainly work for me. But here I also found the ending artificial.
[Aye Aye – I I – Eye Eye: Cf. my comments on ‘The Impelled’ vis a vis ‘The Tell-Tale Heart.]
A splendid Golden Age SF tale or one from an August Derleth anthology – a poignant and horrific ‘transmogrifiction’ of interlocking dimensions where the gateway becomes he who passes through it. But I may have misinterpreted it – but I am a phenomenologist and spend playtime with Husserl (and maybe that geezer Merleau-Ponty should he join my gang).
That ‘gateway’ is an all round vision of pitiful monstrosity (a prickly Tate Modern exhibit) that comes to life under Fry’s amazing description of it towards the end of the story.
At my age, I can certainly empathise more readily with the 75 year old protagonist than I do with those young men from Bradford in some of the other stories. Not ‘bodying forth’ so much as ‘bodying out’! You will see my eyes one day at the windows of death’s gateway – as the protagonist sees the eyes at the window of the soul that belong to the poignant ‘gateway’ creature. I am free-wheeling here. Whatever I think, it is a good yarn. A nice coda to the Lovecraftian “Faust Symphony” that is this book.
“Upgrades”? Well, it’s got my name in there and three-quarters of the letters of ‘gary’ – leaving ‘up’.
There seems something very positively appropriate about that.
Onward, soon, to ‘Sanity & Other Delusions’.
This review was written between 7 and 9 March 2009 inclusive.
My other recent book reviews: https://nullimmortalis.wordpress.com/2010/09/07/df-lewis-real-time-reviews/
I’ve now read pieces by two other readers and interpreters of this book: i.e. the Introduction by Mark Morris and the Afterword by Gary Fry. I enjoyed both, particularly some of Mark’s humour and insight. I can now see I got the fry-up wrong. It should have been vindaloo! And Gary seems to think ‘Bodying Forth’ is quite a different story to the one that affected me so poignantly.
3. Weirdmonger left…
I’ll have to reread it in 25 years or so . . . Actually, I’m seeing more and more the significance of your big issue about intentionality. These reviews have been an enlightening experience for me. Thanks.
4. Weirdmonger left…
Yeah, come across this before. M-P was interested in how elements of the perceptual field presuppose one another, that it’s not possible to perceive, say, a tray without a context, a framework, a background. That’s not to say that everything simply needs a boundary. M-P meant more than this. He asks in Phenomenology of Perception for us to think about examining the front of a house. We don’t, he asserts, assume it’s a stage-flat with no back and sides because of the contextual field in which it’s placed. The trees behind it, we know, have a view of the rear of the house. We view the trees via our bodies. The trees’ physical incarnation coupled with ours pitches us in a lived world in which the house is also present. Thus objects take on multi-dimensional life. (Perhaps you need to read the whole of PoP to fully get what M-P is about here, given that, like his view of existence, it presupposes a thorough understanding of his notion of the ‘body-subject’.)
In ‘patient hatchings’, M-P was trying to show, I believe, how these pre-reflective elements of perception might be disrupted, the better to show us how non-reflexive consciousness of the lived world functions. It’s like the defamiliarisation of the Russian Formalists.
6. Weirdmonger left…
‘Out of Body, Out of Mind’ tried to deal with this issue: the island in the lake, the parents’ hats, the girlfriend in the attic . . . things dislodged from the lived world.