Nemonymous Two (2002) – as ‘real-time reviewed’ by Karim Ghahwagi
Nemonymous Two (2002) – as ‘real-time reviewed’ by Karim Ghahwagi HERE and transcribed below. (Taking place during October / November 2009).
I am not checking up on the identity of the author at present.
Climbing the tallest tree in the world:
A sense of adventure, foreboding, tradition- the image of the tree.
‘When we were students or professors’… Confusion of time? Collage of past/present as captured in the markings on tree- image of time and memory, an inversion? Heaven at the roots-crown in the clouds?
Passage of time/ direction of time/direction of the world- Microscosm / macrocosm
Rites of passage/passage of time- again a lunacy of tradition?
‘The tree was older than the art of writing’
‘fossils of passion’
Dislocation of time and space- sun sets, and then midnight- the journey of companions- which experiences are mutual, which ones, singular and contained?- in a kind of ‘void’- ‘dangled his legs over the void.’
A dream- doubling of birds- the owls/ falling up towards the sky/ down to the ground.
More moments of inversion, confusion of time, direction.
Effective use of ‘unreliable’ narrator- inner hidden world / external world/ markings on the tree which branches out to the void as some form of experience- Cycle of tradition vs cycle of nature/ interrupted. Vertigo.
Tradition/collapse/ renewal/ cycle
A strong opening tale that manages to effectively incorporate elements of identity/tradition/alienation/
And a handsome volume in a cinematic format which is comfortable to read in the layout.
Mighty Fine Days.
‘He seemed too heavy for the air, and appeared to slump bodily where he stood…’
Corporeality, also of the passengers on the bus stop. Missing information. An effect that mounts and mounts in its absences. Corporeality again ‘He slapped Harris on the shoulder’ As if the details pertaining to the descriptions of other people around Harris should give us some momentary comfort against the approaching terrifying blankness.
We get the impression that Harris is moving around in a sort of fugue, as in the opening tale- a dislocation of identity/past that could be interchanged with a critique of those external material things that we identify with ourselves, with the world- A stripping away that collapses the self, into a tighter and tighter configuration, like a cochlea or a seashell.
A both unsettling and humorous tale.
The assistant to dr. Jacob
‘I no longer trust the memory’ Here we have a line that carries through effectively from the first two stories.
‘…his home, a secret kingdom sheltered from prying eyes’ Then an underlying sexual tension in the seemingly innocent garden? ‘…blush, bloom, blood lilly, tongue, button hole, burst.’
Cross-pollination of the garden and the human body. Also in the beginning: the seasons turning in the bones, the summer and spring of youth.
‘…intimacy of a photograph’ vs the intimacy of memory, and those things that are shut out, for a time- until they return and haunt the protagonist.
Here nature is initially romantic, idealized and hides something dark, and unimaginable- but for the frozen images, fragments in time.
This was a very disturbing and beautifully written tale. And it has a cat called Whiskers.
‘I puzzled and fretted at the position this would put me in, regarding our doctor/ patient compact.’
Social gathering with analyst and patient. Schism of social class, age, gender.
Childhood and transformation. ‘Unreliable narrator.’ Play therapy.
‘A fake paradise, is better than no paradise at all.’
This was both a fun and bitter piece, a farce on the subject/object relationship and of identity and gender; a continuation of the investigation from the previous tales on the nature of identity, memory- both real and constructed. An emerging gestalt? We also have images of ‘unmasking’ as it relates to childhood, carrying through from the previous tale.
A devastated inner and outer world.
‘He realized that he had no idea what he would do when he reached the city, no plan other than try and find warmth, to escape the creeping cold that followed him like a shadow.’
This is a bleak and devastating story. The reoccurring images of the creeping cold, and frost-covered streets, are made all the more bleak by the desperate and destructive longing for the warmth of human contact and companionship. ‘Let the cold world rush back in.’
The ‘shivering’ building is particularly effective at the end of the tale. ‘Horses crunched in slow circles, their heads hooded by the fog of their breath’ is another powerful image of Coppard’s condition. I liked this story very much.
The vanishing life and films of Emmanuel Escobada
The Brazilian born filmmaker’s influence by the Italian ‘Giallo’ films. And now he speaks 4 languages of course.
‘…the misunderstandings that result from language barriers.’ – That is not even an understatement when it comes to the Swedish dubbed actor!
The gruelling two week schedule’- poor old man! And to cast him as Satan! Not even Werner Herzog would do that, not even during the filming of Fitzcaraldo in the jungle! Or maybe he would.
‘…none of the characters seem surprised by the presence of a telepathic squirrel’ HA!
This is a laugh out loud funny story that has a lovecraftian subtext lurking. This story is also an excellent companion to all the previous tales in its ‘investigation’ of identity/biography, but then here in this tale, all the witnesses seem to have gone.
Be renice’s Journal
‘(I had to lay down on the floor and press my ear to the carpet to hear above the noise of the furnace vents)’
Bere nice is fascinated with her new neighbour who might be a banker because of his ‘smart clothes’ and good hair. ‘The finest specimen of a man.’
Pills. Disability check. Compulsive brushing of teeth. Unhappy about the rest of body.
This piece, presented as a series of journal entries/ autobiography, is also an interesting variation on the other tales and works effectively as an extension from the previous Escobaba biographic tale. In this case solipsism, fantasy and ‘construction’ of experience is turned first inwards, and then outwards towards an unsuspecting other.
The sequencing of the tales so far has been very effective and has created interesting dynamics in meaning and perspectives, a polyphony of voices working around the theme of identity and experience. I am skipping the ‘late-labelling’ from Volume one so as to not spoil any surprises in the future.
‘High above the road reared on concrete limbs, traffic streaming along its spine…’
A woman wanders through a ghostly park filled with electric emporiums, carpet palaces, pet stores, pizza outlets, car parks and movie theaters: Bleak descriptions provided by a troubled spectator?
Then the spectator becomes a participant, and the situation spirals towards something even darker and disturbing.
‘The spine road’,’mouths of buildings’,
‘…gleaming on the face of a washing machine.’
‘The Lady of Shalott’
A Ballardian ghost story, a consciousness trapped in a loop, as in the films that cycle at the Showcase multiplex. The tragic fate of the protagonist is projected onto the bleak modern urban landscape to great effect. Photography is also used as a very disturbing device in this tale, as in the dr. jacob story.
Eyes like water like ice
‘A thousand people had crossed the country to listen to the talk from a small group of Indian mystics.’
The arrival of the other, of something outside the sphere of the ordinary and mundane. As in the previous tale, we are moving towards something spiritual, pertaining to another realm.
‘…middle class audience listened attentively
… planned what they would say to their friends at the after-talk gathering over a bottle of wine.’
A mutually sanctioned encounter of different cultures: the author presents a rather ambiguous stance however, on one hand farcical on both sides of the encounter: ‘the Indian mystics headed for another city, another hall’, an audience enthralled,’ they’d laughed when the men made a small joke- bright eyes like water like ice, laugh like a child, cuddly like an animal.’
However ‘The man in beige’ seems to bypass the more ‘frivolous’ aspects of the ceremony- Quite literally.
This was a disturbing tale mainly due to certain satirical aspects being turned upside down to great effect. A mysterious tale.
‘Seagulls and crows told the story of my early years. They are scattered like punctuation throughout the narrative; sets of black-and-white quotation marks perched in opposing pairs above the lines.’
Digging a hole in the earth- almost two meters deep, birds perched in the surrounding trees above the hole.
Shift in time. Back to the years in school? The digging of the hole referring to a sort of archaeological investigation of a personal history?- digging down through the layers.
‘Being the hypotenuse in a love triangle is a messy business. At school, geometry was made to sound so clean.’
Repetition of the shape of the hole, fragments from school. ‘Spirals of poverty’, ‘a pattern started’, ‘the escape tunnel.’
A childhood filled with illness: ‘I still half suspected the birds. Although true, it was a circle that got me in the end.’
And then in adulthood, shapes have a different meaning indeed.
‘I think about the layers I have come through. Each age deposits its own debris.’
This was a story rich with feeling and imagery, beautifully imagined and with a poetic complexity that worked to forward the story very effectively. Another variation on autobiography, time and experience from the previous tales. Also of childhood. Who wrote this I wonder? Curious to find out at the end of these reviews.
‘The clothes you wear are perm-press, the only other item in your bag is the pair of striped pajamas that belonged to your father’
A woman checks into a hotel room. We are presented with a catalogue of belongings, both from the private and public sphere, each one with their memories. The tragic significance of the pajamas is hinted at towards the final lines of the tale. The longing for escape we also encountered in an earlier story ‘Ice Age’.
A tale filled with much sorrow and powerlessness. ‘The man who monitored your life.’ There is a suggestion however that there will not be an escape, but a return to a desperate state of affairs perhaps: ‘Things that colour the hallway leading to heaven for the old and ailing, theirs a palette of oatmeal greys, at best.’ This is in an earlier instance of the tale where the woman describes her conversation with her mother, but it seems to project forwards towards the end of the tale.
‘Worcester is a town surrounded by farms, which produces a certain insular mentality and fear of city life.’
Travel is its own country, and the protagonists want to get away from their claustrophobic community.
‘Underneath Kevin’s idealistic statements about how ‘mankind’ needed to wake up or the evils of capilaism and pollution, I always sensed a struggle against a deep sense of futility’
This notion of what lies hidden beneath the surface carries through to the image of water and swimming, to what moves in the blood, what is hidden in the depths of the sea.
‘One slightly strange thing that developed between us was that Kevin liked watching me swim and dive. He had a fear of water-not showers, but any body of water deep enough to drown in.’
Kevin is terrified of water, and he doesn’t like the ‘chemical’ smell of swimming pools. Gradually however, he learns to swim, never feeling at ease in the water.
The swimming pool is exchanged with the expanse of the sea.
‘There was always more going on with Kevin than was visible on the surface.’
This line from earlier in the tale also reflects the mystery and darkness that Kevin feels when he is surrounded by chemicals and the dead fish in the sea, which he describes in a moment of panic: ‘They’ll pull us under, make us join them’
And towards the end of the story:
‘Our conversations became brittle and light, almost whimsical: the fear of depth had taken us both over.’
‘I don’t think people can ever really save each other, but they can help each other to keep above the surface.’
This was a tale rich with imagery and nuanced characters. With a just a few lines, the author manages to make these characters jump off the page as real living human beings of flesh and blood. Despite its pessimisms, this tale is strangely uplifting. Travel here, could also be understood as an exploration of the self as it relates to the other previous stories. The notion of escape also carries through from the previous tales.
‘Walter gazed around the poorly-lit space, searching, catching glimpses from the corner of his eye, glimpses of something that moved just beyond his field of vision.’
Walter finds himself in a shop along a city’s decaying harbour district. He appears to be in a strange state…’felt himself drifting back into that fog, back into a white space that had no boundaries…’, ‘immersed in confusion.’
We get the sense that Walter is ‘looking for a girl,’ but he is obscure both about the identity of this girl, and his reasons for his quest.
The shopkeeper then gives us one of several clues. In a final twist that will not be revealed here, we understand both Walter and Dan McMurtry’s ‘passion’ and ‘quest’. At atmospheric and disturbing tale with a comic finale.
‘One day he noticed the dust motes floating through the air and remembered that dust was mainly made up of bits of human skin. Bits of them were floating through the house like lost souls.’
The protagonist has lost his wife and daughter in a fire: ‘only charred and unidentifiable fragments.’
He is revisited by moments, memories, images of family life. His world begins to fall apart: giving up work, contact with other people, he hardly eats, becomes disoriented.
A childhood dream/ flashback. The bucket and God’s act of creation.
This was an unsettling story about loss. As the protagonist’s life comes to a standstill, we are given the impression that something else starts to stir, real or imagined. This had some very carefully selected key images that were used to great effect.
A wizard and his apprentice:
A sort of Socratic dialogue between master and student: The Rainbow Man and Muura.
Discussion of an initially frivolous nature- hairstyles, turns to issues pertaining to the survival of the species, the arts, politics, religion. A short comic piece that comes at just the right time in the sequence of stories.
A spot of tea
‘With ritual grace, Frank would play ‘mother’ and serve up tea, much to the continuing delight of his java-swinging American Brethren.’
Private Frank Worthy, a canadian serving in the US army, has a weakness for tea, and a fiery mat of red curls.
‘The year was 1918, and sadly enough, all the tea in China could not change the fact that the war against the Germans was looking grim’
Junior is wounded in a surprise German attack. Frank’s tea appears to do a little more than just keep the Allied soldiers warm against the cold French night.
A German, just a boy, is wounded as he sneaks up on the Allies.
‘For whatever reason, we’ve been given this gift, and it’s something that’s meant to be shared.’
A meditation on war, mercy, and a portrait of a handful of soldiers surrounded by a little bit of magic in the otherwise grim reality of the trenches.
‘Like any strange little girl might do, Jennifer had always wanted to die in the snow.’
Jennifer does not want her death to be a ‘public’ occasion, like her grandmother’s funeral.
On a Christmas Eve, the landscape covered in snow, Jennifer sneaks outside when her parents are asleep. She finds a tree in a park.
‘She grabbed hold of the lowest branch and climbed up into the body of the tree….It was magical to be above the earth’
This is a tragic tale, and the image of the tree returns to us from the very beginning of the collection.
There is a final tale, or section called ‘Four minutes and thirty-three seconds’– four blank pages. I found myself thinking of that girl in the tree as I turned the final blank pages to the end of the collection. I’ll add some thoughts on real-time reviewing soon and look up the authors of the collection!