Allurements of Cabochon – by John Gale

I’m due to start below another of my gradual real-time reviews, turning leitmotifs into a gestalt.

And it is of ‘Allurements of Cabochon’ by John Gale (Passport Levant MMXI). A book I purchased from the publisher.

There is no guarantee how long it will take to complete this review, whether days or years. Indeed, this is said with the knowledge that a busy Season is afoot and many people have calls upon my time. So I do not wish any of you interested in this review to keep returning to this page and finding nothing added. However, I do not know how to resolve this problem ….

CAVEAT: Spoilers are not intended but there may be inadvertent ones. You may wish (i) to take that risk and read my review before or during your own reading of the book, or (ii) to wait until you have finished reading it. In either case, I hope it gives a useful or interesting perspective.

All my real-time reviews are linked from here: http://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/

All my Ex Occidente Press (Passport Levant) real-time reviews here: https://nullimmortalis.wordpress.com/2010/09/24/ex-occidente-press-real-time-reviews/

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Publisher’s on-line details about the book: “sewn hardcover with dust-jacket printed on deluxe heavy paper, cloth boards, gold and silver folio, silk ribbon, end papers and full-color frontispiece.”

It is landscape format, a heavy-duty page paper, dust-wrapper and board covers, highly aesthetic to my taste, 220 pages. Restricted to 60 copies, mine being hand-numbered 20 (nicely coincidental with the same handwritten number in my similar edition of Charles Schneider’s ‘The Mauve Embellishments’).

The Unpassing Sorrow of Lady Winter

“And I have watched her, Lady Winter, climb to the summit of a needle tower, the balustrade as delicate, as intricate as white lace…”

A fraternal survey of season’s circles – when grappling with Winter’s feminine entrapments – via an antique “pearlescent” prose seriously to die for … blending – unsubstantiatably from my own resources – wafts of Swinburne, a poetic Lovecraft, Dunsany, MP Shiel, Beddoes, blending them with a unique Wintry Gale. [On a completely personal note, the ‘balustrade’ reminds me of both Salustrade and my own last balcony.  Also the Crimson King on his Dark Tower balcony.] (1 Jul 11)

The House of Silent Ravens

“…worm-burrowed balconies of rosewood that are upheld upon the strong, carven shoulders of marmoreal satyrs.”

Please add Poe to that earlier list – and Clark Ashton Smith. I’m trying to home in on the essential Gale and both its visible and invisible currents … but I keep returning to some prose essence richer than I have ever experienced before and I have yet to decide whether too rich, seriously overdosing as I am on gorgeousness and corruption – and on words stranger than arcane neologisms, yet a strangeness retaining itself and an antique reality of actual dusted-off words with some form of dust still clinging.  No, not overdosing, simply pigging myself, to the lexic limits, upon guilty air-/ earth-borne mind-and body-felt literary pleasure.  This substantial story is involved with Gothic love and jealousy and a were-Raven … birdflesh in unholy hawly alliance with humanflesh.  Plus feline reincarnation.  And the ‘Synchronised Shards of Random Truth & Fiction’: “A  reconstructed reality: events that were shattered and their fragments pulled back together again to form a fallacy of horrible fantasy.” (1 Jul 11 – two hours later)

Ashghul

“The being, the thing so thin and pale, hueless as bloodless bone, reached Lord Kandar and he felt it like a cold wind resting on him.”

I’m still overdosing on synaesthetic antique prose, yet I feel this story is symbolic of inscrutable Ex Occidente Press. A slithy tove / an irresistible sexy androgyne – teasing me….. Indeed, without Dan’s many books in recent months, my life would have seemed impoverished, yet, equally, I feel the drawbacks (perceived or reported) have also given me needed perspective and a new backbone within my literary soul.  This particular story encapsulates all that — (whenever it was written – and I am not reading the story notes that I’ve already spotted at the end of the book until I’ve reviewed all the stories themselves).  It is as if retrocausality works boths ways, like the most efficient filters. Meantime, this particular story is a CASian gem. (1 Jul 11 – another 3 hours later)

A Rhapsody for the Goddess of Autumn

“And yes, I have tasted the rosehip wine of them, the blackberry syrup of them, those lips of soft rose petals, for I am the Princess of Autumn.”

A prose poem in the guise of a fictional performance, a refrain or incantation that, for me, is a vessel for the continuing synaesthetic glut of words turned into sapphic kisses via a threnody by Rutland Boughton accompanying words by Fiona Macleod. (1 Jul 11 – another 3 hours later)

In Autumn Sempiternal – A Triptych

“…gusting winter breezes driving along herds of sere autumn leaves still dreaming of their late fires of amber and gold, porphyry and orpiment,…”

This is an exquisite (I’m running out of words to describe the utter antique richness of this book’s prose), yes, an exquisite theme and variations on a triptych that I imagine having been painted by a painter-equivalent of Théophile Gautier – variations extrapolating upon the ‘story’ before, behind and beyond: touching on seasons, decay, death, sensuality, forbiddenness, precious or over-indulgent stones, cushions and desiccations, perfumes and dreams – for me, an atrophy and trophy of decadence alike…  [I was told, on the grapevine, to sip these stories slowly.  But if I have time to do so amid domestic matters, I do not intend equally to let time waste in case I die before finishing the book. In any case, I enjoy over-dosing on such prose as its plush layers carpet each other in the slowly forgetting mind of age.] (2 Jul 11)

Phulygia’s Song of Ebony

But now this prose poem majors upon telling me to “wait and dream“!  Too late, I have already embarked on this … (the word I’ve been searching for) … rapture. Ensorcelled rapture, perhaps.  And this rapturous song relays, inter alia, “…misty dawns of madreperl rich with the flautists of jewel-feathered birds.”  (2 Jul 11 – two hours later)

The Final Ward (with Margaret Russell)

“…hangings of white silk moved by soft-handed breezes.”

Judging by the seeming dual by-line above, the Gale has been soft-handed by the Breeze. But, no, this is the most frightening story so far, where the woman – seeking sorcerous tuition from the Lord Kandra in his fundamented halls – fails in her mission and is genied or geased within a vessel for seeming eternities … with anger growing as only a woman’s anger can grow. (By the way, I will not continue to mention the rapturous prose as it seems to weave through all the book’s plots and themes and poeticks like a loom of dark light. But, here, we have the epithet: “phantom-rich” – that both startles and unsettles and I don’t know why. Oh so wrong. Yet oh so right.) (2 Jul 11 – another 90 minutes later)

Fallen are the Domes of Green Amber

“…he came to the encircling balustrade at the tower’s apex.”

This story’s title seems to be a haunting refrain to remind us of unrequited love – nay, unrequited life – for evermore. But, then, a “sudden soft breeze” intervenes and we realise this story’s quincunx of movements is an exact companion piece for the previous story with retrocausality defeating itself via the easing of a two-way filter rather than by more stringent parthenogenetic mis-synergy – and, here, the genied or geased vessel is the loved woman’s own head!  A tale of “sweet anguish“. Regret and rumour.  Again I should not need to mention the attractive glut of antiqologisms within the resplendent prose – but here I was rattled by commoner words: “the caressing fingernails of ghosts”. (2 Jul 11 – another hour later)

The Moon of Obsession

“His imagination soared on wide pinions of fire, his soul flamed,…”

Not that it is appropriate to have favourite movements in this overall symphony of sublime decadent literature (sublime in the sense of awe-inspiring rather than the more modern term used by cinema-goers when they see a film that they liked) – and, indeed, this short piece probably benefits from the complex audit trail hencefar – so I won’t call it my favourite (however temporary), but, rather, a precious, susceptible-to-the-five-senses ambivalence of a (partially sensual) yearning for an impossible antiquity made actually possible by steeping oneself to an utterly extreme degree in that antiquity by means of a deep and textured fiction-prose, a yearning symbolised here by a desire to kiss the moon, underpinned or enclosed by fearful, fanciful, fantastical, often morbid, yet paradoxically truth-contextualising, vessels of entrapment in contiguity with the book’s soul. The art of fiction in extremis. The ominous imagination in positive overdrive. (2 Jul 11 – another 2 hours later)

Ashes of the Phoenix

“He groaned as the wind violently whipped the ancient stone of the castle.  The groan was repeated, and the castle seemed to bend, twist fluidly before the assault of the moaning wind and the hyaline rain.”

That quote seems to encapsulate the book so far.  Mineral – a word I inserted in the previous section of this review before I deleted it upon publication of that section – as the precious construction of reality by stones, precious or otherwise, the moon, the perfumes, oils, the chrysoberyls et al that make our world of soul with substance and vice versa, just by being words (and words have ink in antiquity) – and now the Phoenix turning to the mineral of ashes. This book itself – its board covers – have you seen them, they beggar belief! – and the dust-wrapper, chequered in textured black – all impervious to fire by the look of them. Impervious to Death itself. Impervious even to our Planet’s Fate. (2 Jul 11 – another 2 hours later)

I have only just started the next story in the book – it’s quite a long one so I may not finish it before going to bed – but, leading on from the previous story, I can’t resist referring you to this quote I made  a few years ago from ‘Martin Pippin in the Apple Orchard’ – HERE. (2 Jul 11 – another 45 minutes later)

Betrothed of Winter

I could not leave today until finishing this story.  It is worth buying the book if simply for this alone. A culmination, too, of everything that has gone before – telling of the return of a youthful haunting to the mature churchly man, the return as if from a feminine genie out of Winter’s frozen ‘vessel’ of snow and ice (prefigured in the very first story and elsewhere)  – then leading to the last six words of the story — “spoiler quote” (click this when you’ve finished the story) — that naturally lead from what precedes this story more immediately.  [It is the beginning of July as I write this review, (i.e still the long evenings of the year) and I have sat in the still sun-filled garden while I finished the story, feeling my brain actually bloom and burn in my skull at the high-gearing needed to absorb and appreciate this momentous story.  An experience similar to when I first read ‘Martin Pippin in the Apple Orchard’ all those years ago – and that’s a major compliment to this book but it is a book that needs my now maturer self to cope with, i.e. just before I start fading back to a second childhood on the brink of this Autumn of my days!  [This book with its own iconostasis  coming down like  a safety-curtain within Ombria’s church … till I pick this book up again, hopefully tomorrow].] (2 Jul 11 – another 2 hours later)

The Votaries of Autumn – A Portrait in Bronze and Vermilion

“…adyta of malachite that are filled with the friable debris of the ages and dusts that were laid down uncounted centuries ago,…”

Aptly, after my ‘Autumnal’ thoughts last night, this piece reveals itself as an ominously, yet inspirationally, theatrical prose-paean in Wagnerian-Parsifal-yet-more-feminine mode to the  Goddess of Autumn. [I feel cumulatively attuned – even affixed – to this book as if it is, even now, sinking its roots, from above, into the tangled branches of my brain amid the promise (or threat) of “gales that violently play the high limbs of the trees together like darkened old bone“.] (3 Jul 11)

Lord of the Porphyry Nenuphar – A Nocturne

This is no mere Chopin Nocturne, unless Chopin… Well, let’s not go there. Meanwhile, I sense that the book’s prose is becoming  even richer, if that were possible, as if I have needed to be tutored with the refrain or incantation of rare and beautiful antiqologisms time and time again – thus tutored by earlier stories to reach and properly experience this milestone of a story, one that is so utterly ominous, blushing with sexual ambivalence and jackdaw-retributional, amid “death-fragranced gardens“, near the Dark Tower type edifice that inspired Wagner, Browning, Orson Welles, Stephen King,  Mark Samuels, where – as in “Betrothed of Winter” – a curse or previous haunting  returns to the protagonist (here a Prince)…and the implications for us are diverted for a while by the sound of the “winds of autumn to blow over flotillas of amber,  cerise and aureate leaves and to send them scurrying and whispering strange and curious things along the elongated streets.” but only if you return to the beginning of the story to re-live it, something I shall resist. If I can. (3 Jul 11 – another 90 minutes later)

Aevernia, My Lady of Reflections

“This haunted mansion whose towers ascend into infinities of ancient twilights and cold oceans of sunfalls.”

The Galean refrains and incantations continue to grow like incessant music, not minimal music like Glass, but maximal music but still just as relentlessly repetitive (in a good way) and coming in waves upon waves of itself – becoming madder, or is it me merely becoming madder because of them, while they remain as sane as ever?  This is a dark paean to unrequited love.  Unutterably rich with words.  My journey with this physically impervious book – judging by the number of stiff pages remaining in it – is drawing to its conclusion with me eventually at my maddest point, I predict … if I can still predict for much longer! (3 Jul 11 – another 2 hours later)

Fires of Remembrance

“…all, even the slaves, wore silks,  furs, and jewels.” 

Even this book’s conjunctions, prepositions and pronouns.  Meanwhile, Lord Kandra again – a symbol for the author? obsessed with wandering realms of Decadence in search of Death where Death surely must lurk? – perhaps, but the seasoned literary theory of the Intentional Fallacy intervenes, of course.  I am clearer, however, that he is a symbol for the Reader who is caught in the web of this book, as I am.  And so will you be, if you’re not already.  The book itself is the geased and genied vessel, not the supposed vessels heretofore? (3 Jul 11 – another 45 minutes later)

Reverie at Twilight (From The Garden of Dreams by Peter Madley)

“…he instinctively knew that what he had lost would be found here;…”

This book is a pure Heaven of Literature, threaded with oxymoron emotions.  This story seems a relief somewhat that we are not truly trapped.  It is a masterpiece of release by close affinitisation.  The protagonist, I guess, finds Machen’s ‘Fragment of Life’. I, myself, find or re-find Elizabeth Bowen’s ‘Mysterious Kôr’ and Eleanor Farjeon’s ‘Martin Pippin in the Apple Orchard’. We shall all find what we individually seek in this story, as adumbrated (and this is the crucial bit) by the foregoing context within this book.  Meanwhile, the incantations or refrains persist, even throughout this ‘release’! (3 Jul 11 – another hour later.)

The Green Lady Pavilion

“…allured him with its emerald spell, for spell it turned out to be.”

Allured me too with its glinting polish set in gorgeous vintage intaglio.  Meanwhile, this is the crowning release from the book – the book’s coda – a charming, slightly self-mocking, traditional weird or ghost tale of a cricket pavilion – an English pastoral music upon banks of green willow – with moments of the Land of Faery at the edge of reality (there threaded with this book’s delightful dark-and-light-rapture plus those hallmark antiqologisms for the madreperl-count) – and a cloven-hoofed woman  both enticing and repelling by dint of her needs.  This book may have mixed feelings for an underlying eroticism but often drowned out by the resplendency of Death and its accoutrements.  I needed to pig myself on this book. It was a sort of a ‘dare’ to myself. I nearly didn’t survive. I also needed to drench myself in its music, finish it before I died. I’ve never had that degree of urgency before with any book. Either I feel I’m getting older and more vulnerable to sudden discoveries of the treasure that Death may bring with it – and this book was simply an advance part of that treasure — or the book itself had this inescapable urgency built into it.  Whatever the case, it has been a significant read, even given the burning in my brain.

“…like a well-aged and dusted bottle of wine: it needs to be savoured lingeringly.”

I shall now read the Story Notes for the first time but as I never review non-fiction, I will not be back here again to tell you what I thought about them. END (3 Jul 11 – another hour later)

5 Comments

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5 responses to “Allurements of Cabochon – by John Gale

  1. Jeffrey Dempsey

    Des, EXCELLENT review so far, look forward to more! Jeff.

  2. Thanks, Jeffrey. I hope you enjoyed the rest of the review. It was a major reading experience for me, as I hope I conveyed.
    Great to make your acquaintance again – after all those years since you published me in ‘Dark Dreams’, with ‘Blasphemy Fitzworth, I recall… )

  3. Pingback: DFL’s Best Four for fiction published in 2011 | KLAXON CITY

  4. An inspiring traversal, Des. I shall keep this writer in mind. A pity his work is both rather expensive and hard to come by. But violent interest conquers all…

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