I’m due to start below another of my gradual real-time reviews, turning leitmotifs into a gestalt.
And it is of ‘Old Albert – An Epilogue’ by Brian J Showers (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/
Landscape format, sewn hardcover with dust-jacket printed on textured cardboard paper, cloth boards, gold folio, silk ribbon, end papers and full-colour frontispiece. There are 55 pages excluding exterior pages that bear, inter alia, ‘A Note to the Reader’ by Jim Rockhill, End Notes and Bibliography, all three of which (in accordance with my normal practice) I shall not read until I’ve reviewed the fiction work itself.
The edition is limited to sixty copies of which this one is hand-numbered 20.
I am pleased to see this publisher (Dan Ghetu of Ex Occidente Press) is still prolific in publishing great books, contrary to what I was led to understand a few months ago. I hope the logistics of book delivery and authorial care have improved from what I was also led to believe some time ago. I’ve never needed to complain in respect of myself, I hasten to add.
“…you just may be able to make out the shape of a tower.”
Surrounded by words in workmanlike description of the history / buildings of the Dublin (Rathmines Road) locality is a schoolyard rhyme that itself surrounds ‘Old Albert’. I am surrounded, too, by memories – somehow – of Elizabeth Bowen’s book Bowen’s Court that is workmanlike to create a distantly felt poetry from its Irish location and in its perceived nostalgia, too. If I am not too much mistaken. (9 Jul 11)
II. Ellis Grimwood of Larkhill
“…he shifted his focus from Passeriformes (perching birds) to Charadriiformes (seabirds, generally).”
As emerging from the tail-end of the Prologue’s ‘surroundings’, an enthralling account of the house Larkhill in the 1840s and the ornithologist who took it over, followed by a visit to him from Sheridan Le Fanu narrated by the visitor himself – and mysterious ‘end’-papers of the chapter vis a vis the ornithologist and his changing bird-habits and his death (the pages are very stiff). I’ve delightfully no idea where this is taking me. Whether the chapters are separate incidents to be told in this book of the said locality or to be tied into a gestalt, that I was planning to do in any event? It is serendipitous that I have already decided not concurrently to consult the ‘End’-Notes (that are really distant Foot-Notes) because I can relish this, without them, as part of the Synchronised Shards of Random Truth & Fiction – not as either discrete Fiction or discrete Fact. This may be the wisest thing I do today. And I’ve been doing a lot of unwise things lately. At the end of this chapter, I suspect, is a slippage into meta-fiction, if you can call cardboard boxes of books meta-fiction at all…? (9 Jul 11 – ninety minutes later)
III: This Terrible, This Unnatural Crime
“…it was not uncommon for hearsay to smoulder in Dublin’s drinking establishments.”
And I’ve poured out a glass of wine to ensure this book becomes a drinking establishment – quite aptly, in the light of that quote, it turns out. A henry-fielding-esque intruded-upon visit to an island a distance from the book’s central locality – and a marital tragedy – and a possible hearsay connection of the wife’s death with our ornithologist. Hearsay without careful investigation of the truth behind the fiction can be cruelly unjust to the innocent, it turns out. The possible moral of this chapter, if not of my review. Enjoying it immensely, whatever the case. (9 Jul 11 – another 2 hours later)
IV. An Exaltation of Skylarks
“Walker was known in Dublin and the surrounding country estates for locating and importing the world’s finest wines.”
…which seems apt in view of what I mentioned imbibing earlier! He even has a wine shop in Aungier Street. But, seriously, this is a great chapter of happiness, less happiness, then conflict, finally horror, between a married couple with shadows of Mrs Rochester and shades of Yellow Wallpaper – in the Larkhill House of this book’s erstwhile threaded-through yore – a social society built on the wine trade, then the perfect trilling like birds by the wife’s admired singing, the husband’s jealousy and, eventually, Larkhill House threatened by Lovecraftianisation. Marital bliss does not seem to thrive in this book … so far. As overshadowed by locality, locality, locality. (9 Jul 11 – another 3 hours later)
V. Thin and Brittle Bones
“In 1837 Rathmines was described in Samuel Lewis’s Topographical Dictionary of Ireland as ‘a considerable village and suburb of Dublin…'”
For a village to be part of city is like a phenomenon I can’t quite define in literature. Author and readership? Perhaps others will suggest ideas to me. In any event we now have location, location, location (an English (Irish?) expression for the crux of a property sale) – as we follow Larkhill House through the late 19th century to the early twentieth, involving a school, a ‘sexy’ theosophical society, a school again – and a discovery, hidden in this text’s reported intertext, that resonates, for me, like indefinable foreboding Aickmanery and the book’s erstwhile birds and their female bird-warbler. Meanwhile, I also sense an overweening force – that henry-fielding-esque intruder who may be the author or who may not be the author but masquerading as him. (9 Jul 11 – another hour later)
VI. Come Like Shadows, So Depart
“The contents of these boxes…”
I am the reader village in the city of patterns evolving, shaping, dawning towards dusk – and, despite an important withdrawal of omniscience by the narrator/author (about the whereabouts of one of the protagonists) – a fact that makes me shudder about whom I’m dealing with here, in this last chapter – I think I know how to cope with the ending. Just.
A perfect ending, very well-written, encapsulating all that I was trying – sometimes with blind readerly instinct – to trace above… but I dare not hide spoilers too easy to seek out. Just that it is as difficult to tell a story in the language of silent words as it is…. but that would be telling, indeed. That schoolyard rhyme now flown home to roost.
“‘Wine.’ I obliged him and poured him a glass,…” (9 Jul 11 – another two and half hours later)
[I think that is the first time I’ve completed a whole real-time review of a book in one day.]
END OF REVIEW (no more, villagers).