The Orphan Palace – Joseph S. Pulver, Sr.

I’m due to start below another of my gradual real-time reviews, turning leitmotifs into a gestalt. A book I recently purchased from Amazon. And it is entitled:-

THE ORPHAN PALACE by Joseph S. Pulver, Sr.

Chômu Press 2011

The Orphan Palace by Joseph S. Pulver, Sr.

Cover illustration: Peter Diamond

There is no guarantee how long it will take to complete this review, whether days or years.

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.

My previous Chômu Press reviews:

All my other real-time reviews are linked from here:


Pages 1 – 33

Pulverine? Pulverous? This prose is both.

This writer is a soulmate, except he does it one way – with jabs – with paragraphs clinking each other like beer bottles sharing wondrously cosmic chunks of bar-talk or hotel-room physicals about, say, the Hounds of Tindalos.  I do it another way – tentacularly down the Proustian page. But both are forms of knitting, if with diverse plain and purl patterns. Yet, I hope, we are tapping the same sense of journey into wildness and nightmare. I can’t speak detachedly for my own stuff. But I can speak for his…but I keep my powder dry.

It’s a journey, you see, East … in an America that is as foreign to me as some of the dreams I dream.  Cardigan the protagonist haunted by the knitted arms and buttons of Greyhound buses and bars and hotels and hard-core enjambemented paragraphs and readers (each one of us a different twin-set or jumper of a reader). An orphan back-stitched with a harsh past, OK. I need to travel further with him before I even begin to decide what’s happening here and whether he’s working me or me him or within each other or quite opposite outside.  But I’m getting warm. (27/10/11)

Pages 34 – 58

Cardigan sees the pen’s needle-point is full of black ink.”

I promised to keep my pulverous powder dry. But, already, against my primal instincts of the creative prose style I usually favour – outside of poetry – I am beginning to spider up and down these staccato towers of text with some relish: the blend of the sophisticated readerly present moment and of a childhood’s past, of nightmare and reality, of deliberate retribution and blind passion, of Carrollian madness (D’If) and a real-time mock-sanity (the reviewing rat?): all running ladders amid the deniers of the weft of my mind… This incredibly knits together the spare textual look/feel of Cormac McCarthy’s ‘The Road’ with a Lovecraftian texture! And a bookshelf of by-lined book-titles that one day Chomu will publish. It shouldn’t be able to work, but it does.  And where are the Man and Boy of our Road and Journey? – within the single self? Just look at the ‘Sr.’ in the author’s name“Think of this as jazz – improvise, run through the changes and see the direction of the voodoo.” (28/10/11)

Pages 59 – 82

“. . . men transmuted from dust … women knitted from dead tomorrows,”

Dust is pulverous. And I wonder if I should be seeking a gestalt from the Chomu canon as a whole.  Their previous book was by Joe Simpson Walker.  This Joe Simpson Pulver?  To walk the road. To pulve the print’s stitches.  The text actually pulses, too. Pulses in and out, narrow tower of text, wide shank of text, as past and present merge – memories haunting and now resought – the cruelties of those to whom you were orphaned, and with whom you now clink beer bottles, or share hotel rooms, on the road journey … “The road as a song without a tongue.” East …or Past — Cast on, stitch one, plain two,  purl, and cable twice – snicker, snacker … Cardigan all darned on the wooden mushroom of your mind (“I wrote about the tears of ruin from my balcony on the moon.”), sown, sewn, with teeth, dogs and weird monsters and weird thoughts. Hard-boiled and noir and booked-up. “Don’t let the Shadow Beast grow in there. If you let him, he gets stronger. Feeds off you. Gets in the fabric of you.” (28/10/11 – another 3 hours later)

Pages 83 – 109

The book’s title is intriguing me.  I assume that Cardigan was left as an orphan to the home run by Archer – but an orphan palace? – a monarchy or dynasty whose home is orphaned (by/to the past or by/to the future?) reminds me of ‘null immortalis’ (my term, not the book’s), transfigured into the picaresque adventures of a Null Immoralist, a Tom Jones of the modern Road.  Just thinking aloud, while becoming increasingly hard-wired, hard-embroiled with the flow of this amazing book – at one moment powerfully steamy miscegenation, the next implying a set of nearly identical books that may one day become as real as the ‘King in Yellow’.   I’ve always felt the only true route to reality is via meta-fiction.  Burn the pages of all your ebooks, O iconoclasts of our time-seasoned verities! “Told then he was off, had an appointment with an angel on the balcony of the moon.” — “He sometimes looks in his rear-view mirror and sees dust, thinks it looks like another planet,..” — “the road dust” — “I’m not all a fabric of dark sky.” (28/10/11 – another 2 hours later)

[From internet with a reader’s instinct that it will become relevant in this review later: <<There are three kinds of frit: the first, crystal frit, or that for crystal or clear glass, is made with salt of pulverine and sand. The second and ordinary frit is made of the bare ashes of the pulverine or barilla, without extracting the salt from them. This makes the ordinary white or crystal-glass. The third is frit for green glasses, made of common ashes, without any preparation. This last frit will require 10 or 12 hours’ baking. The materials in each are to be finely powdered, washed and searced*; then equally mixed, and frequently stirred together in the melting-pot.>>
*Another use of ‘searced’, this time from The Evolution of an English Town: Being the Story of the Ancient Town of Pickering by Gordon Home (1905): “all well dried and powdered and finely searced so much as three barley corns weight of each Bullock blood. Moudy [mole] blood. Great Flitter mouse blood….”] (28/10/11 – another half hour later)

Pages 110 – 115

There is a strong clue as to the meaning of ‘orphan palace’ in this section – and it would be a spoiler to quote it. Also, when meeting the merman, I now feel this book is more Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress than Fielding’s Tom Jones. And the realities of mirrors at least begin to resonate with my instincts just now about glass…? (28/11/10 – another half hour later)

“Collected. Taken back. Gone and with him, a boy’s hopes and dreams.” from ‘Icarus Above…’ a published short story by Joseph S. Pulver, Sr.

This book’s brilliant cover above: The King in Yellow Submarine? Or Tibet the bodhisattva?


Pages 116 -145

“Figures he’s got a lot more miles to go before his heart stops dreaming of her and casts her into the null-light of nothing.”

A ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ penetration except the Devil is Rosemary? I am taken along – through visions that are against my own mild passiveness – and am thrust against the sides of a vision here that is working up a frenzy. “The mirror-spattered floor. A constellation of scythes and shards sharpened by the burning death-face of the moon.” “Some hum or pulse delights here.” “Cardigan sees the needle-pointed pen is full of nightblack ink.” “‘Did you understand any of that?’ / ‘Not sure you’re supposed to. You?'” Tomorrow is another day. Exhausted but fulfilled from today’s reading of this book. (28/10/11 – another 3 hours later)

Pages 146 – 159

“. . . Suffer from Blue Tomorrows? Come sleep with our djinn, glimpse poems weeping on the thorns of Nothingness…”

I’ve had a second wind in the reading stakes tonight – and decided to read another segment of this compulsive, impulsive, impulverisable book … I shall be sleeping myself within the next hour, I guess, but time to while time with Cardigan like the Gunslinger with the Lobstrosities in another book – but here he with the ghouls and the hotshot ladies of the street as he continues East,  and shooting blackness like fire, fire like blackness – it’s been quite a day, spending it reading the Pulver… “Looked at the blood on the mirror. / ‘Bad.’ / ‘When time stops.'” (28/10/11 – another five hours later)

Pages 160 – 175

“The hands of the clock are not moving…”

…which is perhaps significant this morning and this day of days in UK where I live. And today, things are coming together.  Archer’s Todash of Tindalos? “…the repeated phrase  of a strange-sounding harp, whispering bells,…”  And the Doors as glass mirrors? And the Choo Choo (Chaos?) bookshop and the casting on of the same stitches on the Night Needle, but not exactly the same Noir stitches: a word out of place here on one page, another on the next makes the knitting nearly unravel? Who knows?  This thing is so subtle, I find myself in exciting times for any reader, to wake up to such density – yet freed up with some Nothingnesses surrounding any narrow towers of text. “…he sees himself reflected in the glass.” The pulverine infused glass? “But somewhere in there the boy still exists.”

“Hard to survive these days of downturn and destiny that have come up empty now that luck skipped out. Lot of dreams didn’t come true.” (29/10/11)

Pages 176 – 209

From the cradle to the grave, it is the search, the incurable search for The Self.”

…leading to a few sentences that contain more wisdom than any formal philosophy or academia.  Here, inter alia, Cardigan, on his quest East, meets up with Bonnie & Clyde types in a heist upon a Looking Glass House. And so, this book continues to astonish.  Thoughts, too, on a comic-book dad who leaked worries rather than stimulation through his art.  All very telling. “Holstenwall…Vastarien…Nortown, Neither,…” (29/10/11 – another 3 hours later)

Pages 210 – 228

“–Goin’ back there is a mistake.”

Accreting phantasmagoria and magi that I can’t exhaustively cover in this real-time review, of course, but, at core, I sense a rite of passage along the inter-connecting, changing needle-points or Mono-rails of meaning (Moon balcony-rails?): a quest-strewn ‘regression’ towards imagined or real childhood abuse as part of the pulverised and/or synchronised glass shards of random truth / fiction … seeking, for me, a ‘Dark Tower’/“clock tower” self or “Another lost highway“, a last balcony, a nemonymous night, a “needle night“, a classical horror situation, a casting-off, an “autumn sonata“, an anthology of anthologies, a book of books with the same knitting-pattern but different words, or the same words but different knitting-patterns… (29/10/11 – another 90 minutes later)

Pages 229 – 256

“Cardigan looks at his newly found compass. The needle spins in a counter-clockwise motion.”

Comparison of cut and uncut film-tapes and book-texts bolstering the impression that Schatten / Shadow Brothers are a pervasive LOST Dharma? Or some ‘Bungalow House’ rushes? As officiated by Ms Kafka-tet? Me. Thinking aloud. Talking silently. Sliding deliciously through this book as through a dream.  But unlike some dreams, I hope I shall never forget its effect, its effect through reading-time as well as its effect as end-result. Hence my real-time review here in the (never-to-be-forgotten?) aether! The reason I invented real-time reviews of this nature by starting to do them three years ago almost exactly? (29/10/11 – another hour later)

Pages 256 – 279

“Field that is knitted to mirrored field…”

For ‘field’, read ‘plot’? Here the Pilgrim’s Progress, earlier observed, absorbs new characters and locations, Madame Twilight, and a painter artist, a pit like the slough of despond, cross-sectioning History (Nazis etc) as well as our own modern culture.  A meta-fictional Eurozone debt crisis of images: we owe them so much but they sting us for what is not our fault. Meanwhile, Cardigan heads towards the Core — the centre of something, some Azathoth (Archer?), some ‘Home’ (Orphan Palace or Dark Tower?) — that configures the equivocal objective of such horrastic regression, or so I guess.  “Eyes wide with ha-ha.” And Huey (now a writer of one of those books of a book) from that same erstwhile Core. (29/10/11 – another hour later)

Pages 280 – 292

A wildly type-set conjuration of Azathoth’s last will and testament?  Or the writtten-out core of abuse belknapped by a myriad of authors like Dylan Thomas, James Joyce, Allen Ginsberg, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Laurence Sterne &c &c – pulverised prose or knitting-patterns of painful enjambement? If you are still reading this book at this stage, you get what you deserve. (29/10/11 – another hour later)

Pages 293 – 321

I am reader as dream-catcher. Jimmy Savile died today. Another Illuminatus! And here the book I’m reading has been caught in that dream. “I honestly don’t know, but thought, maybe some fact you have, or something you might tell me would tie it all together and I’d figure it out.” The Shadow House Books (with one Hotel chain that has them in all their rooms instead of Gideon Bibles!) — fiction works by jobbing authors or works by genius? Beaver Books or Chomu Press? Only a man called Book might know. Johnny Cash should have sung a song about the Man called Book.  (Or a Woman called Compass). Anyway, we head towards the end of this story of trigger-happy Cardigan. It is surely a masterpiece. (29/10/11 – another 2 hours later)

Pages 322 – 353

(only cry a little)
And debt.”

A spoiler within glass is not a spoiler at all but an internal reflection.  This is a culmination that only reading will result. Reviews should allow themselves to have no real revelation of the ending’s tending, otherwise, you might not want to read the book. And what a book! By a jabbing author. Something that can’t stay BLACK  unless it is forever.  I now return West with you.  With all you unlisted ones.

“Sear.” (29/10/11 – another 2 hours later)



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5 responses to “The Orphan Palace – Joseph S. Pulver, Sr.

  1. Des, please forgive me for not thanking you for this wonderful (humbling) review earlier.. dummy me, I thought I had.

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