Gates and Cloysters

From a review of THE LAST BALCONY collection here:

<<‘Gates’ – brilliant. A classic. One of my
favourites so far. One of the best Des Lewis stories I’ve ever read, definitely
in the top ten, possibly in the top five. What I love about this story so much
is the fact that it relies on experimental form, but an experimental form that
works well, extremely well in my view. It’s almost a Donald Barthelme
story. It also put me in mind of Rabelais, with his comical, rhythmic, demented
lists of objects as an integral part of the developing story. ‘Gates’ utilises
this technique to perfection thanks to the rhythm of the bulleted lists. The
conclusion of the story is the last item on the final bulleted list. It’s far
better than this brief and inadequate resume makes it sound, believe me! I love
this story and I wish I had written it. These days almost no one plays with
form. Form is almost a dirty word. And yet it shouldn’t be. There’s still so
much that a good writer can do with form, whether that form controls the
content, is controlled by it, independent of it, or utterly entwined with
it. >>


<<‘Cloysters’ — awesome. What a great story! Let
me explain, if I can… It’s very un-Des-like; it doesn’t feel like a Des Lewis
story on certain levels. So if I claim it’s one of his best, will that somehow
logically suggest that his normal work is too odd (a neat
paradox that, I feel)? No, because although this story doesn’t feel like Des in
its packaging, it’s Des through and through underneath; and although we might
read it as a non-Des story, we’ll think about it later as a bonfide total Des
Lewis tale, one of his best, as I’ve already said.
The format is orthodox. A rich businessman and his wife
move out of the rat race of the city and into the country. Things go wrong in an
unsettling way; a return to the urban jungle results in a slide down into
misery. I have often said that Des Lewis doesn’t use algorithms in his writing,
but this story is as algorthmical as a Roald Dahl or May Sinclair tale; but it’s
far denser and stranger than anything by those (very good) writers. The writing,
the prose, is just excellent. There are the curious similes and
weird-angle narrative approaches, but there’s nothing here that couldn’t be use
to teach a class of creative writing students; and they would undoubtedly be
better at the end of it.>>

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