Tag Archives: ash tree press

Real books on this morning’s sunlit shelf…


Sculpture by Tony Lovell

Sculpture by Tony Lovell

bigbookbooksrock3 booksrock2 booksrock1


Links to more of my rocks and books in the comment below.

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The Haunted Bookshelf

Photo of my own haunted bookshelf

The Ash Tree Press Yahoogroups ‘All Hallows’ has been going many years with much discussion activity on ghost stories and things horror genre, of which group I have been a member. Yesterday, Christopher Roden announced another Yahoogroups entitled ‘The Haunted Bookshelf’ specifically at first to discuss systematically the stories in Ann and Jeff VanderMeer’s massive and massively acclaimed THE WEIRD. You may apply for membership here: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Haunted_Bookshelf
Their Facebook page for immediate updates etc: https://www.facebook.com/TheHauntedBookshelf

During November 2011, I conducted a detailed systematic real-time review of THE WEIRD here: https://nullimmortalis.wordpress.com/2011/11/16/df-lewiss-real-time-review-of-the-vandermeers-massive-the-weird/ and I have since received a lot of good feedback about it — including from one of its editors in a public statement and, yesterday, out of the blue, Johnny Mains started a new thread on his Facebook page with a link to my review and stating that it was: “The greatest review of any book in the history of reviews.”

I don’t intend to re-post any of that review to The Haunted Bookshelf discussion group or, at this stage, to re-read the book. But I hope members of the group, if they think fit, will read my review about each story ‘in media res’. I shall be interested to see what the others think of the stories and I shall no doubt make input regarding any new thoughts of my own during the discussion.

Weird: A Compendium of Dark and Strange Stories


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Wormwood and Frances Oliver

The latest ‘Wormwood’, Issue 18, has just been published by Tartarus Press.  A regular journal dealing with Literature of the fantastic, supernatural and decadent.

I am delighted to report that it contains not only an article about the fiction works of Frances Oliver (a ground-breaking event in itself) but also a fascinating article that has given me much new food for thought about her stories and novels. The article is entitled  CULTIVATING THE DEMON WITHIN: AN APPRECIATION OF FRANCES OLIVER and is written by Paul Newman

I believe Paul Newman once published a story of mine many years ago in his magazine entitled ‘Abraxas’, but I have not been in touch with him since then.  He may not even remember the event!  Whatever the case, I would like to thank him for his reference in the article to me and my Frances Oliver review site.  I am very pleased to see his own  endeavours to obviate the scandalous lack of recognition regarding the Frances Oliver canon.  One day every lover of good literature (mainstream or genre) will be reading her work.

And thanks to Rebekah Brown for first introducing me to the work of Frances Oliver via the All Hallows discussion forum.  And to Ash Tree Press for publishing three of her books.

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The Book of Bunk – by Glen Hirshberg

I’m due to start below another of my gradual real-time reviews, turning leitmotifs into a gestalt. All my other real-time reviews, during the last three and half years, are linked from here: http://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/

I purchased this novel today as a customer from Amazon UK and downloaded it in a Kindle format to my ipad.


The Book of Bunk – by Glen Hirshberg

Ash Tree Press Kindle : 2012 (first published in 2010)

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.


From “I didn’t hear the knocks” to “and swept him out.”

“Lewis. If you make me do this, I’m going to tell them about you.”

Two brothers, one a first person narrator (Paul), the other (Lewis) who – judging by this short-range time-slippage prologue/outset from 1938 to 1936 in Pennsylvania and Oklahoma (just geographical names to this UK reviewer) – becomes a Senator, following the rather unorthodoxly dealt-with death of their father with the help of blind Lamplighter (their father’s chum). All (after my recent greenhorn orgy of reading this author’s works) in a typically pungent Hirshbergian prose style of some imminent involvement with skilfully picked out genii loci upon the edge of …well, an uncivilly, irreally frayed edge of character and plot…  One thing seems certain, these brothers are not going to get on.  Never have. (3 Apr 12 – 1.45 pm bst)

From “All Three Senators” to “‘Night Time,’ she said.”

“My brother always took more chances than I did. Many more. But his were planned.

Another two year time-slippage, just a short notch further on? First, a sort of politically (fictionally?) retro-extrapolated late-nineteen-thirties Senatorial version of a sort of McCarthy Hearing (as I understand American history) where Paul is up before the Beak, but without anyone else knowing (other than he and his brother) that his brother Lewis is one of the Senators-in-sitting – and, then two years earlier, boxcar-hopping, with a tentative touching-base of a brotherly intervention from Lewis, but ending with Paul leaving his native Oklahoma for the first time: encountering thereon a Galsworthy reading woman called Grace who becomes a sort of life’s-tale confessional… This is a telling and possibly calculated ohm-resistor of fiction: an expression coined for something of which Hirshberg is, I’ve found, the master. (3 Apr 12 – 3.00 pm bst)

From “The train had been chugging” to “then went back to her writing.”

Also, just being near Lewis again was like … I don’t know. Like holding a pillow down on my own face.”

Paul’s journey with Grace railriding in tune with the ‘Railridershere (a story review I serendipitously carried out in the last few days between reviewing Hirshberg’s Two Sams and Janus Tree books) … and her “nigger” child in a blanket whose scream is equivalent to the described ‘moaning’ in the Janus Tree book.  The backstories and potential forward-stories accrete in this juddering journey, and I suspect that time’s cruel racisms as well as other conflicts are impending via or beyond (or in spite of) the calculative text’s and my own historically-imperfect brain’s resistance… (3 Apr 12 – 7.35 pm bst)

From “At dusk, the train” to “about my dad, I guess.”

“…grinning like a jack o’lantern.”

I feel like a sort of lamplighter for this book.  Gradually, my own patrol of its pages reveals a philosophy regarding the pros and cons of “ends justifying means” and “lose some, gain some”, in history as well as in the fictional specifics before us now: the railriding oral-exchanges  and written-down ones, regarding truth, lies, make-believe, make-believe-within-make-believe: possibly making one of those ‘make-believes’ true: a genuine case (the best yet?) of ‘the synchronised shards of random truth & fiction’: and the Lewis character thus emerges from what Paul tells Grace and there is something, too, even more needing my lamplighting from what Grace tells Paul about Patrol (the ‘nigger’ boy) and from what she writes down (as yet unread by me but partially read by Paul) about a fictional (?) character called Roth.  It’s almost like competing with other readers about who of us can jump directly through this book’s narrative ‘fire’ with safety and foolhardy aplomb. (NB: John Galsworthy died in 1933, the same year that Philip Roth was born). (4 Apr 12 – 12.45 pm bst)

From “Grace stayed quiet” to “have us both for breakfast.”

“Train tracks spoked away in all directions.”

Railriding now over, Grace arguably finds haven for The Patrol who wields “the blind and deaf kid’s wail” and, then, she and Paul meet ‘Mother’ in a stone house, wherefrom he is sent to Trampleton as part of a Writing Project which you need to read about for yourself to prevent me spoiling it for you first.  By brief arbitrary mention of Frankenstein, it also puts me in mind of the ‘Workshop of Filthy Creation’ (a direct quote by me from Mary Shelley’s book): but probably more an absurdist-leaning gazetteer of America that puts me in mind of a version of this type of publication told about in ‘Secret Europe’: a Europe of the mid-1930s etc, too (a book very recently real-time reviewed by me here) whereby Paul (and others) contribute their own form of ‘lamplighting’ or, rather, torchbearing the American tourists of the day…  The more I find myself reading this “Book of Bunk”, I am genuinely becoming confident that this novel is a long-lost 21st Century literary masterpiece to out-Auster Auster (and that’s a big compliment from me, one I fully mean). But, if so, not long-lost for long: as it seems to have been first published in 2010! “‘I’m not a writer.’ […] ‘How do you know?'” (4 Apr 12 – 2.10 pm bst)

From “Five minutes later, Grace” to “984 Lumberton.”

“The majestic, intertwined branches seemed to recombine in endless configurations, reminding me of hundreds of conjoined hands or the letters of an unfathomable alphabet scrawled across the sky.”

As well as Paul Auster, please factor in W.G. Sebald.  [Amazingly, just writing that sentence, I’ve realised that my favourite Sebald book is ‘Austerlitz’: an imaginative gazetteer in itself!] — Above all factor in Hirshberg himself into this book’s seemingly disciplined yet autonomous text.  Sometimes one is amazed at a coincidence: like the event as Paul left in the train towards Trampleton and saw someone he knew on the platform he was leaving… Then it dawns on you, with the help of the book’s own lamplighter, that it is quite explicable and not a coincidence at all. This is a lesson for Life from Fiction.  In Trampleton, Paul enters a cinematic world of elms and ‘coloreds’ on bikes.  And a triangulation of plot-coordinates that we hardly notice, if at all. Or so I guess. (4 Apr 12 – 3.10 pm bst)

From “I’d seen Lumberton” to “‘You get a lot of musicians here?’ I asked. / ‘They’re the only paying black folk traveling who ain’t running.'” 

“I heard sharp, irregular thwacks, as if someone were beating a pillow.”

I feel as if I’ve so far jumped through this book’s ‘fire’ with some safe aplomb and I can now sink back into the narrative as if into a well-earned hot bath.  The barbershop scene: the flirting with a new fore-ordained character as well as with seasoned  characters from one’s past via acceptable fiction-coincidences that do not stretch credulity too far.  All as if overheard by the Senators’ Hearing… like the Gods from the film of ‘Jason & The Argonauts’?  We are all our own retrocausal Gods, I guess. Especially Lewis. — Meanwhile, it is easy to take for granted Hirshberg’s striking turns of phrase, poetic conceits, subtle ‘objective correlatives’; so I don’t. “Wherever this led, I wasn’t the first to come this way.”  So, to keep on my competitive mettle as a reader, I deliberately savour each new conceit, each new ricochet of happenstance, each constructive stylistic transgression, each addition to the the seven types of ambiguity, for what each is.  But the whole writerly  project has  somehow made me relax a nonce, as I say. I’m sure, though, I’m to be re-stirred before too long, although part of me wants to continue relaxing. “The eggs were butter clouds that melted on my tongue, easily the best I’d ever had.” (4 Apr 12 – 7.35-ish pm bst)

From “He kicked open the kitchen door” to “He let me pass.”


This is strong soup, a Friend of the Writing Man, as we learn further of Paul’s sly self-flirtation via Melissa, but, above all, his life in Robert’s ‘digs’ along with the other strange guests, plus his ‘Struwwelpeter’-type concoctions of fabrication for his own writing project which Grace and Lewis paradoxically seem to oversee by turning a blind eye to it: a job that reminds me obliquely at least of that with the erstwhile Hirshbergian ‘Safety Clowns’: a sort of apartheid of a miscegenate Alzheimer’s of the 1930s thus fabricated internally by Paul (or Lewis?) as an external reality in our own world where we are reading the book. Potentially frightening for all of us who are at the receiving-end of these words.  But whose words, exactly? That’s the rub. A role-playing game called Diaspora (my expression, not the story’s)  for “coloreds” or “Black Jews” and Whites in non-“White Trampleton“: a picture show with “a monkey escaped from a rundown circus.”  Now Paul’s visiting the Sawmill – but not quite Twin Peaks? (5 Apr 12 – 3.15 pm bst)

From “I visited every day” to “‘Weird,’ Melissa said.”

Fairest overseer they’ve ever had here,”

Yes, you’re right … Lewis. Not only overseeing, as I predicted earlier, but all-seeing, almost omniscient, even omnipotent?  But with a suspicion of elite smugness?  Let me make it clear. Throughout my life, I have rarely enjoyed overtly didactic fiction. And there are didactic features to this novel as it seems to be unravelling with its world of three-letter acronymic organisations: i.e. polar balances of black and white, left and right, worker and boss, Christian or Jew or perceived or implied Witchdoctor or Irreligion itself (with Missionary implications for some about others):  politics, religion, labour relations, dependancy on ‘relief’ or not: all stemming from the ethos of the 1930s – but if this novel is intended to be didactic (and I am as yet unsure), it’s the first didactic novel I’ve ever enjoyed.  If not, then it is its own ‘relief’ or support to my apolitical essence, to my inability to have strong opinions … above all, to my view of fiction as its own cumulative religion: like Paul’s writing project itself, a ‘commonplace’ book of every detail of place, plot and people: and each detail possessing its own power.  Even a detail like a tiny shard of seeming irrelevance awaiting potential parthenogenesis as the ultimate aforementioned ‘polar balance’ of truth and untruth. Take the ending of this section: Paul’s spooning with Melissa, impinged upon, for me, by underlying hints of Twin Peaks and what happened to some of the young women amid the timber sawdust and “cicada-buzz” in that erstwhile Trampleton. “I saw half a dozen owls perched like gargoyles in the trees.” (5 Apr 12 – 7.00 pm bst)




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WILD JUSTICE – Edited by Ellen Datlow

I’m due to start below another of my gradual real-time reviews, turning leitmotifs into a gestalt. All my other real-time reviews, during the last three and half years, are linked from here: http://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/

As is customary with my real-time reviews,  I shall not read any introductions, story-notes or any other ‘extraneity-creep’, until  after I have completed the review of all the fiction, i.e. in accordance with my guiding interest in ‘The Intentional Fallacy’ since first encountering it during the 1960s.

I recently purchased this anthology as a customer from Amazon UK and downloaded it in a Kindle format to my ipad.  (None of my real-time reviews have been based on review copies.)

Wild Justice – Edited by Ellen Datlow

Ash Tree Press : 2012

First published as ‘Lethal Kisses’ by Orion Paperbacks, 1996.

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.

Authors included: A. R. Morlan, Caitlín R. Kiernan, Thomas Tessier, Terry Lamsley, Joyce Carol Oates, Roberta Lannes, Pat Cadigan, Simon Ings, David J. Schow, Christopher Fowler, Douglas Clegg, Jonathan Lethem, Michael Marshall Smith, Michael Swanwick, Jack Dann, Pat Murphy, Michael Cadnum, Richard Christian Matheson, M. M. O’Driscoll,


…Warmer – A.R. Morlan

“(Edan detested the obvious, in all things.)”

Whether I shall ever get warm enough to locate this story’s core, I am wondering. I was borne along by the amazing style of its once pre-retrocausal ‘ruin porn’ (please forgive me if I get my terms wrong but I know deep in the heart when I enjoy a read whatever the niceties of describing it – and I sure enjoyeed this interconnected concertina of step-changes in an all-pervasive pent-up sememe fest) – and here a budding starlet fresh from tattoo-licking and nipple-ring ripping in a film of real-time agony is chosen / asked by a cancer-brinked, twit-anglicised, twat-filming impresario to lip-synch with some cyborg ligotti-dolls that have beautiful voices and things stashed away on their bodies fit to revive Ancient Rome or Greece as a new pawn of ruins without the necessity of the debt haircuts (I may have some of that wrong – I lost the connection between the dolls and the beautifully striking sing-voice). Pawn rather than porn because of this story’s quantitative-(dis)easing “Euro-market crotch-grinds“!  Phew, I am not sure I got all that was going on in that hair-raising read. But I was certainly taken along in a whirlwind of images and urgent motives, body-wise and blood-racing, “E“-book curdled, domino-rally story-driven.  I may need to re-read it after I have gone further into this book’s aspirational connect-bacchanale of a gestalt. Or so I suspect.  Keeping my head, I hope, walking “…a quarter mile of empty hallway carpeted in the sort of plushy beige carpeting that mats down if you sneeze at it,…” (11 Mar 12 – 7.35 pm gmt)

Anamorphosis – Caitlín R. Kiernan

“The carpet had ended at the threshold and the floor was just hardwood and something on it that looked like Karo syrup.”

The Morlan, I recall, talked about italics as a way of talking. This Kiernan has cutting italic asides among the other “words like fishhooks” and a repainted “Jackson Pollock” scatology of ripe pungencies that I feel, if this book were made of paper, it would actually smell for real.  It’s that strong. This story is about a laundromat-working ‘scryer’ helping the police unofficially by sniffing out synchronous, almost occult, connections, as I do with real-time reviews. But my office is thankfully nearer to a laundromat (I hear it churning suds and clothes even as I write this) than it is to the unspeakably awful crime scenes in this story!  When I worked in London in the 1970s, I visited the National Gallery quite regularly at lunchtime, and saw Holbein’s ‘The Ambassadors’.  I often read Yeats on the tube train commuting.  And Conan Doyle, too.  (I read the Afterword by accident!) — I’m just ringing this story round: hesitating to get to its nub. It’s most unsavoury, you see. But that’s because the prose is so effective.  And the idea of the gradual homing in towards the gestalt of crime-solving by Deacon the scryer – reaching out, much to his own hesitation of vulnerable self-sanity as part of his powers-to-see, like mine, thus only to graze against the mix of truth and fiction: the head-lease author’s skilful stretching in and out of the words themselves from different angles … like Deacon does similarly when viewing the Holbein.  I think I shall remember this story for a long time.  It even has a reference to “small-time porn” to resonate with the previous story.  Both have that slick stickiness of meaning.  Flensed but rich. From humanity’s ruins building a structured cartilage of  phonemes and sememes anew. “Deacon had done his hangover morning counting trick, backwards from twenty-five,…” (10 Mar 12 – two hours later)

A Grub Street Tale – Thomas Tessier

“They’re too sophisticated and good for the commercial market, category fiction, but they’re not quite brilliant enough for literary acceptance.”

The eternal conundrum of writing fiction, even if one doesn’t think about it too much, but just writes. A thought-provoking but workmanlike tale – I’d say about serious revenge – or it may have been about an elaborate joke of light-hearted revenge by one of the parties involved because the ending skilfully ends too soon to tell us. A story about an author whose life was not fulfilled for whatever reason. And a metaphor of someone who would have been better left adrift, I guess, off the coast of Whitby rather than taken ashore -assuming the power of fiction is real magic rather than make-believe. Just my extrapolation. In any event I imagine Deacon from the previous story being given the job of sniffing out what lies behind this story’s crime-of-passion. I enjoyed being taken through the story’s civilised conversation: a quiet relief from the manic driving of the previous two authors! (11 Mar 12 – 8.45 am gmt)

Back in the Dunes – Terry Lamsley

“He scraped away some of the ashes and realised there were concrete floors…”

I am taking for granted that there is a connecting ‘link’ with all these stories that I do not need to plumb: i.e. as connected by the original ‘Lethal Kisses’ title of this collection, and I am satisfied, so far, this is the case.  I am keeping my powder (or sand) dry, meanwhile, concerning the new title: ‘Wild Justice’. My job – as I perhaps presumptuously see it – is hopefully to dig in different directions – and here to dig, along with the main protagonist, beneath the beige carpet of sand: in a scrubby seaside area connected with holidays and caravans and arcaded amusements etc – which is very much like the area where I actually live on the NE Essex coast.  This story creates that ‘genius loci’ brilliantly. Including the textured litter or props or uncivilised signs of behaviour that the sand and dunes often conceal.  And the sense of timelessness as well as lost time, easy sex, serial relationships to mask loneliness, shapeless miscreants who are not a million miles from Deep Ones or from Aickman glimpses out of the corner of the eye or from, as here, ghosts of seaside tragedies and of uncaring care in the community … and I am not disappointed, further enriched as it is by an atmospheric sense of retrocausality.  I am only slightly disappointed by what is, for me, the stilted mechanics of dénouement through self-conscious dialogue. (11 Mar 12 – four hours later)




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Hearts – an amazing serendipity!

An excerpt from my real-time review HERE.

Hearts – by Steve Rasnic Tem

A complete and utter shock, I assure you. I can safely say that the experience of reading this story for the first time today (finished in the last few minutes) – in today’s context and in the light of what I have already said about Valentine’s Day above – is THE most amazing reading experience of my whole life. No exaggeration. And, furthermore, in itself, it is a great story, too, even when disregarding the dark serendipities seemingly involved in me reading it today of all days.  A strongly explicit Valentine’s Day story with encroaching ‘Leaks’, as well as a plot definitely backstoried by this book’s theme of inter-generational posterity, here as a sad motive for this story’s (‘Tales of the Unexpected’-type) dénouement. ABSOLUTELY INCREDIBLE. I don’t necessarily expect you to believe me, but it is undeniably true. Here, as possible evidence, is the publisher’s public suggestion a few days ago that I embark on this book as my first real-time review of an ebook, i.e a book by an author whose work I knew I hadn’t read as much as I should have done – an author I have long admired from the odd few stories I have read of his before reading this book. I must now surely take breath, and continue this review another day. (14 Feb 12 – another hour later)

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The Far Side of the Lake

Woken fresh, this morning. Valentine’s Day. My second thought today (after giving my wife my traditional ‘anonymous’ card to mark the day), was about the long-held tradition of giving a copy of the Bible (certainly in the UK) to participants of Court cases for swearing the oath on.  I was wondering if they will ever start offering an Ebook version of the Bible contained within a Kindle or Ipad to place one’s hand upon?  Just asking that question bears somewhat upon the subject of any books that are held to be sacred (however many editions of them exist) and perhaps tells us something about this whole ongoing debate.  The centuries-long existence of physical books, whatever they contain, however new or old they are, will always prove  something about remaining ‘sacred’ in some sense of that word. (14 Feb 12 – 8.00 a.m. gmt)


The Far Side of the Lake – Steve Rasnic Tem

Real-Time Review continued from HERE


There were trees so tall he couldn’t see their tops. There was ground that hid stone and pockets of stone,…”

A haunting ‘boy’ story blending the best of, say, King, Bradbury and Tem (cf: the climbing tree story earlier).  The boy was physically born – as if by deliberate accident on his pregnant mother’s trip – in Chicago, a fact which, for me, and semi-consciously for his parents, has some astrologically mis-harmonic effect on his outcome as a person in his home town of Greystone Bay, thus presenting a new slant on this book’s fragility of inter-generationality theme. I say, ‘mis-harmonic’, but that depends how you look at it: as this boy, Willis, ‘benefits’ from what I call a primary-source imagination, a larger-than-life synaesthesia of creativity amid his often clumsy relationship with his peers, two of whom are well-characterised in this story. This story crystallises eventually towards an amorphous image, an image which paradoxically, against the grain, focusses the reader’s attention beyond life’s normal ‘real’ clutter towards a mystic awareness that only good fiction can actually create (cf: the centaur in that earlier story by the sea).  [Transcending the real clutter of this ipad, as just one example: a transcendancy that is not required with a ‘primary source’ of a physical book: more spiritually intrinsic, for me, to a great work of fiction than a machine happens to be.] (14 Feb 12 – three and a half hours later)

Ice House Pond

“More life meant more death.”

A novella-sized tour de force.  The male protagonist says the pond is much bigger than it is. A strange statement. [But this ebook is much bigger than it is, too. I had no idea how big when I started it – unlike with a real thick book in your hand as you riffle through its pages assessing its scope.  Certainly got my money’s worth.] Thus, by means of that ostensibly strange statement, sharing the previous story’s boy’s larger-than-life or imagino-kinetic abilities and whose ‘fog’ trope is now here to be frozen. The male protagonist (who suffers his own past of inter-generational tragedies of wife and daughter in a car accident and more)  takes over a desolate ice-property (you have to read this novella to appreciate the enormous stunning scope of that expression, that ‘ice-property’ concept in real cold-numbing, cold-abrading, shard-tall grandeur as well as this book’s erstwhile seedy ‘Leaks‘ potential infecting that grandeur, the erstwhile ‘Underground‘ and its ‘hawling’ images, its death-sacrifices to prevent suffering, the purging of past sorrows by creating today greater sorrows or diseases that are paradoxically easier to bear, the Concentration Camp gas ovens [that map-maze with yellowish haze the “mad scientist’s” inner earth of my aforementioned ‘Nemonymous Night’ by dint of its sister novella ‘Weirdtongue’]; the Ice House’s inner scrying cryological crystal-ball shapes both sickishly mutant and ripe with potential stunning palaces of magic realism (not unlike that sometimes evoked by ‘Oscar and Lucinda’ in retrospect) – “…the cold had the presence and intensity of stone” – the ‘genius loci’ of the house, ice pond, ice house that he’s bought, complete with nursery, is via cumulatively powerful prose, or rather an ice-genie-loci? The sun like a huge white eye in the sky reminding me that it is my eye scrying the white screen of this novella (it’s white on my screen).  “Magic ice“. “Ice palaces“. This is Greystone Bay again, now complete with a hinterland of the missing people that the ice has taken and turned into self-redemptive ghosts (your self, not necessarily their selves). An ice house with the scope of a literally global shock, too. Ice block, “love breath” (sharing a bed is important on Valentine’s Day of all days, and I agree with what this novella says so touchingly on this score!). “The oldest cold”. The madness-veined ice-walls. Can memories be frozen like food? (My question, not the novella’s). Fishermen fishing for painted fish (still waiting for something to happen?). Can you tell I’m impressed? Yes, I particularly resonate with the cruel kindness of such fiction. It is replete with traditional stylisms of the Horror fiction genre; it’s as if the artificial world built up cumulatively like an ice sculpture, striking image piled upon striking image with feverous authorial gluttony; it never actually goes over the top because of those genre tropes employed so skilfully, even though it may go over the top for some not accustomed to such literature; and it will melt like all great ice sculptures will inevitably melt as my memory fades with the onset of old age and even my sadnesses will be numbed by the coming ice beyond any melting. Accepting that is like appreciating what makes you accept that. Like this novella. There’s even a bookshop in it with real redolent books waiting to be riffled through. Only global catastrophe will destroy them, I guess. (14 Feb 12 – another 4 hours later)

The Dancers in the Leaves

“I used to have a living husband, a good man, and now I have a stone to visit on Sundays.”

Someone who denies his status as a ghost-hunter tries to solve the rhapsodic angst of an old woman whose Valentine seems long past. I have an affinity with Autumn, as some may know already, having read my reviews. This is a delightful ‘dancing on air’ in the tradition of Frances Oliver fitting to exhume any Valentine worth his salt..  (14 Feb 12 – another 2 hours later)


A complete and utter shock, I assure you. I can safely say that the experience of reading this story for the first time today (finished in the last few minutes) — in today’s context and in the light of what I have already said about Valentine’s Day above — is THE most amazing reading experience of my whole life. No exaggeration. And, furthermore, in itself, it is a great story, too, even when disregarding the dark serendipities seemingly involved in me reading it today of all days.  A strongly explicit Valentine’s Day story with encroaching ‘Leaks’,  as well as a plot definitely backstoried by this book’s theme of inter-generational posterity, here as a sad motive for this story’s (‘Tales of the Unexpected’-type) dénouement.  ABSOLUTELY INCREDIBLE. I don’t necessarily expect you to believe me, but it is undeniably true. Here, as possible evidence, is the publisher’s public suggestion a few days ago that I embark on this book as my first real-time review of an ebook, i.e a book by an author whose work I knew I hadn’t read as much as I should have done – an author I have long admired from the odd few stories I have read of his before reading this book. I must now surely take breath, and continue this review another day. (14 Feb 12 – another hour later)



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