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Reed This!

 I recommend this truly stunning book unhesitatingly and I recommend it unconditionally, even if you’ve never heard of Mods in Sixties Britain. Or especially if.

Here Comes the Nice by Jeremy Reed

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Underlooked Weird Fiction of the Year

Overlooked fiction – some fiction is even understandably overlooked by those collecting the titles of the overlooked Weird books of the year 2011. But some fiction is underlooked…

The Peacock Escritoire – by Mark Valentine

Allurements of Cabochon – by John Gale

Amerika – by Karim Ghahwagi

A Pallid Wave on Shores of Night – by Adam S. Cantwell

The Mauve Embellishments – by Charles Schneider

The Bestiary of Communion – by Stephen J Clark 

The Exorcist’s Travelogue’ – by George Berguño

Alcyone – Colin Insole

Link Arms With Toads! – Rhys Hughes

The Secret Life of the Panda – Nick Jackson

Even The WEIRD: A Compendium of Strange and Dark Stories  that is also first published in 2011.

 
 Plus others I’ve underlooked myself!  And books that don’t fit the genre being overlooked.
 
Des, Author of ‘Nemonymous Night’ (2011) and editor of ‘The Horror Anthology of Horror Anthologies’ (2011) – both retrocausally interlooked or disturbed by ‘floaters’!

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Here Comes The Nice – Jeremy Reed

(Chômu Press 2011). A book I purchased from Amazon.

Here Comes the Nice by Jeremy Reed

There is no guarantee how long it will take to complete this ‘real-time review’, whether days or years.

All my book reviews are linked from here: http://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/

Chapter 1

My teenage years were from 1961 to 1967 so the characters here seem slightly older than I was in 1964 – with their mids and mockeries of sex physical language of commercial exchange and Stones culture-clubs – and more – but did they use the word ‘gay’ then meaning joyful? The style is a perfect read speed-tentacularised with how I imagine observers writing about that era if drip-fed into that streamlining reality of fashion and unration and rent. The mix of beats – and the novel’s so-far leading protagonist Face, not Small, but Big on some flickering monochrome screen in the West End of my retrocausal mind. Reed’s “…the upbeat shape-shifting dynamic of London, 1964.” Followed gratuitously by Stephen King’s erstwhile Transatlantic reality (in ‘11.22.63’): “…because the past harmonized but the past was obdurate.” (21 Dec 11)

Chapter 2

…”like a Quadrophenia out-take,” I could remain Sixties cool and say I’m working my way into this novel with gradual critical picks, a bit too 1980s Creation Press for my liking.  But I’m getting impelled by the prose, the flash-back culture of Time’s  centre as a universal fashion-statement that ricochets back and forth from the present to 1964, with the delightfully readable, but not wholly accessible, not too easy enough to make it unchallenging, prose style to match. Unexpectedly, I’m sensing a page-turning reality here of the bi-uni sex I must have once missed out on in  real-time. And the eye-witness Carnaby Street culture – stalking the Reader, even if the Reader were never there to be stalked in the first place (as I was, I suppose, on school-trips from Essex to, say, Laurence Olivier A-Level-orientated Shakespearean Theatre productions in the West End). “It often feels to me like the key individuals who made the sixties haven’t really gone away, and are all destined to somehow show up again.” — “…it’s time remixed, and it’s always impossible to know what’s real, when you drag it across memory.” — “This is where John played such a seminal role. He put straight men into gay clothes, at their own request. It created the look.” And today, this book’s Whovian protagonist – if such he is – plays with his iPad. (21 Dec 11 – three hours later)

Chapter 3

“The Face and Terry weren’t drinking – without even trying to they were about to start a new trend by spiking shocking-pink drinking straws into bottles of beer they never touched, but placed on the bar counter as artefacts viewed with visible disdain.”

Disdain, aloof, deadpan, cool panache – all words in this chapter, and the authorial point of view makes throw-away mentions of the Beatles and of The Who who gave their name retrocausally to the word I used earlier: Whovian? — such mentions delivered with similar passive strength, and reserving its admiring point of view for the Stones, including remarkable individual sketches of Jagger, Richards, Jones, Wyman and Watts with this sense of naughty nonchalance as their frame of mind and pose. — I rarely enter a real-time review of a book I’ve chosen to buy expecting to feel aloof regard for it, but, frankly, I did here to some extent. But, now, imagine my great pleasure in finding this book already (and anticipatively) a stunning rendition of 1964, its ethos, its music, its developing sexual manoeuvres (as I understand them), as if the authorial point of view either was there in person in real-time or has genuinely travelled back there through some time-slip.  This is, in many ways, a documentary of that era amid Carnaby Street history; a documentary brought to life by non-documentary techniques of quite wonderful evocation. This is Fictionatronics pure and simple.  You heard it here first. Whether you be terrestrial or extra-terrestrial, yourself. (22 Dec 11)

Chapter 4

“I’m the Face. London owes a lot to me and Mods. We were the defining moment of the sixties: the look.”

There is an expression of giving someone an old-fashioned look, i.e if you want to scold them mildly for a faux pas.  Here, I’m not sure which time-zone is the old-fashioned one in this context. Whether it is the Ham Yard of 1964 or the Ham Yard of a slightly extrapolative London from the Blair days, i.e. not the London that readers of this book ostensibly know or live in. Indeed, this novel ‘novel’ gets even better and better, with an aloof inscrutability of not only sexual mores and their contextual reality but also of one Time facing another Time, Fiction facing Fiction, aspirant Fixture facing aspirant Fixture  (as anchored by a history (and its historian) of the John Stephen whose brainchild was Sixties Carnaby Street). The sixture-tune of vinyl verities (explicitly) in the “veins“,  the cryology “drenched in euphoric orange sunshine“, “bipolar burnout“, “facial autopsies”, “hedge fund deals”, “sexed-up” dossiers of fact and fiction, those, what I have long since called, ‘synchronised shards of random truth and fiction’, the “retro-fixation” amid “delusional thinking” nudged by “displaced space junk“. The words flow into the reading-sump with syrupy ease, yet with sufficient traction to cloy or delay over-quick skimming or “suddenly gripped by the surprise narrative pull“. (22 Dec 11 – two hours later)

Chapter 5

“…and then there was Jagger’s sluttish strut, his queeny steps crossing each other as an exaggerated mince, his hands fitting his hips like a burlesque stripper.”

Masterful stuff. It seems as if I was there, despite only getting a bit of it in the Essex area – via Radio Caroline – in the mid-1960s onward.  Now, today, this book takes me there head-on. We readers are this book’s “low numbers“, even “tickets“.   Yet I feel strong enough in the Autumn of my years, here, to attract and repel in one fell swoop, “a gesture of cult defiance“.  Was it “I Can’t Get No Satisfaction”, by the way, rather than this book’s “I Can’t Be Satisfied“?  “…‘Mick’ coming like a mantra…”? Androgynous and misogynistic as a host/parasite syndrome? This chapter a relentlessly minimalist Stones portrait playing into the reader’s veins like later eighties Philip Glass music…? The Face That Must Not Die. (22 Dec 11 – another 3 hours later)

Chapter 6

“…in the period nineteen sixty-three to nineteen sixty-four, they’re always wearing this almost no-colour shirt.”

I put it down to some form of UV light in dance- or meet-areas, based on my experience of the time. Meanwhile, this is one amazing book. This chapter’s contents are at the ipad-ipod end of the Whovian spectrum, with causal, casual sex just one grinding wet T-shirt wrench away from the text, again and again. I suppose, people like me who experienced the Sixties for real are not really up to such things these days.  Makes this book even more important, like a dose of Zencore in itself.  The “diffident” Vespa-riding ghost that transcends time as well as haunting this book like the carrier in one of the best ghost stories as well as haunting a remarkable alternate future where Iraq should have a U afterward, like all Qs should.  Rain in the sky like airplane fuel. Each reader a “contagious hook” ripping into the “human weird” to get at its “sixties blood“, my sixties blood… (23 Dec 11)

Chapter 7

“He had also developed a recent liking for an even rawer musical unit, The Pretty Things…”

This chapter resumes the 1964 Stones-Bayreuth of the Face and his sidekick Terry, beautifully conveyed, non-ambiguously-ambiguous with the added double bluff of violence as propaganda. The music actually sounds from off the page in all its released urges of place and time, as do the then vacuumed Mods who weren’t really Mods … and we readers of this book now become our own Pretty Things transcended or self-visualised – even though we are what we are (grizzled or wrinkled or saggy-breasted) here on Christmas Eve 2011 by virtue of the modernisitic past intertissued with the various possible radiations or knitting-patterns of the future: an infinite number of such variations or just two: candy-pink and gentian-blue? (24 Dec 11)

Chapter 8

“…if you believed human consciousness could be bounced around like an electron existing in copied states.”

I have now seen (as my regular real-time readers may be not surprised in knowing) the God Particle or Higgs boson, i.e. as this book’s “death-mapping” gene? The Weirdmonger Wheel as Large Hadron Collider or Bouncer? This is one crazeee-sensible book, allowing true belief in the photons of 1966 bouncing “oranger than today’s sunlight.”  Authorially-unnemonymous self-referential carnaby-factoid biography-documentary explicitly sowing or knitting or sewing the verbal-icon DNA of a Blade-Runner /Talking-Heads reality. Rain as the sound of semantics rather than the words themselves.  Visits from the Stone-woven, Stone-whovian Face and the book’s ‘modern’ protagonist’s searing sex with Suzie – a symbiosis via electronic fish-net restaurant-tables?  The book’s story reads more real than that sort of head-talk, though!  Don’t be put off by my real-time reactions. (24 Dec 11 – another 3 hours later)

It seems apt today for me to ask: Was the God Particle born instable? (24 Dec 11 – another 90 minutes later)

“…I had somehow travelled back in time […] I tried to reject the idea at first, but I knew too much about the intervening years, and those things weren’t visions. They were memories. The Rolling Stones…”  – from ‘11.22.63‘ by Stephen King (24 Dec 11 – another 2 hours later)

Chapter 9

“…an aloofness on his part that was no longer an attitude , but an identity.”

The book has the on-going opposite effect on the Reader, where initial aloofness of expectation has gradually turned (at least for me) to exaggerated enthusiasm.  Justifiably so.  I will not continue to extol its style or panache, but take it as read. Incidentally, when I mentioned the Pretties here a day or so ago (following, I think, only a single mention in this book beforehand), I did not know or even anticipate that this group would take centre stage – literally – in this current chapter.  A “flair-up” of a performance.  And a dysfunctional drummer that almost comes out of the page at you –  “unmanageable” by author and reader alike! Amid the fracas, the Face becomes even more an icon and an almost do-gooder when he sees wrong-doing in and around the drug-storms … surveying what I call early surf-moshes of the dance-club. I, for one, am hypnotised by the Face, when I decide to pick up this book each time again – wondering if his Whovian properties are beyond even his own ambitions. We shall see. I also wonder which of the Chômu stable of authors are represented by which act: Stones, Pretties, The Who, Georgie Fame, Long John Baldry, Small Faces, The Beatles etc etc. Input welcome.  I’m bagging “Cheryl WAT 2302“. Or am I the Pretties, as I suggested before?  My drummer-gene twitching each time I pick up a pen? [I now come clean: in, I think, 1964 (at my then age of 16), I sat on the cliff at West Hill in Hastings and watched, via real-time, the multitudinous Mods collecting on the beach below me; a durably quiet and seated crowd that, later, in unison, without evident premeditation, suddenly sets off into mayhem: spreading in all directions as part of a swarm-philosophy I have never since forgotten…] (25 Dec 11)

THIS REAL-TIME REVIEW IS NOW CONTINUED HERE.

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Extract from my review of ‘The Secret Life of the Panda’

Today, I experienced an incredible coincidence regarding the book’s title in my latest real-time review , i.e a review of a book by Nick Jackson (published by Chomu Press). I can’t tell you about the coincidence until after Christmas, as will become clear. 

Meanwhile, a solely personal extraction of a buddleia-root (similar to that I struggled with a few years ago):

“As a reviewer’s self-indulgence, I drop two links here and here to just two of my own stories (retrocausally inspired?) from the 1990s. They are not in the same class as the stories in this book, of course, but honestly proffered nevertheless within this real-time review. A real-time review not only of a book, but of a singular self duly affected by that book. A reading-journey in a book probably transfigured – as I have pointed out on more than one previous occasion – by the fact that I know I am publicly reporting the journey while still upon that journey. (For any interested, most of my early published stories are linked from the Weirdmonger Wheel although the first linked story above is not included on the Wheel as it was subsequently published in the collection ‘Weirdmonger’ (Prime 2003).)”

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The Secret Life of the Panda – Nick Jackson

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

And it is of ‘The Secret Life of the Panda’ a collection by Nick Jackson (Chômu Press 2011). A book I purchased from Amazon.

The Secret Life of the Panda by Nick Jackson

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/

My previous Chômu Press reviews: https://nullimmortalis.wordpress.com/2011/02/17/my-chomu-press-real-time-reviews/

My previous review of a Nick Jackson book: (15 May 09): Visits To The Flea Circus – by Nick Jackson (Elastic Press 2005)

Nick Jackson has a story in The Horror Anthology of Horror Anthologies (2011)

And the eponymous ‘The Secret Life of the Panda’ story in this collection was first published in Zencore! – Nemonymous Seven (2007)

This book as a nemonymous physical artifact – i.e. a cover completely without title or author”s name – works (particularly with its pictorial design) as an ornament along with other ornaments on an ornament shelf rather than as a book on a bookshelf. (15 Dec 11)

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Anton’s Discovery

“He was afraid that the thread of reason, once lost, would be gone forever,…”

Definition of a ‘Des’s Discovery’: that which can be unearthed by digging deep (or hawling) within the words (semantics, syntax, graphology, phonetics) – and finding the grown-up version of the self or the first beginnings when organs start working for the very first time, not only in  the body but in the mind and any Fowles-like collections attuned to the process. Here a boy’s gratuitous awakening by trapping a bird: i.e. by a good-evil oxymoron approach to both nature and to his bullying family (a nice description of fraternal-sororal / filial-paternal conflicts in boyhood surrounding an unearthing by an unearthling (?), an unearthing by the story itself not by someone like me reading the story(?). And gratuitously we wonder upon which part of our own body-mind spectrum the evil-good spectrum is coming to rest. Which the bully, which the bullied? You or me? The author or reader? The boy protagonist or the words that contain him? Nature or Nurture? A fine start to the book in a richly spare style – if that’s not a contradiction in terms. Fine in both senses of that word. Viscerally forensic, that is. Visually, even. (15 Dec 11 – an hour later)

Lady with an Ermine

“Arriving early gives me time to adjust my buffering zones,…”

The art of a great story collection is in the stories’ separateness and (perhaps consciously unintended) togetherness, I feel. The first two stories in this book (including this one) are a brilliant case in point. New as well as reminiscent angles, new (tellingly more sympathetic?) interactions of past filial-paternal radiated boyhood reaching into adulthood – and, like drawing the dead bird previously, now we have an act of drawing his late mother by haunted memory of trace-palimpsests-by-gauche-artistry: a museum painting: but not just any ordinary museum but “an exhibition of curiosities” (I think that phrase is in the story but I’ve not checked back), a subject-matter that resonates strongly with the Ann and Jeff VanderMeer ‘The WEIRD’ (a massive book just ‘real-timed’ by myself) and creates buffer-zones as well as connections with the ‘fine’ print scientific-emotional body-mind and, from my point of view, incredibly, a strong (seemingly explicit and literal!) assonance with Cern Zoo and the Large Hadron Collider. Absolutely amazing material in that Jackson-trademark rich-spareness of style, simultaneously forensic and devastating and inspiring and alluding-eluding.  I feel as if I am in some strange way an ‘attendant’ for this story, its own gauche guide (perhaps entirely misguided). (16 Dec 11)

The City in Flames

“Jan should have sketched the expression on his wife’s face -“

This book’s ‘symphony’ of body/mind – good/evil – anatomisation / atomisation continues, here with a discrete compelling-in-itself story of 1535 Munster, city siege, mass book-burning and coinage debasing appropriate for our own world, anabaptists — with a protagonist who was the boy with a retrocausal hinterland of having become the man we see here today in 1535 – now with his wife (iconoclastic like Haydn’s wife who used his manuscripts as hair-curlers) and a down-to-earth maid servant – correspondence, across the land’s historical dangers, with his brother, correspondence that today would be email as the books would soon be nothing but ebooks – and his own scientific paperwork used as fuel for heating … then shockingly as it turns out he is asked by the authorities to ‘prove’ religion’s godhead by the use of the make-up of the human body itself. There is a tactile quality to reading Jackson as we flense the sentences to reach the sinews. There is a tic like a nerve jumping. A dependable rhythm that seems strangely comforting as well as disturbing. It’s like scrying still living entrails for premonitions echoing back from the rest of this book as yet unread… (16 Dec 11 – another two hours later)

I have already drawn attention here (i.e. another real-time review that I am simultaenously conducting) to some cross-references between the two books in question: so it seems sensible that I should do the same by giving the above link. (16 Dec 11 – another 90 minutes later)

NB: the double-headed calf and the double-headed lizard in stories above.

The Secret Life of the Panda

This was a story I chose to publish in early 2007 before it all started happening: “Looking up into the sky blue dome was like gazing up into heaven. It was possible to imagine the bank managers peering down from their offices like minor saints.” from ‘The Secret Life of the Panda’ by Nick Jackson (published in “Zencore! – Scriptus Innominatus”: 2007). A ‘Zencore’ (check google for its viagran or Cerne Abbas properties) hard-on and in hindsight, Cern Zoo, pandas, lion’s den, hard-on-had-ron collider etc. etc. This story takes us in a new dimension, towards the deceptive-simply but also obliquely flensed zen-core, but also to the ordinary transcending of all manner of nightmares of waiting in line for cashing-in one’s tumour upon choking childhood (the only cure for cancer, dying before you get it). Save more in  one’s flexi-account, simple worries of debt not yet impinging, aspirations of furthering one’s seed, choosing colours for carpets, Cameron’s ‘problem families’ in the making, and Nick Jackson’s ultimate art of the poignant ‘dying fall’ with a soft landing of bathos or of simple escapism despite whatever cages you’ve been placed in. This book’s front cover is a cage of sorts, or a criss-cross quiz, I’ll have a ‘p’, ill have a pee, the holeness, holiness or bob-holness of Blockbuster. No quantatative easing here. A disarming story that grows on you, especially if you leave it five years before reading it again. Even more a classic today than it was then. (16 Dec 11 – another 3 hours later)

Paper Wraps Rock

“He tried to imagine what they were thinking, […] as impenetrable as if they were enclosed deep in the permafrost or carved out of polished malachite.”

This is a perfect gem that you will never forget, ending with another ‘dying fall’ via reservations of eschatology, connected with the earlier connections that the story builds up within itself as well as with previous stories in the book and, dare I say, with that other book I am randomly also real-time reviewing at the same time. Connections regarding a boy who has perceived behavioural problems at school: connections between adders (!) and his arithmetic lessons, myths and maths, rorschach and interpretation, mineral and animal, bullying and being bullied… “He fought the urge to turn and run; the need to pee was too strong.” This book so far seems to be a cross-section of ‘boy’, through time as well as via awareness-through-spirituality beyond any ‘cross-reference’! “The meadow was full of ragwort and poppies and lumpy with chunks of concrete.” (17 Dec 11)

For “awareness-through-spirituality” above please read “awareness-through-science-and-spirituality”.  Also, I mentioned Criss-Cross Quiz or Blockbuster in connection with the book’s cover. On second thoughts, it’s more like a nature-study form of Celebrity Squares!  This excellent cover artwork is by Suzanne Norris. Design and layout by Bigeyebrow and Chomu Press. (17 Dec 11 – an hour later)

Boy’s Games

I have just read the first sentence of this story, a sentence referring to “a line of three stars. Orion’s belt?”  Potentially noteworthy, as the book – that, a couple of hours ago, I happened to finish real-time reviewing – is entitled ALCYONE: a star in the Pleiades? (17 Dec 11 – another 4 hours later)

“‘Chino’s eating his lunch that I peed on!’ José shouted. ‘I peed on it and now he’s eating it!'”

There’s something biologeee and eartheee and vegetableee — and mineralleee (stars and a moon-path) — about Jackson’s work: here continuing the inter-threading of boys and the men they become, and vice versa, battling not only with enemies in a war (as well as with their own mixed motives) but also with a self-vulnerability: a Mother’s boy cuddling-need, even when alone with other men.  Frankly, this story needs re-reading to gather all its sticklebacks in my jar.   It simply sits where it sits so far in this book: perfectly. “Our orders are to shoot deserters from either side.”  Jackson’s artfully rich yet spare prose flays Nature to its fibrous sinews. Valiant and weak, by alternating mutual host/parasite symbiosis. “‘Chino doesn’t think,’ said Chino…” (17 Dec 11 – another 90 minutes later)

Cut Short

“…stories of patience and endurance, of the spirits of people reincarnated in trees and rocks and dolphins.”

A relatively brief, extremely clever, enormously poignant essay-as-fiction upon various forms of transience – an essay pondered upon as the imputed writer has a haircut in a barbers – mythology as a form of spiritualism, how, just as one of many examples in this story, digital things (like cameras – and, I suggest, ebooks) cannot retain durability or even a sense of reality like old-fashioned devices that preceded digital ones. Also, in tune with the earlier cross-section of boy and man in this book, I, too, when I visit the barber each month for my ‘number one’ haircut, I often look into the mirror and see my erstwhile Dad, not me. Truly. (18 Dec 11)

The Rabbit Keeper

“Alexander’s mother was wearing a dress that had a design of birds in ornamental cages.”

This story’s boy protagonist is as if conspired against by loved and detested alike: or is he conspiring himself as if he is the ‘Sredni Vashtar’ creature, not the rabbit with its vulnerable young? A blend of a Katherine Mansfield style with the growing boy-pains of realisation when faced with a leering ‘wide-boy’ character fresh from a Just William story but here preying upon sexual prey rather than just the a child’s pocket money.  And the story ends with another  jumping nerve – or four. (19 Dec 11)

Flaubert’s Poison

“He even thought he caught a whiff of nineteenth century adultery in the peppery smell of old paperbacks.”

This strikes me as the perfect telling mirror-image of the previous story with different circumstances but a similar growing-boy soul amid concupiscence and ‘wide-boy’ preying – it even ends with another jumping nerve (or twitch)!  A quest for Flaubert’s Parrot, but here a cod or poisson? A meticulous examination of the balance in the scales of love and life? (19 Dec 11 – another 90 minutes later)

The Island

For an hour, Judith struggled with her book. […] In the heat, the words trailed off like insects…”

To the background of a married couple’s holiday and their trip to a Mediterranean island close to their hotel – boated there by a ‘boy’-boatman or “attendant” (cf: the attendant in the earlier Ermine story) – we have now a theme and variation on the previous two stories of preying and being preyed-upon sexually – and the ‘slithy tove’ accoutrements of nature in counterpoint. Here we have, inter alia, a slanting flash of Forster’s ‘Passage to India’ and a general sense of the Collected Stories of DH Lawrence amid the counterpoint of host and parasite.  And Jackson’s trade-mark ‘dying-fall’ acceptance as a culmination that leaves the reader strangely sated as well as empty.  But sated with what? Empty of what? (19 Dec 11 – another hour later)

[As a reviewer’s self-indulgence, I drop two links here and here to just two of my own stories (retrocausally inspired?) from the 1990s. They are not in the same class as the stories in this book, of course, but honestly proffered nevertheless within this real-time review. A real-time review not only of a book, but of a singular self duly affected by that book.  A reading-journey in a book probably transfigured – as I have pointed out on more than one previous occasion – by the fact that I know I am publicly reporting the journey while still upon that journey. (For any interested, most of my early published stories are linked from the Weirdmonger Wheel although the first linked story above is not included on the Wheel as it was subsequently published in the collection ‘Weirdmonger’ (Prime 2003).)] (19 Dec 11 – another 30 minutes later)

Spadework

“Norfolk hedgerows, the majority of them, were dug up in the fifties or sixties, rooted out for intensive cultivation…”

This book’s boy-to-man ‘cross-section’ now in literal display: in various processes of extraction, i.e. fence posts, carrots (and sticks?), cancers, childhood accidents in earth’s ‘quicksand’, childhoods themselves: the nature of roots – rooted-within what?  And the ‘scientific-chemical’ symbiosis of the host (ground) and parasite (fence post)? The ‘spadework’ that digging beneath the surface of these stories entails – assuming that any reviewer worth his or her salt could indeed be tempted to dig deeper than the likes of me! (19 dec 11 – another 45 minutes later)

Shell Fire

“At these times it seemed that the world was made for him alone, and that these effects of nature were unobserved except by him.”

Although all stories in this book stand alone, they now all lead, for me, to this substantive work. Our spadework done (before ‘extraction’), we now watch a coloured school-caretaker (budgeted out into early-retirement) – linked to his boyhood by a sea-shell and seeing his father as if in that earlier barber’s mirror – as he roots into the ground not a fence-post (earlier rooted-out in the previous story) but what I would call eventually by the end of the story: a cone-zero – a magic-fiction: a symbol beyond mere magic-realism – beyond racial bullying, beyond tawdry sexual preying initiated by the socially-perceived victim rather than by the more likely socially-condemnable perpetrator. Here we “peel back the skin of thoughts” as tutored by Jackson’s forensic caringness as foster-author, while seeing the caretaker sweeping up leaves even though they blow away again (like the so-called leaves (as pages) of this book or, more tellingly, of an ebook?), unblocking drainpipes, “digging down through the layers of rubble”…. Snailshell mating snailshell and the sound of the sea from within the perfect white conch or that final clinch of fire? Another ‘dying fall’ of  understanding nothing as the cumulative culmination of understanding everything – but also, now, vice versa. “Other shells are parasitic, piercing the soft tissues of their host to drain out the life-blood in tiny sips.”  A symbol beyond meaning, too. (19 Dec 11 – another 90 minutes later)

Made of Glass

“But Daniel was hoiked to his feet. / We’re going to get you a haircut.”

The perfect coda to this symphony of stories. This book’s erstwhile Barber’s Mirror syndrome made into a cabinet of curiosities or an aquarium of creatures (or eye-balls).  Not only across one generation but two. Poignant and funny. “Cut it as short as you can; he’s got nits.”  And I am just one more nit who’ll now get out of the book’s hair. Let the book or boy roam on the “shining sand” fighting against the bully that is Life itself.  But is this book a passive shield or active weapon? Each reader will have a different answer to that question; but, whether shield or weapon, this wonderful tangible words’ worth of a text held today in your hand on 19 December 2011 can self-evidently never change…unless you try to destroy it, pulp it, electronicise it or drop it, at best, into the teeming ocean…  Like the Child who is, was, will be Father of the Man. (19 Dec 11 – another 3 hours later)

END

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Real-Time Reviewing as Dream-Catcher

Still sliding deliciously through this book as through a dream. But unlike some dreams, I hope I shall never forget its effect, its effect during reading-time as well as its effect as end-result. Hence, for example, 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?

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Sunnemo-Flowers

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Jeanette – by Joe Simpson Walker

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:-

JEANETTE by Joe Simpson Walker

Chômu Press 2011

Jeanette by Joe Simpson Walker

Cover illustration: the inimitable Heather Horsley

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.

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

======================

1/1 “I screamed through the gag.”

Skilfully enthralling us up front, we are involuntarily thrust in media res as the (despite a mirror) unknown first person singular narrator is violently attacked by a balaclave-ed, goggled intruder. Amid much furniture being significantly and noisily spoilt, a woman’s shoes are heard (recognised by the sound of her high heels??) coming up the garden path … as a source of rescue? But at least this person’s calls of questioning alarm tell us that the victim is probably named  Jeanette.  Much else is conveyed in a small space – and my own detail in this forthcoming review will devote itself to less, I guess, than more. Just a broad ‘gagged’ thrust-of-impression in continuing media res and no spoilers as premature plot-intruders. (30 Jul 11)

1/2 “It includes images and descriptions  which may be unsuitable for viewers  of a nervous disposition.”

Further enthralled – gradually – we learn more about Jeanette and the ‘whispering’ as well as violent nature of the assault upon her – and about her lady rescuer (a teacher from school etc) – and the personal hinterland of both parties – particularly Jeanette’s little obsessions and a cloudy “incident’ that meant she was off school – but we feel uncomfortable; I think we are seen as a suspicious form of intrusion; we are not being told everything by any backstory so far. Clever placement of detail though, with which I continue to be obsessively abstemious. Only the description of the telephone that is (nearly) used to phone the police tells us by word-of-mouth the nature of the ‘time’ or era – and the ‘place’ feels English to me.  My own area of hinterland or backstory from near-history? Intrigued, but anxious. Still in control of my own review. (30 Jul 11 – two hours later)

1/3 “It was fading. I was myself again.”

I think, as a reader, I’m being addressed by someone who is abstemious with the truth; first person or third person singular, continuity concerns (e.g. the teacher’s return home to her mother) about the time of day (if not of the general era) and who is duping whom about what. I just thought it significant that the first priority of Jeanette’s Dad when hearing of the intrusion was the books in his office, first edition books in which his business dealt. Including this one? I was bound to ask. But I’m sure the question will turn out to be ultra vires. — “…but the programmes had finished and all it showed was a grey screen.” (Another clue?).  (30 Jul 11 – another hour later)

1/4 “A furniture van next to us loomed over our passenger side and cut off the light at my window; it was like having a solid wall a foot away.”

A foot away? These boots (books?) were made for walking. Boot-obsessed Jeanette has cornflakes with the woman next-door, someone with whom she can bond over personal matters, someone who has a ‘fit’ son, although ‘fit’ as an expression that means ‘good-looking’ seems anachronistic for the image I’ve built up of this slippery book’s era, although “Brylcreem” slips me back again. (30 Jul 11 – another three hours later)

[I withdraw my comment above about the word ‘fit’ (although I can’t honestly withdraw thinking it at the time I read and reviewed that chapter) – because, after due reflection upon the text and a night’s sleep, I feel this was definitely a howler on the Hawler’s part not the book’s.] (31 Jul 11)

1/5 “(I could barely stay standing in high heels)”

Well picked-out details in cumulative effect lead to potential spoilers from which I will steer clear in this very intriguing plot.  Much variously spirited ‘genius loci’ regarding the woodland and a nearby evolving housing-estate up and down – and a rich reader-envisaged ricochet of characters still enticingly, if creepily, fleshing out.  I’ve not mentioned Jeanette’s dog Honey, but doing so is not a spoiler. Nor, I hope, is Jeanette’s book-dealer Dad’s perhaps significant ‘flat cap’ he wears to the pub. (31 Jul 11 – another 45 minutes later)

1/6At first I thought it was spelt m-a-s-a-k-i-s-t“.

Over the years, I’ve talked about narrative levels in a pecking-order leading to the head-lease author. As I reach the end of this book’s Part One, I suspect I haven’t yet reached the top of the narrative lease, let alone the freehold itself.  Characters & Time dealt with by a slippery omniscience – although Place seems a definite spine on which that slipperiness is erected, – which fits the role-playing and the Cartesian Mind/Body dichotomy in that context. [Perhaps the author-as-noumenon and reader-as-me are role-playing within the text, too, in some strange dance of fiction appreciation, irrespective of any exterior engagement?] “…I knew his secrets and he knew all mine.” (30 Jul 11 – another 2 hours later)

2/1At the bottoms of his jeans his ankles showed in beige socks, and his feet were in dark blue carpet slippers with a check pattern on the toes. As he walked about they made a soft shuffling sound.”

Outdoing by footwear… There seems a comforting collusion here between Jeanette and her Anxiety-provider, but one that makes me feel anxious, regarding the gratuitousness of certain behaviour, pointlessly cruel or just pointless. Yet art-for-art’s-sake, some call that pointless. But what worries me more is that all this is, for me, enjoyable anxiety. Supervised role-playing. I feel supervised as a reader, too. On edge. Brinkmanship in goggles. And the era of time continues to crystallise – Oxydol and a non-digital camera. Yet, the letter written to the Times could have easily been written today. But could the S/M or rubberwear pot-boiler-stories-within-an-art-for-art’s-sake-novel be written today?  Perhaps not. Forbidden and tantalisation go hand in hand. Today, not much is forbidden …. i.e. between consenting adults.  Just rambling. Me, that is, not the book, I hasten to add. (31 Jul 11 – another 3 hours later) 

2/2‘Love,’ said Dad, ‘you must see for yourself that wearing wellingtons all the time – indoors, and when it’s not raining, and even with your smartest clothes – well, some people would say it looks silly. Especially people who don’t think much.'”

And the “schoolie” schools us – quite naturally it seems by dint of her narrative – into thinking this is not only quite feistily logical, but also endearing.  I’m coming into line. I’m now entering into this book’s spirit of temperament as well as its spirit of place.  Just needs time to catch up – or stir sufficiently its retrocausal  double de-clutching into the right gear. By effective contrast, two other ‘loose cannons’ entering the woodland ‘playground’ renews the pervasive anxiety… As a Dad myself, and wanting to share anxiety, I empathise with her Dad, meanwhile.  [Another tentative ramble on my part: this is a book touching on unreconstructed or deconstructed bullying and at least a smidgeon or sense of ‘remember you’re a one-ball’?] (31 Jul 11 – another 2 hours later)

2/3The new mirror  was almost identical to its predecessor: it was the same size to the inch.

But the plot thickens. Literally. Jeanette in interface with her Dad, her teacher, her bra, her loo cubicle, her small talk with other girls. But the plot thickens, grows larger. Grows coarser. Coarser sheets, curtains, wallpaper, Dad’s trawl of books yet dust and junk but more tactilely coarse then than any ebook today, school rice pudding like thickening slime, big heavy gloves when doing her homework. The ‘whatever’/ ‘I’m not bothered’ girl clotting… On page 71,  there is an amazing longish section of coarsening features that is a passage to savour in two paragraphs remarkable enough to satisfy any reader who needs grist or grits in their literary sustenance, I guess. But whither the jaw’s over- or under-bite?  I sense this book has more than one tipping-point…. (31 Jul 11 – another 3 hours later)

“If my feet would let me…” ((p.59) Cartesian Dualism again?) (1 Aug 11)

2/4 “…and when I looked down I saw that I still had the same rubber boots on my fairy feet.”

And from thickening to a more numinous quality of (e.g.)  ‘fairy feet’, and flight on a motor-bike pillion (having been dressed-up tartily) seated behind her Anxiety-colluder – involving subterfuge by herself against her Dad as well as exploitative subterfuge against her as it turns out when they arrive at the destination of their ‘dirty weekend’.  Some more  very strong writing here, with the nature of her dual selves and the dark side of numinosity or luminosity (my words, not the book’s) echoing her erstwhile deathwish visions. She needs an anchor, overtly. Meanwhile, I receive my own first real anchor in time, unless I missed any such clinching anchors before in the text,  with a ‘fourpence’ tip to the taxi-driver and ’10/-‘ in a shop window display – and now I realise the chapter headings (eg 1/6) should have clinched that deal already! (1 Aug 11 – ninety minutes later)

2/5  [1d short of half-crown?] “But it’s better not to talk about money.”

“Maybe you need to know, now. I communicate on a need-to-know basis.” Like this whole book? And its narrative layers, one of which gives Jeanette’s real age as **. This is a substantial chapter in length and action and character development (some in direct shot, others (eg Dad) at home in sporadic foil or backdrop) – a chapter of a compelling tone, telling of Jeanette’s introduction to highly-geared concupiscence as well as tighter-knit role-playing – for filming. [Such scenes involved ringing true to me for such an industry in the days of half-crowns as well as in more recent years as based on an old friend’s long-term anecdotal evidence.] Filming done for money, that money, in turn, for Jeanette’s colluder’s dubious politics. Bad ends justifying the means. Jeanette’s vision – in such media res – of her mutant doppelganger is genuinely inspiring literature stemming from such tawdry means.  No mean authorial feat. A leitmotif to die for.  Inspiring, yet disturbing. (1 Aug 11 – another 4 hours later)

2/6The house was suffocating me. I seemed to be breathing darkness, not air.”

Jeanette and (her) Colluder – my need-to-know name for him, not the book’s – begin to take us in a reader’s own amoral-‘inspired’ exploration through a richly furnished detached house near to where their motor-bike cuts out – to burgle for money from its temporary unoccupancy.  It is suspenseful, anxious, page-turning action – and Colluder’s reaction to Jeanette’s event-and-atmosphere-‘inspired’ virginal ‘come-on’ with a convenient double bed is one of purity, as if he is some form of knight’s templar [someone inadvertently like that man in the national news on 22 July 2011?]. [Information on an early colour TV set in the house tells me almost clinchingly what era this book’s action is taking place. An anchor to absolve my anxiety.] (1 Aug 11 – another 2 hours later)

2/7 “Time slowed down, then put on speed; anxiety gave way to mounting excitement, then vice versa.”

[That seems to sum up this book so far. They even destroyed ‘my’ colour TV in this chapter.]  I sometimes can’t help thinking that this ‘couple’ who have ‘invaded’ the salubrious detached house are a mutant (Cartesian?) form of Bonnie and Clyde.  This is another driven-along chapter, and I’m relishing every moment of reading this book. The arrival of the house’s girl fac totum is hilarious, both cinematic and theatrical at once. The tall story they spin her about the circus. The anti-semite vagaries of the Colluder in some Wagnerian opera about Napoleon whiskey (or did I imagine that or confuse history with fiction?).  And that Napoelon’s clumsy need for having his swelling Eroica whipped up (my expression, not the book’s). And the discrete side-backdrop of Jeanette’s Dad and his own proclivities – we know now why the earlier loss of his mirror was important. I cease to empathise with him, but yet I still do somewhat, on past third-party anecdotal evidence. (1 Aug 11 – another 2 hours later)

2/8If only I could have jumped forward in time and missed out that bit,…”

Me, too. But another part of me needed to be exposed to this powerful, pitiful, sometimes hilarious, often tragic convergence of narrative levels as the finale of the book’s Part Two.  [But, from yet another vantage point, jumping ahead in time, I feel, towards the present day in England would have changed nothing.] I shall not spoil this convergence with detail – but you may find some aspects disturbing, like I did, as is the chapter’s cliff-hanger at the end of this sort of denouement or conclave ‘whodunnit’ resolution (but a ‘whodunnit’ still yet to be ‘done’?). I’ll mention just a couple of resonances (out of many): the two photographs separately taken in this chapter: and Jeanette’s earlier (what I described as) “mutant doppelganger” compared, here, with the ‘en femme’ one: a telling contrast amid resonance. (2 Aug 11)

3/1But Valerie was leaving, I could see it. She was fading away, and in his eyes Jim was showing through.”

For many years, I’ve referred in literature to what I call “dimmer-switch identities”, particularly in Weird or Ghost Stories.  Here, the concept is sensitively and, in my interested layman’s estimation, realistically handled within the concept of ‘separation’ by actual name and demeanour and (frozen-for-a-time) inner psychology during some of life’s stages in the rituals or procedure of male / ‘en femme’ situations. This, here, for me, has skilfully added poignancy in the context of the mutually-estranged parents now ‘time-sharing’ the care-responsibility of their daughter, the eponymous heroine.  All of them ringed by the ‘anxiety’ of alienation and the thought of one moment standing beside a complete stranger at a bus-stop and then suddenly finding oneself made to live with that stranger.  Alienation and potential aggression.  Only Jeanette’s lady teacher seems some sort of (potentially Sapphic?) comfort to her…. [The use of the word ‘queer’ is interesting in the context of this book. I still hear that term (unfortunately) used by people today when making such references, but it was far more commonly used, I agree, in the land of the forbidden half-crowns, if I may be allowed to coin that expression!] (2 Aug 11 – five hours later)

3/2My grandad always shaved with one of these. He didn’t like safety razors, when they came in – said they were for nancy boys.”

Thus, Dad prepares for the onset of aggression. Meantime, it is very telling – somehow – that, with the arrival of snow (C’s purity?), everyone would be wearing wellington boots, including J’s teacher ‘friend’ upon her visit. Meanwhile, J (seeking her own collusive victimization again?)  makes a secret assignment for a late-night meeting with C [around whom, if I may brainstorm for a moment, the ‘atoms’ of this book seem to spin, a Hadron Collider, seeking the ‘god’ particle…?] (2 Aug 11 – another 45 minutes later)

3/3 “It was as if I was looking at him for the first time; as if I’d never seen how beautiful he was, how fit and strong and clean.”

J, torn between rejection and desire, between making threats or promises. C’s well-begotten remorse for the wrong reason and misbegotten redemption of self as an angel. C’s garage in the snow housing J’s Golgotha of the female mind. We perhaps realise that Adam and Eve needed to be wearing clothes as part of their punishment-reward not being stripped bare as part of their crime. Or am I confused? [Thinking aloud about the exegesis of JC.] (2 Aug 11 – another hour later)

3/4It was so nice that she had boots on too. We were in the same world, with our shiny rubber calves and pink knees.”

I now know exactly which year this is happening, judging by the severity of the Winter. But not exactly which film that J and her teacher start seeing at the pictures (Dirk Bogarde?). The scene inside the cinema is very well conveyed, but I remember more smoke. And this does not seem to be a ‘continuous performance’ cinema where you could watch films middle-to-middle.  With some characters meeting other characters without knowing they are from the same book-reality or (with the section-markers of this book being a tiny pair of boots) from the same boot-reality (eg Ann – a Marianne Faithful sort of girl on a motorbike?) and some who do know each other on the quiet but not letting on (eg J & C) – makes for compelling if cringeworthy scenes inside the cinema.  This book is re-booted each chapter with a new pattern of interacting forces…maintaining my page-turning anxiety. [Although I might be soon forced to delay reading it while I get on with domestic matters.] (2 Aug 11 – another 90 minutes later)

3/5You command slave-prisoners who lay wooden walkways over the mud and rubber-backed red carpeting over floors thick with blood and filth,…”

As you may know, the Colluder writes Nazi fiction pot-boilers (a short quote from one of them above) – but, having read a goodly chunk of his fiction prose in this chapter, I must say they are rather effective, if one can empathise with the sort of audience it might command (which I can’t). His floosie from the cinema (Ann) is his new life, Jeanette forgotten (hardly!).   These and other characters veer nearer than when they were previously far apart – and vice versa.  But none of them set in stone. I even wonder – in a crazy readerly moment – whether a fictitious Author-Colluder wrote (on his manual typerwriter) this whole yellow-Luxor novel as a story-within-a-story, while the autonomous Nazi pot-boilers are nearer the head-lease narration  or ground-rent or story-around-a-story…? (2 Aug 11 – another 3 hours later)

3/6 [the price of a bumper-sized paperback book in the 60s?] “She still hadn’t bought a decent pair of boots, not even leather fashion ones; the sky was full of stars, the air was biting, the snow was freezing over again, and she trotted downwards in high-heeled shoes.”

That says more than a whole novel about J’s attitude towards her Mum. And this says as much of the world we need a fire-wall against when reading this book: “This wasn’t really the way to the ice queen’s palace. It was the way to muddy building sites and bulldozers that sooner would ruin the old hillside.” A world where certain behaviour was illegal. And crusades were fought, nightmares had, some of the latter mixed inextricably with real life, and vice versa. A whole mountain of meaning in names and who represent these names: “Miss”, “Mr Tony Kershaw”, “Jim/Valerie”, and revealed for the first time in this review: the Colluder: “Child” – and at least some moderately important narrative leaseholder called “Hector” – “Child” momentarily as a mock-“Jeanette”, or as Wordsworth’s ‘Father of Man’?  The onset of mixed motives, mixed emotions, and a narrative that is shocking, but inspiring in that it makes the reader shocked into greater sensitivity – and into an awareness of the nightmare reality we have all forged in the last 50 years – a sensitivity not only to pot-boilers but to Burroughs, Beckett, Robbe-Grillet – more names with mountains of meaning.  But I yearn for that narrative fire-wall. But I don’t think the probably unreachable ‘god’-particle author beyond the real author is going to let any of us have that within our grasp too easily. (3 Aug 11)

3/7‘The mad schoolgirl?’ / Sarah was annoyed but couldn’t help laughing. ‘She’s not mad!’ she said. ‘At least, no madder than anyone else.'”

Christmas Day. J has post-onanistic visions upon self more fitting for Easter? C in attendance.  And C’s Mum – Helen – I now realise is the fire-wall I crave, if only I can climb into her mind. [I love “modern classical, twelve-tone chamber works“, in fact I still need a daily fix from Webern, but I’ve never envisaged such an LP…  But I do recall having to arrange to ring my Mum by appointment between two phone-boxes.] (3 Aug 11 – two hours later)

3/8 “…till you got the imp of the perverse fully woken up…”

We are left by this chapter on some significant brink – C’s and J’s – separately.  In some ways I dare not proceed. In other ways, I dare not. This book is my own motor-bike. (3 Aug 11 – another 90 minutes later)

3/9Just tell your lies and blend a few facts in with them.”

I’m a busy reader today, and this is a busy book. Books: Dickens or erotic ‘curiosa’. Boots: in bed rucking the blanket. Black whirlpools…of books within books, stories paralleling others from within.  The retrocausality of fiction. “The gag could not suppress my cry of amazement and joy.”  Winter severity turned to fog and retrocausality of my own memory. I am bemused at the implied warmth of houses in this book. J with her legs bare: uncovered in bed. [When I was in the Sixties, bedrooms were generally cold, so utterly cold I couldn’t keep my hand out of the bed to read the forerunner of the ebook. J’s Dad’s house seems posh, but did it have an early form of central heating? Did he make a lot of money dealing in books, even if they were ‘curiosa’?] Brinks approach, brinks to be met or avoided.  The ‘Yellow Wallpaper’ feminine-invalidity scenarios of Helen, J herself, Sarah’s Mum… Yes, a busy book. But am I reader enough for it? I chase a better reader than I happen to be for him or her to take the book in hand like a baton, or in foot like a boot? The loneliness of a long-distance reader. Chasing the Noumenon. “Hadn’t I learned once that I couldn’t chase a motorbike?” Earlier numinosity become smells, from secret parts of the body, that even Honey needs to root out from a boot. Like rice pudding growing coarser still. (3 Aug 11 – another 2 hours later)

3/10You’re quite right. Orwell was a socialist – but unlike most of his sort, he was no do-gooder.”

Unavoidable Spoiler (but sadly not serious enough to be punished for): And now we come, quite astonishingly, to the book-reality-passworded type of “Eyes Wide Shut” party scenario beneath a Ligottian derelict countryside-marooned factory-works: “2000 A.D. – YEAR ONE OF THE REGIME OF PAIN!” when “everyone will be on the telly.”  Or the internet?  Life as a “continuous performance” cinema? Or a Zeroist Group ‘happening’ from my own personal hyper-vision or actual-version of the sixties? An era during which it probably doesn’t matter whether one had central heating. Or whether ‘fit’ means /meant ‘fit’ or ‘good-looking’ – or ‘queer’ means / meant feeling a bit dicky in a room with yellow wallpaper.  Equally, J in her Child-induced rite-of-psychology ‘happening’ or knotty tete-a-tete with her caring lady teacher … then J envisioning her own hindsight-empowered future as a ‘masakist’… (3 Aug 11 – another 75 minutes later)

3/11 [the price of a pair of stockings in the sixties] “‘Oh, I say so. Charles said you were good-looking. “Like a Nordic godling of depravity,” he said. He was right.'”

To the backdrop of J’s ‘dying fall’ (not a literal term, more a musical one) in tete-a-tete with Sarah, her teacher, we fully experience the ‘rising fall’ of C’s role-play in extremis. Truly remarkable writing – literature become pot-boiler, and, indeed, vice versa, in quite extended self-indulgent  length, as if some narrative level of this book is lip-smackingly relishing the scenes it is re-enacting or is enacting for the first time – as much as it expects the reader to be relishing it. “Perhaps in the year 2000, beat would be for the old folks.” (3 Aug 11 – another 90 minutes later)

3/12 [not an amount of money at all] “Where I happened to be in space, which room in whose house, that was at the most only half of where I was.”

A stunning finale I can imagine finishing one of those black and white cinema films of the Sixties (Taste of Honey?) – a culmination, a destiny, a poignant departure from the picturehouse through the snow outside, thinking of who did what to whom and who held most blame both throughout the film and at its end. Who was punished most, who was punished justly? The crux of angelity or depravity?  “I can never be sure whether what happened was his fault or mine.” (3 Aug 11 – another 30 minutes later)

4/1I cut it out and kept it for a long time.” (3 Aug 11 – another 10 minutes later)

4/2Funny, how we’ll give sixpence every night to be told a lot of gloomy things,…”

This is a coda that each reader will take into their hearts and ponder. I dare not speculate in public detail for fear of issuing spoilers. But each moment of each day of my life has been a potential spoiler. It’s just our way of coping with those moments that turns them into a different currency. I’ve lost my fire-wall and she’s no doubt lost hers, too (Helen, that is). One of the most poignant moments of the book earlier was, perhaps surprisingly, the desecration, as described, of Madame Mercedes.  But there are different varieties and degrees of poignancy, and that is just one out of many. A hilarity here, an amoral moral there. An erotic tantalisation there, a feeling of disgust here. I hope it has come across in my real-time review above the sort of major reading experience this has been for me. I think I must have the knack in choosing books for review, the serendipitous synchronicity of instinct or just the ability to trust the right people when they recommend books to me in their various methods of effective recommendation. This one is a fit book. An unhealthy one, too. That’s its charm. Almost a spiritual oxymoron. I will need to dwell further in private on its candidacy as a great work of literature. But it sure is already going in the right direction for that.  Meanwhile, I ponder on “exactly how well she knew her boy Child.” 

END (3 Aug 11 – another 45 minutes later)

PS: I still wear my books.

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Dying to Read – by John Elliott

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

And it is of ‘Dying to Read’ by John Elliott (Chômu Press MMXI). A book I purchased from Amazon.

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 Chômu Press real-time reviews here: https://nullimmortalis.wordpress.com/2011/02/17/my-chomu-press-real-time-reviews/

Chapter 1: A Naughty Deed in the Best of all Possible Worlds

“If you could say anything it would be he was one of them and them covered a multitude.”

Only the first short chapter read – so nothing significant to say yet, other than the style so far is delightfully, clumsily disarming like the example above.  An intruder into a house and its occupant’s dead body left near the fridge it was using before it was a dead body left undiscovered. (7 Jul 11)

Chapter 2: Let’s Have Some Dialogue

“Life and perception of being alive here outside were sharpened in some way by the death which had occurred inside.”

I wonder if this is a detective whodunnit like that other book I’m reviewing  synchronously? Anyway, this is quite different, very working-class or cosmopolitan English, in fact a laid-back style of humour and language and feel that might initially put off American readers? And the Housing Estate – where the ‘murder’ is being investigated among some salt of the earth characters (investigators as well as those being interviewed) – is JG_Ballardian. (7 Jul 11 – four hours later)

Chapter 3: The Bones Detective Agency

“Their voices filled the air in separate bubbles chatting intimately in the street to unseen callers. Private thoughts made public, while other people unspoken to surrounded them.”

Alexander McCall Smith eat your heart out. This London detective agency is far more engaging. One lady (from James Joyce land fresh into the job as detective) is hired by an etiquette-tutor lady to solve the man’s murder by the fridge, followed by absorbing research into both hirer and victim, involving a parrot in the Agency Office, one with the Intentional Fallacy who keeps repeating “The Writer did it!” What a hoot! Not sure this is my usual type of book, but I feel confident so far that I shall enjoy it. I won’t be able to continue parroting the plot, I don’t think, but I shall give my impressions on the hoof.  Like talking to a stranger on a mobile as I explore the text. Well, a stranger to you.  (7 Jul 11 – another 4 hours later)

Chapter 4: Self Expression

“…which would lead – Eros and Janet Street Porter allowing – to to some kind of permanent domestic bliss…”

We revert to the policemen in Ballard land – hilariously and wittily characterised by dint of dialogue and self-seeking (literally) – now further investigating the case of the decomposing saint-christened corpse by the fridge. One of the policemen starts the chapter showering in a wonderful Joycean ‘stream’-of-consciousness mode, the first step to selfhood (I guess). Meanwhile, I’m missing the parrot. (8 Jul 11)

Chapter 5: Antique Dogs and Shall We Dance

“Evidently the word cynic was derived from the Greek word for dog, kynikos.”

I love the way good fiction can create believable coincidences  – say, a coincidence of a general career area and the potential romance between a male and female – and here the coincidence connects the book’s murder enquiry, connects it between two characters of our gradual acclimatisation – characters respectively representing the public police department and private detective agency schools of thought, their connection ignited by a lecture on Cynic Philosophy. Can it get any better than that? So charmingly disarming. Yes, there’s that word again. (8 Jul 11 – four hours later)

Chapter 6: Is Love Like Music the Answer?

“‘Which book are we in now, mon pote?’ she said to Lacenaire as she unshrouded his cage.”

Cross-ethics and mixed-practicalities as the romantic relationship confuses loyalties as well as the mutual murder mystery case for both police and private agency – the latter headed by a woman (of dubious gender?) who indulges in Yellow Wallpaper sessions (my expression, not the book’s) – and the decomposed (supposedly) Uruguyan victim’s so-called spanking proclivities. All good grist for the gravy or the gravity (to coin something based on a disarming phrase in the book). Indeed, the book is nicely peppered with whimsical turns of phrase (“…a wo hiding under the pseudonym of a man.”) that both delight and linger like flustered-off featherfluff from the bottom of a parrot cage (my whimsicality, not the book’s).  And the book has books, too. Remains to be seen whether we’re also wandering into a meta-fiction, as well as all the other crossed-feathers of truth and falsity. [If Tamburlaine the Great turns up later, I shall kill myself, I think.]  A sheer delight, whatever the case. (9 Jul 11)

Chapter 7: Alone But Not Unhappy

“Protectively all-encompassing London was a huge, sprawling swarm of being.”

A gem of a very short chapter, merging (it seems to me) a glimpse from the inside of the murderer’s head (unusual for a whodunnit, if that’s what this novel is) and a henry-fielding-esque intrusion of locality and didactick. Some great prose here.  (9 Jul 11 – three hours later)

Chapter 8: Norma in Bed

“What a wag that Iris Murdoch was. Always up to larks.”

On second thoughts, Norma is too old (and perhaps not the right gender?) for the Yellow Wallpaper syndrome, but, before ‘she’ loses her mind, this is probably a glance at her laid-back off-the-wall wittiest, while talking disarmingly to Geraldine: her detective agency employee potentially ‘going out with’ the policeman (Hamish), both on the same murder case.  Much delightful talk of parrot lore, too. (10 Jul 11)

Chapter 9: As the Judge Said, Anyone Can Enter the Ritz Hotel

Pages 89 – 99 – but can they pay the bills, I echo?

“So much of what we experience is in between one thing and another…”

Much reference-crammery in this section, whimsical, off-the-wall, erudite, esoteric, trivial, common-as-muck – and the readers need their own wits about them to ride this rollercoaster of chirpy modernity and rough-diamond philosophy – as the well-characterised police officers visit (as part of their investigation) a big posh hotel that sits within the Ballardian land – connecting the murder victim, both his betweens and his extremes. [By the way, Eddie Stobart lorries have a different girl’s name on the front of each one.] (10 Jul 11 – an hour later)

Pages 99 – 103.  From parrots to green penguins. Brilliant.  This is not just crime fiction, it’s criminal fiction. Disarmingly so, of course. A phone call between Geraldine and Hamish – as the in-between of the police and detective agency – as they put a romantic microsoft patch (my expression, not the book’s)  upon their ethical ends or extremes. (10 Jul 11 – another 30 minutes later)

Chapter 10: Etiquette for Beginners (1)

“Flora nowadays is an obnoxious spread.”

Nor – head of the Bones Detective Agency – leaves her bed-ridden retreat – Man – grasping the nettle that others have left ungrasped [i.e. to investigate the very etiquette lady who set the wheels in motion of their murder enquiry], arriving, via various machinations worthy of the ‘News of the World’, in a public park semi-fraternising with a dipso bag-lady who has the info to sell. This book gets better and better. Martin Amis eat your heart out. (10 Jul 11 – another 2 hours later)

Chapter 11: Sleuthing Twosome

“…well tucked up with a box of peppermints and a gaggle of Ivy Compton Burnetts…”

This scene, on Geraldine’s home ground, could well represent one of the most teasingly conniving courtships in the annals of humorous as well as ‘crime fiction’ literature – as she and Hamish (to the perceptive accompaniment of the parrot’s lines in cheeky backchatter) exchanged respective progressions from their own mutual chatting-up towards some increasingly unself-conscious synergy of infodump and physical culmination. (10 Jul 11 – another 4 hours later)

Chapter 12: Etiquette for Beginners (2)

“A good walk wasted, as Mark Twain had described the Scottish pastime of skelping the gutta percha over fairway and rough.”

And if that doesn’t tell you something of the ‘etiquette academy’ being investigated by Norma(n) Bones, I’m glad for not spoiling spoilers unecessarily – other than to ask: who is following whom, and whom is being filmed, and who filming? For ‘film’ perhaps read ‘write a novel about’. Some more winsome double-takes and  one-liners: a disarmingly skilful hallmark of this book’s style.  “and sank his teeth through the seeded wholegrain to the fish and squishy amalgam within.” (11 Jul 11)

Chapter 13: Geraldine in Spankerland

“Alright, she knew it had not happened in real time.”

“…curious and curiouser.” Even the parrot is morosely ominous. In Ballard land – or Feltham, Bedfont, Slough… – Geraldine visits a business premises (not quite The Office of the “slough of her despond” but equally funny). Watches staged films and yes, ominous role-playing.  Playing ‘real’ Families. The various leitmotifs of her investigation regarding the murder by the fridge are certainly, for me, slowly inching towards their gestalt. Deal or No Deal. (11 Jul 11 – three hours later)

Chapter 14: In Which Nothing Much Happens, or is it Simply In Between?

“Who or what was Diogenes?”

“God knows what havoc my grandfather will wreak after two hours of Lloyd Webber and a trail through Selfridges.” (11 Jul 11 – another 4 hours later)

Chapter 15: Playtime

1.The Second Time Around

“I’m with the websites. I have been following.”

Hamish’s colleague follows up more leads at the the intertextual Ballard-landscape posh-hotel about our murder victim and his off- and on-line shenanigans. I love the way the various parties are characterised with deft touches in this book. For example, to learn that Hamish can pass himself off as Jocky Wilson tells a whole hilarious multitude of sins! (12 Jul 11)

2. Wandsworth Social Gathering

“There are private rooms, but you have to be a full member and there’s a kind of pecking order.”

Jocky” – and we all know there are rules about how whips are used in races – has hands-on role-brinking as his undercover investigation becomes overcover – while encountering a Retro Goth and “consensual larrupings” possibly tied up with with Diogenes. Sometimes I can’t believe I’m enjoying this! (12 Jul 11 – six hours later)

Chapter 16: A Lady Client Withdraws

1. Death and Uploads

“…day by day through chat rooms, topic threads, emails […] she revealed her thoughts, her shifting interests, sudden passions…”

Another murder – a cohering of the leitmotifs from the victim’s lap(dancing?)top seeming, to my ‘crime fiction’-naive mind, to create a very dodgy gestalt as to the plot thrust of this surrogate whodunnit via a vis one of its main characters…? [Coincidentally, I recently wrote – i.e. verifiably on my own blog a couple of days ago – that heavy-duty websters should be taken in the round not in some choice of specific snapshots of what they said or did. This is more important today with real-time action and re-action in various changing and interactive venues / moods of the internet.] (12 Jul 11 – another 90 minutes later)

2. Still Searching for the Right Book

“Is there a book, I wonder, that among other things combines murder with spanking?”

Is “detecting by books” a goer? To find out, I resign my jurisdiction as real-time reviewer. I’m going to get stuck in and solve this mystery, hereon in, from within the book as a character or character-assignation. Hummmpf!  Once on a literary case, I don’t need the initial client or mission statement or impetus or publisher loyalty to keep me there. (12 Jul 11 – another 3 hours later)

Chapter 17: The Path I Tread

All I can say: “it takes me where I have to go”. (12 Jul 11 – another 2 hours later)

Chapter 18: Confessions of Norma

“Never say die, as the horse whispered to Lester Piggott.”

Or – Only Connect, as the Parrot parroted (or so I guess from the tone and detailed substance of the breakfast conversation – amid sensual cooking descriptions of kedgeree – between Norma and Geraldine). Yes, breakfast, and, as Geraldine herself also does at the beginning of this chapter, I seem to have woken from a remarkable dream (a dream mixed up with last night’s reading of this book – but was it the right book? Or is today’s the wrong one?) Whatever the case, it is a sheer delight. Highly recommended so far. A book I would never have read without it being serendipitously-by-the-accident-of-fate placed in the path I tread by people I trust. (13 Jul 11)

Chapter 19: A Boy’s Best Friend

“She was quite disarming.”

Hamish interviews our etiquette lady in her home – a gem of character and place and implication.  Just one example, the deft touch of the exterior noise of a rubbish lorry etc. in the background as they talk (which coincided with the same noise outside my home where I was reading the chapter!). Mention of the Milky Bar Kid makes me recall that Michael Portillo in his childhood was one of those. And of Englebert Humperdinck – reminding me of “Hansel and Gretel”. “Help yourself but try and avoid crumbs. The carpet you know.” (13 Jul 11 – five hours later)

Chapter 20: Synchronicity

Pages 220 – 232

“His flow of urine lacked the abandon of youth, but it still arced down with a satisfactory splash.”

Hamish’s  Scottish-dialect grandparents visiting him in London – hilarious! – inadvertently give him a clue stemming from erstwhile double act Mike and Bernie Winters.  And a police colleague of his – in a later section – has thoughts of river horses and Deutschygramophon and St Augustine and uxorious dealings  and thoughts of retirement and the murder corpse under investigation and police shortcomings (now under extreme scrutiny as a result of the News Corp scandal of July 2011) – and all I can say and do: Only Connect, Only Connect, Only Connect…  Fiction is never to be sniffed at. Or even pecked. (13 Jul 11 – another 3 hours later)

Pages 233 – 245 (Books at Breakfast)

“The reader did it!”

Or sometimes the reader did it, says the parrot. More breakfast truths emerge, as Martina Navratilova swats glamour-pusses and Gertrude Stein claims an egg is an egg is an egg … and A Tale of Two Cities (as well as evoking further poignancy relating to Norma’s erstwhile tale of sororal sadnesses from the past) carries a thesis relating to the original suspect murder victim by the fridge whom this plot revolves around, two cities, Mike and Bernie Winters, Poe’s William Wilson, the reader and the writer, me and you… as Geraldine and Hamish ricochet over breakfast… who’s feeding whom, I ask. (13 Jul 11 – another 3 hours later)

Chapter 21: Missing You in Montevideo

“…clutching a large Lidl plastic bag.”

Where has this author been all my life? This book is Britain today – as seen through the eyes of someone with the eye for sarcastic trivialities as essential truths or resonating tropes (symbolized in this chapter by the mystery of the macaroons) laced with the driest wit and surreal unsurrealness.  The plot? Yes it continues in this chapter almost as a skeleton to hang the pregnant trivialities upon – but, then again, also as a skeleton enthralling in itself with its own susceptibility for being fleshed over in a bespoke manner by each reader for him- or herself. And that’s not to mention the believable characterisation of all the parties with deft touches and memorable one-liners. (Oh yes, the plot: A bag of missing post for the murder victim and its ramifications retrocausal and going forward.) (14 Jul 11)

Chapter 22: Afternoon Ices and a Tap on the Head

“…some old gent is so demented and confused he believes books are the real world and the real world simply behaves according to books.”

Oh yeah! (14 Jul 11 – five hours later)

Chapter 23: Busy Busy

“…Pat enthused as the Inbox attachments blossomed and pollinated.”

That last chapter was like a knock on the reader’s noddle from some wide boy in the novel. Having recovered (well, this book is normally a real tonic sent racing along my reading veins), I’d better say right now that I am withdrawing from further plot coverage as the denoument blossoms and pollinates – and I don’t really want another knock where it hurts (on my demented and confused head). Just suffice to say Poe and one of his tropes again figures in the teamwork investigation (and it’s not premature burial!). (14 Jul 11 – another hour later)

Chapter 24: Suspect Mourners

“In the end, deciding between peahen and peacock, she chose muted parakeet.”

How to dress for a funeral… Mentioning ‘sarcastic trivialities’ and ‘one-liners’, I think I may have short-changed this book. It also has poignancy, a disarming literariness, a subtlety of truth, and scattered ‘Alice’ references used in a manner second to none. What more could you wish for? Jeremy Paxman judging a bonny baby competition? Monica Seles’ grunts in your living-room? (14 Jul 11 – another 45 minutes later)

Chapter 25: Baby Talk

“You’ve been watching too many duff movies.”

This scene is one great staged duff movie.  Forget – for a moment – the poignancy. There are in fact two parrots, both suffering from paraphilic infantalism: one called Lacenaire and the other Diogenes. No, I just made that up as a subterfuge. This is one hilarious denoument.  I simply must try to finish this book today. (14 Jul 11 – another 30 minutes later)

Chapter 26: A Good Deed in the Worst of all Possible Worlds

1. No-one

“No-one is no-one.”

Chomsky might like that indeed. I prefer Nemo, the Latin word for no-one. You notice I’ve never named the murder victim once in this whole review. Not sure what that says.  There was no conscious reason why I didn’t.  Except perhaps impelled by some force from the now famous Synchronised Shards of Random Truth & Fiction? At least this review isn’t written half in UPPER CASE.  Be thankful for small mercies. (14 Jul 11 – another 30 minutes later) 

2. Fat the Chew

“The victim got away. DNA may well point to a connection.”

This book may be the only key to itself.  Detective fiction is its own detective. I’ve always found it difficult to follow whodunnits and ‘Burke’s Law’ type TV plots. But now this book has taught me the ultimate lesson. If you sympathise, you need to follow a path similar to mine, with no preconceptions.  You see, Norman is just a hair’s breadth away from No Man. But don’t assume that gives anything away at all other than that Fiction is serious, Fiction is funny, Fiction is human(e), Fiction is cruel, Fiction tells the truth, Fiction tells lies.  (14 Jul 11 – another – two hours later)

Chapter 27: Fare Well

“Silliness is like salt. Cut it down, but it is still essential in small measures.”

The policeman retires, thinking of leaving for Dorset, almost touching, feeling Hardy if not Cowper Powys. Finishing this book is like a real book-reader retiring before e-books take over, having worked his guts out through each page of life both to laugh and cry. Paid jobs are a struggle.  Retirements, too. [Next week, we all go digital here. Fingers stretching to touch, to feel death itself…] (14 Jul 11 – another 45 minutes later)

Chapter 28: Read Me

It’s a great thing to succeed in spanking the banker on ‘Deal or No Deal’. To escape this book, unscathed, is like biting the writer. But I escape it by saying it has been one of my major experiences in my reading life, as I hope has come across. But I’ll still bite him for being so silly and so damn clever and sensitive. He’s a clever boy. In muted parakeet. END (14 Jul 11 – another 20 minutes later)

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Link Arms With Toads! – Rhys Hughes

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:-

LINK ARMS WITH TOADS! 

by Rhys Hughes 

A story collection

Chômu Press 2011

Link Arms with Toads by Rhys Hughes

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.

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

==========================

The Troubadours of Perception

Le ciel est triste et beau comme un grand reposoir.

Fresh from this book’s publisher’s recommendation of Karel Capek’s War With The Newts, I now take stance to spar with the arch fiction-strummer of them all – one who can equally pluck complex tunes from pun and conceit: Rhys Hughes who wields philandering texts of  the most fantastical word-ploys and absurdic logic – and his rakish prose continues to delight me after having started reading it over twenty  years ago.  And this tutelary flirting story cuckolds one reader for another. The trouble of amour. But never dour. Then the triumph of amour. Turn and turn about. One minstrel journeyman whose destination is never reached.  Or is reached too soon without knowing. (22 Jun 11)

Number 13½

“…the talent of uttering seemingly meaningless, yet oddly affecting sentences.”

There is a title of a book mentioned in this story that made me laugh out loud this early morning: no mean feat. And we have all forgotten what laughter can do for us. It’s a strange effect, but try it. Real laughter, that is, not forced or mock.  Meanwhile, this is a scilly story: one with an intrusive narrator, a plot concerned with matters not outwith the scope of the Large Hadron Collider (which didn’t exist, I guess, when this story was written) – a M.R.-Jamesian puckerdillo with competing shipwrecks and figureheads symbolic/parodic of today’s toxic scorched-earth policies of the Euro-Zone.  It’s pure delight.  And a ghost in a painting is a ghost indeed.  A whole one. Thank goodness. (23 Jun 11)

The Taste of the Moon

Not ofsted, ofgas or ofwat, but some form of ofspice organisation that mind-bubblingly crowds curryhouse images / puns / prayers into a noumenon for a religion of fiction, followed by Hadronic split lentils (my expression not the story’s),  rivalries between spicemen and unrequited love. ‘Mazing stuff, not chilly, but real hot.  “…a side dish of Piston-Walla” makes me think the author must know that one of my favourite composers is Walter Piston. And a close textual exegesis with the hero’s name  – Mondrian –  more than just hints that the author thinks the reader in general is – or I in particular am – someone whom beatniks once derogatorily called a square and whose best effort to change that charge of being a square is by overlapping a number of geometric rectangles with each other below uniformly cumin-stained colours. Or by treating Rhys Hughes fiction titles as retrocausal spoilers. (23 Jun 11 – four hours later)

Lunarhampton

“Lines that are clean on a page turn dirty on a street,…”

Not only retrocausal within stories but from story to story, it seems, as this tale of UK local council Gaddafery — in a Flash Gordon / Kafka mode (if it is possible to have such hybrid revelling in hybrid fictions) — blends seamlessly with the end of the previous story. Starting in an effectively atmospheric Joel-Lanean Birmingham, it suddenly takes off into all manner of SFish parodies … and abstractions made concrete (and vice versa) – a hallmark of Rhysian fictionatronics, with towns as ingrowing heavenly-bodies or art deco aspirations of Fritz Lang… Three dots in any text shows something elliptical … that is rarely found in this book… because it is one giant ellipse that outblanks blanks. Feats of imagination as glancing-fangled aircraft – here one minute, gone the next. Until you find yourself inside one.  (24 Jun 11)

The Expanding Woman

“I was once addicted to her fresh wit and menthol sense…”

A linguistic duel amid a Whovian plot … with touches of Aickman and larger than life channel-hopping… Love it. (24 Jun 11 – four hours later)

All Shapes Are Cretans

“The shape that a person creates during their whole lifetime simply by moving: imagine its complexity! But the mind of God can grasp this figure as easily as a human can visualise a circle or a square.”

So speaks a character in a dysfunctional male M.R.-Jamesian relationship between intellectual types, forming an effective Socratic philosophical dialogue, one with touching Rhysian sensitivity (a sensitivity that is more common in his fiction than sometimes thought) – harking back to the story about Mondrian … and, at least for me if not for the story, the geometry of Astrology and the Stars (transits, aspects, Pythagorean harmonics, mansions, Zodiacal sines).  Wonderful, simply wonderful. (25 Jun 11)

The Innumerable Chambers of the Heart

“Rival firms had worked independently on the designs, which were finally superimposed on each other and constructed simultaneously.”

creating a sort of mis-planned palimpsest of a block-of-flats – but with romantic plumbing. Another touching story with human depth by cold distance (a depth giving the lie to any self-criticism by the author if not by his readers) … with a very clever crescendo of a gradually clarifying if cleverly clouded ending.  The aforementioned depth, by the way, is volcanic like many male-female relationships conducted outside this story if impugned within it. (25 Jun 11 – two hours later)

Pity the Pendulum

“Whole days were passed in scratching myself from the soles of my feet to the crown of my head, though there were always regions beyond my reach.”

Although ‘Cretans’ above is possibly my favourite Rhys story ever, this is probably the most important (so far).  A substantial, highly honed and stylistic horror story, honed and honest, but more than just that. A tale of Inquisition Toledo (I have been to Toledo a few years ago where my wife had an accident – but that is by the way with regard to this review) – a story about the dungeons of labyrinth-configured self. Mechanics of clockwork entropy as Clive-Barkerian tower-altruism, as it turned out, in face of the the walls and rats closing in.  And it was as if I had turned up as the story’s ‘you’ to save the day, as real-time reviewer, real-time rescuer, and, somehow, with great readerly sorrow, I failed. I still do.  This is a small miracle of literature. And I sense I have only yet scratched the surface of Rhys. (25 Jun 11 – another 4 hours later)

333 and a Third

“The stars were lamps on poles.”

I sense I have reached nearer to the noumenon of Rhys with this.  A C.S.-Lewisian / Dickian possession of a cupboard as living-quarters that leads to dispossession whatever its reach of reality. A poignant search for an essential Proustian self, disguised as fictionatronics? And the ending is the neatest I’ve come across for ages.  I sometimes laugh out loud when reading Rhys, but never burst into real tears. I nearly did here. (26 Jun 11)

The Candid Slyness of Scurrility Forepaws

“I added a single fly to every pot,…”

A mighty apologia to us for the electronic Rhys from the printed version – also as a chaos theory of a successful suicide reversed. This story is beyond review. Just has to be read. And I am taking a leaf from its moral ethos with another sly link, as you may now have seen, en passant. (26 Jun 11 – three hours later)

Ye Olde Resignation

“How escargot! How Victor Hugo!”

After the previous story’s flies in the jam, I can conceive of having nostalgia for Paul Weller even though I didn’t like him or his singing – nor did I predict future nostalgia about him – especially at the time of his heyday. Here, indeed, Rhys explores the nature of nostalgia – in fact taking his fiction into overdrive with vast eye-rolling tsunamis of nostalgia – and ofnostalgia (sic) officials in dysfunction  – and so boldly does this story go, I feel I’m already in the future (a future written by some future form of the past’s Eugene Ionesco) feeling nostalgia for this very moment of writing my review about it by means of good old-fashioned retrocausality (well it will be old-fashioned then if I have anything to do about making it fashionable in the mean time) – and I am trying hard to love this story in my own form of overdrive – in an attempt to catch up with its bombastic conceits about how far back nostalgia can actually stretch (to pre-historic times? Or even before that?) while, the story being so well-written, I don’t really need to try too hard. (26 Jun 11 – another 3 hours later)

Castle Cesare

“From the balconies of our highest turrets the entire firmament was accessible to our curiosity…”

But do we ever reach the last balcony? Not according to this story, as the hero protagonist – in a 2oth century East European literature flavour of a mediaeval fable – becomes a cross between the ‘Russian Doll’ hero (my expression not the story’s) from ‘333 and a Third’, plus Robinson Crusoe, Lemuel Gulliver, Doctor Who and a solar-systemic Phileas Fogg and ‘you’ or ‘me’ by fictionatronic empathy with an orrery degree in endless imagination…… Indeed, I can’t imagine  how big Rhys’ imagination must be to create this insular-picaresque fiction (seriously), but it seems central to some fabrication ‘magic fiction’ that I shall christen here, officially for the first time, ‘fictionatronics’.  A fabrication that only Rhys can bring off.  Ever chasing the noumenon but thankfully never reaching it because, if reached, it would become less than its unreachable essence. (27 Jun 11)

The Mirror in the Looking Glass

“His other hobby is to worship the moon…” (the ellipse three-dots: sic)

Despite my comparative tunnel-vision, I do sense this story would have been better titled: “The Mirror through the Looking Glass”.  This brief story has another ending to die for.  Following fabrication brought to life. (27 Jun 11 – two hours later)

Oh Ho!

“Because people like ghost stories, and refuse to stop telling them, ghosts exist.”

I hope that is not a spoiler, or DO I?  In any event, it’s the first line of the story and it is impossible, I maintain, for first lines to provide plot spoilers. This story starts with a fascinating digression on the nature of ghosts. (Can you START with a digression, though?) The story is mainly about the nature of bullying, however, and of relentlessly being bullied from the poignantly, fearfully, agonisingly empathisable point-of-view of another form of the ‘Russioan Doll’ hero as he struggles, through life, from Narnian reality-cabinet to Narnian reality-cabinet. Or that’s how I read it – which is important. The stories in this book make crafty use sometimes of the ‘intrusive narrator’ technique.  I applaud that. Meanwhile, Rhys, I’m the groundbreaking ‘intrusive reader‘. Oh Ho! what have we here then? (27 Jun 11 – anothr 3 hours later)

Loneliness

“I have no patience with paradoxes.”

So says tantamount to no-one, but can patience be played with them, I ask? I’m glad I fortuitously read this story so quickly after the previous one as they are ‘companion pieces’ (poignantly so): ghosts and bullies (enemies) vis a vis the assuagement of loneliness produce the perfect paradox.  This is ‘The Christmas Carol’ in spades. [Incidentally, for those who mistakenly believe Rhys can’t do deep character or poignancy should read this book.] (27 Jun 11 – another 30 minutes later)

Hell Toupée

“…the spades and forks that had been stabbed into the soft earth of flowerbeds and left to turn to seed.”

This is a long story where Rhys goes into overdrive over overdrive, peppered with outrageous puns, word-ploy and plot-turns, a fact that is perhaps the point of the whole story, one that novice readers may find hard to forgive. But I can forgive anything, even the author getting his own back on me at the end of this story for my playful (yes, it was playful) bullying of him when playing the intrusive reader, as I did in my review of ‘Oh Ho!’  This story itself crosses gardens and garden walls via other labyrinths from a wig emporium to a non sequitur shop, via a balloonist’s own present of a non sequitur to the protagonists, protagonists who include a yeti named MeMeMeMeME (symbolic of Rhys poignantly and seriously tussling with his own Proustian self in this book as a whole) … and, much to my amazement as perpetrator of ‘NN’, there is a magic carpet that ingrows like hair and a Wing in the Ground!!  And much else. A tour de force.  And it also causes me to realise that my whole general method of real-time reviewing (i.e. the ‘leitmotifs to gestalt’ method) is one huge (losing?) battle against non sequiturs!!!!

“Stars high above, but no moon, just an oblong of black where the moon should be, a flying shadow.” (27 Jun 11 – another 90 minutes later)

Inside the Outline

I couldn’t help but think of Beyoncé’s amazing headlining performance on the Pyramid Stage at the Glastonbury Festival last night when reading this story. A shadow of a shadow is the person itself. And only the words of the story can do justice to their own deep meaning. The outlandish characters’ names are just a credence of clearwater. So, forgive me, while I let the show roll on without me … and while a troubadour strums and plucks in the more reflective parts of the glitz, dirt, halo and long shapely legs:

“It evolved into a pseudo-religion with a fundamentally fanatical fanbase.” (27 Jun 11 – another 2 hours later)

Discrepancy

An intriguing (for me, Ligottian) story of Coppelia in Chaud-Mellé – who creates human doubles as clockwork puppets, if not Russian dolls.  I just imagined Beyoncé having thus created the whole 175,000 strong audience (or weak audience) last night just for the TV cameras and her fans back in the USA…  Or Rhys his intrusive real-time reviewer and his million unseen readers and even more unseen readers if this ever becomes an ebook.

This is one amazing book. As Rhys himself has said elsewhere,  this book is the perfect introduction to the breadth of his fiction. I shall now read its Afterword entitled ‘Romanti-Cynicism’ for the first time, but I do not review non-fiction. So here I end the review, while hoping for my own replication (or perception) as the handsome troubadour I truly am.

“…the book of mad inventors would require an extra page…” (27 Jun 11 – another 3 hours later)

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Weird Weird Literature

Over the years – for those who have been exploring my vituperative ramblings on-line (still in situ) – I have given the impression, at least to myself, of falling between various stools.  Stools that would have supported me – or provided me seemly relief from a sense of scatological unworth.

Even as Weirdmonger, I was so far between stools, I’m not in  the 800 pages of the book here or in the previous ‘New Weird’.  Can’t complain, though.

Now Chômu Press has for me become an evolving Venner for these radiations of fiction force.

Please also see here for my most recent yet effectively pre-Chômu ramblings on this field-theory of weird-palimpsest.

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My first and only published novel

I have just re-read Nemonymous Night (Chômu Press, June 2011) in its full beautiful regalia as a book. And I wonder if it is a metaphorical suicide-bomb now planted on my bookshelf, knowing how close I am to my bookshelf…

More thoughtfully perhaps, having indeed just re-read this my only published novel, I deem it the worthy culmination of a lifetime tussling with fiction. I shall continue to deem it thus, I feel, even if the critical reaction to it is negative, but I certainly trust that most of its readers will gain value from the adventurous Jules Verne-ian plot together with its apocalyptic and acquired accoutrements.

Nemonymous Night, the Last Balcony story collection and the Weirdtongue novella are the only works of mine I would like to remain in existence after I’ve gone into my own nemonymous night. But, obviously, I have no say in what is kept and what is not.  And the earth may vanish before I do.

Please forgive any sign of pretentiousness that may be discovered in this statement.  And sincere thanks to the publisher of Nemonymous Night.

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The two quotes inside the book – the words from an Elizabeth Bowen story were discovered after completion and acceptance of the novel – and the ‘Carcosa’ words from Karl Edward Wagner were published in the mid-1990s, and the novel mentions a ‘lethal chamber’ and an anchovy!

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The Cisco Spear-Carrier

I dreamt about my concurrent reading of this book last night. Always a good sign for me with a book. And I dreamt, too, of ‘Phaedrus’ and – in the spirit of a once-off breaking of my own erstwhile rules with regard to real-time-reviewing – I refer this review-reader to http://oak.cats.ohiou.edu/~hays/Love/ReadingNotes/Phaedrus3.html including therein: “We have lost, as it were, the feathers that allowed us to fly. But, certain nutrients stimulate the growth of feathers and allow the soul to soar. One of those nutrients of the soul is Beauty.” (12 May 11)

EDIT (14 May 11):

I dreamt of ‘The Great Lover’ last night again! This time about the Wolves of the Calla, being the masked machine projections or prostheses of Vampires – and deploying Harry Potter’s snitches!

And finally decided that Cisco’s book will endure as a great one, without any doubt at all!

I must read his other books, however.
[And the Cisco Kid = The Gunslinger?}

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The Great Lover – by Michael Cisco

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 GREAT LOVER 

by Michael Cisco

Chômu Press 2011

 

Cover illustration: Torso Vertical

Foreword by Rhys Hughes (that I shall only read after finishing the novel it forwards – LATER EDIT: I did read it before finishing!).

 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.

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

==========================

The Great Lover

“A thrill of suspense draws us taught on nerve-lanyards.”

This appears to be a brief prelude, with the narrator’s voice deriving from a state of being as one of eight dead grave tenants in a type of conclave cemetery that reminds me of incidents in various parts of the Elizabeth Bowen canon.  The prose is effulgent and sufficiently trip-textured to spike attention constructively along the way.  The implication is that we are to hear the narrator’s lifestory from his grave in the rest of the book? (10 May 11)

Chapter One

“Now he rises stiffly, brushing aside a toucan, and begins to grope along the walls.”

I tend to know eventually that I have chosen the ideal book to real-time review because of the personal (accidental?) serendipities involved. Here I know straightaway, not eventually. Recently I watched a TV series called ‘Filthy Cities’ complete with a smell scratchcard for sewer smells. Here, though, I don’t need the scratchcard! …. as a character – The Great Lover – emerges from a city’s sewers as if by alchemy with the earlier prelude, coupled with an empathy of souls also conveyed by a series of books I’ve just finished reading and reviewing (i.e. ‘The Dark Tower’ by Stephen King), an empathy by means of an evolving-of-characters by doorways (and we have a similar doorway here explicitly) – the He and I of King’s Eddie and Roland, here a He and I, whose names or souls (as one) we don’t yet quite ‘get’ – and an underground train away from death (or towards it) reminiscent of an indifferent prose poem I happened to write recently as A Sullen Dream (and I now know why!). And the evolution of the Great Lover character is propelled towards incarnation by not only an alchemy but a Wagnerian alchemy (and, yes, I’ve been listening to Wagner’s Ring recently!). The prose-thrust (if not in its own characterful texture of style that is different in taste if similar in challenge) is serendipitous, too — indeed synergistic — with the opening of another book I hope others will read soon if they can, and I’ll leave readers of this real-time review to guess which one.  Synergistic or complementary, true, but otherwise quite different. So far.  But that’s only after one chapter. —- Truly struck so far, with this novel’s first movements… (10 May 11 – three hours later)

I am a few pages into the 2nd chapter and this is not yet an official report on that chapter.  But my reading mind is fast becoming subsumed (in a good way) by the prose and its reality as stream-of-dream – while the Great Lover interacts in his world with other Great Lovers. And I simply need to report back at this chapter’s interim stage because I feel the text is encapsulating – so far – my long literary life’s yearning for some creative union of Scatology and Eschatology. (And are the Gnomes Nibelung?) (10 May 11 – another hour later)

Chapter Two

“Inside the carpet, she stares in horror as the mouse in her hand transforms into a little naked man…”

In many ways, this novel is not to be judged after only one reading, as I am attempting to do in real-time. But, equally,  it needs to fathom me, too, in the same real-time. I have nothing to add to the earlier comments about this chapter, other than it accelerates its melting dreams, in both subject-matter and the medium of that subject-matter. “…the city is where you find love at last sight: […] Pull away the mold, and see the intaglio broach…[…] Shit, gold, water, and combinations of elements in general bring life about,…” This is possibly the first real-time review where the book retrocausally real-time reviews the review itself, building a gradual crescendo of movements, “comparable to improvising a complex piece of contrapuntal music in coordination with other musicians…”, other authors, other readers, other reviewers, other craquelures upon the textual surface… (10 May 11 – another 3 hours later)

[I admit I earlier read Brendan Moody’s review here, ostensibly then enticed by his description of “an unusually odd review” when linking from elsewhere to it – and as I’ve only read the first two chapters of the book so far I found this a very strange thing to find myself doing. I really think this book switched us for a while by trickery of narrative doors.] (10 May 11 – another 2 hours later)

Chapter Three

Pages 44 -49

“Yet I suspect the time is coming when to overlook him will be still to see him, for if anyone has the ability to bend light it is surely Michael Cisco.” (from Rhys Hughes’ Foreword earlier)

[This book seems to be making me break all my rules of engagement with regard to the ‘purity’ of real-time reviews.] Here, in the first few pages of this third chapter, we reach the nub of some plot, here regarding the Prosthetic Libido mentioned by Thomas Ligotti on the back cover of the book. Ligotti also says: “Cisco has an indentity as much as any writer I’ve read.”   The Great Lover who is both him and me as sewn by sewers – set to help a scientist called Armand Hulferde in some sexual mechanics of energy saving?  But I keep my own powder dry and will not issue any more retrocausal spoilers, be it from me or from someone other than me. [This book is sending me crazy!] {In a good way?} This sentence has been removed by its author. (10 May 11 – another hour later)

The rest of Chapter Three

“I am levitating over a city at night. Also a black carpet covered with flowers in pale colors.”

You will never forget reading about the mechanics in creating the Prosthetic Libido. Nothing I say here will do justice to it, except to say it is the synaestheticised reader that forms it – for real, as it were, as an appendage of the author … or of the reviewer (as known reader) who are collaborating minute by minute ‘Dark-Tower’-like, the sewerman, the Great Lover, the scientist… in a splendid Frankensteinish scene from “the workshop of filthy creations” (which is a genuine quote from the Frankenstein novel by Mary Shelley that I already know about, an expression not so far quoted in this book I think but highly appropriate to the plot, although Percy Shelley *is* mentioned in-the-text) – as well as Vera who claims not to be a character at all…!  I am truly agog. “The earth rumbles beneath me, as though a train were rushing beneath my feet, but the sound and the vibration seem to go down into the earth toward the City of Sex.”  Like my prostate. (11 May 11)

Chapter Four

“[The earth is hollow, and I’ll prove it to you! (goes down into the earth)]”

This book deals with its reality in the same way as my real-time reviews have always dealt with the books themselves, i.e. building up Leitmotifs towards a Gestalt or, in this book’s case, Co-ordinates towards a Cult or, elsewhere, Beams towards a Ka.  I cannot possibly convey here the marvellous intricacies of the plot, the various characters, the scintillant, if pungent, text – but they are all sometimes rare, sometimes well-done, sometimes even over-done, but never medium.  This chapter deals in constructive originality with a subway version of the Blaine Mono train…and many of you will know what I mean.  [Cf: my It’s A Funny Line, a prose poem first published in 1989]. (11 May 11 – four hours later)

Chapter Five

“…the quills of the feathers swell and begin to grow from the roots over all the form of the soul;”

This continues to become a symphony of images that swirls around a darting audit-trail of philosophical illuminations in a form of revelatory one-liners paradoxically amid sinuous syntax and TS-Eliotian poetics-into-prose: with Aickman-Wood in the potential underground forests and Aickman window-watchers: a clever art of contraption-synaptic Vampirism threading Ligottian “senseless warehouses  and offices really inexplicable” as stalked, of course, through the text, by the quite startling Prosthetic Libido character at his loose-end of multi-desire to plug or be plugged.  And many other breath-taking interconnections that I cannot possibly cover here or, even, safely remember in any shape or form after they’ve entered the fast subconscious-ing compost of my reading-mind. “My name is Name.” Meantime, the text is often like a thicket or hedge through which, one way, you move easily, but another way, you get stuck on pricks. (11 May 11 – another 3 hours later)

Chapter Six

“May is a good month for visions,…”

Before my memory loses the “hastily improvised persons” or “placeholders” from the previous chapter, I would like to compare my recent thoughts on King’s “walk-ins” and his own role I identified as “spear-carrier” in my review of his ‘Full Dark, No Stars’.  And there are many ‘walk-ins’ travelling along the geometric channels of journey shown by Harry Beck’s famous London Underground Map (that is in turn represented by the section-dividers in this Chomu book?)  – supplementing the Map of Audit-Trails that is indeed the essence of this book itself. There is also much of what I recall to be Mike Philbin’s skilful fiction-streaming of violent or bukkake psycho-sexuality potentially infecting this book, for good or bad. Meanwhile, the conclave or honeycomb of eight coffins at the very start of this novel sort of seep and sidle back into the reader’s consciousness within the brine tank of our Jungian imagination-sump or joint compost-heaps of memory, and I sense that a truly startling thing is about to thrust its head above the surface, or the surface is about to thrust its own head above the the startling thing? Plus the fact that in this chapter, you can find a most interesting definition of the word ‘rhythm’.  It’s too much of a spoiler to quote here. (11 May 11 – another 3 hours later)

============

I dreamt about my concurrent reading of this book last night. Always a good sign for me with a book.  And I dreamt, too, of ‘Phaedrus’ and – in the spirit of a once-off breaking of my own erstwhile rules with regard to real-time-reviewing – I refer this review-reader to http://oak.cats.ohiou.edu/~hays/Love/ReadingNotes/Phaedrus3.html including therein: “We have lost, as it were, the feathers that allowed us to fly. But, certain nutrients stimulate the growth of feathers and allow the soul to soar. One of those nutrients of the soul is Beauty.” (12 May 11)

Chapter Seven (pages 166 – 183)

“I’m a huge smooth ear,”

Contrapuntal ordinals of person (e.g. first person singular, second person singular, first person plural, third person blind, reader person peculiar &c…) make incredibly challenging prose-music as well as kaleidoscope-meaning – and one’s dealing with another sex or another character (‘vera’ being literally truth) is like a novel-reader seeing characters evolve through the obvious ‘blindness’ of text into the statues of visionary dream turning gradually solid then, even, into actual real people who sit in the reading-room with you or us or me or them, often with the coefficient of concupiscence. [That latter expression has just turned up on the page here of my review in real-time and perhaps it is my way of sensing this book’s own sense of ‘prosthetic libido’ in the context of the narrative mazes and philosophical illuminations as surrounded by the first-impressive word- or watch-jewelled settings …. ticking, clicking, pricking by.] (12 May 11 – five hours later)

(The rest of) Chapter Seven

“The Great Lover finds himself in another, new narrative, another character.”

Sex-core and ice-sun within a ‘fiction(re)alised’ hologram of inner Earth?  I have already ‘enjoyed’ similar, if fundamentally different, coincidental-visions before reading this section of the book today.  And, suffering, as I have done, quite regularly over the years from the serious condition of iritis onward from 1973: “Their eyes have developed special ridges on the surface of the iris itself –”  Whatever my findings (and this book deserves more than one reading) I can judge already – two-thirds into this my first reading – that this is unquestionably a great novel and I agree with Brendan Moody in his constructive review linked above that “language, grammar, usage so eccentric that typos are impossible to tell from artistic license“.  I am happy, as long as my wayward reader’s license is also nodded through… 🙂 (12 May 11 – another 3 hours later)

Chapter Eight (pages 201 – 223)

“Some call it Mnemosem which means simply: “wolves”.”

Mnemosyne (meaning ‘memory’) is one of the few words with ‘nemo’ embedded (along with mnemonic, anemone, Bournemouth and unemotional). ‘Mnemosem’ is a neologism, I guess, for the ‘Wolves of the Calla’ who stole children and returned them as ‘roont’ changelings (their memory gone?). Which fits neatly with the ‘Immigrants’ as variant forms of Capek’s Newts – or Vampires that seem collusive with the filters (co-ordinates, beams, audit-trails?) of minds/characters silting back and forth via fiction’s ‘baffles’ within each such filter, if it were not for the saving grace-stitches of (what I have long called) ‘the Tenacity of Feathers’. “…and sometimes – we don’t know why – the wings attach inside the body, and not on the outside.” Meantime, nightmare city-desperations and sexual jealousies are implied (if not impaled) and, later, morals inferred. And we wonder if this book is not a Baffle at all but a Fable. Not a Veil but a Pique. Didactic or fractal or plain frantic – or eventually Finnegans Flann? (12 May 11 – another 3 hours later)

============

I’ve dreamt about the book again overnight! This is the first book I’ve read by Cisco and I really must read some more when I’ve finished it.  (13 May 11)

(the rest of) Chapter Eight

“Hee-HAWWN!”

An expletive action-cinematic mayhem of (as if) internet flash-mobs made flesh as internet creatures rather than as the human beings that stand behind these creatures’ web-avatars (my vision of what’s happening here, not necessarily the book’s) as a literal police-‘state’ as Cop-mass, and Vampires, and Immigrants and Skate-Boarders, swarm the subway narrative arteries – leading to a cisco-kidney (pink) vision, inter alios, of Prosthetic Death this time – a literary event that has to be read not to be believed but to feel merged and then differentiated, differentiated then merged, Libido and Death as prostheses rather than hypotheses. “Against the dais, the wands end in soft hooks, like the fronds of a sea anemone.” (13 May 11 – four hours later)

Chapter Nine

“…and forms a little flat nipple on the front of the eye, through which she can project her fascination beams.”

I am one of the Cultists portrayed in this book. And like all Cultists, I am more eclectic than catholic, more forgetful than mnemonic or metronomic.  And I forgot to mention another flash-mob in the previous chapter, that of separately autonomous wings that swarm as good as the rest of us (an image that I have lived with for years since writing ‘Agra Aska’ in 1984). Here they form, inter alia, the throne of the Prosthetic Death – probably the most original Horror creature frankensteined up in the whole of literature to date, and I don’t say that lightly. Perhaps the siren from the pirate ship of Whovian TV’s last episode, and yet far far more powerful to the power-context of the quasi-astral-projections inferred from this book (not forgetting that you are one such projection). (13 May 11 – another hour later)

Chapter Ten

“…and hit the blank that’s all that’s there, not even the memory.”

A brief, highly poignant, beautifully written nocturne leading from the repercussions of the previous chapter.  Love is Great in all respects, I find, even in its great sadnesses. And sometime its superman strengths. (13 May 11 – another 45 minutes later)

Chapter Eleven

“Nearly invisible, shade-like figures are coming, walking along either side of the dead train.”

I feel I share a dream-sump with everyone reading this book. [Cf: on a personal front: ‘A Sullen Dream’ linked at the beginning of this review and ‘The Dream of Real Air’ (first published 1992) and the ‘jellyfish imagination’.]   It’s as if that, when one can submit to this book with complete heart and soul as well as with philosophical intellect, the reader can believe in the cult of cheating death – cheating death FOR REAL. (13 May 11 – another 2 hours later)

Chapter Twelve

“Running himself, the Great Lover feels something flash by much faster and veer away…”

This is almost an Alfred Hitchcock-like train-chase finale followed by the petering out of ‘Citizen Kane’ as the camera (here the reading-brain) pans out towards a dark tower (a “huge telephone tower“?) where St George fights his Dragon, or Roland fights the Crimson King, or The Great Lover fights Prosthetic Death. —- I have given up trying to convey to you the book’s intense language multisecting us and then bringing us back together in moto perpetuo or explaining the fact that this book has been the greatest challenge so far for my tried and trusted method of real-time reviewing with so many leitmotifs here and guest-gestalts mocking or disguising the real host gestalt.  Another flash-mob I forgot earlier was that of the Students, and this chapter reminds me of the studious or monkish exegesis required to address this work of literature, and the Matt Cardin type ‘Daemon Muse ‘at work within or outwith Cisco… not just one, but several!! (13 May 11 – another 90 minutes later)

Chapter Thirteen

“Here comes our hero. You remember the hero, everybody always does.”

Possibly — these days (when everybody has read everything) — only oblique or difficult fiction can impart new truths from story-telling. Yet, this is not difficult fiction as such; it just needs sorting out, as they say in Essex where I live.  This last chapter or coda continues that panning-shot (like that famous one in the film of McEwan’s ‘Atonement’) – taking in, during one broad sweep, many of the themes and characters and filthy cities and flash-mobs, even a scrying of a rug-carpet. “British working-class neighbourhood…”, “the rag ends of narrative worn threadbare, sharp and frayed like a banshee call”, “Vampirism runs this part of town from helicopters…”, “But there is no rain, it will never rain here. They have paved the ocean.”, “it is so hard to get through your thicket grounds,”, “and everybody goes on talking about the whether,” … whether this or that, whether this is the ‘perfect’ novel, as Rhys Hughes suggests in his Foreword. To grant perfection needs an element of some benefit of the doubt.  Like Rhys, I give this novel that required benefit of the doubt. [Someone publicly did not give my novella ‘Weirdtongue’ any beneft of the doubt recently, but there is no blame attached to that, of course.]  I admit that this real-time review of “The Great Lover” is as a result of a single reading. That is unquestionably not enough. Still, I am not enough, however many readings I may be able to give it.

“The magic door opens and I go through it into someone else’s dream.” (13 May 11 – another 3 hours later).

END

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Nemonymous Night – cover

Already on Amazon for pre-order.

The cover of my first novel NEMONYMOUS NIGHT has just been released.

Artist: Heather Horsley. 
http://www.heatherhorsley.com/

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The Chômu ‘Man Who Collected Machen’

image

THE MAN WHO COLLECTED MACHEN AND OTHER WEIRD TALES

by Mark Samuels

Chômu Press 2011

BEWARE POSSIBLE SPOILERS. STORIES NOT READ OR REVIEWED IN THIS BOOK’S RUNNNG ORDER OF THEM. ENFORCED RANDOMNESS OFTEN ILLUMINATES ONE IF USED IN SMALL DOSES.

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Losenef Express

“…and once-elegant balconies now rot on lichen-crusted facades.”

An atmospheric story on a train about a grizzled American abroad in Eastern Europe as a self-referential writerly exercise in imbibing Lovecraftian nips plus a gratuitous murder a la Camus.  Or as near gratuitous as possible, were it not for the input of self. (1 June 10)

Xapalpa

“Barron consumed his meal inside, but then took hot coffee on a sheltered balcony overlooking the main square.”

After an American in Eastern Europe, we now have another American and he is in Mexico, including similar curt glances in a public place – leading to a tale within a tale, of MR-Jamesian-like warning.  A traditional macabre tale for those who enjoy such tales, effectively steeped in Mexican landscapes and a Mexican mythos with underlying Catholic sensibilities. (2 Jun 10).

Glickman the Bibliophile

“He was not a commercially successful author and had no agent, merely indulging in post-retirement fantasies of authorial fame.”

A cataclysmic yet deadpan relating of I-lessness amid a gratuitous destruction of books and of all words real and electronic, to the extent of human physicality being wedded to that very process. Gratuitous except for the reasons given by the words I have just read about the process. A fable that will continue to give me food for thought. (2 June 10 – six hours later)

The Man Who Collected Machen

“After I had turned twenty-one, in 1969…”

This story is a must for all Arthur Machen lovers. Full of a pungent ambiance of book-collecting, smoking (Condor is (or was) a pipe tobacco), interconnecting conspiracies of, say, magus and common landlady, and a dark-effulgent London city that reminded me of ‘A Fragment of Life’.  Places and tomes that only exist in ‘magic fiction’ as opposed to ‘magic realism’….  And a blessed imprisonment that ordinary prisoners would die for. (3 Jun 10).

A Slave of Melancholy

“…the wizened ancient merely sighed, drew more deeply on his pipe…”

A Dunsanyan fantasy of a decayed city and a demanding goddess – a dream that may stay with you should you be in tune with such timeless arabesques of literature, as I am. There is an element of this book’s first story, too, a grizzled traveller and a self on self threat , here assisted by an original sense of the zombie… Meanwhile, I say it is futile to call life futile, for it is. (3 June 10 – another 2 hours later)

Thyxxolqu

“He drew out a packet of cigarettes…”

My favourite tale so far, this tells of a “word sickness” and other things that disfigure the mouth, in parallel with some Tower of Babel / Wittgenstein concept of language. It is genuinely frightening – a sense of horror at something that happens to all of us, i.e. being taken over by a natural process as part of growing-up, one we all know without really thinking about it.  [Also seen in the light of ‘Glickman the Bibliophile’, one needs to take time out & go sit in a smoky bar and just think thoughts. But do we think in English? I hope that bloke in the corner looking at me is not about to speak to me…!] (3 June 10 – another 90 minutes later)

A Question of Obeying Orders

“…he extracted his packet of cigarettes from inside his jacket, lit one with the candle on the table, drew on it, paused, and then blew out deep blue smoke into the air. The wine had made his thoughts hazy and tobacco aided his concentration. / He flicked ash from the tip…”

Another loner, this time a soldier deserting the Kaiser’s army  … faced, via a tableau vivant, with Horror of a traditional nature, but which tradition?  Meanwhile, another self on self confusion, effectively visualised dramatically. A monster summoned to shoot in a different war of souls. (3 June 10 – another hour later)

The Age of Decayed Futurity

I first real-time reviewed this story last Christmas.

“Often, when I am smoking and absolutely alone, I turn up my skirt and press the burning tip of my cigarette onto the cold white flesh of my thighs.”

This is a Samuels classic. One that ends with talk of pages covered in emptiness (or words in Thyxxolqu?). A writerly Self-Referentiality, zombification, conspiracy, retrocausality of self, and the phenomenon of Celebrity (cf Glickman), this story (as well as adding other themes like modern horror writers’ general trademark topic of static on untuned wireless or television etc), fits any new book like a hand in glove.  But whose hand? (3 Jun 10 – another 30 minutes later)

The Black Mould

“It was in the attempt to destroy itself that the mould consumed everything else…”

Although the previous story is a Samuels classic, this one is possibly a general classic – one of creeping cosmic horror. I can easily imagine myself as a young man in the Sixties loving this story, reading it aloud several times to myself and then to others (as I did then), savouring each word of this rich prose and visionary power.  Yes, genuinely, this is great old-fashioned stuff. And I sense the authorial soul of this book relishes old-fashioned horror and traditional weird literature and is an exponent of it, with tinges and twinges of modern originality to pepper the effects.  ‘The Black Mould’, old -fashioned, yet instinctively a tale for our times. (3 June 10 – another 45 minutes later)

Nor Unto Death Utterly (by Edmund Bertrand)

I first came across this author’s by-line in the Samuels collection ‘Glyphotech’ (which was the subject of my first ever real-time review in 2008 HERE).

“…a form in which modernity played no part; other than to facilitate the return of the glory of the past.”

This story is a wonderful Poesque tale in highly textured antique prose, whereby “metempsychosis” or transformation bears a kinship with the ‘Intentional Fallacy’ and Nemonymity – and whereby felt past preoccupations of horror (felt by this reader on behalf of the story’s imputed head-lease author) regarding different forms of transformation, unnatural and possibly evil.  Relating to gender or to a Goddess sensibility that even Christian conversions sometimes reveal for me regarding ‘Our Lady’, i.e. for me as a non-believing bystander. Disregarding that possible irrelevant subtext, this tale is thought-provoking in many other respects and lends more traditional Horror Genre delights to those of us who often thirst after them. (3 Jun 10 – another 90 minutes later)

A Contaminated Text

“For them the track of time is from end to beginning…”

This story is an acquired taste. It is nothing without the rest of the book  (so far). One sheds light on the other. Hollow world? Hawler world, I say.  Secret wisdoms.  And the whole book (so far) is contained or contaminated by two consecutive sentences in this story:

They dreamt of a decayed city of inverted steeples shrouded in fog, of black stars in a blood-red sky, of being dead-but-alive, and of searching after a cryptic symbol of no human origin, a symbol which alone brought oblivion. They were tormented by a voice seeming to call from a great distance, a voice muttering unintelligible words, a voice that bubbled and spat like hot tar.”

It should have used a filter tip.

A major book (so far). Samuels is Poe plus Borges and a lot more.  His work is better and worse than it seems.  But that is its skill.

In a few months, I will come back here and comment in a new real-time on my own review. (3 June 10 – another 4 hours later)

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The Tower

“Its first appearance occurred moments after I had woken for the day, had lit a cigarette and sat absent-mindedly in my easy chair looking out the window, with a completely clear frame of reference.”

I feel I was destined to leave reading this story until now. For the past few weeks – quite by chance – and due to be continued in forthcoming weeks – I have been reading and real-time reviewing on-line — the epic novel series by Stephen King with the overall title of ‘The Dark Tower’. Of overall Proustian length and strength. A gigantic and hugely important work for any interested in Weird Literature I feel. Whether it be by seepage between the doors of the Jungian archetypes, this short story by Samuels has for me crystallised a major event in my reading life. And I still don’t know how it may be further crystallised. The Samuels story seems to be a personal catharsis of life, death, politics, (un)sociableness, eschatology, spirituality, creativity, Ligottian pessimism (and variations thereon), etc…..using the narrative tropes of Lovecraft, Machen and other story writers of this ilk, yet, knowing his fiction as I do, this is entirely crystallised and discretely pure Samuels – a major visionary work that actually makes the Chômu book complete, a sense of satisfaction for me, hanging in the air as it has been, without me knowing it was hanging in the air, like the Tower itself. (31 Mar 11)

PS: The book itself wherefrom I have just read ‘The Tower’ is a very neat, well-produced paperback purchased from Amazon and received today – truly beautiful to handle and view – and with  a cover of the reddest red I think I have ever seen! (31 Mar 11 – another 30 minutes later)

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Revenants – by Daniel Mills

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:-

REVENANTS – A Dream of New England : by Daniel Mills (Chômu Press 2011).

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.

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

In common with my normal practice, I shall be giving the real-time impressions of my reading journey, without first reading the book’s introduction or knowing as little as possible about the book other than it was recommended to me by people I trust.

============================

I. A Sound in the Forest

“It is as if a door is now open: open for the first time, though the room beyond remains unknowable.”

They do say that fiction books take on the colour of what you’ve just read or concurrently reading. I have indeed for the last few weeks been reading and real-time reviewing the huge ‘Dark Tower’ series by Stephen King that I have also been comparing – from time to time – to the TV series LOST (cf: the humming in the woods in this first chapter of REVENANTS) – and I’m taking an intermission from that massive task to review this book by Daniel Mills, received today. The doors opening … the ‘thinny’ that keeps a world like the ancient part of ‘Dark Tower’ separate from other parts and, on first impressions, reminiscent of – if otherwise quite different in execution from – this wooded world (in REVENANTS) of an immediacy of Ancientness and High Fantasy and Dynasty and Young Romance and Darker Undercurrents here inviting me – via Mills’ most limpidly clear yet powerfully evocative prose – to picture or build patterns from characters’ names and their word-painted backgrounds. A family and others in this wooded world, with liaisons and preaching and a preacher’s retirement and time-transcended visions of Christian punishment and internalisations of conscious and/or dreaming streams of aspiration. Yet there have been two girls missing from the community, a la ‘Twin Peaks’ (that also had forest or woods)…? I am already entranced.

“…where twin trees grow together, intertwined at their bases.” (15 Mar 11)

II. Dust and Memory

“Everything appears to be in its proper place, but there is a fine film of dust on every surface…”

Absorbed, as I am by everything in its place, the emerging story of Ruth and Edwin and the cast of other characters promises glitches amid the build-up of name-pictures, the real Cromwellian backstory, the erstwhile travel to this novel’s New World, generations sometimes fitting, as individuals, into jigsaws, sometimes not … and, today, a proposed funeral for one of the two girls missing: the utter sadness of life’s waste as well the utter joy of life’s hope … hope to turn eventually to sadness, sadness back to hope, while (“There was no path to follow, but the understory was mostly clear:”) the stage is set here for the dark belly of Christianity to be an understory to religion’s comfort as background radiation or megrim, give or take the odd mishap of passion or birth… “The real music is in the Word itself.” All conveyed without effort. (15 Mar 11 – three hours later)

III. The Mouth of the Wild

“The Deceiver can assume many guises: birds, cats, men. Even women. The witch-finders of old knew this, though some here have forgotten.”

I somehow felt an emptiness unaccountable solely by the book’s lucid language conveying such emptiness to me. Perhaps, it was the carving of a hollow Christ into a wooden cross rather one in 3D relief.  Perhaps it was the soon-to-retire Preacher into whom I have read his own version of existential angst. Or the third girl now to go missing, a girl so important to this book’s jigsaw patterning. And I ‘vainly’ look through my own adopted protagonist’s eyes into such emptiness – surrounded by God’s woods – as he “wonders if fog distorts time as surely as it consumes light and sound…” (15 Mar 11 – another 2 hours later)

IV. Whither Thou Goest

“The forest encloses the village like a closing fist, encroaching from three sides. Its grip grows tighter by the hour, even as men grunt and sweat to beat it back: felling the trees, filling the bogs.”

Whether that be a metaphor, whether Edwin envisions a retrocausal ghost of Ruth in the future’s past, the woods as well as the encroaching emptiness of souls (as ghosts) are almost prehensile, where marks or evidence are found of forces that again stir slight reminiscences of being Lost around the Dark Tower, but I must shake off such thoughts, as search parties are formed, despair cast aside desperately, name-pictures still building of present grief and literally straddling time’s “dreams and memories”, grief and illness, sin-laden pasts, and the preacher whose name-picture is ‘Isaiah’, reminding me of the preacher in Joyce’s ‘Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man’, as if he is about to give the same sermon (to himself?)…and we are shown those ‘twin trees’ again.  I am utterly consumed by this novel. (16 Mar 11)

V. Ghosts in the Birches

“They are mere suggestions of men and women, black brush strokes threaded throughout the teeming rye.”

The woods and its “logging grounds” represent, in many ways, the central caracter of this novel so far, both visually and by smell and sound, as if some New England ‘Ted Hughes’ is in charge of conveying those particular elements. The people have their own hinterland, too, including an indeterminate war fourteen years ago, as well as hints of sins. And there are vague references to something called “Pobakwet” and tenuous visions of ‘four deer’ and even more tenuous ones (by dint of dream?) of a larger creature that I hesitate to describe even to myself in case it ‘deceives’ me.  Hinterland, scat and snarl – the search parties seek their own means of homing in on what they seek.  Missing is another form of emptiness. “This country is too large, he thinks, as cold and inhuman as the Atlantic. But even the sea coughs up its wrecks and sailors, given time.” Forest or woods, ocean or sea, nobody ever understands perhaps the size of sorrow – or what to call it. (16 Mar 11 – three hours later)

VI. A Gathering Storm

“With one decision, he aims to bury God and the Devil both, to free his mind from the torment of uncertainty.”

Or “a belief in absence” as, ironically, in this book so far, there are many presences within presences: call them ghosts, call them dreams, call them memories, call them landscapes, amid an exquisitely conveyed shadow-dance of guilt and dread. Shapes and signs, pitfalls, as one world of presences meets the ‘thinny’ between it and another world of presences. Perhaps in one lives the accidentally missing and in the other the deliberately lost, and at their interface seekers fruitlessly seeking different seekers and shadows mutually expunging different shadows by tribal overlap.  [I am here extemporising upon a Theme and Variations that I’m personally discovering in this book without fear or favour from the God in the Devil or the Devil in the God of traditional literary criticism.]

“Once there was a bear.” (17 Mar 11)

VII. Into the Darkness

“…the great trees creaking like the masts they will one day become:”

A palimpsest of the past and the later power of past’s retribution for those earlier wronged by war or other human frailty or vanity, now come home to roost upon today’s tipping-point or crow’s nest.  A dark tower gelded.  Or meat well-hung for lupine or even cervine goring. And a character alone, with neither divine or demon crutches. Wife or daughter, fate hangs in the balance and the reader holds her breath.  (17 Mar 11 – three hours later)

VIII. Lookout Hill

I cannot possibly reveal how the jigsaw of name-pictures or the visionary culmination that these random shards of synchronised truth and fiction (just to transpose my normal expression for once) are panning out – but the ‘revenants’ are experiencing memories not necessarily their own. And blame, guilt, atonement are all shuffling and re-shuffling (cf ‘The Dark Tower’) as versions of self and unself address each other and even merge. Isaiah was an important prophet who witnessed the most turbulent times. And our own times today are turbulent.  But do not allow me to divert you from the plot.  Its easy but stylishly evocative concatenation of language conveys a thrust I’m still evaluating and probably will not be able to evaluate properly until I’ve finished the book in a day or so’s time. With or without such considerations, it’s easy to read and enjoy.  [Meanwhile, please let me say, on a personal note, that it has enlightened me significantly – after about ten years of thinking about it – regarding this quotation: “The nemo is an evolutionary force, as necessary as the ego. The ego is certainty, what I am; the nemo is potentiality, what I am not. But instead of utilizing the nemo as we would utilize any other force, we allow ourselves to be terrified by it, as primitive man was terrified by lightning. We run screaming from this mysterious shape in the middle of our town, even though the real terror is not in itself, but in our terror at it.” from John Fowles in 1964 (i.e. ‘The Necessity of Nemo’ in ‘The Aristos’) Indeed, a revelation for me. And in this chapter of REVENANTS we read: “The fear … it was too much. It woke some sleeping part of me, some dark terror of which I was unaware. It banished all logic, all reason. All that made me human. It drove me out into the rain, to what should have been my death.” (17 Mar 11 – another 2 hours later)

[Before starting my reading of the next chapter, I confirm that I had not noticed its title when first mentioning a ‘thinny’ above. And, now thinking of the ‘hum’ there mentioned, and of the concept of missing (Lost) girls, I had not drawn constructive comparison (as I do now for the first time) with the wonderful ambiance of ‘Picnic at Hanging Rock’ – one peak rather than twin ones, albeit an amorphous ‘peak’ that Ayers Rock is! Just thinking aloud at the moment.] (18 Mar 11)

IX. The Thinning Place

“The town picks through the wreckage…

Where positive turns negative, as if something unnatural has been required for things to be striving towards an optimum before turncoating into its own pessimum, even in the face of ‘happy returns’ and/or a mother’s recovery from the megrim as if from the ‘yellow wallpaper’ of literature elsewhere.  Spiritual angst, amid a hum gradually separating out into lunatic-pines or  howls.  A thinning out not only of the barrier between realities but also of the human soul when sin-eating.  Or of that soul sold or soiled. (18 Mar 11 – another three hours later)

X. Revenants

“At last they come to the willows, where the twin trees braid together and sweep down to the water. […] Their exposed roots writhe together, sheathed in slimy bark: worm-like, clinging.”

This book is a form of scourging.  Using a limpidly evocative prose-style, it induces an empathy with a Puritan-like outlook: its temptations, retributions, atonements, possessions, guilts, the oxymorons of faith, all  strobing, as it were, often imperceptibly, sometimes in poignant defined slow-motion, between people and landscape. The book’s concatenation of name-pictures evokes the solidity of real people but also, in relationship with each other, their attenuities, their thinning-towards-transparencies laid bare upon each other, bolstered, one infers, by a conscious or sub-conscious faith in angel shadows encroaching and staining them back towards a default, ‘existence-needful’ reality. Father and Son. Mother and Daughter. Daughter and Father. Son and Mother. Husband and Wife. Preacher and Flock. Preacher and God. Preacher and the Devil.  Sweetheart and Sweetheart, one a future preacher, the other, like all women in the book-story’s world, a vessel.  The humming blood of lust.   One can only imagine the war this community was once tempted into, the inferred massacres of innocents, matters that pre-occupy us all today, whether natural or man-made massacres.  [If natural, Man made God and God made Nature…] A war of means and ends setting in train a concertina of consequences incubated by the interfaces of all the things I’ve listed above, interfaces between people, within landscape as well as through those listed elements of an empty faith born from interconnecting people-as-revenants and their settings.  The only un-empty thing being the fulsomeness of fiction itself. This fiction. Hollow-carved with hallowed craft.

“The lad straddles the edge of the forest. He stands with one foot in the high grass and the other placed in the woods beyond.”  (18 Mar 11 – another 2 hours later)

END

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THE DRACULA PAPERS: Book I: The Scholar’s Tale

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 DRACULA PAPERS: Book I: The Scholar’s Tale – by Reggie Oliver (Chômu Press 2011).

The Dracula Papers - Book 1

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.

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

In common with my normal practice, I shall be giving the real-time impressions of my reading journey, without first reading the book’s introduction or knowing as little as possible about the book other than it was recommended to me by people I trust.

======================

I – III

“…means of divination, through the tossing of coins and the examination of entrails, the contemplation of stars or the patterns and hues in decaying cheeses.”

Firstly, let me say, that having only just started this hefty book, I can already tell that the head-lease author of this book  – or, perhaps, his appointed  Narrator, Martin Bellorius, a doctor and scholar reviewing (retrocausally?) in 1632 incidents in his previous life – is a born story-teller, drawing the reader straight into a compelling picaresque and often rumbustious tale, a tale of the start in Germany of his commission to travel trans-Transylvania and the characters he meets and with whom he converses.  A beautifully limpid prose laced with an edge of scholarship and an original puckishness of barely hidden humour together with the sensed tangibility of archetypal human mythos often involving the act of scourging.  [To some extent, so far, it reminds me of ‘Melmoth the Wanderer’ by Charles Maturin.  And I now realise what I must have already known: that Maturin is short for Maturing – the act of always falling short of the perfect climax that is your death…till, apparently, you succeed.] (11 Feb 11)

IV – V

“We hate most what we least understand.”

Eventually arriving in Prague, the Narrator’s retinue of two grows to three potentially, but are characters accreting to stick fast or simply to spear-carry?  The story unfolds with a degree of prudishness that does not actually hide the unprudish things happening!  Elixirs of life, the accrual of immunity in poisons, dwarfish and giantish folk, slight cannibalism, masked balls, and swashbucklery of filmic proportions. Gorgeous convulsions of plot, bawdy or lovesome, but still Undercurrented with scholarly temperateness / spiritual passion, recurrences, visions involving cumulatively or separately some Undercurrent analogous with (my analogy, not the book’s) a Synagogue within a Christian cathedral or vice versa … or a Masonic Mezquita?  So far, while the Narrative wins, the Undercurrents keep their powder dry, I’d say.  So those who love a great story and nothing else will not be disappointed. And those (like me) – who seek leitmotifs whence a gestalt is eventually to be accrued – feel they will also not be disappointed. (11 Feb 11 – three hours later)

VI – VII

“The fact that I did not trust her does not mean that she was in fact untrustworthy.”

This is the second time I’ve mentioned the word Amazon in this review, and here, as our ‘heroes’ descend into Transylvania via the Carpathian Mountains, they are captured by a band of brigands led by a woman, almost a jekyll&hyde character (Cf: Odetta & Detta about whom I’ve been synchronously reading and reviewing today from Stephen King’s ‘The Dark Tower’ series) – and the unravelling plot of conspiracy and counter-conspiracy leading to her being potentially impaled, a punishment common to this area and one that the Narrator compares to the Crucifixion – echoing my earlier analogy of things-within-other-things: Barabbas within Christ, and vice versa? I also like the way this book seems to have its own internal spoilers (an extreme example existing in this section), being types of spoiler blatantly presented as Aristophanic leaps in the dark to gather the truth of retrocausal surprise.  But I’ll continue trying to avoid spoilers myself. (11 Feb 11 – another 5 hours later)

————–

[I already anticipate this book being a genuine popular and literary classic in the Gothic arena, while tantalised by humour and theatricality and adventure.]

VIII – XIII

I earlier called this book rumbustious. Now with much conviction, I shall also call it ingenious. An amenably adventurous style to read, but a trenchantly secret passage to negotiate. Our Narrator arrives to fulfil his commission at Castle Dracula as teacher of scions Vlad and Mircea. “There is no neutral territory here.” Full of inventions to describe the plotting by the author/narrator but also specific inventions within the plot itself.  Full of bawdy generational repercussions.  Concupiscent antics and sexual retribution by servants. Artistic Goyesques as palimpsest to the individual reader’s impinging tabula rasa of daily concerns outside of the text. Full of ‘Marriage of Figaro’ type machinations.  But above all full of well-told Horror – the implicatory impaling of or by oupires and so forth. And a Levantine Turkish Rug in the Castle’s secret passage – as the Ottomans threaten to impede…an Alchemy of opposites within each other. The narrative also proves that Charles Maturin’s dictum: “Terror has no diary” has no foundation in truth. 

“…a perfect combination of imperfections.” (12 Feb 11)

———————

XIV – XVII

The young Vlad, blooded by this book’s narration, is probably portrayed here for the first time ever in such early detail by the ‘breaking news’ in hindsight of our once on-the-spot reporter who proves that terror does have a diary.  The Castle Dracula is like this book itself – more Gormenghastly than Gormenghast itself without being like Gormenghast at all.  Creatures from a Bosch painting: growing their own musical instruments self-bodily. The Ottoman Turks’ siege-making, making me think this book is potentially the Cordoba Mezquita itself from within.  Even, when compared, the brotherly amorous (and otherwise) rivalry between Vlad and Mircea is just a light zither on the strings to deeper themes just welling to the surface. The Beaumarchais machinations: a froth on the daydream. “True evil always smells of madness.” Yet this is fundamentally a great story well told.  This Story of the Egg has blank pages I imagine being full of words. Skaters like giant lizards from Capek. Shape-shifting horrror conveyed by fable, metaphor and  the sheer reality of the concept beyond even the reallest-seeming ‘waking dream’. Full of contraptions, one Aeschlyus theatrical contraption in particular, if true, that you will just simply LOVE. Greek tragedy morphing into tragi-comedy.  Plus some of the most horrific scenes I’ve ever read – leading to a so-called rat vanishing up the chimney. Meanwhile, the Amazon become just one more recurrence or internally presaged spoiler…

“I noticed that the brown snout had only one nostril and remembered the saying that the oupire or murony may be identified by his monomycterous nose.” (13 Feb 11)

——————-

XVIII – XX

Vlad’s character evolves almost as a force within the book that the book fails to channel: he is master of his own universe and any author or narrator is not going to change that! Nothing will change or shape-shift his one true love: “a shape that would have been perfect in itself if it had not promised even greater perfection.”  The Narrator pretends he doesn’t see her charms. An interesting contrast with the book’s dwarf lovers who when “Separated, they once more became rootless freaks set down in an alien court to entertain jaded appetites.”  But then religion starts to expand its undistributed middle: an important passage that I shall quote: “Against one wall was a prayer stool, above which was a crucifix of wood, crudely carved in the Transylvanian style. In a corner I saw another wooden statue, this time of the Madonna, black with age. The face was coarsely rendered, heavy and powerful like an old peasant woman. It was quite a shock to one who had become used to the delicate Virgins of the Italians, or those of the Dutch School, intense, febrile, refined. It spoke of a faith that was ancient and reposed in the common people’s heart, rather than in the splendid institutions of the West. Below the Madonna’s statue was a narrow wooden box, open, in which rested a leather scourge.”  This makes a telling backdrop to the fact that, during the miseries of war, it is recognised that the Turks share a common humanity with those non-Turks they fight.  [In my 1950s childhood, I read comics about fighting against the ‘evil’ Huns and Jerries.]  A message for today. Meanwhile, the two brothers, Vlad and Mircea,  wield an (instinctive, plot-secreted?) alliance with each other against such ‘evil’, a subtle alliance transcending their otherwise overweening rivalry or transcending any ‘evil’ they currently harbour or will later demonstrate when eventually treading the ‘scorched earth’ of emotion as well as (unchangeable?) history itself. There are many literary references and subtleties I’ve noticed that I cannot cover in a review, so I will merely now draw attention to this book’s enjoyably and thought-provokingly compelling thrust of story or plot that transcends these subtleties: and here this plot conjures up bloodthirstily the battles and the mechanics of tactics and strategy in war, i.e battles between the forces associated with the denizens of Castle Dracula and the forces of Islam, nothwithstanding any hidden treaties that may or may not exist.  But not forgetting the Frog Maiden as an absurdist symbol intrinsic to the root causes of any wars amid our common humanity throughout the ages.

“As I watched them I found it impossible to look on the Turks as individual beings. The army looked like a great crawling plague  quivering with life, sending out long trails of slime to infect the land around it.” (Cf Capek’s Newts book) (14 Feb 11)

XXI

“Fear, as the poet says, is the handmaid of uncertainty;”

During the aftermath of the erstwhile battles, the Narrator and his retinue (including increasingly multi-faceteed Vlad and Mircea) are helped by a mysterious and monkish Sylvius who shelters them in a cave from the hounds of the Turks and whom I won’t spoil with description of him or you (if it is you), other than, for me, Sylvius is possibly the essence of Transylvania and  intrinsic to my concept of Nemonymity (a possible fact that tells you nothing at all!) but Sylvius  is perhaps a representative of (or is) the book’s head-lease author who invented – like one of the book’s contraptions – the book that contains those very contraptions: this Sylvius who inverts Plato and is tantamount to being his own self-portrait. I do not wish to bother plot-seekers with Sylvius so please rush over these scenes and simply follow the book’s exciting plot towards another contraption that may save the the Castle itself from being potentially subsumed by a singular plague of Turkish hordes.  See, you’ve already forgotten Sylvius, as I have. And reached a blind spot like those blanks in the Book of the Egg that you cannot forget for fear of reading it forever…. (14 Feb 11 – three hours later)

—————–

XXII – XXIV

“These men were fanatics and believed that, by dying in this way, they were going to Mussulman heaven full of fountains and nightingales and delectable houris.”

Is the Rat King in this book an original character of literature – like Ben Gunn? Yes, I say. Even though the Rat King has appeared elsewhere before under that name, never has he really come home to us as here in The Dracula Papers. A tour de force, a coup de theatre, a plague upon us all. Many characters now come home to roost, much politics, history and religion in cross-section. Siege and counter-siege. Ruse, confuse and counter-fuse. “And without historians there is no history.” Angles on Fear. Terror has no Diary because Terror cannot write, I say.  An engouement of horror. This book is a massive talent in itself, give or take the odd Author or Narrator who fiddle at its edges.  And the novel – if that is what it is – becomes the Mezquita that I earlier predicted, since earlier discrete or exiled material by the Author is introduced, figuratively, as a Trojan Horse of literature (my term, not the book’s) within its own later larger Trojan Horse ethos as our heroes (minus Mircea as the ultimate spear-carrier) are taken as hostage to Vathekian lands as a means for Castle Dracula’s obeisance to the Ottoman’s eventual negotiated victory.  And a new wild fantastical tale in an erstwhile version of Constantinople takes its swing at us. [I’ve missed out a lot, but please! How can one review everything,]

“…that great Christian temple, the glory of the Emperor Justinian, now turned traitor and become a mosque…” (15 Feb 11)

————————

XXV

I stand back, for the sake of my own self-preservation, from this – for me today all too relevant – sheer Lovecraftianly cataclysmic chapter … except for making two quotes:

“…the corpse can be locked into the cycle of death and continue to repeat it until Doomsday.”

“The corpse seemed to drink it; I saw the muscles of the throat move, but the rest of her was like stone.” (16 Feb 11)

———————–

XXVI

“The sleeping demon of Ottoman cruelty had been aroused and would not rest till it had tasted blood.”

Adventurous, disguised and waterborne escape from the danger of Stamboul’s conspiracy and counter-conspiracy – towards joy of the present moment then to captivation and eventually to capture by pirates, and this chapter takes us to an even deeper Trojan Horse or metaphorical Mezquita: one that lurks within the Narrator’s companion: Prince Vlad: a particular rhetorical question on page 403. This book seems to be not only the once-in-a-lifetime pioneering revolution in the retrocausal telling of the Dracula myth from scratch, but also its grotesque involution, it seems.  And its first bite.    (17 Feb 11)

XXVII

“I longed for madness or death, or some kind of mental numbness to lift me out of such endless torture, but it never did.”

Well death never did, presumably?  This chapter is full of hardship and torture for the Narrator and his retinue, mixed motives, a Russsian Zoo on board a ship, self-sacrifice, potential love and Vlad paradoxically both selfish and selfless in his lack of compromise. I sense that Vlad begins (via the text he inhabits) to encompass a belief of himself as a growing reality exploiting the Narrator as intermediary or two-way filter or sucking-drain between truth and fiction.  It is Vlad who grows stronger as a rounded character of both strengths and weaknesses…and of potential history.  Alongside him, we even become more rounded characters ourselves as readers with our strength to distil truth from fiction and our weakness in being unable to dispel fiction from truth. (17 Feb 11 – two hours later)

XXVIII – XXX

“–a vellum codex of the lives of the Coptic saints–“

Are the dead dead or undead or simply never dead by subterfuge? This rolling news of conclusion contains the power of a mother’s confession as the inner chapter of chapters, inner chapel of chapels, the skater (not a giant lizard this time) among Wagnerian ice sculptures disguised as cracking, alongside heaving, almost S/M concupiscence at early and middle age, some black monkery, implications of the double-headed coin of Christ’s stigmata upon Satan’s cloven feet (my expression, not the book’s as if chiropody is the worst kind of dentistry with drills) and the Narrator’s pangs in giving painful, yet cathartic, birth to this still ongoing Narration, his ongoing ‘confinement’ of the inner truths… 

Full of imaginative contraptions, wild scatological and eschatological conceits and the hurly-burly of visionary fiction-on-the-hoof (controlled and uncontrolled at times, if not controlled all the time to seem that way) – this is as I earlier anticipated: a genuine popular and literary classic in the Gothic arena, while tantalised by humour and theatricality and adventure. (17 Feb 11 – another 3 hours later)

END

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I Wonder What Human Flesh Tastes Like

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:-

I Wonder What Human Flesh Tastes Like – by Justin Isis (Chômu Press 2011).

I Wonder What Human Flesh Tastes Like by Justin Isis

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.

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

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I Wonder What Human Flesh Tastes Like / Unauthorized Egg Model Book Cover

“He started changing history.”

A story (?) of three pages. Memory loss through a grandmother’s old age or memory loss leading to onanism with one’s own sister makes this early days for any real-time review of this book of 335 pages. Licked its face, as they say on Bargain Hunt. (25 Jan 11)

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The book I finished real-time reviewing yesterday ended with a story of a clown that (by my interpretation) licked faces clean after (or while?) killing their owners, and this new book’s first substantial story below has a Japanese woman’s smile like two clowns kissing:

Nanako 

“…because Nanako had no opinions…”

I am not reading anything about this book (such as its introduction) until I’ve read and reviewed it. The ambiance so far seems Japanese. The style’s exquisite, flowing through my tired and sore early-morning vision like the purest dream-ointment.  It seems to convey, inter alios, a Lawrence Durrell laced with some form of minimalist music, even though the syntax has satisfying traction that would belie the second analogy.  It also reminds me obliquely of two stories called Violette Doranges and Even The Mirror (by two different authors) that reside side by side elsewhere, only mentioned on be-half of those deliciously lazy enough not to want to know why or wherefore.  Nanako, seen by the male protagonist, is a woman who grows in two fields of vision, the apparent real and unreal, but we are not properly told which is the most whimsical and why one field outfaces the other.  We just sense that the real woman first met is retrocaused by (and despite) what she later became.  A late-night visionary sadness, with even later slicking rather than licking of faces, laced with odd analogous scrotums, semen … and onanism.  But do we ever know when we are alone? (26 Jan 11)

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Manami’s Hair

“There was a faint pain, and she could feel something cracked and rough like a lizard’s skin.”

[The tooth-brushing type of obsession (within the story’s main character or within the author himself?) reminds me of certain facets of Robbe-Grillet.]

If the previous story was one woman in mis-synergy with herself over time, this story is about two women – sisters – living together within a single point in time, one a drain on the other.  The draining one, as opposed to the drained, seems obsessed with TV drama and indeed much of the plot could be part of a ‘Neighbours’ episode, e.g. dates and mis-acting.  Star-spaced, if not star-broken, by both enrichening colours and skin-diseasing static, the delight in imagining death to others as a fiction, wanting to write an autobiography although she is only 20, I think, and been housebound through (delicious?) laziness for 6 months… 

The story’s ending of faltering steps is another ellipse… or series of ellipses … … … (pores where hairs now grow). (pores or prose?)

[The story-breaks, textually throughout this book, all have a simply-drawn symbol (one that I think I happen to recognise) as a divider between them…. You will possibly recognise it, too, but, so far, I have drawn a meaning-blank.] (26 Jan 11 – five hours later)

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The Garden of Sleep

“If you have a garden inside yourself to tend,”

…then you will need to read this story so as to find what comes after the comma.

The discovered lover of this story’s narrator – discovered while ‘I’ am still within the story telling it to ‘you’ – is contrasted by the mis-synergies with various people in the narrator’s family. The lover is a chameleon, an almost genderless, precious waif, called ‘you’.  Earlier in this book, two women within one woman through time, then two women together as sisters … and, now, here, an ‘I’ with a ‘you’ both in and out of time. And I see this story, if not the whole book, as a fascination akin to the ‘you’ of the story itself. I, of course, can’t tell yet after only 84 pages what other garments the book shall wear amid an imputed ‘genius loci’ (Japan?) that has not grown as clear as it may do after reaching page 335.

When I read this story tonight, it seemed to take less time than it should. A plain, easily consumed style, but tantalisingly beautiful in its plainness, with moments of a chance section of purple prose here and there that sets off its blushes. I shall keep watch to see who else reads it… 

[Meanwhile, a very short extract from elsewhere and elseother seems to comfort me at the thought of any unrequital that may ensue upon leaving this story, and eventually this book: “The paradise garden is a magical place. We can only dream when there, but we cannot dream of it.”] (26 Jan 11 – another 5 hours later)

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I Wonder What Human Flesh Tastes Like

“That’s part of my strategy, to force the reader to make connections between things they wouldn’t normally connect.”

A core statement for my own real-time reviews in general – as well as for this book?  I feel as if I’ve travelled ‘fictionally-religionally’ for most of my life till I reached this point of possible crystallisation. 

This story – let’s be bold – connects with this book’s first ‘story’ of a similar title:

IWWHFTL / UEMBC: “When she smiled he saw the chipped edges of her teeth;”

IWWHFTL: “She smiled but her lips curled strangely and he could see too much of her teeth. They were unevenly placed.”

This eponymous story is about gratuitousness, heterosexual park-cottaging leading to talk of cannibalism, but direct participation in sudden concupiscence and pet-dog toilet-drowning; meticulous cartographic spotting of life’s reality-stains with undercurrents of burning it all up as a first best to the second best of curing these ills. I am aghast, sickened – but conceptually exhilarated. I’m not proud of this exhilaration, though. I’ll flag-mast myself clean, I guess. (27 Jan 11)

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The Quest for Chinese People

Pages 103 – 121

“…everyone on Earth is descended from the same woman in Africa millions of years ago and there used to be these other people that weren’t really human but we killed them all,”

Amid the protagonist’s ordinary workaday life, his hidden desires, sleeping, brushing teeth, the people he knows, his wife, his brother – the first half of this story is a revery upon his self-discovered obsessing about the enormous size of the Earth’s Chinese population and his ‘guilt’ at his lack of knowledge of these Chinese people.

I know the feeling – a niggly worry that expands … and expands … in the dark watches of the night particularly.  Towards an epiphany, as the story describes it.  Maybe this is another example of gratuitousness…coupled with a darkly fine-print  ‘pointillism’ of aesthetics concerned with this book’s ‘genius loci’, one which I may still not have grasped other than the name ‘Japan’ and the Japanese sounding names of the characters.  Meanwhile this story flows nicely : while also possibly being a “camouflage” like one of the character’s shirts.

I watched as she cleaned her teeth.”

[I’m beginning to think this book may be the primest example of a literary theory of mine that I’ve explored for many years, i.e. on record as “The Synchronised Shards of Random Truth and Fiction”. I’m now beginning to wonder, too, that the ‘shards’ may here be symbolised by teeth, chipped or unchipped, false or deeply rooted,  i.e. those implements that one would need, presumably, to consume human flesh. (Thinking aloud.)] (28 Jan 11)

Pages 121 – 139

“…I had assumed that it would not be possible for me to act without some definite intended aim.”

Now reading on, I sense this story somehow expresses the horror of the syllogism argument as an existential angst.  The Intentional Fallacy (another bee in my ancient bonnet) expressed as demographic history’s flabbiness or laziness or inert immanence  (expressed in part by culinary un-inquisitiveness), i.e. in contrast to a more focussed aesthetic acting as an assumed (Asian-pointilliste?) backdrop that readers who already know about the Japanese ambiance may take for granted.  The story’s protagonist, meanwhile, oblivious of this complex audit trail he treads, fulfils (disintentionally?) what I earlier called his hidden desires – but is foiled by two women who are this time in pure synergy, unlike the mis-synergy of earlier pairs in this book.  And a final-catalyst force that possibly is the story’s inner ‘tabula rasa’ disguised as the story’s own protagonist’s brother.

“Her mouth cracked, but she never quite smiled.” (28 Jan 11 – two hours later)

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A Design for Life

“His teeth pressed against her lips. / — I love you, I love you, she said in English.”

Another “Neighbours”-type soap-opera plot, yet one subsumed by an ambiance of pretentious art and music, and the artistic and sexual politics of furthering one’s career in that field.  I saw myself as the amenable (affable, passive, inert, immanent, flabby?) older man, Takeshi … until, out of character or as spear-carrier, he managed to score!  

Indeed, in more ways than one, this is a story of passively inert and flabby immanence – and an existential angst ignored by the story’s characters while sublimating their so-called Artform of becoming Andy Warhol.  In tune with the ‘connections’ theme I mentioned earlier with that seminal quote from IWWHFTL – I suddenly discovered here a sensibility that I’ve been trying to identify as permeating this book so far. A sensibility conveyed by, inter alia, the paintings of Magritte.

“…a garbage truck emerging from the back of an enormous human skull,”

belonging no doubt to the out-face in Nanako. [Or a Cronenberg / Carpenter burrowing backward from the jaw as a ratcheting teeth-monster?] (28 Jan 11 – another 4 hours later)

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I Wonder What Human Flesh Tastes Like Etc.

Pages 171 – 187

“The feel of the raw meat in her hands was unpleasant; it reminded her of other soft, wet things she hated: slugs, perhaps, or rain-drenched socks.”

Another soap-opera bubble, this one of ‘Home and Away’ schoolgirl crushes and relationships (two sisters again, both vegetarians, one whose teeth have braces), quirks of their  thought captured as part of routine reality, particularly one of them who has an unrequited crush on a boy in the class – but threaded through with aberrant (gratuitous) thoughts that she should break her vegetarian fast, with sinews and redolences artfully conveyed to the reader, as part of a matter-of-fact, but haunting description that also dwells on comparing the thought of an actual slaughter of a cow for meat with an imaginary slaughter of a human being for the same purpose.  There is something fundamental about the synergy or mis-synergy of these aspects of the story: the meticulous matter-of-fact-in-trivia and the gratuitous motivations incubating within. [Tonight, I shall allow this story similarly to incubate within my body’s sleep and see how things develop when I pick up this book again and finish the story. Good night. [Btw, news just in, Isis = is is]] (28 Jan 11 – another 3 hours later)

Pages 187 – 203

“Lying on her bed at night, before she fell asleep, Ayano had vague dreams of all the different kinds of meat she had yet to try.”

I’ve rejoined the two plain sisters along their continuum of exploratory fiction.  It may be because it’s so early in the morning, but I now feel decidedly queasy, if not shocked, having completed this story’s inner journey of self-tasting.  We have an astonishing description of the meats, their various timings of cooking (rare or not), speculation as to human meat, bodily oils, face-carving (cf ‘Nanako), &c – leading to quite ground-shaking passages I dare not divulge. Teeth are part of the process.  What has gone before makes this story even more powerful. The synergies, the mis-synergies, the eschatology, the scatology, the syllogism of ‘the Chinese and the rest of us’ … the meat that is the all of us…

[Before completing this story, I wrote, this morning, on a discussion forum elsewhere, about this book: “For me, this book is in uncharted waters or waters that the ship ‘nouveau roman’ once explored so as to allow other ships like this one to pass through on the way to an as yet undiscovered el dorado.”  Hence, the divider-symbols between story sections? And will we reach that el dorado with this book, or will it feel its job is done by showing us first sight of it on the horizon?] (29 Jan 11)

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The Eye of the Living Is No Warmth

Pages 205 – 230

“Instead of analyzing lyrics or predicting future lineups, he recorded his sweat, erections and breathing changes;”

…a far-fetched description of an internet reviewer!

This story is of a pair of two late-twenties men who are fans of music girl groups and are active on internet forums about this world … and one star girl is arrested for smoking at the age of 17. Breaking Japanese Law and her contract or generally contravening this book’s ‘genius loci’.  The two men – amid a flabby or Magritte-like detachment I note and feel in myself quite often – pursue the photographer who took the photo of her smoking.  They meet the photographer’s mis-synergous girlfriend who has “a redness at the tips of her teeth.”  And I await, detachedly, the outcome. Meanwhile, regarding an as yet assumed aside, but one significant for me, the main male protagonist here is known to be writing a pessimistic philosophical tract entitled “The Book Against the Human Race” (Cf: “The Conspiracy Against The Human Race” by Thomas Ligotti). (29 Jan 11 – another 4 hours later)

Pages 230 – 249

A Karaoke session for our two men and the girl, followed by a Ferris Wheel ride, all of which actually starts to fill in for me this book’s  Japanese ‘Genius Loci’ more trenchantly than the previous anticipatory imminence (sic) of one. The philosophical tract against the human race (not just against the Chinese one) together with the amorphous ambiance of characterisation make this possibly the first classic work about the Detached and the Internetted creatures that are begininning to populate the world (or my head that is my world). The closing scenes of the transferred ‘handshake’ (cf: My “But do we ever know when we are alone?” question earlier in this review) is a ‘deliciously lazy’ but perfect ending to this story. Bravo!

“He’d eaten a lot at the Chinese restaurant,” (29 Jan 11 – another 90 minutes later)

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A Thread From Heaven

Pages 251 – 271

“In that ruined city foxes nested in sunken basements;”

A pair of adolescent males – part of another student soap-bubble scenario – start a friendship on the school train-commute but are immediately bullied by an actorly or inscrutably or detachedly leadered group of cruising men, with our main protagonist Park (whose dreams, we were earlier told, include airships) then giving his stomach up as part of a voluntary punch-bag puppet (that fits so neatly with earlier ‘flabby’ feelings in this book) – and he has his teeth actually or almost cracked.

A reality-stain of rust iconising a simple daily object. A trainload of human meat ready to be fused by a chance crash: Park’s speculations that float here as cousin threads from the rest of the book’s own world of the human race laid-back for us to pick over literarily, if not literally. (29 Jan 11 – another 90 minutes later)

Pages 271 – 290

“Time is the same as language.”

The threads (including the starkest or cruellest from the rest of the book) continue piecemeal to pour through Park’s thought-pores as if this book is a sort of Bible or actually Park’s own Christian Bible, then creating a ‘paradise garden’ of reality (my laid-back expression, not the story’s) that is cultivated not by awareness itself but by the awareness of that awareness by others.  All within that soap-bubble. (29 Jan 11 – another hour later)

Pages 290 – 306

“Gradually, the past was slipping into fiction,”

At the end of this section, my premonition of the ‘garden’ comes to stunning, undivulgeable fruition, as Park, having sealed up the surface of Gods, watches dead human meat – what shall we say? – succulate…  [At least we have the continuing thread or anchor or fishing-line (or noose?) – of another Karaoke session to give local colour and therapeutic self-miming /mining.] (29 Jan 11 – another hour later)

Pages 306 – 335

“Artists are also wind-up toys that have been set in motion. If they weren’t artists, they’d be politicians or comedians or something else. The shape of the mind determines the role. Everyone is given a role at birth and that role is their mind.”

I dare not impart the powerful climax of this book, the ultimate tracing or karaoke or palimpsest.  And I would be here all day imparting Park’s ‘waking dreams’ as a completist task or the way they interweave the threads. This is probably the most positively shocking book I have ever read, and this last section seals that contention beyond ‘probably’… probably. It is extremely well-written …and builds as the reader progresses through the stories. Don’t take any one shock as something that should turn you away from this book.  In symphonic music, a sudden atonal blast is no reason to walk out from the rest of it.  The rest could be as spiritually beautiful as the Lark Ascending or as spiritually darkening as the Lurk Descending.  All done without touching the sides. Laid-back. A new gear in literature now clinching….

 But what were those divider-symbols?

If I think of more to say, I shall used the ‘comment’ facility below, as I hope some others will do, too.

“…exist, exist,”

(29 Jan 11 – another 90 minutes later)

END

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Two disconnected items

Chômu Press have just issued their end of year update: http://chomupress.com/news/end-of-year-update/

<<Whatever you are expecting from Chômu, be prepared for some surprises; Chômu Press is not a comfort zone.>>

Nemonymous Night: <<A spiralling towards the event horizon of weirdness.>>

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Whistle And I’ll Come To You

The recent ‘adaptation’ by BBC of MR James’s ‘Oh, Whistle, and I’ll Come to You, My Lad’

Very moving, very scary, great television, I felt.

A treatment of marital entropy as well as of some of the story’s original action.

Many have said that it was good in itself but disconnected in many ways from the original story. So, why use its title?

It’s perhaps interesting to speculate whether many viewers would have connected it with the MRJ story at all if it had been entitled, say, “The Hurting“?

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