Tag Archives: Frances Oliver

A Cage For The Nightingale – Phyllis Paul

By Phyllis Paul
A novel first published 1957
The Sundial Press (2012) with introduction by Glen Cavaliero
 Beautiful hardback book that I recently purchased from the publisher.

phyllis paul, a cage for the nightingale, glen cavaliero, sundial press

Below is a real-time review that may take me days, weeks, months or years to complete… (my previous such reviews linked from HERE)

One, Two
“Owl-voices, cries in the night –“
I have not read Phyllis Paul’s work before but when I first saw this novel advertised I simply knew that it would be just up my street, being, as I am, a long-term fan of Elizabeth Bowen (who died in the same year as PP, that link being to my own site I created in EB’s honour) and currently re-reading ‘The Glastonbury Romance’ by John Cowper Powys, both of which authors have been mentioned in connection with this Sundial Press book. And I can tell, this early in the book, that I am not mistaken. I am rather excited at the prospect of reading the rest of it, although I may savour it slowly.  A novel of such deeply textured, yet limpid, prose deserves savouring. The first chapter summons up, by inference of a tentative fire warming a room, a young (children or young adults?) brother and sister preparing to visit a house in the country with resonances of past ominous connections with them and a man they hardly know. I will not repeat the plot in this review, but hopefully just give impressions as I go through the book. So far, Frances Oliver‘s work comes to mind and an echo of ‘Twin Peaks’ when the owl-voices are mentioned in the second chapter that evokes a woman in her early twenties about to be a governess  of an obliquely unwell girl – as this woman writes to a friend about living in the same country house, I presume, that the brother and sister earlier discussed by fitful firelight… [The device of that fire reminds me (if I may be self-indulgent for a moment) of my own use of a carpet at the beginning of ‘Nemonymous Night‘ as characters gradually emerge walking upon it, a feeling of one’s way to establish identities…] (1 Oct 12 – 7.45 pm bst]

Three, Four
“With these words in my ears, I descended on a stair-carpet of such exaggerated pile that there was no sound to distract me from their echoes;”
We home in further upon identities via objective correlatives like that carpet and a rose, even via a person like the house’s neighbour, as we learn of the interview  hurdles Rachel the companion (not governess, perhaps) of the mysterious girl (age?) needs to jump (selfward and external) to take up her position so as to care for that girl who needs a place of mental Doctoring within, it seems, against a sensible grain, the house where it all happened, where what happened? “…yet a doorway is always a centre of interest.” Each turn of the paradoxically gentle teasing of the narrative screw allows us to get closer to the Doctoring Constantine responsible for those mental needs and why we are all travelling, we band of readers, toward that very house along with others travelling there and those already close by.  All in a skilful ‘al dente’ prose and dialogue style of ‘genius loci’ via, strangely, character and via, of course, place….“…the latent monstrosity brought out by the owl-light.” (2 Oct 12 – 10.30 am bst)

Five, Six
“He found himself standing before the window, with the curtain lifted, looking straight towards the big house. He could see a good deal of it, in spite of the leaves.”
An arguable forerunner of the HOUSE of Leaves (with a CS Lewisian  “wardrobe”?), with the various narrative perspectives (even Satan the cat’s ‘immanent’ one) leading me to feel that this book is exceeding my already high expectations of it. I am both this book’s ‘disassociated’ neighbour and its tenant (a dualistic emblem for Rachel’s ‘out and in’ viewpoint as she tries to fathom her charge Victoria and what happened once). It is a dream that is decidedly not “safe as sleep” . And I ask:  “What am I doing in this queer show?”  What are you? For me, I’d risk even my own sanity to read this fine prose. Its scowls and frowns, its knowing resonances. “The carpets are particularly rich and thick — everything is thick-piled, as you might say.”  (2 Oct 12 – 7.00 pm bst)

Seven, Eight, Nine
“…the divine afflatus descended on an instrument still too crude for it,…”
…in a similar way to this book upon the reader — or vice versa, as I, for one, multi-infer much from the various narrator pecking-orders underpinning this section of LP Hartleyesque  ‘go-betweens’ (literal and figurative), ‘blind agents’, ‘love letters’ and packages together with some concupiscent innuendo between author and me about pre- or post-adolescent girls. This resides within an almost ‘whodunit’ ambiance depicting a finishing-school or health clinic run by a dubiously foreign near-‘quack’, a scenario reminiscent (in a synergistic rather than derivative way) of ‘The Ghosts of Summer’ and other works by an author I mentioned earlier in this review.  All threaded through (or by) some gorgeous Autumnal prose that dreamily structures the inferred chronology. (3 Oct 12 – 2.15 pm bst)

Ten, Eleven
“As if we were a little isolated group of contagious cases, who did not know we were ill –“
We begin to sense the motivations of the house’s enclosed community, and of those outsiders like we readers and the neighbour Henry … but Victoria is both inside and outside herself, Rachel the ‘companion’, too. Meanwhile, some of the ciphers in the community grow characters of their own. But who or what the “quarry”,  victim or culprit? … Constantine, mind-doctor or mind-doctored?  Very intriguing,  slowly meted-out plot: also resonating with my fifty years of interest in Wimsatt’s  ‘Intentional Fallacy’ literary theory — on which subject I confirm that, as is common with all my real-time reviews, I shall not be reading the book’s introduction till after I have read and reviewed the complete fiction itself. (3 Oct 12 – 7.55 pm bst)




Filed under Uncategorized

Wormwood and Frances Oliver

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

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

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

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

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

My reading-lifetime’s Hall of Fame

Image by Tony Lovell (2011)

My reading-lifetime’s Hall of Fame in no particular order:

Charles Dickens, Christopher Priest, AS Byatt, Enid Blyton, May Sinclair, HP Lovecraft, Barbara Vine, Reggie Oliver, Anita Brookner, WG Sebald, Jeremy Reed, Ian McEwan, Elizabeth Bowen, Stephen King, Oliver Onions, Marcel Proust, Salman Rushdie, Glen Hirshberg, Paul Auster, Mark Valentine, John Fowles, Edgar Allan Poe, John Cowper Powys, Lord Dunsany, Algernon Blackwood, Jack Vance, Philip K Dick, Jeff VanderMeer, Samuel R Delany, Anthony Burgess, Susanna Clarke, Rhys Hughes, Lawrence Durrell, MR James, Robert Aickman, Sarban, Ramsey Campbell, Thomas Ligotti, Tommaso Landolfi, Kazuo Ishiguro, Quentin S. Crisp.

This is a list including writers I once considered in my Hall of Fame but now rarely read, and new writers whose works I read quite a lot and have included in my Hall of Fame fairly recently and variations upon that, but all have been major reading experiences some time in my life.  Apologies to those I’ve inadvertently omitted because of my semi-Proustian memory.


Filed under Uncategorized

‘The Exorcist’s Travelogue’ – by George Berguño

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 Exorcist’s Travelogue’ by George Berguño (Passport Levant MMXI). A book I purchased from the publisher.

There is no guarantee how long it will take to complete this review, whether days or years. Indeed, this is said with the knowledge that a busy Season is afoot and many people have calls upon my time. So I do not wish any of you interested in this review to keep returning to this page and finding nothing added. However, I do not know how to resolve this problem ….

CAVEAT: Spoilers are not intended but there may be inadvertent ones. You may wish (i) to take that risk and read my review before or during your own reading of the book, or (ii) to wait until you have finished reading it. In either case, I hope it gives a useful or interesting perspective.

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

All my Ex Occidente Press (Passport Levant) real-time reviews here: https://nullimmortalis.wordpress.com/2010/09/24/ex-occidente-press-real-time-reviews/

Landscape format, sewn hardcover with dust-jacket printed on deluxe heavy paper, cloth boards, gold and silver folio, silk ribbon, end papers and full-color frontispiece.
There are 128 pages in total. The edition is limited to sixty copies of which this one is hand-numbered 20.

I am pleased to see this publisher (Dan Ghetu of Ex Occidente Press) is still prolific in publishing great books, contrary to what I was led to understand and as publicly anticipated by the publisher himself a few months ago. I hope the logistics of book delivery and authorial care have improved from what I was also led to believe publicly from various third parties some time ago. I’ve never needed to complain in respect of myself, I hasten to add.


The Son’s Crime

“There is something disconcerting about standing alone in a space that was built for a crowd.”

A moving story or fable or parable of a son walking with his father by the British Museum – and the loss or transience of relationships in Magritte-like suddenness of vision – or a star that tries to hide its transience from itself through becoming a red dwarf (for example) – the comfort of transience in its form of permanence as transience through repeated transfer between generations of loved ones – even between strangers masquerading as loved ones (or vice versa). Even the book itself – a truly heavy-duty artefact – seems intent on surviving the eventual destruction of our planet. (13 Jul 11)

Flaubert’s Alexandrine

“I remember well the first time I saw a corpse. My father’s body, yes, it was when my father died, only four years ago.  […] and I was amazed that his eyelids did not flicker.”

[Indeed, for me, fours years ago, almost exactly. A state in-between that still exists in memory even though the body’s now decomposed and eyelids peeled]. This story, meanwhile, following the previous one, in pre-Alexandrian Lawrence Durrell, and we are faced with neither transience or permanence but a state between them, where Flaubert’s fate is inadvertently determined towards writing a novel beyond the present’s scurrillity – a potentially second-rate novel that would create such a semi-immortality through a touch of greatness left unsullied by his own body’s carnal needs and his story’s listener’s typically male gaucheness. Yes, a story within a story, though. And so we wonder where the genius truly lies. In he who facilely writes the masterpiece? Or in the one who set up the synchronicities of a soundboard to allow it to be written? (13 Jul 11 – three hours later)

The Leviathan at Rifsker

“Perhaps the time had come for Icelanders to face the end of history.”

Charming – yet brutal – tale (presumably in an Edda mode) where a finback whale is stranded and men fight each other as well as strange weather in contiguity with the craggy land to create legends together with much-needed food. And, like all real legends, this one swims off to last forever in the trickles of time itself, I guess – ignited by a synergy of man and nature, eye to eye. Transience outstaring permanence and vice versa. Plus a prose style that utilises words like ‘horror’, ‘ridiculous’, ‘eerie’, ‘creepy’, ‘dreadful’ within a beautifully honed ‘fabulousness’ as if these words are being used for the first time (which then they perhaps were beyond any ability to disguise them by translation). (14 Jul 11)

A Chronicle of Repentance

“…, and disrobed me with invisible fingers.”

A chronicle can never begin or end, I sense, as someone needs to tell a chronicle, and its beginning and its end are only restricted by what that teller can tell by dint of knowledge or his/her own finite life being within rather than overlapping the period in question of which he tells. But can a chronicle fill in its own gaps (such gaps being at either end as well as partway through) by dint of parthenogenetic imagination. But to save one’s body from ultimate torture in Hell by giving it just a part of that ultimate torture in life is a fool’s errand, a misguided absolution by either one’s self or chronicle of self. And the carnal needs of one person are often simply satisfied by fulfilling the carnal needs of another.  But all humanity is connected by desire – for, without desire, they may not have existed in the first place. Eternity through desire, each of us passing the baton of life to another. But, one day, you may give birth to an invisible body on an empty stage rather than just a body, say, with its fingers invisible by having been burnt off in that partial attempt to avoid Hell’s torture.  That ultimate creation of invisibility in the guise of something that you deem as real: a creation by those creatures one hated in life, those Pigeons from Hell flying across your last balcony. This is not what I found in this story. This is what this story found in me. (14 Jul 11 – another ten hours later)

The Sad Eyes of the Lewis Chessmen

“…, I saw eyes, infinitely sad eyes, gazing back at me from across the centuries.”

With my name, it may not surprise you to learn I once visited (in the 1970s) the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides and to Uig itself.  This story intrigues me especially, then.  Starting from a cafe meeting so common in 20th century Mittel European literature towards an initially academic congeniality from MR_James-iana to a non-Euclidean Lovecraftianism – I travel with a knowing wink towards the sense of this ostensibly plain narrative (that enables me to relax from the intensities of review that I found myself experiencing with the previous stories) – yet there is an Edda feel here, too, a Flaubert’s Gambit, a transience-permanence parable and the ability to cheat logic for real through fiction, an invisible power that needs one to strip away bit by bit, move by move, sacrifice by sacrifice, one’s physical body to become a noumenon, nay, this story’s “No-Man” (Cf: ‘Norman’ at the tail end of this other review I completed yesterday!). (15 Jul 11)

The Loneliness of the One-Night Lamia

“And so our search for love is love itself.”

I don’t know if this relates to something I said earlier above: i.e. “And the carnal needs of one person are often simply satisfied by fulfilling the carnal needs of another.”  But there is more “ancient longing” in this story or parable and here, alongside resonance with the transience-permanence of such longing, the theme of Freudian ‘Transference-Love’, in fact a Freudian psychoanalyst protagonist with a MR_Jamesian friend whose staggering form of apparent conviviality leads to the bleakness of what I can only call the Loneliness of a Long-Distance Lover, i.e. the nightmare of a date with a Lamia. A Ligottian atmosphere in her venue or ‘trap’, and it is telling – in view of the foregoing context of this book – that her fingers are what end up on his neck … making us wonder whether this is a sign of hope or despair. (15 Jul 11 – an hour later)

The Farewell Letter

“Suddenly, I spied Joseph Stalin on the opposite balcony – and our eyes met.”

…with another ‘ancient longing’? Mikhail Bulgakov – being written about by his wife to his sister (if I’ve got that right!). — “…several years trickled by” and there is much to ponder here: things to dwell upon that should never really resolve this book’s coda. Accessible or esoteric history of our recent times, reincarnation (permanence?) by lycanthropy or anthropomorphism, the misanthropic transience of old fogies like me and Molière’s Alceste. The mating-dance of literature with literature. The eventual madreperl of regret.  It’s like listening to an unknown piece by Mahler as the last piece in the last concert. Tonight is the First Night of the Proms.  Gothic Symphony this Sunday. Another truly great book, I estimate, from the Magus, Dan Ghetu. [If they don’t know each other already, I humbly suggest this book’s author should become acquainted with the published fiction of a veteran Austrian/English lady by the name of Frances Oliver (with a Freudian background) – and, of course, vice versa. And I mean that in the nicest possible way or with the best of intentions.] (15 Jul 11 – another 3 hours later)



Filed under Uncategorized

The whole of my lifetime work with Elizabeth Bowen Quotes is now in a book

The Megazanthus Press Book: Real-Time Reviews Vol 3 is now out and in my hands. It looks wonderful. And there is a real treat within. Please see the end of the contents list below.

As is common with this series, it is a direct imprint from the internet and contains no contents lists. The list is therefore below.

This contains RTRs for:

LOST PLACES by Simon Kurt Unsworth….3

THE WOUNDS OF EXILE by Reggie Oliver ….22


XARGOS by Frances Oliver….40

OBLIVION’S POPPY by Colin Insole….42

OCCULTATION by Laird Barron…57

THE SATYR by Stephen J Clark….70

THE AUTUMN MYTH by Joel Lane…..79

THE COANDA EFFECT by Rhys Hughes….83

MAD MATINEE IN BAKU by Albert Power….98

NORTHWEST PASSAGES by Barbara Roden….107

THE SONS OF ISHMAEL by George Berguno….121

THE GHOSTS OF SUMMER by Frances Oliver….132

THE DEFEAT OF GRIEF by John Howard….148

My very popular, many years’ worth on-line work at quoting from Elizabeth Bowen’s fiction. You will not quite believe the power of these extracts from every novel chapter and every story…… Pages 158 – 415 inclusive


This is the book and further details by clicking on it:


1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Oblivion’s Poppy – by Colin Insole

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

And it is of the novella entitled ‘Oblivion’s Poppy’ by Colin Insole (Ex Occidente Press 2010).

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

CAVEAT: Spoilers are not intended but there may be inadvertent ones. You may wish (i) to take that risk and read my review before or during your own reading of the book, or (ii) to wait until you have finished reading it. In either case, I hope it gives a useful or interesting perspective.

All my real-time reviews are linked from here: https://nullimmortalis.wordpress.com/2010/09/07/df-lewis-real-time-reviews/


Strikingly, this is what is said of the book on its Publisher’s site: <<We should be very clear about this: Colin Insole is one of the very few genuine exceptional authors to emerge on the weird scene in the last years, if not in the last decade. To describe his labyrinthine stories, his masterly language, his arresting imagery and symbolism would be not only futile but also rather indelicate. […] Oblivion’s Poppy is a breathtaking work of European decadent and weird literature. Certainly not for those who drink their wine with water.>>

I keep my powder dry. I have not yet started it!

This is what the publisher’s website says of its format (and it is indeed a beautiful book): <<…large landscape format, sewn hardcover with dust-jacket printed on textured cardboard paper, cloth boards, gold folio, silk ribbon, end papers and full-color frontispiece. […] a sewn hardcover book of 108 pages with dust-jacket, silk ribbon, endpapers and a full-colour frontispiece. Edition limited to only 100 hand numbered copies.>>

 Surprisingly, beneath the above dustjacket, the book’s hard cover clearly shows in large gold letters a different title embossed on its front (there may be a reason for this that I have not yet fathomed) and this is: <<THE SEER IS NEVER THANKED Stefan George.>>

 I am unnumbered. (23 Nov 10)


Pages 1 – 14

A Retreat (or Redoubt?) to where humans migrate with the homing instinct of nature’s creatures, accompanied by the astonishing prose music as well as redolence of the immediately prior direnesses in Europe. The Retreat’s Masonic stone guardians, as well as its real unfettered Host, watch the wet arrival of those for whom there had been earlier scavengings continent wide – one a female whose passage by past photograph is facilitated by the telling of it and all others by their earlier coming of it. One reading is not nearly enough. But one reading will suffice for these my initially risky real-time impressions.

And deep within a cave, near the Wilderness of the Wild Apples, a lynx twitched its ears and dreamed of the wildwood, in the old times, before humans breathed.” (23 Nov 10 – 2 hours later)


[It has since become clear to me that the ‘title’ under the dustjacket is not a title at all but a quote! One that I shall comment upon if this seems appropriate when reading the rest of the novella. However, I maintain that it looks like a title in large gold upper-case lettering right across the front. Indeed, with nothing on the spine, if any edition of this book ever loses its dustjacket (as books sometimes do) and then turns up in a secondhand bookshop, someone will pick up the book and may assume it’s THE SEER IS NEVER THANKED by Stefan George. He’ll likely put it back on the shelf without looking inside. After all, he was looking for a book by his favourite writer Colin Insole! That’s not a criticism, but an observation. In fact, I think it’s a clever trick.] (23 Nov 10 – another hour later)

It is contended that it’s ‘obvious’ that it is a quote not a second title under the dustjacket. I may agree with that, using the benefit of hindsight by looking further into the book. But first impressions, at least to this reader, indicated it was a title ‘creatively’ conflicting with that on the dustjacket. Should it ever lose its dustjacket, the design shown below would be the only exterior wording on the book. (24 Nov 11)


Pages 14 – 23

“… Beethoven’s Third Symphony and while it played, sombre and proud, he sat deep in thought, his eyes filling with tears.”

I am beginning to agree with the statement I quoted above from the publisher’s website: “To describe his labyrinthine stories, his masterly language, his arresting imagery and symbolism would be not only futile but also rather indelicate”. I do feel somewhat ‘indelicate’ attempting this real-time review, even to describe these pages I’ve just read as an exquisite series of ‘backstories’ to the ‘migration’ and ‘direnesses’ hinted at in my first attempt at engaging with this book above.

The inward, initially unseen ‘title’ or ‘quote’ is perhaps merely a literary ‘exegesis’ as warning to any approaching this book’s mysteries lightly.

I shall continue, however, and, meanwhile, I am obliquely, ‘indelicately’ reminded of what I wrote about this author’s story in the anthology ‘Cinnabar’s Gnosis’: –<<The Weimar Spider – Colin Insole: …exquisitely wallows in the sense of Mittel-European turn-of-the-centry towards mid-twentieth century weaving Baudelaire, Verlaine, Alban Berg, Ezra Pound – with more ‘rumours and possibilities’, relationships crossing time and tarot. And a magic mysterious bookishness akin to that of Mark Valentine fiction. Loved it. (There is a skein of narrative tentacles that will need un-weaving upon later re-reading I guess. Not retro-causal so much as Jungian via accidents-of-mind-and-body). All this and Meyrink himself walking through the words implicitly becoming a Proustian self that he perhaps never knew as himself when alive.“The rhymes and rhythms of forgotten people. You can hear their heart beats through the walls.” (22 Dec 09 – four hours later)>> — (24 Nov 10 – 2 hours later)


There is another, more substantial, quote inside the book before the novella starts, a quote from Ernst Jünger. I am tempted to quote it in full here as I feel it sheds more light upon my tusslings with text above, my indelicate exigency of exegesis, but it would possibly be a spoiler to do so.

Pages 24 – 27

“The rose hips were red or violet – burgundy-dark and noxious.”

The narration does not shy away from the indelicate manure of Retreat living, as connected with the work of another of its one-time denizens – coupled, ironically (?), with an oblique vision of Plato’s cave. (24 Nov 10 – another 2 hours later)


Pages 27 – 37

“Aside from our role as witnesses to this forthcoming ordeal, I am glad I have come here.”

I, too, am glad, although the seer is never thanked, it seems.

The focus of the Retreat’s happenings within the novella is clear from the beginning as 1952, and perhaps the time perspectives in Europe are clearer to you by virtue or guilt of that instinctive knowledge, including the harmonics of the universe, and other matters with which you may not otherwise be in tune  such as knightly masonics, alchemy, and the mixture of motives within the Retreat’s Host and occupants, and narrator. Retreat as a constant Redoubt.  But there is much more to fathom, I sense.  This novella is so rich, I feel sated with possibilities and echoes of heritages within me. Sated, but also elated.


Pages 37 – 47

“There is no need to be afraid. There are no ghosts. The unhappy souls remembered here left this world as if they never existed. Their lives amounted to nothing and when they died, nothing remained. Only their names and deeds are recorded.”

I could not resist quoting those words of the Host to the Retreat’s denizens. It touched me deeply.  And the camponology of time now rings louder.  (‘Host’ is my word in this context, by the way, not the book’s  and its nearness to ‘ghost’ is merely coincidental). (24 Nov 10 – another 90 minutes later)


Pages 48 – 54

“They were imagining their own deaths and walking in landscapes they had never seen.”

Various viewpoints, including a woman’s journal running like a thread in the book so far, and the Host’s listening, for example, to a denizen’s story, add to a permeating feel of Toynbeean history surrounding the crux of European war during the years leading up to ‘now’ in 1952.  Almost a knightly or scholastic approach to a ‘spirit’ of that war’s guilt.  [Disregarding this European war element for a moment, I find that there is a feel in this work like – or a non-conscious synergy with – some of the fiction work of Matt Cardin.  Knightly in Insole’s work, but Monkish in Cardin’s?] (24 Nov 10 – another hour later)


Pages 55 – 66

“My own city, the home of Chopin, is recalled in the contents of milk cans and metal boxes.”

I visited Warsaw in the last few weeks – on the road to Minsk and beyond – and heard from an 84 year old about the Ghetto etc. I am steeped – like it or not – in history’s push, even if I didn’t live at the time. This novella is about that – the ‘alternate world’ of history that is ‘you’.  Also the book’s ‘guests’ of the Retreat is a better word than my ‘denizens’. A redoubt as to whether I am a ‘seer’ at all!  And if not, I can be thanked for just being a fallible reader! Indeed, this book will need re-reading, as well as redoubting. (24 Nov 10 – another 90 minutes later)


Pages 66 -71

“They knew nothing about the secret purpose of the Retreat and assumed it was a closed monastic order which sold its honey, fruit and vegetables in the local market.”

[‘Monastic’ is so much more the ‘mot juste’ than ‘monkish’!]

Reference to the ‘fiction’ of Lord Haw-Haw – followed by cinematic vision of a girl with a doll (Cf: Schindler’s List?) – this time riddled with malignancy.

I think I am already convinced, by the way, that the publisher was not exaggerating when saying what I quoted him saying above about this author’s work. I also fail to do it justice, I’m afraid, as I’m sure I’m missing things on this my first reading. (24 Nov 10 – another hour later)


Pages 72 – 77

An amazing vision of huge poppies that the Host shows his Guests, beyond the size of those at Flanders Fields. [Appropriate that I had Poppy thoughts myself a week or so ago?] There are wonderful symbols hovering around this book – poppies, bees, lynx, apples…. This book will need to ferment for several years amid the underswell of eclectic nature, I guess? (24 Nov 10 – another 4 hours later)

Writing a real-time review is a special reading-journey on the internet – a journey that takes place within a single reading mind, beset by all the foibles of the moment.  The question is: does this affect the journey itself, i.e knowing one is publicly describing that journey as it happens? (24 Nov 10 – bedtime)


Perhaps I should record here that it is clear from the start of this book that the Retreat is situated in Wliflingen, West Germany. (25 Nov 10)


Pages 77 – 89

“Only the master of the refuge must fill the silver bowl with the blooms, ripening buds and seed pods, cut on the eve of solstice.”

Retreat as ‘refuge’?  How many more words for redoubt?  In this section I have more pencilled passages than any previous section.  This seems the veritable crux of … our guilt trip? Or heroic venture? Or literary trail-blazing into the very soul’s sump of our civilisation?   In my first official comments (without looking back first), I think I mentioned the word Masonic. That was an inspired guess at that time.  I have now entered upon further crusades with this book and its ‘Sentinel’. You will do so, too, because, if you are reading this review at all to this point (in real time or otherwise), you must be susceptible to reading this book in the first place.  But if this is a ‘seeing’ of our communal soul for what it is, I shall be ready not to be thanked.  (Cf: the works of Frances Oliver (eg ‘All Souls’) and John Howard  (eg the story ‘Silver Voice’ itself)). (25 Nov 10 – nine hours later)


Pages 89 – 92

“It was impossible to quarrel in the Halls of Fire for even bitter enemies, seeing each other, would be separated by lifetimes of memory.”

The eternal lynx…

I myself wrote of the eternal lynx of the onyx field in a sixties poem and later in a 1974 novel (‘The Visitor’). (25 Nov 10 – thirty minutes later)


Pages 92 – 96

“Rats will nest and breed in a corpse even while they feed on its internal organs.”

It’s as if we readers are being tested by the ‘mirror’ of this book itself. We shall either succeed or fail in our interpretations of it.  If we fail, the publisher will be on our tails.  I really feel like that.

Also, it’s as if we have lived with this book forever, even though we’ve only evidentially been reading it for the first time in the last day or so. (25 Nov 10 – another 30 minutes later).


Pages 96 – 104

“He was sixty-two.”

But not for much longer. The book closes in on me in a very personal way.

An apocalypse, an apocrypha, a symbiosis of symbols craftily laid earlier by this book now either to explode like text-mines in new newsworthy wars or to blend into a new Host, a new Masonic Eucharist, a camponology of words – a redemption, though? We guests can only hope. There is so much sin to expiate. (25 Nov 10 – another 30 minutes later)


Pages 104 – 108

“…the power of the remaining poppies seemed somnolent and subdued.”

The gift to me is the residue of an imputedly great author who leaves me his book after he is swallowed up finally by his words. Not necessarily the naked book itself with false title, but the memory of his book that is stronger than anything I can hold in my hands. I end a review that only harvests itself as a gift exchanged.

“It is Beethoven’s manuscript for some bagatelles and light dances. Look, there is his signature.” (25 Nov 10 – after a final 30 minutes elapsed)



Filed under Uncategorized