Tag Archives: jeff vandermeer

ANNIHILATION!

This morning’s skylines. Area X’s Crawler now working nearer the pier. Jeff VanderMeer just won the Nebula Award for ‘Annihilation’. Hooray!
https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2014/11/19/area-x-jeff-vandermeer/

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My fishtail groyne (the one opposite where I live) is growing apace. Two more of this morning’s skylines. The other pic is close to the groyne where its rocks were earlier delivered from Norway.

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Following my earlier success with jolly seasidery, here is some more from this morning’s photos.

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From Robert Aickman’s SOME NOTES ON DELIUS article, unpublished until May 2015:
“As there is no intrinsic virtue in denigration, the critic who resorts to it, should be required to pass a test of qualification and sensitivity, at least twice as stringent as that imposed upon a critic who loves. Normally, love is not blind but clairvoyant.” – Robert Aickman

https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2015/05/26/the-strangers-robert-aickman/

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Today’s Skyline and the Crawler

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The Crawler (from Area X by Jeff VanderMeer) creating letter Y in guise of a new fishtail groyne below…

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AREA X: The Southern Reach Trilogy

vandAREA X – Jeff VanderMeer <<< My Dreamcatcher Review

This will not be the only place that you will learn about this incredible book. Likely to be major cinema film soon. A classic of a unique genre beyond science fiction, a genre yet to be named.

I hope my review linked above gives a thought-provoking slant on this book, as well as some of my personal references regarding Big Hawler, the two lighthouses of Whitby harbour, the nemonymisation of names, the room where I read this book, the Monkey’s Elbow musical group, and a final synergy that I find with Reggie Oliver’s ‘Flowers of the Sea’, and much more.

Note: I deliberately left reading and reviewing this work until the three separate parts published earlier (Annihilation, Authority, Acceptance) were published in one volume. In hindsight, I was right and, as I hope I have shown in the review, this is the only way!

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The Haunted Bookshelf


Photo of my own haunted bookshelf

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

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

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

Weird: A Compendium of Dark and Strange Stories

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My real-time ‘unofficial companion’ of THE WEIRD

Quoted from HERE, regarding my massive review of the massive THE WEIRD ed. by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer.

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“I discovered recently that Des Lewis’s monster ‘real-time review’ of every single story in ‘The Weird’ is now available in book form from Lulu.

Real-Time Reviews – Volume Six by D F Lewis (Paperback) – Lulu

As fans of his reviewing will know, DFL is very astute at highlighting correspondences, subtexts and ‘gestalts’ between the stories, both real and metaphysical, and I’ve revisited several of them on the back of these reviews simply because he made me realise that I had overlooked some of the deeper themes on first reading.

If you’re like me and ‘The Weird’ will reside on the bedside table to be read and reread for years to come, then I can wholeheartedly recommend Des’s little book as a useful ‘unoffical companion’ to this peerless anthology.”

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And many congratulations to AV and JV for recently winning the World Fantasy Award for this anthology!

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The Hospice – by Robert Aickman

I am celebrating the year’s anniversay of commencing my real-time reviewing of THE WEIRD, a truly massive anthology of stories edited by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer. And seeing that the Guardian newspaper has today featured this particular story by Robert Aickman, here is a reprise of my review after the story was published in THE WEIRD last year:

The Hospice – Robert Aickman
“…it was as if most of these people had been with one another for a long time, during which things to talk about might have run out, and possibly with little opportunity for renewal through fresh experience.”
I am utterly delighted to re-read, re-value this ultimate classic of weird literature in the context of ‘The WEIRD’ and of my own late middle age / accreting old age.  It is of a male protagonist in an era without King’s Full Dark, No Stars sat-nav / gps contraption sent on a short cut and arrives at this private hotel (with petrol low in his car’s tank from having become lost) – (and no mobile contraption or even a phone in the ‘hotel’) – (and contraptions inadvertently unmentioned in my Third of the Way report above) – now faced with a claustrophobic concupiscence between the sexes, strikingly heavy meals (unexpectedly exaggerated but typified by the picture of spam soup earlier above), shapes in the night – but, earlier, anxiety sitting in the restaurant like a fish out of water (cf Dirk Bogarde in ‘Death in Venice’ hotel restaurant) and a sense of people of my general time-of-life  in “God’s waiting-room”: the common nickname for the area where I live. There is a pub nearby where people of my age regularly eat – a large steaming roast dinner a day. Not that I go there very often, myself, but when I do it is teeming with people I recognise from when I went there before – except for those accretingly absent…  An Age of Anxiety. The story’s weird unsettling grows artfully. The dust settling grew on this story, until I exhumed it today thanks to this book. It is a “bad dream“, true, but it is also the best thing since sliced bread. “‘…I have seldom seen a more gorgeous dress.’ / ‘Yes,’ she replied with simple gravity. ‘It comes from Rome. Would you like to touch it?‘” (19/11/11 – three hours later)

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My much earlier comments on THE HOSPICE story relating to Brussel Sprouts etc: HERE

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The RevaMenders upon the Ives of November

I am planning very soon (November 2) to celebrate the year’s anniversary of my commencement of a massive Autumnal ‘real-time review’ of a massive book: a book even more massive (in all senses) — indeed a review even more massive — from the perspective of hindsight. Yes, The WEIRD, co-edited by Ann VanderMeer and Jeff VanderMeer. More and more massive as the days expire between reading it and my ever diminishing ‘now’.

What new is there now to be said about it? Well, re-reading my own year-old daily postings about the book — in this renewal of an eternal Autumn — I know I shall dwell on ever newer things that arrive towards my mind.

Goodness knows what would happen if I actually started reading the book itself again! My mind would explode, no doubt.  I might indeed repeat all my unstinting praise of the book as well as any remaining ‘Unanswered Question’ that I made in the review and elsewhere (the year before the year before) about the genre of Weird Literature, its definitions, its exponents.

The WEIRD book is not so much a Weirdmonger’s Bible, but a journey I made, am still making: an accretively recurrent ‘Road to Damascus’ where creative dreams are more important than destructive bombs.

Beware the Ives of November, the Sturgeon pointing along a new river of thought. But the dream may indeed be finally mended, each Unanswered Question retrocausally answered, for each of us in our own way.

Weird: A Compendium of Dark and Strange Stories

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Three BFS Award Winners 2012

All my real-time reviews for CHOMU PRESS books ab initio: https://nullimmortalis.wordpress.com/2011/02/17/my-chomu-press-real-time-reviews/

All my real-time reviews for BLACK STATIC issues: https://nullimmortalis.wordpress.com/2010/09/25/tta-press-my-real-time-reviews/

My massive real-time review during Autumn 2011 of the VanderMeers’ massive THE WEIRD:  https://nullimmortalis.wordpress.com/2011/11/16/df-lewiss-real-time-review-of-the-vandermeers-massive-the-weird/

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Forever Autumn

AEONTONOMOUS RISE OR FALL?

From my 2011 Real-Time Review (HERE) of the VanderMeers’ THE WEIRD:
“The best Weird fiction can touch and tantalise you strangely, darkly, poignantly, humorously, grotesquely or with deathly finality, but, also, mellowly and fruitfully, because, from the very experience of reading it at all, one never quite reaches the winter beyond the autumn in the way that you once reached the autumn beyond the summer.”

From my 2012 real-time review (HERE) of PEEL BACK THE SKY by Stephen Bacon:
<<Forever Autumn
“…there are no seasons any more – just one long endless constant.”
When I real-time reviewed the VanderMeers’ massive ‘The WEIRD’ book, I came to the conclusion that the distilled core of its century’s worth of High Weird literature was, for me, a mathematical constant embodied by ’Forever Autumn’. I think I said this a few times explicitly in my equally MASSIVE real-time review. At that time, I had not read this story by Stephen Bacon, a number of whose stories would surely have been deserving of being included in that book. No greater compliment can I give his work than saying that. Meanwhile, this particular story, although not among his best, nevertheless makes me think for the first time that such post-virus scenarios are emblematic of a slipping and sliding of human standards since I was a child in the 1950s, towards a self-deceiving brain-numbness in authorities when trying to ’control’ the <<’soldiers’ that are us>>, a fact that yesterday’s Hillsborough findings show was already happening in the downward zombie-viral cycle as much as 23 years ago…only few of us remaining to recognise that inverted cone-spiral of verities… But that may only be because I’m well and truly within my own ‘Forever Autumn’ whereby all manner of clouded ’wool’ is being pulled over my eyes that I hope good imaginative fiction can still manage to peel off.>>

From my review of MORBID TALES by Quentin S Crisp HERE:
“I always relish dealing with Prince Autumn.”

‘The Last Balcony’ by me: The eternal last stand or simply CANDLE DREAMING?

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several references to the ‘Yellow Wallpaper’ story in my fiction

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Yellowish haze in Ligotti fiction and as a character called ‘Yellowish Haze’ in my ‘WEIRDTONGUE’ and as an avatar of one of my oldest internet friends.

Autumnology or Aeontonomy – a new approach to a late life of mellow fruitfulness…

Aeontonomy – Autumn Immortalis
He was going for the aeon…” — Rhys Hughes: at the end of ‘The First Book of Classical Horror Stories’, from his story about Vivaldi’s Four Seasons.

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Tokkmaster Clerke (For Des Lewis) – by Cousin Silas

MUSIC ON SOUNDCLOUD:

Tokkmaster Clerke Part 1 (For Des Lewis)

Tokkmaster Clerke Part 2 (For Des Lewis)

by Cousin Silas: http://cousinsilas.blogspot.co.uk/

This wonderful imaginarium of music is composed by Cousin Silas (who in another age was the editor/publisher of the legendary SF magazine WORKS.) I am really pleased that he has composed this for me today, with the title of one of my early fiction characters: Tokkmaster Clerke. (Also, he was (is?) editor/publisher of ‘The Modern Dance’ music review publication).

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Prince November’s Quandary

Having just completed real-time reviewing the fiction anthology DADAOISM (Chômu Press 2012), I have distilled my own symbol from the gestalt of its contents.

I now have the residual Autumn years of my life – however few or many – to decide which is the greatest anthology of all:

DADAOISM

Or

the VanderMeers’ massive ‘The WEIRD’ that I obsessedly real-time reviewed during November 2011: Inter alia, I said then: “The best Weird fiction can touch and tantalise you strangely, darkly, poignantly, humorously, grotesquely or with deathly finality, but, also, mellowly and fruitfully, because, from the very experience of reading it at all, one never quite reaches the winter beyond the autumn in the way that you once reached the autumn beyond the summer.”

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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.

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When I’m in the Hospice…

 When I’m in the hospice, I can’t think of a better book to have with me than … The WEIRD.

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Heath Robinson Contraptions

Today I bought this book in Waterstones Colchester:

Heath Robinson Contraptions

Edited by Geoffrey Beare (Duckworth Overlook)

Purchased in honour of the contraptive findings in my massive real-time review of the VanderMeers’ massive ‘The WEIRD’.

Heath Robinson, this Beare book visually demonstrates, often made physically algorithmic audit-trails into massive appurtenances of ‘hammer’ to crack small but desirable ‘nuts’.

Weird: A Compendium of Dark and Strange Stories

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The Weirdonomicon and other reviewing point

I have now completed my re-appraisal of my original real-time review of the Reva-Menders’ massive WEIRDONOMICON (as I’ve christened it) HERE, and hence signed off the whole real-time reality-perspective of this endeavour on my part.

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Quite separately, this is my general ‘nutshell’ view on reviewing fiction books that I posted yesterday on the interesting thread HERE:

“I think reviews divide into 3
(1) those that curve as far as possible to the positive to encourage reading in general (a la John Updike’s reviewing rules).
(2) Those that are negative.
(3) Those that are mocking or tendentious.

With (3), I suggest the review is not made at all or given to another reviewer.”

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The Stiff and the Stile – Stepan Chapman

Earlier extract from my real-time review of the VanderMeers’ massive ‘The WEIRD’ HERE:-

The Stiff and the Stile – Stepan Chapman

“- a string of worm sausages perhaps, or a nice roast of dog.”

A brief piece with cumulative vocatives of nursery rhyme without enjambement. Enjoyable, but not terribly impressed. But I can talk – as much of my own reputation was once based on similar experiments. (29/11/11 – another hour later)

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Today I have re-read it – as I feel conscious, especially after yesterday’s Unsrednidipitous concerns of possible earlier ‘pigging’, that I should now re-appraise a 4th story, i.e. this Chapman one. [A quote from the earlier overall Real-Time Review: “Some of my wilder extrapolations and continual pigging on too many truly great stories. It does something to the mind. Good or bad, I’m not sure.“]

This story is still as brief as it ever was. The beauty of the dependability of being in a real book rather than in a slippery customer like any ebook chameleon of textual fickleness, pirateability, plagiaribility &c &c…

It is a “There was an old woman who swallowed a fly”-type fable, another example of which I srednidipitously found in a newly published Rhys Hughes fable a few days ago, i.e. ‘The Grave Demeanour’ , since completing my review of ‘The WEIRD’. The two fables are different but mutually synergistic. Hence: an example of the sensitivity of any conflux of reading and reviewing. The Chapman now seems to represent the whole book of ‘The WEIRD’ — the VAN – the SAW being the combined editorial slicing and filling with the reader’s visual intake and, having seen, SAW; the final trigger of the FLEAS being the text itself.  The GOBLIN, RAT , ONE-LEGGED BUTCHER, LAMPREY being the book’s Zoo or Chameleon Pettery trying to push and pull the STIFF meaning through its STILE, the semantically-sticky burr through the tangled bush … blending mincing mulching for loading on the VANderMeer.  Many downtrod as well as other cats in the book elsewhere. Eventually, the MERE CAT itself rises from being lisa-tuttled and stands tall, proud of what it has created. The Absurd Reliquary. The Weirdonomicon. “A happy ending.” 

[The whole real-time review now signed off by the Weirdmonger, two days before his 64th birthday.] (16 Jan 12)

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Unsrednidipitous

Proudly taken with my new iPad this January Sunday morning in my own garden. At least two people, so far, on Facebook think it is a screaming face.

Also, this review today of the VanderMeers’ massive ‘The WEIRD’ is most interesting: http://jhstevens.wordpress.com/2012/01/15/the-weirdness-addendum/ In hindsight, it also explains a lot about my own cited ‘pigging’ and then having publicly to reappraise (weeks later) at least three of the stories!

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Dust Enforcer – Reza Negarestani

I owe it to this landmark book – the VanderMeers’ massive The WEIRD – to read every word in it. In my original real-time review HERE, I abandoned this ‘story’: ‘Dust Enforcer’ by Reza Negarestani.  I have today read it in full.  It is still difficult. But, as deserved by its context in this book, it gives to this zoo of a book, at least a confabulation of zoological rigour in scientific exposition – coupled with increasingly mote-moating treatments of extrapolated forensics of human soul and demon dust: reminding me of my own ‘All is for the Pest in the Pest of all Possible Worlds’: a dissemination of plague (Cisco’s, in my review yesterday, Kubin’s earlier?) leading to all manner of modern, ancient, mundane, spiritual (even Lovecraftian) considerations: e.g. the recent history of the Middle East and the so-called Arab Spring (possibly now an Arab Autumn?) explicitly shown as part of the “Pest-Cycle“? The synergies of pairs, including male and female symbiosis or host-parasite syndrome and a specific reference to the spiderous symbiosis of Ewers (here an “intoxicated spider“), Cisco’s careerist, careering assassinuousness: here described as “overkilling“. — Not only zoologically rigorous but (tying its leitmotifs into a gestalt) a visionary Biblical-wide Hadron tachyon-electronica of coming to life (and death) as human achievement teetering on the edge of “an autistic nihilism“.  The Higgs boson that was born on Christmas Eve instable. — What this whole book’s about?  Its paper pages all to turn to dust when the planet chooses to enforce new far-reaching processes quite beyond our ken?  Ultra-Ebook-Electronic. Ultra Vires. Ultramundane. Perhaps Reza, in far-seeing hindsight, will be understood as a prophet. But who is clever enough to understand let alone prophesy?

[I hope I have now covered the few stories in ‘The WEIRD’ which I needed to re-appraise, while I am in this re-appraising mood.  If not, please let me know.]

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The Beautiful Gelreesh – Jeffrey Ford

Today, a different reader as Proustian self from the Proustian self HERE when reviewing the VanderMeers’ massive ‘The WEIRD’, I have taken advantage of a reappraising mood, in the context of  the later self’s more recent reading, to re-engage with The Beautiful Gelreesh by Jeffrey Ford.

“Although the garden appeared to be at the height of summer life, this adjacent stretch of forest, leading toward the sea, was forever trapped in autumn.”

…trapped in autumn, consorting with Prince November, as many of you know who read the original real-time review of ‘The WEIRD’, was a strong seam through the fabric of my reading. The Summer People – given salvation, here, with the Autumn of Salvation, by some messenger who turns out to be the message (Like Christ?). A way out from the Ligottian ‘knots’ – like Cisco’s Genius of Assassins that I reviewed again yesterday and remarkably, like another story I happened to review yesterday in a different book, Douglas Thompson’s Escaladore (incredibly so).  Here, in the Ford, again we have the ‘travel as chore’ syndrome of ‘The WEIRD’, now made a slipping away by geographically fabulous messages about your whereabouts following the easement of your death.  Plus a telling reference, I feel, to Denis Diderot’s ‘Le Neveu de Rameau’. Another example of the Pet Syndrome (“man’s best friend“) of ‘The WEIRD’ – “the boy’s cage” – for me, not a message in a bottle, but a relic in a reliquary. The reliquary of this story, of the book it’s now buried within. How did I miss this valuable bone before? This morning, the story shines out: now ready to fly or simply to preen its wisdom quietly.

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The Genius of Assassins: Three Dreams of Murder in the First Person – Michael Cisco

Earlier extract from my real-time review of the VanderMeers’ massive ‘The WEIRD’ HERE:-

The Genius of Assassins: Three Dreams of Murder in the First Person – Michael Cisco

“- here come branches, bare and sooty, up around me, and the chiming of tiny bells -”

I am afraid this is another rare story in this book I have had to abandon. It has defeated me completely. This is my failure, not the story’s. I shall return to it, I hope. It seems to be about a dare for committing serial gratuitous murders – all I got from the first few pages, much else going over my head. The prose language, meanwhile, is scintillating, flowing like an unstoppable river of Ginsbergians. Poetry that may arrive in some sump of my being…. [To show I have, in the very recent past, appreciated this author here is my real-time review of one of his novels.] (30/11/11 – another 2 hours later)

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Today (7 Jan 12) I have fully read this story.  I must have had some sort of blind spot amid the blinding strobes of creative reading on 30/11/11 above.

Michael Cisco is a great author, especially if he can work this miracle, this turnaround – indeed, arguably, here with a story greater than most of the other stories that I appreciated first time round. But that is the danger of real-time reviewing, I guess. A picture in time. A mote, not a moat, around a reading-journey rather than infecting it like Cisco’s plague germ from this story.  A scenic self as murderer, a stereoscopic self as serial careerist in killing, involving otherwise loving blood-connected generations. Humans should love all other humans, as we all have blood connections, the simple possession of it. Perhaps that’s why we need to kill some of those humans, as we do not have enough love to share around.   It’s a dream, a nightmare, a theatrical critique of our dramatic entrances and exits.  A gratuitous Jungian pool of destructive desires: like the pool in The WEIRD’s Clark Ashton Smith story.  There is another cat-killing, too, as sort of top-off head upon an intoxicant far stronger than (my favourite) beer: words.  The larvae disguised as the tentacles from The WEIRD’s cover infecting our brain from the bottom of the barrel: the ‘final selection’ brew that un-does the un-doer in you: but still you go on, unable to stop, killing even yourself time and time again because you hate loving yourself. That’s what we all do. Self-serving. Even the whole world is your accomplice, its geography, its ley-lines, its contoured zodiacs or zoos, its sea-sized pools, its Barronial forests of desire.  [Simon trips on the pavement” – a few minutes after reading this sentence a few hours ago, a loved one returns from a walk by the sea, her face all bloodied. Tripped over the pavement, she said. Luckily she’s not badly hurt. More psychologically un-done for a while. True.] “…the park lying in the carpet smell…”

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