Tag Archives: John Howard

The Magic of LEDLO

The modern day canon of the LES ÉDITIONS DE L’OUBLI to date:

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Aornos by Avalon Brantley
A Dead Church by Harold Billings
HISTORY OF ‘LES EDITIONS DE L’OUBLI’: Letters from Oblivion by Andrew Condous
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Plus these three books that are also modern day LEDLOs from Bucharest:
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The Aesthete Hagiographer by Derek John
O Altítudo by Thomas STRØMSHOLT
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All the above links are to my real-time reviews.

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Drowning in Air

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This is to notify its would-be readers that I’m currently reviewing HERE the remarkable anthology STRANGE TALES IV.

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A Pallianthology: An Anthology and a Palliative

I am pleased to report that Horror Without Victims is now on Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com.

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Front cover by Tony Lovell
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The HoWiVi Anthology

Tony Lovell’s cover:

Horror Without Victims

Twenty-five Horror Stories written independently by twenty-five different authors
who responded to the theme ‘Horror Without Victims’. Their serendipitous gestalt
seems to aspire towards a curative force for all of us.

The order of contents in HORROR WITHOUT VICTIMS due to be published in 2013:

EMBRACE THE FALL OF NIGHT – John Howard

THE HORROR – Gary McMahon

CLOUDS – Eric Ian Steele

THE CARPET SELLER’S RECOMMENDATION – Alistair Rennie

WAITING ROOM – Aliya Whiteley

FOR AGES AND EVER – Patricia Russo

NIGHT IN THE PINK HOUSE – Charles Wilkinson

POINT AND STICK – Mark Patrick Lynch

THE BLUE UMBRELLA – Mark Valentine

LAMBETH NORTH – Rosanne Rabinowitz

THE CURE – John Travis

WE DO THINGS DIFFERENTLY HERE – David Murphy

LORD OF PIGS – DeAnna Knippling

LIKE NOTHING ELSE – Christopher Morris

IN THE EARTH – Rog Pile

SCREE – Caleb Wilson

THE WEEK OF FOUR THURSDAYS – David V. Griffin

IN DREAMS, YOU’RE MINE – Jeff Holland

WALK ON BY – Katie Jones

VENT – L.R. Bonehill

THE YELLOW SEE-THROUGH BABY – Michael Sidman

THE BOARDING HOUSE – Kenneth C. Wickson

THE CALLERS – Tony Lovell

STILL LIFE – Nick Jackson

YOU IN YOUR SMALL CORNER, AND I IN MINE – Bob Lock

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The Seer Is Never Thanked

I have just received the lovely box and covers for THE LAST THINKERS set plus THE MADMAN OF TOSTERGLOPE by Louis Marvick:


My reviews of the Last Thinker books:

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My favourite books of 2012

sv4I have just sat in my thinking-dome and come up with my picks of books published in 2012 (in addition to THE LAST BALCONY and THE FIRST BOOK OF CLASSICAL HORROR STORIES and BUSY BLOOD!):

The Wind Through The Keyhole by Stephen King

Dadaoism – an anthology from Chômu Press

This Hermetic Legislature (an anthology from Ex Occidente Press)

The Ten Dictates of Alfred Tesseller by D.P. Watt

The Truth Spinner – Rhys Hughes

Celebrant – by Michael Cisco

Peel Back The Sky – Stephen Bacon

The Lighthouse – Alison Moore

Motherless Child – Glen Hirshberg

At Dusk – Mark Valentine

Numbered as Sand or the Stars – John Howard

Eyepennies – a novella by Mike O’Driscoll

The Aesthete Hagiographer – Derek John

The Screaming Book of Horror

PS: Two more in comment below.

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Watch out for JANE by PF Jeffery in 2013 – that, as part of the ‘Warriors of Love’ series of twelve discrete novels, I predict will, sooner or later, become a best-seller of the highest objective quality, with definite cinematic potential.

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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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Secret Europe

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 SECRET EUROPE by John Howard and Mark Valentine (EXPOSITION INTERNATIONALE: Bucharest: MMXII). A book I purchased from the publisher.

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/

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

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In due course, I may attempt to describe the wondrous physical form of this book. Also, having not yet started reading the texts themselves, I actually fear starting them at all in such a prepossessing format. But I am confident, knowing these writers’ previous work as I do, that such texts shall transcend or quantitatively ease the current financial contagion, a contagion leading to political as well as creative anxieties in today’s currency zones of Secret Europe. And today is 29 Feb 2012 – a secret day if there ever was one: the astrologically harmonious date on which I have started this review’s real-time: hence without needing to leap between such diverging historic realities at the on-going risk of my life –

“…the multitude of dead, forgotten books, a real cemetery in store for us;…” An extract from the Sainte Beuve quotation at the start of this book. (29 Feb 12 – 1.00 pm gmt)

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Baltersan’s Third Edition – Mark Valentine

“…twenty-five of the most used tongues.”

Far be it from me to call this characteristic Valentine — this non-fictionalised tale of a phrase book — Scilly.  Even it is (or was), its history of the book’s various editions is also charming in style and tone; and makes European words — from languages common or rare, one-off or familial — a Baedeker of aural geomancy as well as of the more normal oral disciplines. (29 Feb 12 – an hour later)

Secret Byzantium – Mark Valentine

“He disciplined his thoughts to dispel the doubt.”

I note that ‘Secret Europe’ has two unadvertised reprints in its contents list; “Secret Byzantium” is not one of them.  A resplendent volume with so many secret Valentines and Howards is, in my book, allowed to smuggle in a couple of pre-divulged secrets as foils to the real things!  Two used tongues out of twenty-five unused ones is good going, I say.  This, the book’s second tongue, speaks of a ‘gazette’ at its beginning, and I nearly used the word ‘gazetteer’ instead of ‘Baedeker’ in my previous entry, but for some reason altered it at the last minute. A bit like the aborted ‘suicide pact’ (my inference, not necessarily the head-lease author’s) in ‘Secret Byzantium’: with the concept of a diaspora’s secret academic durability after fleeing the Ottoman splendours and spreading towards, in hindsight, today’s retrocausally depleted coffers of Italy, a concept that offers much food for thought and worth not killing oneself in order to pursue. That does no justice, however, to this story’s beautifully gentle prose or its missing dream voyages to Arcturus that today’s equally missing day has made me read between its lines with some puckish gratuitousness on my part, if I were honest with myself. (29 Feb 12 – two hours later)

The Silver Eagles – John Howard

As you probably know, our silver coins are actually only half silver, and have been so since 1900. Altering the content like that amounted to debasing the coinage, but it was done openly and legally. Other countries have done it.”

When I wrote my introduction at the start of this real-time review a few hours ago (above), I had no idea that at least one of the stories would be about currency’s quantitative easing! Nor that my puckish references to today’s ‘missing’ leap-year day and to two story reprints might also be factored in as relevant! Meanwhile, this is an involving story that concerns a necklace-chain so thin it seems to vanish when upon the neck: like a cutting-wound to be inflicted in the future — upon the neck of another soldier-figure to resonate with a previous one, above, in Valentine’s story as well as the vanishings or mass sacrifices or multi-effective suicide-pacts that wars at the beginning of the 20th century often convoked — a story here mingled with Bolshevik/Balkan history about which I (a History philosopher rather than a History quiz-team specialist) know very little… and I wonder if the counterfeit is often more valuable than the genuine … which is a sad wonderment in the light of life’s constant weighing of ends and means. “I received a crownless 25 pennii coin in my change when I stopped for a glass of schnapps in my local bar.” Note that 25 again. The number handwritten at the end of this book as my edition of this book out of 222 published: 26. (29 Feb 12 – another 3 hours later)

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The above ‘Balkan’ was an accidental typo (i.e. not due to my lack of knowledge) for ‘Baltic’. Sorry.  Meanwhile, thinking further from some of the above considerations:  leverage or sound money / counterfeit or genuine / philosophy or history / art or reality – which is the quantitative easing and which is subject to quantitative easing, which is the contagion and which is subject to contagion? The secret clues began within The Synchronised Shards of Random Truth & Fiction, i.e. the second printed subtitle of ‘Weirdmonger: The Nemonicon’ (Prime Books 2003). More later on this topic, if ‘Secret Europe’ allows.  (1 Mar 12 – 7.35 am gmt – St David’s Day)

Silence and Fire – Mark Valentine

I knew this was, had been, a real city: but the picture had still seemed a tableau, a piece of art, a fiction.” 

Well, conscious of my own fallibility, I’ve looked ‘Karelia’ up on Wikipedia (for what it’s worth) to give more context to the early 20th Century history embodied in MV’s singing prose. (I already knew the piece of music by Sibelius!)  However, MV already has a knack of conveying the soul of history and events with a deft touch (“The four beaded pillars in front of the Hotel Kamp were each like a stone abacus, frozen in time, which had long ago stopped counting the years.”) even to someone (like me) who merely listens to classical music all day and who rarely touches a history book other than a book about history. Meanwhile, here continue the quasi-economic supply and demand I’ve noticed so far imbuing this book’s high leverage of creativity: “There were days when it was hard to find a decent coffeee: days when the spirits ran dry; when only mashed herring  (but mashed with what, exactly?) was on the menu. Then there would be mysterious surges of plenty, when boxes of Turkish cigarettes changed hands, when something labelled Colombian wine could be had in quantity, when a sour heather honey was offered instead of sugar.” Please forgive me hedging my review’s emergent promissory note of valid currency in hopefully fair usage with such a lengthy quotation, but I have as yet an unsubstantiated and barely self-articulated hunch about this book. (1 Mar 12 – six hours later)

The Other Salt – Mark Valentine

“…the ‘other salt’, rarer than all the spices of the East, than cardamom from Bhutan, Zanzibar cloves, Coromandel ginger, or the blue pepper that only the Parsee traded.”

An entrancing quest in the marsh – among its people – seeking for something that, during history, has often been worth more than money: such as rare spices on the spice trade routes to Samarkand: here the ‘other salt’ from a deeper mine than yours. The silting of a language, beyond speech or printed text, in tune with this book’s previous aural geomancy? But only a truly inexhaustible, exhaustive self like yours or mine can feel within itself whence the ‘other salt’ often sadly stems: while, meantime, imagining further “pale hands deftly plying the ladle” to obviate being “lulled by the obvious” in life as well as in a literature that is in itself more valuable than even the priceless commodities it seeks to broker. With this book, I can purchase more even than I spent on it. With or without numbering. (1 Mar 12 – two hours later)

[I don’t expect anyone to believe this, but I assure you it is true. This evening I heard my wife humming the opening tune from Sibelius’ Karelia Suite. I subsequently told her that a few hours ago I was writing about it in connection with this book. She had not thought of the music for some years, nor read my blog, nor had I mentioned it to her, nor could she think of a single reason why she was humming it and I have equally not thought of this music before today for some time.  Perhaps, I’ve since thought, this is connected in some strange or frightening way with my simultaneous real-time review of a story entitled ‘The Secret Season’ tonight!] (1 Mar 12 – another hour later)

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Today is the day that 25 of the 27 Nations in the European Union sign a fiscal pact. The pact enshrines in each signing country’s constitution a “debt brake” or “golden rule”. (2 Mar 12 – 7.40 am gmt)

THIS REAL-TIME REVIEW IS NOW CONTINUED HERE.

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The Master in Café Morphine

My scanning of huge dust jacket in necessarily two sections  – and my apologies for not managing its exact contiguity. (Its artwork is by Santiago Caruso).

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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 Master in Café Morphine’A Homage to Mikhail Bulgakov – Edited by Dan T. Ghetu (Ex Occidente Press MMXI). A contributor’s copy of the book.

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/

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.

Authors featured in this Anthology: Mark Valentine, Jonathan Wood, Stephen J. Clark, Colin Insole, Michael Cisco, Rhys Hughes, Adam Golaski, D.P. Watt, Adam S. Cantwell, Charles Schneider, Allyson Bird, Justin Isis, Nina Allan, Me, R.B. Russell, Eric Stener Carlson, Reggie Oliver, John Howard, Mark Beech, Albert Power, George Berguño.

I am told that two other stories,  A Certain Power by Mark Valentine and The Horned Tongue by Stephen J. Clark, were both exclusively written for this Bulgakov
homage anthology and that they have been excluded because they have appeared in other Ex Occidente books. Therefore, I shall be considering both these stories at the end of my review to judge whether this book’s gestalt would have been affected.

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At first glance – a massively gorgeous book, restricted to 100 copies, portrait format, red mock-cyrrilic lettering for some titles/headings/quotes, 370 pages, stiff pages, stiff textured dust-jacket, frontispiece (by whom?), and a design on heavy-duty board-cover within dust-jacket (a design by C.C. Askew of the Eternal Sekret Society?)

The quote at the beginning of the book seems of our time – with today’s UK politics – and in many more ways than one:

“The séance is over!
Maestro! Hack out a march!” – Mikhail Bulgakov

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Nine Exhibits – by Mark Valentime

“Mikhail Afanasyevich’s stove was one of the most well-read in Russia. It consumed many pages of his work.”

I couldn’t stop laughing at that, so I won’t resist risking a spoiler by making that my quote of the day for this review.  But, having said that, there is something even funnier here about a cat’s dream that I won’t quote by spoiling. But, then again, should a homage to Bulgakov be treated so lightly?  Only if death is inevitable, I’d say. And stories episodically maxim-al. (20 Jul 11)

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This book, as a book, is something you need to keep handling and looking at – an obsessive plaything, the playful dust-jacket design spiking itself, less than playfully, somewhere into an area that is the ‘Hollow Earth’ within you, that brings me to…

Beloved Chaos that Comes by Night – by Jonathan Wood

“To be alone in London, is truly to know loneliness from within a glass jar, where silent leeches come and go and journey across one’s face for evermore, marking out one’s allotted time in piteous slime.”

I recall reading Jonathan Wood in the late eighties or early nineties in the small press, with huge distantly-paragraphed blocks of Proustian-stretching prose – and I was captivated. Equally, here. This substantial story is the mutantly symbiotic tale of two cities, or two countries (England and Russia), a first-person singular protagonal actor turned involuntary playwright then terrorist tramp…  A fiction describing its own urban landscape as a writer’s block ironically filled with words… I shall need to let the story percolate in this book’s future context, as if it is due to be groomed beyond any moral compass, forced into words it did not intend to mean what they did mean, forced, too, into becoming a literary suicide-bomb for the yet unread stories to conceal about their hollow ‘persons’? (20 Jul 11 – three hours later)

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Behemoth’s Carnival – by Stephen J. Clark

“Yet these were the elect of the melancholy come to hear the old cat speak.”

With the ‘Meow!’ (from a previous Ex Occidente Book – Amerika – by Karim Ghahwagi – another Bulgakov homage?) ringing in my ear and recalling the implied Nine Lives of the Valentine story above – I enjoyed this Hadean / Avernal vignette or maxim-al fable  or anthropomorphic (anti-)religious tract in code or a new fish and loaves parable or mischievous mummery… (21 Jul 11)

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The Princess of Phoenicia – by Colin Insole

“That afternoon I sought solace and consolation in ‘The Hall of the Whispering Puppets’.”

‘Solace and consolation’ as in a Schubertian Grand Duo of history and legend – or Author and Reader. Reality and Truth, each not necessarily the same thing at all. Pontius Pilate and Christ.  You know, when you sense, as I do, that you are one of the very first readers of this story, let ‘alone’ one of its first public reviewers, you feel indeed alone with it, tantamount to the first reader and reviewer, tussling and grappling (in that Grand Duo) with portents and elements of Russian History, the stolen Madonna, her (blood-permeable?) jewels  and many other symptoms of belief (logical and superstitious in solace and consolation), a belief in undercurrents that politically explain or poetically ‘sing’ (by a lost balladeer) of the duo of conflict and tragedy from 1904 towards a large part of the 20th century through the eyes of blended tales within a tale: and I think I counted the tales properly: nine. If not nine in truth, certainly in reality. The extra odd one being the tale that contains the four duos.  But one author and, perhaps, only one reader – steeped ‘in soul’ and in time’s lonely, sometimes unscryable, audit-trail of truth and reality. This work makes the ‘synchronised shards of random truth and fiction’ passé. Meanwhile, the story’s  duo of style and language is exquisite. (21 Jul 11 – three hours later)

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The Cadaver Is You – by Michael Cisco

“As is reported to be the case in Hades, everything was washed out.”

In tune with our reaction to the previous story, in this artful Tarr & Fether provocation of ‘truth and reality’ we begin again ‘tussling and grappling’ with what we read and about whom – in an inverse sort of canine anthropomorphism – where we learn later that we are indeed struggling for meaning via another layer of characters with whom we feel we should empathise and sympathise while they read what we have just read as if we are now saner and less absurd and somehow less false than those about whom we had been reading.  The more of us there are the more brain size we control. So we shall wait for more readers to read what we have just read. For ‘we’, please read ‘I’ – until ‘you’ join me from where you are or hopefully from whom you are rather than from what you are or have become – or will become via scrying the astrology of  1712. (21 Jul 11 – another 2 hours later)

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The Darkest White – by Rhys Hughes

Chapter 0: Prelude / Chapter I: The Magnifying Glass

“There are many places in the world where east meets west, but Sukhumi is one where the north overlaps with the south so precisely that nothing comes of any attempt to detach them.”

Similarly, here is where the essence of Rhys-Hughesian fictionatronics that we all love seems, so far, to meet a relatively sane literary treatment of politics / history … but the best of both worlds rather than a straight blend. Indeed, this novellarette’s title is one of genius given the context of this book.  And, as I have publicly remarked before in my real-time reviews, many 20th century East European literary stories start in a cafe and here is no exception (the Cafe Morphine of the book’s title by the sound of it); the story-within-that-story also starts in a cafe, too!  We are promised that an object-in-hand will be explained by the inner story’s end, an inner story wherein we have another object, too, being sold as the three Zander brothers release experimentation mini-King Kongs (my expression, not the story’s) from cages while civil war encroaches and fleeing’s itch ensues – mixed with a “perverted economic basis” that reminds me of today’s news headlines of the mutantly simian attempts to call a default not a default in a more modern Europe…  An enthralling start to the novellarette. (22 Jul 11)

Chapter II: The Wisdom of Sticks / Chapter III: The Departing Treasure

“They showed him how to feign appeasement and how to give the impression of yielding while remaining in control.”

There is always much wisdom beneath the puns and wordplay of Rhys Hughes, and here the wisdom shines forth without such disguise as well as with it.  The numerology of not only economics but history.  And the ricochet of Ottoman and Armenian, White and Red…  The brothers – prior to arriving in Baku – make a creative form of Musketeer oath with each other – to be alone and/or together, an alternating current of strength and weakness. (22 Jul 11 – two hours later)

Chapter IV: The Scimitar / Chapter V: An Impulsive Decision

“Magnates had bribed the coalition authorities;…”

Now voyaging – towards a toxic lake, as it turns out, retrocausally – from Baku to a place with its own name’s redolent oriental aura: Bukhara – the brothers face various coalitions or ‘duos’, of sense and nonsense, true religion and false religion, blended pairs of reincarnatory existences – and the fraternal trio threatens to become a duo by dint of ditch or haha (my expression, not the story’s)  or by dint of that unhealthy lake’s premonition of one brother devoting his destiny to doom in the hope it isn’t doom at all but paired with or infiltrated by its opposite: fortune.  (Little does he know, I sense, that ‘fortune’, despite its positive aura, can be bad as well as good. Like ‘Bukhara’?). (22 Jul 11 – another 90 minutes later)

Chapter VI: On the Terrible Lake

“Nothing is what I hope to find.”

Nothing = this book’s earlier “Hollow Earth”. The single brother in devotion to his own Salt Lake City of the soul, in tune with mending by breaking and breaking by mending (akin to what I call the erstwhile ‘Musketeer’ oath) by dint of a multi-religion ‘nirvana’?  This is strong literature. White and red in tooth and claw. “The perfection would thus be imposed retroactively.” (22 Jul 11 – another 45 minutes later)

Chapter VII: The City of Defiance / Chapter VIII: The Bleeding Ears

“Those squares of the mystic chessboard known as nights and days passed with an impeccable shift.”

I truly admire this fiction as I experience the broad sweep conveyed of landscape / geography, historical perspective / knowledge, spiritual madness / sanity, as we follow the two remaining brothers (together, apart, together again), and eventually rumours of the ‘ice and salt’  lost brother, all three brothers perhaps providing some form of ‘Holy Trinity’ of the human condition: paradoxically together yet apart. (22 Jul 11 – another hour later)

Chapter IX: The Map /Chapter ∞ : Redemption

“They had reached the other café.”

In view of all the foregoing, this provides a shockingly perfect ending, for which you will need to read this novellarette to experience for yourself, to crystallise the ‘we’ from my ‘I’. Crystallise as in salt or snow under the magnifying-glass? Suffice to say Jonathan Wood’s erstwhile “Hollow Earth” was not a million miles away. Nor the anthropomorphism of King Kong? Or all that may be my subterfuge to detract from spoilers or Bolsheviks. (22 Jul 11 – another 45 minutes later)

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A Country Doctor – by Adam Golaski

“Briefly, I was distracted by the shape of a snowflake that reminded me of a poem:…”

A doctor called to and from variously-aged women, a girl patient, her maid, a previous girl patient’s donated embroidered-blanket to keep him warm on the urgent sleigh’s journey, yet another waiting for him to return – a Thomas Hardy, DH Lawrence, Anton Chekhov incident that haunts the stiff pages of this book, one of which pages might be used to funnel or chase dreams of forgetfulness in powder form…the sharpest funnel of all being the one that can deliver dreams of forgetfulness melted or distilled from the Winter of our souls by directly penetrating the skin with such a page’s words made fluid.  A book that is laden with more than just morphine.  A variation on a theme that allows this review to drain a story: thus to reveal an emotional essence that might otherwise escape, not unread, but unfelt. (22 Jul 11 -another 3 hours later)

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Archaic Artificial Suns – by D.P. Watt

“The line stretched around the street, into the distance as far as he could see. No doubt to the very gates of Hades.”

One of those stories that, in hindsight, will become a major reading event. ‘Queuing Behind Crazy People’ syndrome (some people labelled like lists in a Zoo), morphine queuing in the vein along the “tearing paper” that this book itself as a physical object conspires against but paradoxically encourages, Mikhail himself faced with a cruel theatrically Shakespearean charade-bouffe that takes on a dramatic, political, emotional, comic, cosmic truth via the two-way filter of a tapestried proscenium balcony-entrance, if not the last balcony or entrance of all. Towards or from the “galaxies of emptiness” that are the entrancing or entranced eyes that absorb these words like drugs. Then “kaboom!” like the Baboon of Nothing from ‘The Darkest White’. Itself awaiting another bearish buffoonery to follow. Exeunt Omnes. (23 Jul 11)

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Only for the Crossed-Out – by Adam S. Cantwell

“What could a tree’s devilish complexity mean to an ordered and just mind,…”

Well, you simply knew I was going to LOVE this story, [especially after editing and publishing the HA of HA!  This seems some sort of culmination of that spirit – albeit an exterior force – but, via the Cantwell-wrought spirit of our friend Mikhail, a welcome unexpected synergy with this other book]. It tells of a library censor (and includes a library policeman!) – the paradoxes of fashion affecting textual censorship in both creativity and spirit, retrocausal as well as linear – the books themselves igniting into their own form of prehensile, ink-veined anthropomorphism as they fall upon our censor down the chute – the ultimate book for dangerous heaviness and hybrid power no doubt being the very one in which I’ve just been reading this story!  I’ve often talked, over the years, about classical music being akin to fiction injected straight into the vein.  This story (if not the whole book) is the first occasion where I’ve genuinely discovered the ‘matter’ of fiction injected straight into the vein.  [And I’m glad I’ve encountered this story before my own fiction of self enters the baffle-less master-artery of death.] (23 Jul 11 – four hours later)

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The Fearful and Wonderful Phantasm of Time – by Charles Schneider

“A Great Demon, clearly one of Satan’s right-hand minions, was spotted in an expensive restaurant in Novgorod.

I was in Novgorod last year – but I visited a church there (for its iconostasis), not a restaurant.  This is a Blakean, Joe-Pulverian ‘synchronised shards of random truth & fiction’ disguised as stream-of-conscious – prose-poeticising the scatology of eschatology (and vice versa) – with many literary references and oxymorons. Brick by brick, like the censor’s library, aforementioned. “…Hell and Heaven are not to be found in an old book. They exist where the past and future intersect with geographical locations.” — “Each day I pack and send my treasured books away, to be stored in Dreamland.” — “…I saw a hinge at the base of the enshrined statue’s glass dome, as if it could revolve and display another statue after the polluted dusk arrived.” — “Hell is but Heaven for another Hell, and Another!” — “The Centropoli of Hades.” — “…garish massive faux toenails which the gold-chained simians truck about oh so proudly in,…” (23 Jul 11 – another hour later)

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The Black Swan of Odessa – by Allyson Bird

“Fiction does not feed my body.”

A cleverly intriguing story involving co-writers in a scrawny flat and their understudy of a ballerina neighbour who seems to bring truth to their one published work. As I read, I thought to myself, I am going to remark how there are many evocative ‘touches of detail’ (I used that phrase to myself) – and when you read it, you will know what I mean – but then the concept ‘detail’ later took on an unexpected importance. One of them “adored detail“, but was it God or the Devil in it? Like the detail that floats into the last paragraph…  A perfect, spooky ending, but, wonderfully, I don’t quite know why it is is quite so perfect, quite so spooky.

“…if Larisa’s dancing was anything like the control of her narrative she must have danced herself off the stage and into the audience at least once in her life.” (23 Jul 11 – another 90 minutes later)

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The Heart of a Man – by Justin Isis

“Kolesnikov, ensconced for years in the office of the Mir journal, had long been famous for his negative reviews.”

A story I need to read again (review, literally) – Hegel, meta-fictionary existences, Eyes Wide Shut rites-of-passage – and anthropomorphism explained by a human heart being placed within an animal  – reviewing books making them what you say they are, bad books good, good books bad, everything is its opposite, a reality-creation rolled out as meta-meta-meta…-fictions , more Bulgacoffian cafés, fiction (when demetaed – not demented – to its bottom bone) as the only reality, illicit love-affairs nodded through as part of an over-riding plot of fates one ultimately wants to come to fruition – and this story is not worth reading. It stinks.  For, read it and sink into nothingness, namelessness. “Within each apparent unity is a corresponding duality, and vice versa.” The Schubertiad of a  Grand Duo again (four hands on one piano or two pairs of hands on two pianos)? The ultimate negativity. This story will need re-reading forever, so for God’s sake resist even reading it once! “- he’s considering writing reviews and publishing them under your name. Would you agree to that?” (23 Jul 11 – another three hours later)

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Chaconne – by Nina Allan

“His chair had been gutted, slit straight up the back and disembowelled. The person that did this had presumably been looking for valuables,…”

Unquestionably a major story and, I guess, it is one of Bulgakov’s heart-and-souls of this book, if not possibly (as remains to be seen) the core one to fill the “Hollow Earth” of our receptiveness – and a Bulgakov virgin when this book began all those stiff pages ago would no longer be such a virgin having read to this point in the book, and even this Bulgakov virgin reader would by now have lithely shape-shifted from a snow-uncrystallised cat and “hunkered down” (as if during one of its nine lives?) at the book’s ‘feet’ into something akin to the Behemoth or Old Scratch.  This story – irrespective of all that – was certain to appeal to me. When I see the word Chaconne, I think of Britten’s String Quartet No 2 that has a Chaconne based on Purcell. Here, meanwhile, what I said earlier about classical music being fiction injected straight into the vein, really comes home to roost with a bird’s furled wings.  Brahms, Scriabin, Beethoveen’s’Hammerklavier’ &c. &c. – this story seriously drips with music and its prehensile notation, while contrasting with the destruction of pianos, human limbs, even whole bodies, as we follow Alena – a pianist and composer – retrocausally dealing with Europe’s diaspora of people and cities pre- and post the War, and with her lost lover, lost sister, and diverse forms of physical sex on the brink of being made music. Is this story the book’s gestalt? Or do I have to journey further to realise that this was just another way-station of leitmotifs? If the latter, it is a substantial one, honed to stylistic perfection. I can’t praise it enough. [I can now replace the black swanbird’s chair, its back resewn.] (24 Jul 11)

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The Tsarina’s Wintercoat – by me

“…tentacular monsters who, in the same way as human beings, had insect-pests with which to contend – “

Written some years ago in its original form, I’ll leave others to comment on this vignellarette.  I’ll only mention it again if it has some bearing on the book’s eventual gestalt. As it does already, perhaps, when relating the following quote to Rhys Hughes’ earlier ‘Holy Trinity’ variation: “From behind the derelict station house, I approached the solitary threesome (guessing that such a few could sometimes feel more solitary than being truly alone as one).” (24 Jul 11 – two hours later)

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The Exquisite Process of Gala Gladkov – by R.B. Russell

“I was carving some panels that were to form the backs of a set of chairs…”

– interrupting which ostensibly incidental work was the arrival of the carpenter’s old but neglected friend – and amid hints of political differences regarding the still living memory of history and politics concerning the Russian Revolution between those of whom this friend now tells the carpenter in an intriguing Fable of Retrocausality, concerning turning back fates as well as clocks vis-a-vis the friend’s love / marital life. The story within the overall story (the latter artfully ‘carved’ by R.B. Russell to contain it), in this way, is like putting fictional things inside something non-fictional (i.e. inside an object like a real chair or a real heavy-duty book (like this one published by Ex Occidente Press), I muse, without this story directly causing me thus to muse) to make it all seem or actually become non-fictional. Truth and reality running in parallel and nobody knows which is the one in disguise? (24 Jul 11 – another 2 hours later)

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Café Morphine – by  Eric Stener Carlson

“Snow? It was July, for God’s sakes. How could there be snow?”

A lengthy, absurdist, often very humorous fable or parable concerning an Argentine unionist in 1921 travelling by train through Europe to a Union conference – sometimes mistaken by post-Revolution officials as a Jew or an Assyrian! – and he now makes a Poliakoff-type of inter-journey stop-over in a dislocatedly posh café – having already experienced confused absences and presences in the train carriage itself amid conversations about Kant and Heidegger – still clasping his precious box that the story opens for us at least twice – meets a self-confessed, untraditional ‘vampire’ – a vampire that feeds off or supplies Time itself (fresh from its reported propensity to retrocausality in R.B. Russell) – and I’m getting breathless and time-drained trying to cover (in one sentence) every point of this story which I evidently can’t because I’d need to tell it all over again while I re-read it – and why Café Morphine, I hear you ask – well, as I dream of “racing across the endless Iberian fields”, I dream, too, that Time (like Brian Ferry’s ‘love’ and Brahms’ Chaconne) is the drug for the veins (perhaps disguised as coffee to keep you awake) – and it gave birth to this whole book’s title that in turn gave the café  its name in this story so as to give it back to the book’s title, a name flying back and forth between like a butterfly. Second sentence: I loved this story for (but not only for) its timely message on how to spend one’s time-of-life with some ability to milk it to its last dreg. (24 Jul 11 – another 3 hours later)

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The Philosophy of the Damned – by Reggie Oliver

“The raising of the curtain on the first act was to him like the coming of dawn to a traveller by night, an event of unblemished hope.”

…indeed, the opening of any theatrical event that one has long anticipated in child-like trepidation and pleasure – and a new substantial story by Reggie Oliver is no exception. Petropol in the 1919 Crimea … and the theatre manager – himself with some trepidation – hires a new troupe. One that provides a zoo-like climax that is attuned to earlier caged simians in this book – and other anthropomorphic tricks: anthropomorphism that works both ways! This is another Reggie Oliver theatrical weird fiction classic of Hadean elegance – so fitting for this Hadean book.  And its ending is so provincial in quite a perfectly unexpected, but comforting and home-is-where-the-heart-is, manner, after all the dream-envisaged D.P. Wattian cabarets-bouffes that preceded it within this book and this story itself – and the Red Army that hearsay tells us followed it given no prior escape that fiction is supposed to provide in the guise of escapism. (24 Jul 11 – another 3 hours later)

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Red Green Black White – by John Howard

“…now coloured by the minute flecks of powdered paint and desiccated paper, drifting down in the still air from the ikons and portraits as they dry out; wood warping and splitting, paper curling and disintegrating, and leaving such spaces that she cannot remember what it was that filled them.”

…like vampiric time being drained to its last dregs again? This breathtaking patchwork or kaleidoscope of a fiction tells of more spaces to be filled, as a shape-shifting ‘agent provocateur’ “assumes” and “bodies-out” as different characters or many characters as history meets history in their own war to become the real-History –(like reading this whole book up to this point, in a synaesthetically exponential slow-strobing of the soul of Bulgakov that also crosses borders like fluid countries with no edges or with ever new edges (like morphine or music in the veins?))– in the real-Historical Balticana of 1918ish Ukrainia-German-Austro-Hungary, Poland &c &c, its various historical characters, treaties, events… “Your problem is that you do not – and cannot – see the larger picture that I can. You will never see it, and know your part in all these laughable dramas. You are not only drowning in history, you are already past, and becoming forgotten.” (25 Jul 11)

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The Immortal Death of Ivanov Ivan Ivanovich – by Mark Beech

“…hacking ungraciously at those great chunks of stone, straining all the while for the spark of a colour-filled memory or the swell of a kind of music…”

A compelling, extremely well-told story (told on a train to others) with a linear plot of non-linearity as the impermanence of the identity of the Russian God beyond an iconostatsis of a seeming immortality – immortality subsumed by the harsh ephemerality of politics upon the people – sculptures-of-likeness, thus, that are as tenuous as the man who sculpted them or as the man whom he sculpted with such well-intentioned permanence even if originally a skill granted for the nonce by an inscrutable stranger (one’s own ‘disintentionalised’ author if one is a character in a book) – and I nearly cried at some of the implications; and how all this sort of sums up this book itself: each story a sculpture of words on stiff pages within even stiffer covers and a seemingly untearable textured dust-jacket (a theory of untearability never to be tested)… “apulse with all the industrial noise and primary colours of a constructivist future.” — “…a wide balcony. / Quiet at last! a clear crisp Moscow night opened around him. The red stars flickered over the Kremlin walls. In the park beneath him, he thought he could make out one of his Stalins.” (25 Jul 11 – two hours later)

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I Listened to Laika Crying in the Sky – by Albert Power

“Darkness. And the barking – hack – hack – hack … of terror and confusion.”

If this were the last story in the book, I’d deem this the perfect coda (but that is the privilege of this book’s last story that is the only one I’ve read before)  or perhaps this Laika one is the rising fall (as opposed to the more common ‘dying fall’) of Nina Allan’s new chaconne, as the book enters Khrushchev’s era and – when three men and an eight year old girl are on an expedition upon the very cusp of winter’s ice for snipe and teal bagging – with, nearby, sputnik’s launchpad. The dog in space – the true rising fall – an anthropomorphic stretching-out towards that shifting Russian God beyond the iconostasis of new-found space or of Rhys Hughes’ ‘nothing’ – away from that erstwhile ‘Hollow Earth’. The later deserted girl’s vision in the snow of who I assume to be Bulgakov himself is remarkable. And the alignment of some antiquated words scattered throughout contrasts with the breaking-news of modernity represented by the launch of sputnik. A poetic experience the strength of which is that it cannot be nailed down through any part of our now (at this point in the book) well-exercised, well-toned reading-limbs, if I can coin a phrase for the spiritual antenna required when reading potentially great literature of the future’s past. (25 Jul 11 – another 90 minutes later)

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I only read and reviewed the final story below a week or so ago in the author’s book ‘The Exorcist’s Travelogue’ – and beneath I show my very slightly corrected real-time review from that time which, happily, is, as it turns out, the coda for both books:

The Farewell Letter  – by George Berguño

“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 brother. — “…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.  (15 Jul 11)

That moment on the balcony is so utterly moving, even more so now, in view of the Mark Beech story. (25 Jul 11 – another 30 minutes later).

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The two stories that – I’m told – should also be in this book (together with, I suspect, Karim Ghahwagi’s ‘Amerika‘, with my review of it linked above somewhere) are A Certain Power by Mark Valentine and The Horned Tongue by Stephen J. Clark (the links being to my reviews of those stories).  Are there any more that were meant to be in this book? Not  a rhetorical question. If any later come to light, I shall mention them in the comments below this review.  Till, then, I keep my powder dry.  Other than to say – as I hope has come across above – this is one helluva book!!

 Does the gestalt of what is in the book differ from that with all that should have been in it? But perhaps that’s the very point of the book – as well as the crux or noumenon that I’ve been seeking, these few years, by carrying out my real-time reviews. One Platonic Form of Real-Time Review that they will all eventually coalesce into because they were meant to be in the one book – the ultimate heavyweight tome that sits in my head with the feeling of a still-unhewn stone sculpture? I now risk entering pretentious realms even I dare not enter. Suffice to say, I really loved the Justin Isis story above. I make that point in case there was any misunderstanding about my Molièrean misanthropy as an “assumed” or “bodied-out” curmudgeon or old fogey.  

What more can I say? That cat with poppy-eyes on the dust-jacket above stares mockingly as I write this, telling me that all reviews must end somewhere. So be it. I’ll end it in the Café Morphine. Join me there for the nonce, whatever you think of me.  I’ll be the one in the chair with the thickest back.

END (25 Jul 11 – another 45 minutes later)

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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

MINDFUL OF PHANTOMS by Gary Fry….27

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:

 

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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)

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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)

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[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)

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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)

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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)

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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.

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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)

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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)

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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)

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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)

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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)

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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)

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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)

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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)

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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).

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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)

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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)

END

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