Tag Archives: Michael Cisco

The Face Corner, The Unwanted Stairway Collecting In A Weak Eddy


“Unseen or at least unremarked, I orbit the camp. That’s what I want: a place in which I have no part. I want to ride through space like wind in wind and sleep on the void, and be a go-between with nothing but between. I only know useless knowledge. The camp spins there to one side of me like so many floating candles collecting in a weak eddy. What I feel inside myself is fierce and calm; it’s a ruthless desire for an immortality of perfect weakness where I can be a tirelessly efficient functionary turning things over from one end of the message circuit to the other and back again, so that I never stop going back. As long as I’m going back, logically speaking, I yet won’t be back, only now am I getting under way. No one sees you while you’re in transit and the moment you arrive is the moment you have to turn around and leave again, provided there is some return correspondence, and even if there isn’t, it doesn’t matter, because there’s nothing to do but wait for some other message which will sooner or later have to go out and take you along with it.”
— From MEMBER a novel by Michael Cisco published by Chomu Press in 2013. This is to be added to my favourite quotes, first quoted in my review of MEMBER here.

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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.


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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BSFA – Clarke Awards

‘Nemonymous Night’ has been mentioned in this shortlist competition:

and two other Chomu Press books

Although my novel is one of the works mentioned, I can’t imagine any book at all beating HERE COMES THE NICE for best novel of 2011 (literary or genre). Best novel of the decade, I’d say!

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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)


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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The WEIRD: A Compendium of Strange and Dark Stories

Weird: A Compendium of Dark and Strange Stories

The WEIRD: A Compendium of Strange and Dark Stories

Edited by Ann & Jeff VanderMeer

First published in Great Britain 2011 by Corvus, an imprint of Atlantic Books Ltd.

I’m due to start below another of my gradual real-time reviews, turning leitmotifs into a gestalt. I have already ordered this book from an Amazon dealer. I hope to commence this review as soon as I receive it.

There is no guarantee how long it will take to complete this review, whether days or weeks. But more likely: months or even years (judging by the enormous size of its contents).

CAVEATS: 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. Also, Nemonymous (Cern Zoo) was the original publisher of ‘The Lion’s Den’ by Steve Duffy that is included in this book.

My many other real-time reviews are linked from here: http://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/ (2 Nov 11)

“… maintaining a chemical purity in the reaction between product and appraiser. […] Submit to whatever spell, weak or strong, is being cast. Better to praise and share than blame and ban. The communion between reviewer and his public is based upon the presumption of certain possible joys in reading, and all our discriminations should curve toward that end.” – an extract from John Updike’s rules.

Just this minute received delivery of the book itself. Wow! And double-columned text – didn’t expect that. (4 Nov 11 – 1.05 pm GMT)

Having now handled this beautifully handleable tome, as gigantic as it is imposing, I wonder now if I have bitten off more than I can chew by tackling a real-time review of it.  I am thrilled as well as daunted by this project, hoping that I live long enough to complete such an endeavour. As ever with my RTRs heretofore (proceeding apace for three years exactly today), I shall treat each story as it comes. Here, with this book, I shall re-read any story I have read before in my 63 year reading-life, hopefully attuning each reading to an emerging gestalt. Every collection and anthology has a gestalt, in my experience, whether intended or not, sometimes quite an unexpected one. Whether that gestalt has a randomly inexplicable / synchronous power or a more deliberate one, I try to feed back that power to the book itself when reviewing it, e.g. knowing that a  book’s reading journey may be different if one knows, when making that journey, that one is publicly communicating the experience of that journey in real-time. Finally, I usually do not read introductions, story notes etc until I have completed the review, and that will be the case here. (4 Nov 11 – an hour later)

The Other Side (an excerpt) – Alfred Kubin

Now the area had transformed into a monstrous zoo.”

A very promising start for me, containing feral and dream-sickness (my expression, not the story’s) and zoo themes that have obsessed me. A sleeping sickness plague for humans and when they awake the animal kingdom has run amok, with frightening and humorous results. There’s even a bear that eats a pork butcher’s widow. An enjoyable and provocative dystopian fable with implications for immortality and decay. I’m not sure if the excerpted nature of this piece has meant I miss or misread some of the characters’ protagonisms… yet it seems steeped constructively, and at least partially, in War With The Newts – by Karel Capek (4 Nov 11 – another two hours later)

The Screaming Skull – F. Marion Crawford

“One always remembers one’s mistakes much more vividly than one’s cleverest things, doesn’t one?”

Apt talk of November and of drugging people like Michael Jackson so as to sleep soundly and  a tell-tale or five-fingered skull – on the loose – and soliloquised about maniacally then sensibly then maniacally again then wrecked on the rocks of the reader’s craggy mind (i.e. mine) – this is an incredibly modern tale told to us from the unmodern past.  It’s like the animals in the Kubin are emblemised as on the loose with leaden brains and grinning bony carapaces. Each single haunted skull to  betoken another somewhere else or another part of itself with Darwinian jigsaw fitting? A classic horror story that I’m pleased to have brought back to my attention. I remembered it not. Not quite like this – in this book’s heavy-bendy skull-tome context… “…the dog, his face growing more and more like a skull with two little coals for eyes;” — (4 Nov 11 – another 4 hours later)

The Willows – Algernon Blackwood

I. “It was an otter, alive, and out on the hunt; yet it had looked exactly like the body of a drowned man…”

For me, a welcome opportunity to re-read this weird classic after a number of years. Lonely Literature’s ulitmate ‘genius loci’ (gestalt stätte): the boat trip of the narrator with his ‘unimaginative’ companion (the Swede) along the ill-differentiated Danube between land and water, nature and terror. Here we echo the stream of feral beasts or skulls of earlier stories in this book alongside the patternless, human-uncontrolled surge of currencies and debts that pervade our news today, joining a ‘parent river’ then we become another different unexpected parent-in-waiting of children that were misborn years before we were first alive.  Here we have willow-prehensile land and water as a herd or swarm instinct – as accentuated by even Unimagination itself now being impeached by frissons and fears – not Three Men in a Boat with jokey bonhomie, but two men alone together in a clumsy Jungian canoe that is you and me… (5 Nov 11)

II. & III. “It was we who were the cause of the disturbance,…”

Not by (a) ‘our’ disturbing the disturbance into existence, but by (b) creating it at source, from the hands of the head-lease author via the creative narrator towards the even more creative reader?  The story’s overt implication is (a), but re-reading this story in my later years I now feel it is (b) and – with the wind, the patterings, the heaviness of soul and the shapes emerging from some gaia – all take on a new meaning as I disturb – or create? – the story’s hidden gestalt. (5 Nov 11 – two and a half hours later)

IV. & V. “Our thoughts make spirals in their world. We must keep them out of our minds at all costs if possible.”

The above “them” actually being our thoughts themselves (any or all of our thoughts to be kept from our mind!) or is it THEM: the transcendents that lurk like Old Ones beyond the thinning or “veil” (veil or ‘door’, with the swarm of bees or humming gong sound, a la Stephen King’s Todash?) – or the strange disjointed fragments of phrases that make no sense and may be our thoughts disguised? This is all genuinely frightening to the reader who, as I hinted before, is more than implicated by just reading the story – despite the 3-men-in-a-boat laughter that breaks out at one point. Yet, there are three men here after all, the ego, id and nemo, but which is the Swede (cf: ‘the American’ in the Kubin story or ‘the Russian’ in Blackwood’s ‘The Centaur’ novel), which the equally anonymous narrator and which the anonymous victim ‘otter’?  There will hopefully come soon my ‘hole in the toe of my shoe’ moment (rather than my ‘hole in the bottom of my canoe’ moment). A revelation, this re-reading, as I imagine the transcendents’ shapes made up of several animals from another ‘monstrous zoo’.

“The nemo is an evolutionary force, as necessary as the ego. The ego is certainty, what I am; the nemo is potentiality, what I am not. But instead of utilizing the nemo as we would utilize any other force, we allow ourselves to be terrified by it, as primitive man was terrified by lightning. We run screaming from this mysterious shape in the middle of our town, even though the real terror is not in itself, but in our terror at it.”
– John Fowles 1964 (from ‘The Necessity of Nemo’ in ‘The Aristos’)
(5 Nov 11 – another 3 hours later)

NB: ‘The Willows’ seems to be a treatment of self-deception (and indeed the expression ‘self-deception’ in this sense is used in its text). This is appropriate as I am currently reading an academic book by Robert Trivers about ‘self-deception’. (5 Nov 11 – another 30 minutes later)

Sredni Vashtar – Saki

Without his imagination, which was rampant under the spur of loneliness, he would have succumbed long ago.” Cf: the ‘unimaginative’ Swede in the previous story!

 A short densely textured Saki classic masterpiece about a boy fighting (according to how the mood takes you in this welcome thoughtful yet relaxing mode of reading ‘The Weird’) against (or with?) class-conscious, generation-conscious, toast-conscious views of religion and social convention and all idol religion – with a feral god fluted from the Kubin or shape-swarmed, shape-beasted Blackwood. (Loved the TV version of this story but can’t get it out of my ‘thoughts’ when reading the story).  (5 Nov 11 – another 3 hours later)

Casting the Runes – M. R. James

“…Mr Karswell began the story by producing a noise like a wolf howling in the distance,…”

Karswell, Kubin. Sakitribution. Meanwhile, this is a characteristic, if slightly off-the-wall, M.R.-Jamesian story of various civilised and partially academic narrative-levels (one epistolary, another unreliable, others more reliable), i.e. unfictionalised fiction that hides and then tantalisingly reveals a pursuant or stalking evil like a simmering burr you can’t brush off.  A mass of creatures, at one point, and a “dry rustling noise” and, also as in ‘The Willows’, an Unimagination stirred into Imagination (the latter tellingly nearer to the truth about what lies behind any veils and piques) … and a snappish creature under the pillow that I imagined to be like Sredni Vashtar. And pursuant Runes or letters (some embedded in glass not upon it) like the lexic disjointments in ‘The Willows’. “I’ve been told that your brother reviewed a book very severely…”   Following the morally satisfactory conclusion of this spooky story, I nevertheless retain some empathy, if not sympathy, with our man Karswell…. (6 Nov 11)



All my many other real-time reviews are linked from 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).


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.


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


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)


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)


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)


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)


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)


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)


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)


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)


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)


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)


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)


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)


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)


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)


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)


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)


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)


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)


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)


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)


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).


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 Cisco Spear-Carrier

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

EDIT (14 May 11):

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

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

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

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The Great Lover – by Michael Cisco

I’m due to start below another of my gradual real-time reviews, turning leitmotifs into a gestalt. A book I recently purchased from Amazon. And it is entitled:-


by Michael Cisco

Chômu Press 2011


Cover illustration: Torso Vertical

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

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

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

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


The Great Lover

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

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

Chapter One

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

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

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

Chapter Two

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

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

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

Chapter Three

Pages 44 -49

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

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

The rest of Chapter Three

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

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

Chapter Four

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

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

Chapter Five

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

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

Chapter Six

“May is a good month for visions,…”

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


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

Chapter Seven (pages 166 – 183)

“I’m a huge smooth ear,”

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

(The rest of) Chapter Seven

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

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

Chapter Eight (pages 201 – 223)

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

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


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

(the rest of) Chapter Eight


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

Chapter Nine

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

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

Chapter Ten

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

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

Chapter Eleven

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

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

Chapter Twelve

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

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

Chapter Thirteen

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

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

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


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