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Description quoted from an on-line source:
by William Charlton
Publication Date: October 2012
Sewn hardcover, limited to 100 hand numbered copies, 120 pp with illustrated end papers and a full-color frontispiece.”

“This edition is limited to one hundred numbered copies of which this is number:” 45

There appear to be 112 pages in the version I hold in my hand. There is also a deluxely stiff dust-jacket with an aubrey-beardsley style design on the front. The front of the hard-back cover beneath the dust-jacket shows the words: “E FINIBUS”. Nothing on the inner spine.

Les Éditions de l’Oubli, Bucharest, 1945

which, based on extramural evidence, I guess is another name for Ex Occidente Press or Passport Levant…

This highly aesthetic book measures 4 by 5.5 inches when closed.

This is my very first post-real-time review after recently announcing here my retirement from real-time reviewing after four ostensibly self- and autre-fulfilling years doing it.

Five stories – Benighted, The Elusive Real, The Music Festival, The Antistrophe, The Main Road – by an author whose work I don’t think I have previously encountered.

Delightfully traditional and sporadically supernatural fictions, with quirky almost gratuitous endings, but endings that stay with the reader defiantly, all stemming from an engaging and well-crafted prose style. The characters seemed as if I were meeting real people who happen to find themselves inside the quirky world of this book, amazed at finding themselves thus liberated from carnal existence but equally hidebound by the book’s accoutrements of de luxe paper and print. Inspired by one of the stories, I will say that reading this book was like stepping off the main road for ostensibly gratuitous reasons into whatever land bordered it but finding much with which to durably haunt myself as a result.

I’d say this is a belit as well as a benighted literary book in a new genre called  the Defiantly Quirky with touches of the feistily effete or feminine or the Realms of Traditional Supernatural Literature with Jokes as well as Serious Visions, or Tricks and Trips (in both senses of the word ‘trip’). Physically tangible with baths and things, at times, but not always felicitously physical! And a girl called Woody.

“And now for my kiss.”


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Sangria in the Sangraal


by Rhys Hughes

A Real-Time Review started 16 March 2012

 Passport Levant MMXI

 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/

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


The Shapes Down There

He smiled as he regarded his subjects from his balcony.”

A memorably ‘fabulous’ conversation of clouds as they circle around debating the ‘as-above, so-below’ empirically-tested synchronicity of Mankind’s affairs as perceived flashmobs, a synchronicity with the Universe (including clouds possessing a motive force beyond even the weather’s control that created them) — i.e. rather than Astrological cause-and-effect.  The ‘affair’ in question here is the festive firelight blaze of the Emir of Albarracín, Huydayl Djalaf’Izz ad-Dawla. No dawdler, though.  As a bonus track, there is a brilliant sketch of the purpose of ’embers’. [I was wondering whether at one point – where ‘clouds’ are spelt as ‘clods’ – this was a meaningfully back-handed slant at the imperious clouds by the author (reputedly a member himself of the moving feasts of Mankind) – because, in all good literature, one can’t often differentiate clever wordplay from mis-fingered typo.  A rare intentional or unintentional typo, for me, is one of those “transient shapes” like an ember in the fiery “festivities” of words.] (16 Mar 12 – 11.15 am gmt)

The Spare Hermit

Incidentally, the first cliché was created by accident…”

When I was going to St Ives… no, when Murk (short for Murkales or a recurring typo for Mark?) was going to Albarracín (fast becoming this book’s epic-centre), he met people whose names ended -urk or started Kru-. A clever, thought-provoking fable – I think in this book Rhys Hughes may be more a fabulist than a fictionatronicist (or possibly a blend of both): and, in this one, where people as well as places are back-ups for each other towards maintaining an optimum reality by having a plan in place to obviate drop-outs. Or that’s how I read it. “Back then, in the 11th century, it was commonly supposed that winds slept in caverns when not blowing.” A nice touch in this stiff, aesthetically heavy-duty boards, crisp dust-jacket, pages of a landscape book with its own ‘genius loci’: as I turned from page 19 to 20, the book creaked deliciously and, genuinely, the first sentence I then read was: “Finally the massive lock turned and the gate creaked open.” (16 Mar 12 – three hours later)

Sally Forth

“Verily he plummeteth. Ouch!”

This is a dialogue piece in the mould of a Shakespearean comic backstory as if written by Don Quixote about a picaresque Knight rescuing once-called Damsels in Distress and is full of strained, often outrageous, wordplay.  Only this author could thus dare traduce himself. (16 Mar 12 – another hour later)

The Magic Gone

Harold swallowed. ‘Why shoot an arrow at a cloud?‘”

Time’s Arrow?  This is a substantial Whovian intrigue: of a time-traveller to Albarracín; Emirate political ploys — as factored into this book’s erstwhile optimum reality ‘spares’ or ‘back-ups’ — mix with minstrels and troubadours; and a conundrum concerned, for me, with Toynbeean history; whether Challenge comes before Response, or, paradoxically, vice versa.  “I swear I’m not a liar! I’m a time traveller!” (16 Mar 12 – another three hours and 20 minutes later, i.e 6.35 pm gmt)

Sangria in the Sangraal

So he turned to shooting birds down from the sky; he had heard that men in olden days riddled the clouds with shafts to make rain, but he thought that foolish.

Cloud-inducing takes on a new slant following the earlier stories. I think somewhere in a previous story a cloud turned into a teapot!  That, too, now takes on a new slant.  This is a Hughesian gem: one that will, sooner or later, be included within a select collection of his work in Penguin Classics.  The would-be knightly protagonist here doesn’t fire arrows into the clouds for rain but to kill storks in order ostensibly to prevent babies being delivered by this means to the Saracen enemy as future soldiers.  And his mother was sickly and prescribed red wine. Only this story can tell you how this fits with Sangria in the Sangraal being drunk by her — Sangraal not being a region of Spain like Extremadura or La Rioja  as I think I might shamefully have once assumed when I first glimpsed the title of this book. (16 Mar 12 – another 2 hours later)

The Man Toucan

I must point out, however, that it may be a century or more before anyone else comes this way again.”

…like this book. Only 102 copies of this bottle with a genie loco.  Seriously, this is a delightfully unserious philosophical fable by the Arch Fabulist and Fictionatronicist named Rhys Hughes or (according to his oft-times used avatar in this very (God)forsaken internet universe) Man Toucan himself or itself. Unserious, but the philosophy itself in this fable is potentially serious: teaching me much more of Ontology and Teleology regarding the Existence of God than any real philosophy book, and Deist Bifurcation and the possibility of sharing responsibility (moral or otherwise) and power (omnipotence). ‘Sharing’ like those ‘back-ups’ and ‘spares’? And there are more clouds here and a part of Spain (like Sangraal) that God didn’t know existed till He came to look for Himself. A genuine masterpiece, this fable, exceeding even the previous one.  Refreshingly delightful in tone. (17 Mar 12 – 8.40 am gmt)

[I’ve just discovered, under this book’s stiff-mannered dust-jacket, there is embossed on the front of the board-cover: YOU AND I < YOUR PAST + MY ETERNITY > DEATH IN ARAGON. At the moment I can’t get to the bottom of this (something to do with Louis Aragon: a poet I read last in the 1960s?). Whatever the case, these are the sole words upon the whole hard-board cover beneath the dust-jacket. So, if the dust-jacket is ever separated from it, someone finding such a bare copy or (dare I say?) ‘spare’ of this book in, for example, a mythical secondhand bookshop, he or she will be stymied as to its identity unless he or she opens it… (17 Mar 12 – another 15 minutes later)]

[I’ve just noticed this in the book’s CONTENTS :
The Man Toucan…………………………………………………………56
Latitude, Longtitude and Plenitude……………………………..68
The Kind Generosity of Theophrastus Tautology…………57
Scaramouche’s Pouting Mouth……………………………………..95 ] (17 Mar 12 – another 15 minutes later)

Latitude, Longtitude and Plenitude

The fleeing clouds were formless, unlike those of my childhood town, isolated but noble Albarracín, forgotten up the mountains, where every vapour was an actor with a shape not its own.”

[My personal immodest brainstorming:- I know now, quite independently, that earlier ‘clods’ was not a typo at all. Of Clods and Clouds – there is a type of human study this book is subtly enacting without the reader really realising: that people have their clouds and they have their clods.  Which of us is which? Only clouds can tell, I guess, so if you can tell I am a cloud not a clod, you, too, are a cloud like me.  And this story sort of embodies such considerations obliquely: and that often in  one latitude-longtitude clouds are clods and in another: vice versa; etc.  A new Geography of Ethics].  This story, like the previous one, has a bottle with communicative contents: here, a real torn-short book-like page of a message that contrasts ethics with the narrator who reads what is in the bottle with a skewed or straight vision of ethics because of his father’s perceived mores by skewed prejudice or straight honour as embodied in another, complementary, document.  Simply, though, taken at face value, this is a truly memorable tale-within-a-tale of a Robinson Crusoe type shipwrecking on an island – with skewed or straight reference to the times of the Spanish Armada that sailed to England – a protagonist whose treatment by the natives and his own loyalties to his home town: solves a problem of posterity. Or he thinks it does. And all of us (particularly those who are writers of literature) have the same dilemmas of skewed and straight vision: of one’s own likely posterity. And with the ‘posterity’ theme that pans out fascinatingly here, we have the plenitude of ‘spares’ again: part of that hopefully failsafe message whence our shipwrecked message-in-a-bottle perpetrator of shaky posterity fulsomely creates: something on the island as both message and posterity: and as part of the author’s ingenious interpretation of the new Geography of Ethics: and I will not spoil it by telling you about its exact nature here. But suffice to say that each of its ‘spares’ is slightly different from the next one. A bit like all the delightfully bespoke Ex Occidente books and John Howard’s postage stamps in the ‘Secret Europe’ book I real-time reviewed recently…  (17 Mar 12 – another two and half hours later)

The Kind Generosity of Theophrastus Tautology

I know what clouds truly are! Sky sheep, that’s what!”

[After reading this story, I now know why the contents page only had this coming one page after ‘The Man Toucan’ with the Latitude-Longtitude ethics story squeezed out!   A pagination-imagination trick of genius!  Cf: a similar, if quite different, trick in ‘Secret Europe’ concerning Z and 26. And I also know why, this time, there is no handwritten number at the back of my edition of the ‘Sangria ‘book at all!  This book does not exist at all!  And it is now clear why and how but I wonder if it will return in time for me to read the next story!] — This story, meanwhile, brilliantly makes references to previous characters* and incidents in this book, including the Grail (Sangraal).  Essentially, though, it is a nod towards Monty Python regarding the Spanish Inquisition, but, here, with a quite hilarious originality that makes me think I’ve now got it all wrong in what I said above about Clods and Clouds. This author is toying with his projected reader.  The fact that I can see that does not make his toying with me any the less! [Regarding clouds: I have been obsessed with cloud-racing ever since I can remember: and this has been brought out in some of my own fiction over the years. An example is shown in the third ‘comment’ below on this page which I placed there a few minutes ago in preparation for this entry.]  (17 Mar 12 – 1.20 pm gmt)

Scaramouche’s Pouting Mouth

Yes, I am juggling with dynamite, but it’s quite safe. I am a skilled performer.”

[There are now 128 pages in this book – including start and end material – e.g. an Author’s Forward (that I shall read for the first time after I’ve completed this review) and a colour frontispiece of what looks like a dressing-table for a midget plus a few blank pages etc.] This is the tale of a war-time clown, by profession, who is left as the only clown alive after the battle: he fears he may be a coward as he travels to where his father once visited: our epic-centre: Albarracín.  (I wonder whether ‘clown’, ‘coward’ and ‘cloud’ are meant to resonate as they did for me.)  This is another wonderful story, re-echoing the conceit of ‘spares’ – even the thought of ‘hawling’ (as I call it in my own novel) towns or cities from one level of the earth to another. Here eventually with a double bluff upon the clown himself! And it’s no accident, I suggest that the ‘magic’ of such prestidigitative ‘hawling’ happens with a “cloud of dust” like a swish of abracadabra! (17 Mar 12 – another 55 minutes later)

Knossos in Its Glory

Commuting as a custom was extinct, as dead as dodos, tigers and books. Simple fact.”

A SF digitilisation-extrapolation which is this book’s coda: an explicitly neat inner-gestalt of all Albarracíns, spare or otherwise. Earlier, I have been playfully calling Albarracín the book’s ‘epic-centre’ as a variant on ‘epicentre’ – so imagine my sheer astonishment, here, when it truly becomes an ‘epic’-centre for an epic film. This had happened because — being lost from or forgotten by the audit-trails of so-called ‘progress’ – it hadn’t become like all the world’s other towns and cities that are now made of some green plastic material!  The whole plot fell down for me however when the author gives one of his characters a ludicrous name like Beltan Braces!

I shall go out on a limb: I have read much Rhys Hughes fiction since the early 1990s and, despite most of it, if not all, being brilliant stuff, I genuinely believe this ‘Sangria’ book to be the best organically thought-provoking and mind-expanding whole.  Fabulous with brazen wit and sparkle: also implicitly gentle and meditative and self-traducing. Making clouds shine even if the world’s sun has gone. (17 Mar 12 – another hour later)


*now in bottles! (18 Mar 12)


Below is the banner header for my Real-Time Reviews site (here: http://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/) which has been shown there for some considerable while:

The real-time reviewer:


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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/


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)


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)


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)


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)




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The “TARSHISHIM” Box – Ron Weighell


Fragments. 1

Pertinent to this are persistent tales that the poet had access to something that facilitated communication with Angels and Demons, and that it was not opium.”

Fascinating essay on Coleridge – propounding theories about Kublai Khan and The Ancient Mariner in the light of ‘The Tears of The Gods’. Part of me is regretful that it did not read this Fragment before reading the book, another part of me is glad. (2 Jan 12 – an hour later)


“In the centre of one room was a pyramid, almost to the ceiling, of broken glass, crockery and mirrors.”

An intriguing story in two parts – the latter explaining the former by not explaining it, or not explaining it by explaining it. A cuppish woman of well-travelled tall-tales and, earlier, we were enabled to explore a wayside Palace or Villa with precariously tall ‘contraptions’ of glass (see that prism artwork I mentioned earlier).  A “grotesquery” of Dunsany and Swinburne, I guess, but much else, I cannot guess. For me, and perhaps me alone, shades of Richard Hakluyt. (2 Jan 12 – another 90 minutes later)

Fragments. 1975 (Notes for ‘The Secret Place’ – a story published in The White Road)

“…the statue was a perpetuation of existence…”

A tantalising treatment of Akhnaten (whom I only know from the opera by Philip Glass), and, inter alia, deformities, androgyny, chakras – and ‘trepanning’ that brings me back to the bursting greatness (in total seriousness and without exaggeration) of wisdom and learning in this relentlessly accreting Box that surely needs a ‘relief’ valve (even with – in less seriousness Whovian or otherwise – its Tarshidis qualities)… (2 Jan 12 – another 45 minutes later)

Notes for Novel of Thelemic Magick, The Tablet of Destiny. 1974

“The cusp between the Aeons is traditionally a time of unrest and anxiety,…”

This way-station, way-hell of a Box coming into my life is an effect if not the cause of one such cusp. Although I have long had a “belief in cosmic cycles“, it is by Jungian Synchronicity rather than by airy-fairy cause-and-effect.  I used to cast horoscopes in 1974 with correlative progressions and transits. But not now.  Although I sneak a look at my own planetary transits infrequently. Perhaps today. (2 Jan 12 – another 30 minutes later)

Fragments from the novel “Book of Thoth” [1980s]

Box within box within box within… (2 Jan 12 – another 15 minutes later)

The Box of Bronze

“Rumour said that even his treasured copy of the Iliad, annotated by his old teacher Aristotle was from that day no longer his greatest source of delight.”

Alexander who founded Alexandria without seeing it finished – becomes, in this tale, a sort of Captain Nemo in a glass submarine – with machinations concerning Deep Ones or such like – and boxes – one of Bronze, but, more significantly for me (as regular readers of this real-time review might understand) “a coral encrusted box”. (2 Jan 12 – another 30 minutes later)



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“TARSHISHIM – boxed limited edition” by Ron Weighell

tarshI was lucky enough to receive this for Christmas today – as a present from one of my close family. In due course, I shall append below a real-time review of this work of literature. (25 Dec 11)

A double-sided box – plush and sturdy: with red-mottled linings to die for. On spine of box: <<TARSHÍSHÍM by Ron Weíghell. Passport Levant.>> There is much design or artwork in the contents of this box (as well as the box itself) that I currently understand has been perpetrated by Santiago Caruso.  I shall broadly refer to these designs etc. (I hope) during my forthcoming real-time review to appear below on this page (please see list here for all my previous reviews and here specifically for my previous Ex Occidente Press reviews). At a preliminary glance, the contents are (i) tied up by a ribbon of indeterminate material, many sheets of fine-quality, loose-leaf, yellow sheets with pictures and text (the top sheet saying: “Summoning of Ancient Dust” – Journal Notes) — plus, separately, (ii) a landscape-format sturdy hardback book (‘The Tears of the Gods’ by Ron Weighell) with stiff black dust-jacket, red end-papers and red board-covers: and about 140 stiff-quality pages.  At the  end of this book: “…an edition of 107 copies, of which this is No. 80”. The ’80’ looks as if it is pencil but I dare not check with a rubber. (27 Dec 11)

To give some idea of the artwork, please see HERE (rather than myself, an inexpert artistic eye, commenting upon it, although I can safely say it is, for me, skilful and evocative and magical from what I’ve seen of it so far): although I have NOT discovered (as yet) a silk pouch with mandrake seeds or a celestial map or some “double-pages illustrations by Santiago Caruso, expressly done for The Tears of the Gods, printed on thick deluxe paper”!

Starting with ‘The Tears of the Gods’ book:

Consorting with Angels

“Who owns the region owns the religion. But is it not equally true that who rules the religion rules the region?”

Amid much mythic name-checking from various occult or arcane regions or religions, we learn of Holy Roman Emperors and a form of wondrous Star Chamber edifice on the outskirts of Prague – and, inter alios, Dee involved with the creation, by astrology or alchemy or sheer magic wordplay (as enhanced by the book’s private artwork), of an Angel Cage and the synergy, symbiosis, host/parasite relations of human and angel, and my own inferences of (mock?)-esoteric-language and Lovecraftian-feel of conspiracies surrounding it.  I am practised in astrological harmonics myself, but I’m not sure I believe in them – but, equally, I often wonder at the correlations produced. Also, personally, this is a real-time review so I am giving initial reactions: scratching the surface: and I can already tell it will require several readings to eke out its full “sweet syrup“.  Having said that, I already sense a power beyond the words, a pervasion of or by a ‘magic fiction’ (as I have defined it publicly in the past) that indeed often subsumes reality itself.  The apparent glitches, too, like “like – minded” rather than “like-minded”, and “Stone-Hinge on Salisbury Plain” and “supercellestial” feel deliberate… meaningful. (27 Dec 11 – two hours later)

A Sudden Sunshine

“Through an opening can be glimpsed a garden stunned to utter stillness by the summer heat. It is a vision of intricate knots, topiary and marble statues.”

A brief tarramadiddle that I may later fit into some hindsight context of this book – wondrous prose in itself, nevertheless, about an old man in dialogue with a Thames-side enarboured diadem demoiselle, ‘knots’, for me, being translated as ‘ligotti’ and Angelic kings as Angevins…  Polish : Polar. (27 Dec 11 – two hours later)

The Black Lake of Night

“Because it is within Man’s power to seek wisdom does not mean that it is within his power to find it.”

Ranging from Dvorakian-Rusalkan “water goblins” toward – what I sense to be – this book’s continual seeking of craftsmen in “minuterie” to assist – via a hindsight of erstwhile retrocausality – with Dee’s Angel Cage (here involving Tycho Brahe in a word-materialising Prague). Weighell’s prose style itself is part of that synergy of “minuterie” – as is, for me, the synergous prose style here: Allurements of Cabochon – by John Gale. Also a “demon tamer“, and images to die for or to be set in ‘bas relief’.  Hell and Heaven worked together by “intaglios” – but which the host, which the parasite?: I find myself asking for no reason.  There is incidentally a ‘hell’ in ‘weighell’. And nearly in ‘angel‘… (28 Dec 11)

The Summe and Substance of the Conference

That was undeniably unfortunate; an example of the Law of Unintended Consequences.”

A hilarious human-nature ‘racism’ fable, encompassing London fires or freeze-ups, blamed on Angels or those who encourage them? Well, not quite. But you’ll get the message when you read it: as you continue to delight in the book-sturdy prose with its hard gems as well syrupy lightnesses – and brotherships as well as magical powers in Limehouse, Wapping etc. And a reprise of ‘polar’ makes me think ‘Plague’ is a deliberate assonance with ‘Prague’! At least on frozen rivers, you can put a fair. (28 Dec 11 – another 2 hours later)

[Just realised that I have real-time reviewed Weighell fiction before – ‘The World Entire’ here. And then, when double-checking, that this was exactly two years ago today!] (28 Dec 11 – another hour later)

This real-time review now continues HERE.


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Alcyone – Colin Insole

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 ‘Alcyone’ by Colin Insole (Passport Levant MMXI). A book I purchased from Fantastic Literature.

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/

My previous review of a Colin Insole book: (23 Nov 10): Oblivion’s Poppy – by Colin Insole

Colin Insole has a story in The Horror Anthology of Horror Anthologies


Pages 7 – 13

“Do those figures depict the ghosts of our departed names?”

Three brief date-headed sections introducing a wistful turn-of-the-1980s-into-1990s (?) heritage-ritual of en-Durer of literariness and painterliness of a London haunted by a Prague heritage (?) and a word-converging of two destined strangers (?) via chance or or magic or syncronicity or mere authorial intention (?): hereby named unsteadily (?) Alice and Michael.

[dessicated –>desiccated. Tut Tut.] (15 Dec 11)

Pages 14 – 16

“And what follies do we bring from the west, wondered Alice, as they boarded their hotel taxi.”

A masterful evocation of Prague in 1990 as steeped in its own past, riparian or troop-train-riverine or otherwise, and nature / nurture – while, I guess, the honeymoon (?) couple enter their own dislocated-further-east ‘Death in Venice” (?) but don’t look now – it’s a couple not a solitary man and preludium is in control. I have no idea where this lexic river of fiction is going – let’s not pretend otherwise – but just let’s be proudly pretentious about such exquisite prose: Prague as a ‘genius loci’. It deserves being critically over-blown: it deserves its own coddling into existence as the physical pages turn. Good books need real pages. Stiff paper. Handleable emotions. Only indifferent books can make do with mere electronics, tempting a culture that in turn tempts piracy or plagiarism or deliberate torrenting towards vanishing waterfalls of forgetting ever having read what was ‘written’. (16 Dec 11)

Pages 16 – 26

“What are those buildings that rise like yellow fungi out of the gutters?”

I will not correct my own reading mistakes. Mistakes are the Reader’s art, the Reader’s privilege, and should stay ‘put’ to mark the reading-journey, especially a paying Reader like me – especially, too, with “a fiction of lies” which this fiction mentions and may or may not itself be, assuming any fiction has the ability not to lie or the effrontery to do so without upsetting any suspended disbeliefs or monetary regrets.  So let’s now describe the unmistakeable: i.e. this landscape-format book itself. Just over 90 pages of stiff quality paper, black endpapers, a heroically sturdy black fine-stitchy-board-cover with no writing upon it other than, in large print, on its front: WE ARE BETTER NOW WE ARE BETTER NOW: plus a black and white frontispiece of an art-deco-like (?) photograph (?) of a young sun(?)-bathing couple seated on a large geometrically shaped stone, their backs to us, staring out to sea; a startlingly stiff dust-jacket with a studious young profile outline-drawn on the front and the title / author’s name on the dust-jacket’s ‘spine’; and on the last page: “‘Alcyone’ was first published by Passport Levant in 2011 in an edition of 107 copies of which this is No. 25.” The ’25’ is handwritten in red ink. And the text of this section of pages has Prague and its buildings merging behind masks (like the words’ own masks themselves somewhat), references to a Tarot pack, mysteries blurring as the couple, Alice and Michael, show independence of each other in whatever each seeks in this novella, if not in the City itself. Acquaintanceships, names and learning-processes set up as the Reader squints between the lines. And a reference to starlings that for me contains a coincidence with the other book I’m simultaneously real-time reviewing here (the bird in its first story (a starling, too!) is astonishingly meaningful in resonance between the two books).  Thus, the Reader here is primed by preludium, if still feeling his or her own way. His or her own way, within the book, too. (16 Dec 11 – three hours later)

Pages 27 – 33

“Where his sword once flourished, peeped the head of a toothless fox, whose brush tickled the remains of his right ear.”

After much internal plot-searching (akin to heart-searching but not quite the same), Alice and Michael (hardly sweethearts!) only touch base at the end of this section – imbued with something that Prague hides and reveals simultaneously, i.e. as if strobing in and out of different existences: here with the flaying and flensing and mixing of animal and human, stone and flesh. Meanwhile, I have already drawn attention to the accretively synchronised real-time review here: and I just now read of a pomegranate being flensed etc. in the other book’s story ‘City in Flames’ and now a number of minutes later in ‘Alcyone’: “…the exposed flesh of pomegranates and the innards of beast and fowl…” And also girls unknotting Ligottian dolls cruelly and throwing them in the river in some form of scientific-religious summoning away of death so as “to carry summer into the city“.  Real Prague or an even realler visionary version of Prague as preludium sits on these pages by a form of literary osmosis, I suggest, and will be underpinned even further by matching it with whatever other book you are concurrently reading or have just read or about to read. That’s its magic. (16 Dec 11 – another hour later)

Or both books’ symbiosis of magic? (16 Dec 11) – another 30 minutes later)

Pages 33 – 44

These recent months of chaos and confusion have led to the rise of upstarts and parvenus – men who seek to profit from the relaxation of laws and controls.”

As above, so below. As then, so now. And so it will be forever or never. The inability of Reader to grapple simultaneously with plot and vision, stone and flesh, ancestor and descendant, man and woman (‘sweethearts’ at potential cross-purposes, even if any books-between have cross-references), the inability to thread an iconostasis across and over Prague’s statues, as filtered by tarot, bridge and house.  A river of dolls. Sometimes not understanding is understanding to the hilt.  And today is reflected in the stone-faced still of a prime minister caught on-pause thinking of his own aloneness without having prepared his face first.  Just a thought evoked by this densely textured, meaning-drained, meaning-full prose-sculpture. (16 dec 11 – another 3 hours later)

Pages 45 – 50

“Soon, you will recall him only in the sound of the rat’s feet scuttling in wainscots and under floorboards.”

A new day of reading – and, as if by further magic – the book’s Reader’s ‘dream’ is crystallising – and the Alice-Michael relationship and its concatenative hauntings by mineral, vegetable, animal and spiritual (four elements often blending), and by dreams (a fifth element?), heritages and speculative futures, all gradually becoming, for me, as handleable as the book is.  Goodness knows, if this were an Ebook, I can’t imagine how any reader would manage, even given strictly the same text to ‘read’. This is intensely a prose piece that is impossible to convey by review – so why am I doing so? Well, I feel compelled to do so – by forces both benign and malign (forces that may have nothing to do with the author or publisher, neither of whom I have met – and, in this connection, I confirm that I did visit Prague myself relatively briefly a few years ago as part of a holiday coach party from the UK). “And he remembered his father, humming the notes of a tune, barely recalled, like trying to summon the events of a distant dream.” (17 Dec 11)

Pages 50 – 58

“Here too, the ragged stones overlapped in a vertigo of entangled granite and shrub.”

Further plot- or quest-crystallisation by means, now, of Kingfisher and Alcyone herself (as well as Prague’s river, and the secrets within or below houses, upon bridges, among statues, images upon the surfaces of Tarot cards) continues, en-dures (en-Durer I wrote earlier somewhere above – this should have been en-Dürer)–> by my own use of desiccation, of extrapolation, of Venn diagrams, of scrying for meaning in animal and human and stone and vegetable as convergence-mapped by Dürer paintings (I infer) as well as the imputed motives of Alice and Michael and of those they meet in Prague (is it an accident that ‘Prague’ in English has a ‘vague’ (wave) partially embedded?)… (17 Dec 11 – two hours later)

Pages 58 – 71

“She dreamed of four girls, stood smiling on the banks of the Vltava. A tiny puppet bobbed on the water.”






Funeral Brethren, macabre chocolates, The Shadows’ Man of Mystery from my youth, scarecrow-clown, a man masquerading throughout the ages, I yearn for the calm suckling statuary above, placed there as antidote.  This book is getting to me.  Or am I getting to it?

“He feared the worst, expecting to see the remains of his wife.” (Cf: by a premonition or fearful memory deriving from the book in parallel real-time review). (17 Dec 11 – another hour later)

Pages 71 – 80

“23 April 1990.”

[St George’s Day, the day they once made me a pageant herald. Not 1990 though, but 1959.] This book – relatively compact and cosy in this vast heavy-duty tome of landscaped beauty – needs several readings to gain the honourable and valiant Reader’s money’s worth. And I can confirm you will not only need many re-readings of it, you will desire them, too. So please take this review as just one reader-creature’s initial scratching at its surface in preparation for finding its most vulnerable spot for its critical forensic lance. It is probably the most satisfyingly ‘difficult’ book I have ever read. It may be an ever-lasting Uccello depiction of a literary dragon in the shape of paper and board. Or a fox. Or kingfisher. Or something else that will cringe at my overkill. But of course, upon a mere second reading, I may find I have deceived myself as to any promise at all. Meanwhile, here, in this section of pages: The Dreamer — “The Room of Solitudes” —  Ancient sea creatures as one living organism — “Behind him, she could feel the shadows…”“a butcher paunching a rabbit.” — “the Prague Spring” — “Little tics and twitches” like jumping nerves in the text itself — “Shards of stone and metal in a rainbow arc” — the piecemeal revelation of each Tarot Card like the turning of each literally stiff page-card of this book… I’ve heard of books that are praised as page-turners, but this is something else! (17 Dec 11 – another 45 minutes later)

Pages 80 – 92

“There are perilous stones of illusions and secrets where a man may see reflected the terror of his own soul. But, also they may conceal great beauty,…”

Perhaps not so ‘difficult’ after all. The book draws to its close exquisitely with a retrocausal satisfaction that you have always understood it to the hilt.  But whether this was any protagonist’s version of ‘Death in Venice’, and, if so, who the Dirk Bogarde, who the Reader, you will need to read the book to discover. Don’t look now. Or should I have said earlier: Don’t look back. Don’t look directly into its sun – it may worse than blind you. Or it may fill you with something wonderful.  The Reader takes that risk.

For the remainder of your life you will vainly try to recapture the past you discarded.” Not quite like Proust. But like wondering why there was an extra empty seat in that holiday coach on its return journey. (17 Dec 11 – another 45 minutes later)

  ABOVE NOW CONCLUDED (finally some of my own living ‘statue spore’ below)


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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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