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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)


Filed under Uncategorized

‘The Exorcist’s Travelogue’ – by George Berguño

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

And it is of ‘The Exorcist’s Travelogue’ by George Berguño (Passport Levant MMXI). A book I purchased from the publisher.

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

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

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

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

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

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


The Son’s Crime

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

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

Flaubert’s Alexandrine

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

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

The Leviathan at Rifsker

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

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

A Chronicle of Repentance

“…, and disrobed me with invisible fingers.”

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

The Sad Eyes of the Lewis Chessmen

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

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

The Loneliness of the One-Night Lamia

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

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

The Farewell Letter

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

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



Filed under Uncategorized

The Bestiary of Communion – by Stephen J Clark

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

And it is of ‘The Bestiary of Communion’ by Stephen J. Clark (Passport Levant MMXI). A book I purchased from the publisher.

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

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

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

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

Landscape format, sewn hardcover with dust-jacket printed on heavy cardboard paper, cloth boards, gold folio, silk ribbon, end papers and full-color frontispiece (plus three further internal full-colour illustrations). There are 144 pages in total. The edition is limited to sixty copies of which this one is hand-numbered 20.

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




“…that particular night it took the shape of his pillow. No matter how he pummelled or kneaded its flesh it would not comply, it would not let him rest.”

You know, I feel an added frisson of claustrophobia and atmosphere reading such fiction in a  heavy-duty book (such as this) that I know will be owned by only 59 other people in the world. A secret written, a secret read. A secret told, a secret heard. A secret sparely shared. Here, (in 1960, in a city that has a Spui Square), a husband  – in a sort of retrocausal unrequited-love syndrome – seeks his missing wife in the way a famous detective may have done but, instead, heads (with his wife’s discovered diary in his hand) straight – via a sinister (spirtualist?) establishment and a meeting with a protagonist wielding more power over the story than perhaps Stephen J Clark himself wields – towards, I simply guess, a variety (as yet undetermined) of metafictional nightmare. (11 Jul 11)


“…a samizdat version, a rough manuscript by an author called Mikhail Bulgakov,…”

Amid “junkyard effigies” or dummies or scarecrows (as markers), with shuddering Ligottian reminiscence, our wifeless protagonist is involved in some really insidious dealings and cross-commissions, and a book [that I’m sure Ex Occidente Press / Passport Levant itself could have published retrocausally for these truly haunting scenes (judging by that publisher’s erstwhile “Peacock Escritoire” &c. &c.)] leading to one of the most poignant moments I’ve encountered in weird literature featuring the statue of an urchin boy (in the hindsight of what had been said of it earlier). (11 Jul 11 – two and half hours later)


“Be warned, he said, for when you speak the language of dreams others will distrust and shun you.”

This novella, I vouch, is a major work in weird literature.  It certainly does disturb and haunt in a very real way.  And if you felt the last section’s ending was poignant, the actual ending of the whole novella is even more so!  Almost unbearable.  But fulfilling for an oldening bookish man like me, in many ways — [Coupled with the intertextual horror of a book’s actual smothering grip of reality beyond its ‘book-ness’ that reminds me of many of the metafictional and non-metafictional stories in ‘The Horror Anthology of Horror Anthologies’ and, also, there is the stated context of a “small balcony“…]

“The words seemed to dance from the page into his mouth. He and the words became one.” (11 Jul 11 – another 90 minutes later)


I. “Its toy turrets, windows, balconies and roofs all contorted into perplexing angles,…”

A ‘pursued’ journey across the snow with wounded man – with deft hints of those in the party – towards a House [of Leaves??] wherein there is its own version of white-clad ‘snow’. An intriguing opening, absorbing a small band of readers, as if taking us into the house, too. (12 Jul 11) 

II. “…her face concealed by a mask and headdress that was a hybrid of peacock and owl…”

Exploring the isolated foundling house, amid grief about one of our number (and fresh-opened wine), and an oblique reference to a ‘Mr Schulz’ in our past, some of our group view paintings, one of which seems to be a vaguely retrocausal ‘mirror’ (my expression not the book’s, maybe not even the book’s concept at all). This writer certainly knows how to enthrall… (12 Jul 11 – seven hours later)

III & IV. “The artefacts seemed eager and restless they stirred in the shadows enticing her into making fresh correspondences, new memories from old,…”

Indeed, from two protagonal viewpoints, the foundling house either reflects our story already told or imposing a new story on us yet untold that we assume is an old story. There is some very fine prose of the weird literature school here, while the paintings themselves, their subject-matters etc, make their own correspondences. The house sits in my brain, almost. (12 Jul 11 – another 45 minutes later) 

V & VI. “This museum holds shadows of things that will be as well as shadows of things that once were.”

Intoxication by the house’s feral exterior interiorising – and by dint of vintage wine – and by urge of sensuality between man and woman – and by dint of pure literary intoxication – as I try to fathom the various forces of politics, land borders, wall trophies – and a didacticism or tradition of literature quite beyond me but now become part of me as something undidactic or untraditional, beyond me as well as within me.  Why has the word intoxication, I suddenly wonder, got ‘toxic’ built in?  Why slipper ‘slip’?  ‘Bruno’s Dream’. (12 Jul 11 – another 2 hours later)

VII & VIII. “There was another flash of light or skin through a break in the undergrowth,…”

This is rare or rarefied material that makes me think that real-time is not enough. I surely need to read this text again and again before committing ‘pen to paper’. Yet, I know I am riding this just once in a moment-of-now as if this is an inverse Proustian search for lost time, where lost time finds me rather than the other way about.   Doing a dervish dance through the corridors of Louvre paintings, with the frames and canvases coming off the walls into my my forcefield. Not sprinting, but spinning.  Except they’re the paintings I saw in St Petersburg last year, not those I saw in Paris in 1967.  The House of stiff Leaves thankfully embedded within hard board covers as a landscape of lost time rather than a portrait of now.  (12 Jul 11 – another hour later)

[Intermission: I have just learnt HERE that ‘The Horned Tongue’ is to be made available on-line. This is probably a good idea to obtain more readership for the author, but in many ways, for me, it’s the best of both worlds: because when I read it above (yesterday) I could genuinely say what I did say at that moment of now lost time and experience it then to the full accordingly! – (Meanwhile, I shall continue reading ‘The Lost Reaches’ another day.)] (12 Jul 11 – another 30 minutes later)

IX. “…the audience were the true source of the illusion.”

Forced to return tonight by the need to fulfil some renewed urge to read before going to bed – it is as if the foundling House has leaves of Vegetation towards a snowy Narnia – but here a filmic, painterly, weird, East European, self-contained, undidactic ambiance of fantasy not a Christian Allegory – a fantasy that reminds me of the day as a youth I always visited the cinema and they customarily had ‘continuous performances’, where the section of the film you watch after being shown to your seat by the usherette’s beaming torch is what you end watching just before you leave, say, from film’s midddle to middle, and you have had to work backwards to visualise the film in the correct order, by changing things, skipping motives, forgetting sadnesses, ditching happinesses, defragging politics and logic and history and desecration and holocaust … in some strange ritual of half-shafting screen-lit darkness, red embers and billowing cigarette smoke – and blindly snogging couples. (My erstwhile vision, not the book’s, but uncannily it is this book’s vision …later, perhaps. But tomorrow never has today’s vision.)  (12 Jul 11 – another 3 hours later)

X. “…it was crucial that they remained focussed on their knowledge of the borderland…”

This morning, back in the House proper, I seem to have woken from a remarkable dream (a dream mixed up with last night’s reading of this book – but was it the right book? Or is today’s the wrong one?) [Last night I had read but forgotten, it seems, by checking back today to the previous chapter: “…the audience had fallen asleep while watching the scene...”] Things today are no clearer to me, no less nightmarish (so, am I still dreaming that I have slept and awoken?), no less apolitical or undidactic, although I suspect the protagonists who have abandoned me in the House on this Borderland (couriers, debutantes, a bureaucrat etc) are highly political and didactic in their own terms of history, within their age, their reality. Many glass cases with curios in the darkness – some of which I burn to create a pattern or patterns with their residual power.  That I may not be there at all, but, instead, there is some  other ‘artist’ or ‘writer’ with a better (or at least better known) ‘reach’ than mine – or than yours (when or if you reach ‘The Lost Reaches’). (13 Jul 11)

XI & XII. “He dismissed the idea that he had been swallowed and slowly digested by the house.”

I submit myself further to this ‘insanely challenging’ reaching out toward the lost reaches of this quite amazing novella. ‘Self’ in jeopardy simply from reading another writer’s book?  Surely not. Guns, dogs, visions of giant birds, sprouting chandeliers, smashed balustrades, the destruction of fine art paintings, historical politics nobody has taught me, all to make me flounder further in this nightmare. [I do not intend ‘insanely challenging’ to be negative. Indeed, the very publisher of my recent first novel stated that novel to be ‘insanely challenging’ in a public blurb about it!] (13 Jul 11 – three hours later)

XIII & XIV. “Let us celebrate this last night. Tomorrow all this will be gone.”

All is as I wondered (even hoped) earlier, except please delete the word ‘almost’ from what I said yesterday and you will know to what I am referring if you re-read this review!  This novella I knew was rarefied stuff – and giant beetles may be only half of the story (as yet unmentioned!) – but it is so utterly rarefied and distilled from archetypes of nightmares nobody would wish to unearth, I feel unqualified (even fearful) to enhance or spoil it further. I shall read and review the third novella of this book in a few days’ time, assuming it will represent more such heady stuff that needs sipping rather than gorging upon.  “…black ink bubbling from their mouths.” —  “I remember all that is to come.” — “…stamped out under the heels of another history.” (13 Jul 11 – another 90 minutes later)


I. “What will happen to me once I’ve said  all I have to say? And what will become of you?”

I sense I shall become part of a reflected bar scene from (or still within) an Auguste Renoir painting. Or I shall ever be exploring textured pages from Romania for clues as to why or how I “had forgotten how to live”?  This tale reminds me – a smidgeon – of the story “The Chymical Wedding of Des Esseintes” by Brendan Connell, where the protagonist is also led away from a bar or cafe by a stranger (as I recall) through a mazy city towards – perhaps to more than one place: an archetype of fetching through war machinations (as here) or through absurdity: a wild goose chase or the ultimate quest of how to start living again or simply to die in peace without the need to keep returning (as I have to this book today)?  I am feeling my way. Indeed, as in the previous novella, feeling my way (with a definite frisson) towards a House… (A House and a Countess?) [And Nemec – a form of Nemo?] (15 Jul 11)

II. “Who will paint my portrait? Am I to be forgotten?”

This is 1939 in Prague, I’m told. But it seems like today, the House again imprisoned inside my head – and, despite a different or subterfugic voice, there seems no escaping it by erstwhile delay, perhaps not even by permanent delay (a definition of eternity?). And the book’s overall title ‘The Bestiary of Communion’ crystallises…. (15 Jul 11 – two hours later)

III. “‘Something must be lost. That is the way with pacts. Something must be given. Something must be sacrificed,’…”

Like Ex Occidente Press itself?  Beautiful books and their reading legacy but also their potential mis-synergy with life entailed in their logistics of production, delivery and receipt – and their reflected authorship-by-abstemious-numbers?  Returning to the story itself – I recall the aforementioned Connell story was a fetching toward a marriage – and here there are echoes of that with the Countess who appears as a painting or, rather, a potential drawing of her by the protagonist. Indeed, there are four pieces of striking artwork in this book by the author. Meanwhile, with some fictionalised relief, I think at least the reader has escaped the House (or vice versa) if not, upon eventual re-reading, the protagonist himself by remaining imprisoned by crystallisation of the prose (always there to be re-read and lived through again, on these heavy-duty pages, within this stolid, stoical, eternal book). (15 Jul 11 – another 45 minutes later)

IV & V. “Only the devout are allowed into the castle on the hill to pay tribute to a man on a high balcony.”

Perhaps the best of all possible both worlds, being allowed to regularly visit the House and the Countess, without feeling imprisoned. Tempered (good-tempered as well as bad-tempered) by a ‘worsening’ of the nightmares … and by what I understand of the real history of the place-and-time being revisited upon us (so that we can exorcise it by communion with it?). [Compare the other book I’m simultaneously reviewing by inadvertence of randomness: “There is something disconcerting about standing alone in a space that was built for a crowd.” – from ‘The Exorcist’s Travelogue’ by George Berguño.] (15 Jul 11 – another hour later)

VI & VII. “The prisoner seems to have no recollection of the previous night.”

During an extended, powerful rite-of-passage – from continuous-performance cinema (a Full House), and almost literally with his (my) Eyes Wide Shut, and led by a Magus (as from John ‘Nemo’ Fowles: Otakar or even the publisher of these books himself?) – we enter a recurring deja-vu of the Bestiary of Communion and the destruction, then creation of Art – here (again? or deja-vu?) creating a portrait in this landscape book of the female in an (idealised?) frame or the female in ourselves-as-men: and I would be grateful for a female reader of this book to give their own take on this.  But, perhaps no need, as we all are upon a spectrum of gender. Just as there is a spectrum of cruelty in any war or unkind act. The same spectrum of cruelty, too, in any period of peace or in any kind act. (15 Jul 11 – another 90 minutes later)

VIII & IX. “Mr Nemec, soon we will disappear together, further and further into this house.”

Having now read this book’s final recurring sections [and please, one day, cf: my recent novel’s separate sections Nemonymous Navigation  and Nemonymous Night] I merely need to say, “I rest my case”.  From the Book-as-Horror-or-House in the Bestiary’s first novella, we now have the House of Houses, the Horror of Horrors, i.e. the horror owned or published recurringly by the intrinsic archetype nightmare: the noumenon of nightmare that this book attempts to nail (yes, attempts and it remains to be seen whether it may have succeeded).  To know the worst, however, is also to know the best. An important book to read before you die. (15 Jul 11 – another hour later)



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Old Albert: An Epilogue – by Brian J Showers

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

And it is of ‘Old Albert – An Epilogue’ by Brian J Showers (Passport Levant MMXI). A book I purchased from the publisher.

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

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

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

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

Landscape format, sewn hardcover with dust-jacket printed on textured cardboard paper, cloth boards, gold folio, silk ribbon, end papers and full-colour frontispiece. There are 55 pages excluding exterior pages that bear, inter alia, ‘A Note to the Reader’ by Jim Rockhill, End Notes and Bibliography, all three of which (in accordance with my normal practice) I shall not read until I’ve reviewed the fiction work itself.

The edition is limited to sixty copies of which this one is hand-numbered 20.

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


I. Prologue

“…you just may be able to make out the shape of a tower.”

Surrounded by words in workmanlike description of the history / buildings of the Dublin (Rathmines Road) locality is a schoolyard rhyme that itself surrounds ‘Old Albert’.  I am surrounded, too, by memories – somehow – of Elizabeth Bowen’s book Bowen’s Court that is workmanlike to create a distantly felt poetry from its Irish location and in its perceived nostalgia, too.  If I am not too much mistaken. (9 Jul 11)

II. Ellis Grimwood of Larkhill

“…he shifted his focus from Passeriformes (perching birds) to Charadriiformes (seabirds, generally).”

As emerging from the tail-end of the Prologue’s ‘surroundings’, an enthralling account of the house Larkhill in the 1840s and the ornithologist who took it over, followed by a visit to him from Sheridan Le Fanu narrated  by the visitor himself – and mysterious ‘end’-papers of the chapter vis a vis the ornithologist and his changing bird-habits and his death (the  pages are very stiff). I’ve delightfully no idea where this is taking me. Whether the chapters are separate incidents to be told in this book of the said locality or to be tied into a gestalt, that I was planning to do in any event? It is serendipitous that I have already decided not concurrently to consult the ‘End’-Notes (that are really distant Foot-Notes) because I can relish this, without them, as part of the Synchronised Shards of Random Truth & Fiction – not as either discrete Fiction or discrete Fact.  This may be the wisest thing I do today. And I’ve been doing a lot of unwise things lately. At the end of this chapter, I suspect, is a slippage into meta-fiction, if you can call cardboard boxes of books meta-fiction at all…? (9 Jul 11 – ninety minutes later)

III: This Terrible, This Unnatural Crime

“…it was not uncommon for hearsay to smoulder in Dublin’s drinking establishments.”

And I’ve poured out a glass of wine to ensure this book becomes a drinking establishment – quite aptly, in the light of that quote, it turns out.   A henry-fielding-esque intruded-upon visit to an island a distance from the book’s central locality – and a marital tragedy – and a possible hearsay connection of the wife’s death with our ornithologist. Hearsay without careful investigation of the truth behind the fiction can be cruelly unjust to the innocent, it turns out. The possible moral of this chapter, if not of my review. Enjoying it immensely, whatever the case. (9 Jul 11 – another 2 hours later)

IV. An Exaltation of Skylarks

“Walker was known in Dublin and the surrounding country estates for locating and importing the world’s finest wines.”

…which seems apt in view of what I mentioned imbibing earlier!  He even has a wine shop in Aungier Street.  But, seriously, this is a great chapter of happiness, less happiness, then conflict, finally horror, between a married couple with shadows of Mrs Rochester and shades of Yellow Wallpaper – in the Larkhill House of this book’s erstwhile threaded-through yore – a social society built on the wine trade, then the perfect trilling like birds by the wife’s admired singing, the husband’s jealousy and, eventually, Larkhill House threatened by Lovecraftianisation. Marital bliss does not seem to thrive in this book … so far. As overshadowed by locality, locality, locality. (9 Jul 11 – another 3 hours  later)

V. Thin and Brittle Bones

“In 1837 Rathmines was described in Samuel Lewis’s Topographical Dictionary of Ireland as ‘a considerable village and suburb of Dublin…'”

For a village to be part of city is like a phenomenon I can’t quite define in literature.  Author and readership? Perhaps others will suggest ideas to me.  In any event we now have location, location, location (an English (Irish?) expression for the crux of a property sale) – as we follow Larkhill House through the late 19th century to the early twentieth, involving a school, a ‘sexy’ theosophical society, a school again – and a discovery, hidden in this text’s reported intertext, that resonates, for me, like indefinable foreboding Aickmanery and the book’s erstwhile birds and their female bird-warbler. Meanwhile, I also sense an overweening force – that henry-fielding-esque intruder who may be the author or who may not be the author but masquerading as him. (9 Jul 11 – another hour later)

VI. Come Like Shadows, So Depart

“The contents of these boxes…”

I am the reader village in the city of patterns evolving, shaping, dawning towards dusk – and, despite an important withdrawal of omniscience by the narrator/author (about the whereabouts of one of the protagonists) – a fact that makes me shudder about whom I’m dealing with here, in this last chapter – I think I know how to cope with the ending. Just.

A perfect ending, very well-written, encapsulating all that I was trying – sometimes with blind readerly instinct – to trace above…  but I dare not hide spoilers too easy to seek out.  Just that it is as difficult to tell a story in the language of silent words as it is….  but that would be telling, indeed.  That schoolyard rhyme now flown home to roost.

‘Wine.’ I obliged him and poured him a glass,…” (9 Jul 11 – another two and half hours later)

[I think that is the first time I’ve completed a whole real-time review of a book in one day.]

END OF REVIEW (no more, villagers).


Filed under Uncategorized

The ‘Star’ Ushak – by Louis Marvick

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

And it is of ‘The ‘Star’ Ushak’ by Louis Marvick (Ex Occidente Press MMX). A book I purchased from the publisher.

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

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

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

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


Chapter I: Ilona Golmassian

Did you notice the carpet?”

I am not an expert on whodunnits or detective fiction, but this novel starts brilliantly for me (and incredibly!) with a carpet.  A murder upon it, blood sucked out, an article previousy bought by the victim, strange paperwork connected with the article, investigations started with those who sold the article, and a romance in the offing?  Exotic and supernatural undercurrents and perhaps, to my naive eyes, Chandleresque, so far. The style is engagingly textured and I am involuntarily trapped, desirous to continue… (4 Jul 11)

Chapter II: Backstage at the Amphitryon 

“Was it possible that the carpet itself had somehow influenced us to ignore it?”

It has dawned on me that it is difficult to conduct  a real-time review of a (seeming) whodunnit novel, unsure as I am of the pitfalls of ‘spoiling’ it and inexperienced as I am in such plots’ mechanics. So I shall tread carefully.  Suffice to say, that this is plot is intensely fascinating. Particularly to one like me who has also fictionalised a carpet, i.e. in my only published novel. It is almost as if I am embroiled in the plot myself.  Indeed, there is a highly inscrutable I-narrator, involved up to the hilt in the plot’s action, who could well be me, for all I know. The characterisation of the investigators and of the people being investigated over the Professor’s murder, other than, of course, that I-narrator, is superbly conveyed, and draws the reader in. I’m not sure if it is Chandleresque, after all.  More Fu Man Chu?  I don’t know. Early days. But it is exotic and animistic, particulalrly about the carpet. And there is a theatrical scene towards the end of this chapter that is cinematic – with a glamour lady changing behind her dressing-room screen while talking to  the investigators. I’m loving this book, although, by rights, I shouldn’t be – based on my taste in fiction before reading this novel. (4 Jul 11 – another 4 hours later)

[The novelist’s photograph at the beginning of the book depicts a gentleman who looks like the exact blending of myself and my oldest friend whom I first met when we were both aged 11 in 1959 at Colchester Royal Grammar School.] (4 Jul 11 – another 10 minutes later)

Chapter III: I Do Not See Her Face

“The first would be that she had, as it were, two voices – one inside the other.”

I think I must wash my hands of some of what I’ve said already!  This is not a whodunnit, as such, but a what-is-it! Now, more a deeply startling treatment of social perspective in a restaurant, serious music appreciation through studious dialogue and images relating to what faces give off or not vis-a-vis ‘identity’, plus surreal/Magrittean perceptions that may be real, reminding me of Elizabeth Bowen fiction (and a story that was in the ‘Null Immortalis’ anthology: i.e.  ‘Violette Doranges’ by David V. Griffin) and much more. I think (yet again!) I’ve synchronously hit upon a very special book as part of my real-time reviewing regime. A where-doth-it-lead-me novel, rather than a what-I-first-thought. Given time, it may even turn its pages itself. (4 Jul 11 – another 2 hours later)

Chapter IV: The Gardens of Sargon

“We are merely playing with the facts of the case as we have them, to see how they might fit together.”

Eureka! This is Sherlock Holmes blended with ‘The Beetle’ by Richad Marsh!  Or is it? Is it the need to scry a  street-brawler’s encrypted shouting? There’s a lot of pleasant reading work afoot in this continuously fascinating enigma of a novel. (4 Jul 11 – another 3 hours later)

Chapter V: The Deserted Flat

“The stupid girl said she felt it shift beneath her feet.”

Investigation into the private diary (hinting of insidious doings) of the carpet’s previous owner – leads to a deserted flat with slanting light as if in a Vermeer painting – and a hidden cracked niche or loophole within Yellow Wallpaper or in Bergotte’s yellow patch on the Proustian wall … (all my meanderings, not the book’s) – or is that me here as reader, or me in the book?  Bear with me. This book does strange things. Meanwhile, behind the wall, something unutterably sad…? (4 Jul 11 – another 2 hours later)

Chapter VI: Encounter on the Embankment

Pages 68 – 74

“‘Seems to me you should make up a list of what you know and what you don’t know,’ she observed, when I had shared with her something of my perplexity in the Ushak case. ‘Mr Stout, God rest him, always said it helped to get things down on paper.'”

Indeed, and despite some accidents with time today, I’m still eager to get on with this book and fathom out the true nature of the carpet or rug and its connection with Marlowe’s Tamburlaine….  itemising options.

“At a way-station on his return from Agra hundreds of victims were put to death before him, their slaughtered bodies left to rot upon the rug…” (5 Jul 11 – 7 pm British Summer Time)

Pages 75 -87

“…how could I be sure that any of my thoughts were my own?”

This is certainly becoming – as I already suspected – a very high-class supernaturally-atmospheric detective-fiction novel of the old school, yet with an edge of mid to late 20th century European literature and other ever striking breaking-news of character (villain / hero), dream or vision, sexual jealousy, cinematic glamour / romance, synchronous confluxes of past and present eventualities etc. – and the imagined or real animism of objects.  The I-narrator is now full-fledged merely by my empathy with the things he says, describes and reports others saying  – and through what he imparts telepathically to me… (6 Jul 11)

Chapter VII: Timúr the Lame

“…this web of connections which we have been struggling to explain…”

Events reported and re-reported that seem to be forming a pattern – including a breaking news report, for me, straight out of Cern Zoo – keep this whole panoply of cohering events as a Bach partita but one constituted of tigers, tags, pieces, misunderstandings, ruggish rumours, scars … amid my Watsonish mistreads on a Holmes-ish carpet of intellect… and didn’t Tamburlaine keep his captives of war in cages (my question, not the book’s). (6 Jul 11 – four hours later)

Chapter VIII: Crime or Art?

“But an author whose characters were living human beings?”

…and whose readers are his characters, I wondered?  I confess I have not read the play – ‘Tamburlaine the Great’ by Christopher Marlowe. I know of it and feel I know what it’s like.  I was meant to study it once but it somehow slipped through my destiny and I studied something else instead.  Stylistics and Linguistics took over; words became living things, not characters.  But I know somehow that, throughout it all, it would subsist, over the years. Eventually for me to read this book, this chapter, tonight, this pivot of fiction, and Tamburlaine and the words that erected him on the page would begin to exercise their due influence – over forty years too late.  Another accident  with time?  Meanwhile, is it merely a coincidence that Marlowe and Marvick share Mar…? Apocalyptic Horrors hang on each word….(6 Jul 11 – another 2 hours later) 

Chapter IX: Margot Lavender

“Both portraits seemed perversely to thwart the purpose for which portraits are generally made, namely that of resembling their subjects and no one else.”

The opening and subsequently central carpet was one thing but now with characters as fluid forces, I feel a personal strong uncanny connection with this  novel via my own novel. Also, for me, Marvick’s novel seems to me to be a major crafted exhibition of the art of ‘Magic Fiction and Magic Reality within the Ominous Imagination’ as well as ‘The Synchronised Shards of Random Truth and Fiction’. Meanwhile, the plot increasingly concerns an arch-illusionist with the characters as extras in an ‘art happening’ who may turn out to be those who make extras of the main characters, if not spear-carriers!  Not forgetting the woven thrust of the Detective Fiction yarn itself and also without giving too much away as a plot-spoiler where the actual reviewer is a character in the plot itself. (7 Jul 11)

Chapter X: Discovery in the Reading Room

“I have felt that the fabric of the world around me was stretched very thin.”

Wasn’t Sherlock Holmes a dark force, I seem to recall. I’m not expert, but let that hang in the air in the light of this chapter. I wonder what his carpet was like in Baker Street?  I cannot say too much for fear of spoilers, but rest assured I am thoroughly admiring of this most absorbing plot whither I know not it goes….or where in its weave I shall end up. (7 Jul 11 – another 4 hours later)

Chapter XI: Emmerich Waldteufel

“We’ll find ‘im down by Wapping Old Stairs, I expect, this time o’ the evenin’.”

Wapping is involved with a major news item in the UK today. Also Wapping and Whitechapel were a stamping-ground of mine during the early seventies.  The book seems to have an involution for those who read it – as we also follow a protagonist tempted by the thought of beauty and glamour in the fair sex, and other concerns with the pattern of Literary Aesthetics that begins strait-carpet (as opposed to strait-jacket) the plot and counterplot, friend and counter-friend, of this atmospheric, sometimes reeking, story. (8 Jul 11)

Chapter XII: At The Hippodrome

“Notice how cleverly he dances on the line between truth and fiction.”

…and I don’t mean just the author, but the reader, too! The grand climax it seems – and wow! – without giving too much away – it’s a sort of Frankenstein ‘workshop of filthy creations’ vis a vis Aesthetics (Music, Literature, Theatre, Fine Art, ‘Carpetry’…) in a grand theatrical extravaganza full of light and dark serendipities of destiny, as characters continue their strobe of identity. And, unwittingly, I mentioned something earlier with regard to Tamburlaine that comes to within the fruition of bars here. [And the thematic cross-synchronicities with my own novel are staggering while the vast differences with it remain paramount. Just a symptom of this novel’s masterly involution of effect?] (8 Jul 11 – two hours later)

[Epilogue:“One grows tired of a narrator who unfailingly defers to other possibilities.” — “Is there not a deeper thrill to be had in meeting the glance of a woman one passes in the street and never sees again than in gazing for long minutes into one’s mistress’s eyes?” — “…’we’re Englishmen, remember. We prefer to pretend that there is no such thing as a “deep thrill”….'” — “That was necessary, I take it, to make the carpet grow. When we first saw it, the wool was plump, like tissue,…” — “…the old lady selling apples in Jermyn Street looked like Mrs Stout, and Mrs Stout like someone else.” — “…the reports that disappeared from the newspapers,…” — “Just leave the next page blank.”.  — “It sounds drearily Wagnerian, I know but I haven’t quite grown tired of it yet,…”]

“Let me begin by inviting you to consider what the words ‘text’ and ‘textile’ really mean.” END (8 Jul 11 – another 3 hours later)


Filed under Uncategorized

Allurements of Cabochon – by John Gale

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

And it is of ‘Allurements of Cabochon’ by John Gale (Passport Levant MMXI). A book I purchased from the publisher.

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

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

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

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


Publisher’s on-line details about the book: “sewn hardcover with dust-jacket printed on deluxe heavy paper, cloth boards, gold and silver folio, silk ribbon, end papers and full-color frontispiece.”

It is landscape format, a heavy-duty page paper, dust-wrapper and board covers, highly aesthetic to my taste, 220 pages. Restricted to 60 copies, mine being hand-numbered 20 (nicely coincidental with the same handwritten number in my similar edition of Charles Schneider’s ‘The Mauve Embellishments’).

The Unpassing Sorrow of Lady Winter

“And I have watched her, Lady Winter, climb to the summit of a needle tower, the balustrade as delicate, as intricate as white lace…”

A fraternal survey of season’s circles – when grappling with Winter’s feminine entrapments – via an antique “pearlescent” prose seriously to die for … blending – unsubstantiatably from my own resources – wafts of Swinburne, a poetic Lovecraft, Dunsany, MP Shiel, Beddoes, blending them with a unique Wintry Gale. [On a completely personal note, the ‘balustrade’ reminds me of both Salustrade and my own last balcony.  Also the Crimson King on his Dark Tower balcony.] (1 Jul 11)

The House of Silent Ravens

“…worm-burrowed balconies of rosewood that are upheld upon the strong, carven shoulders of marmoreal satyrs.”

Please add Poe to that earlier list – and Clark Ashton Smith. I’m trying to home in on the essential Gale and both its visible and invisible currents … but I keep returning to some prose essence richer than I have ever experienced before and I have yet to decide whether too rich, seriously overdosing as I am on gorgeousness and corruption – and on words stranger than arcane neologisms, yet a strangeness retaining itself and an antique reality of actual dusted-off words with some form of dust still clinging.  No, not overdosing, simply pigging myself, to the lexic limits, upon guilty air-/ earth-borne mind-and body-felt literary pleasure.  This substantial story is involved with Gothic love and jealousy and a were-Raven … birdflesh in unholy hawly alliance with humanflesh.  Plus feline reincarnation.  And the ‘Synchronised Shards of Random Truth & Fiction’: “A  reconstructed reality: events that were shattered and their fragments pulled back together again to form a fallacy of horrible fantasy.” (1 Jul 11 – two hours later)


“The being, the thing so thin and pale, hueless as bloodless bone, reached Lord Kandar and he felt it like a cold wind resting on him.”

I’m still overdosing on synaesthetic antique prose, yet I feel this story is symbolic of inscrutable Ex Occidente Press. A slithy tove / an irresistible sexy androgyne – teasing me….. Indeed, without Dan’s many books in recent months, my life would have seemed impoverished, yet, equally, I feel the drawbacks (perceived or reported) have also given me needed perspective and a new backbone within my literary soul.  This particular story encapsulates all that — (whenever it was written – and I am not reading the story notes that I’ve already spotted at the end of the book until I’ve reviewed all the stories themselves).  It is as if retrocausality works boths ways, like the most efficient filters. Meantime, this particular story is a CASian gem. (1 Jul 11 – another 3 hours later)

A Rhapsody for the Goddess of Autumn

“And yes, I have tasted the rosehip wine of them, the blackberry syrup of them, those lips of soft rose petals, for I am the Princess of Autumn.”

A prose poem in the guise of a fictional performance, a refrain or incantation that, for me, is a vessel for the continuing synaesthetic glut of words turned into sapphic kisses via a threnody by Rutland Boughton accompanying words by Fiona Macleod. (1 Jul 11 – another 3 hours later)

In Autumn Sempiternal – A Triptych

“…gusting winter breezes driving along herds of sere autumn leaves still dreaming of their late fires of amber and gold, porphyry and orpiment,…”

This is an exquisite (I’m running out of words to describe the utter antique richness of this book’s prose), yes, an exquisite theme and variations on a triptych that I imagine having been painted by a painter-equivalent of Théophile Gautier – variations extrapolating upon the ‘story’ before, behind and beyond: touching on seasons, decay, death, sensuality, forbiddenness, precious or over-indulgent stones, cushions and desiccations, perfumes and dreams – for me, an atrophy and trophy of decadence alike…  [I was told, on the grapevine, to sip these stories slowly.  But if I have time to do so amid domestic matters, I do not intend equally to let time waste in case I die before finishing the book. In any case, I enjoy over-dosing on such prose as its plush layers carpet each other in the slowly forgetting mind of age.] (2 Jul 11)

Phulygia’s Song of Ebony

But now this prose poem majors upon telling me to “wait and dream“!  Too late, I have already embarked on this … (the word I’ve been searching for) … rapture. Ensorcelled rapture, perhaps.  And this rapturous song relays, inter alia, “…misty dawns of madreperl rich with the flautists of jewel-feathered birds.”  (2 Jul 11 – two hours later)

The Final Ward (with Margaret Russell)

“…hangings of white silk moved by soft-handed breezes.”

Judging by the seeming dual by-line above, the Gale has been soft-handed by the Breeze. But, no, this is the most frightening story so far, where the woman – seeking sorcerous tuition from the Lord Kandra in his fundamented halls – fails in her mission and is genied or geased within a vessel for seeming eternities … with anger growing as only a woman’s anger can grow. (By the way, I will not continue to mention the rapturous prose as it seems to weave through all the book’s plots and themes and poeticks like a loom of dark light. But, here, we have the epithet: “phantom-rich” – that both startles and unsettles and I don’t know why. Oh so wrong. Yet oh so right.) (2 Jul 11 – another 90 minutes later)

Fallen are the Domes of Green Amber

“…he came to the encircling balustrade at the tower’s apex.”

This story’s title seems to be a haunting refrain to remind us of unrequited love – nay, unrequited life – for evermore. But, then, a “sudden soft breeze” intervenes and we realise this story’s quincunx of movements is an exact companion piece for the previous story with retrocausality defeating itself via the easing of a two-way filter rather than by more stringent parthenogenetic mis-synergy – and, here, the genied or geased vessel is the loved woman’s own head!  A tale of “sweet anguish“. Regret and rumour.  Again I should not need to mention the attractive glut of antiqologisms within the resplendent prose – but here I was rattled by commoner words: “the caressing fingernails of ghosts”. (2 Jul 11 – another hour later)

The Moon of Obsession

“His imagination soared on wide pinions of fire, his soul flamed,…”

Not that it is appropriate to have favourite movements in this overall symphony of sublime decadent literature (sublime in the sense of awe-inspiring rather than the more modern term used by cinema-goers when they see a film that they liked) – and, indeed, this short piece probably benefits from the complex audit trail hencefar – so I won’t call it my favourite (however temporary), but, rather, a precious, susceptible-to-the-five-senses ambivalence of a (partially sensual) yearning for an impossible antiquity made actually possible by steeping oneself to an utterly extreme degree in that antiquity by means of a deep and textured fiction-prose, a yearning symbolised here by a desire to kiss the moon, underpinned or enclosed by fearful, fanciful, fantastical, often morbid, yet paradoxically truth-contextualising, vessels of entrapment in contiguity with the book’s soul. The art of fiction in extremis. The ominous imagination in positive overdrive. (2 Jul 11 – another 2 hours later)

Ashes of the Phoenix

“He groaned as the wind violently whipped the ancient stone of the castle.  The groan was repeated, and the castle seemed to bend, twist fluidly before the assault of the moaning wind and the hyaline rain.”

That quote seems to encapsulate the book so far.  Mineral – a word I inserted in the previous section of this review before I deleted it upon publication of that section – as the precious construction of reality by stones, precious or otherwise, the moon, the perfumes, oils, the chrysoberyls et al that make our world of soul with substance and vice versa, just by being words (and words have ink in antiquity) – and now the Phoenix turning to the mineral of ashes. This book itself – its board covers – have you seen them, they beggar belief! – and the dust-wrapper, chequered in textured black – all impervious to fire by the look of them. Impervious to Death itself. Impervious even to our Planet’s Fate. (2 Jul 11 – another 2 hours later)

I have only just started the next story in the book – it’s quite a long one so I may not finish it before going to bed – but, leading on from the previous story, I can’t resist referring you to this quote I made  a few years ago from ‘Martin Pippin in the Apple Orchard’ – HERE. (2 Jul 11 – another 45 minutes later)

Betrothed of Winter

I could not leave today until finishing this story.  It is worth buying the book if simply for this alone. A culmination, too, of everything that has gone before – telling of the return of a youthful haunting to the mature churchly man, the return as if from a feminine genie out of Winter’s frozen ‘vessel’ of snow and ice (prefigured in the very first story and elsewhere)  – then leading to the last six words of the story — “spoiler quote” (click this when you’ve finished the story) — that naturally lead from what precedes this story more immediately.  [It is the beginning of July as I write this review, (i.e still the long evenings of the year) and I have sat in the still sun-filled garden while I finished the story, feeling my brain actually bloom and burn in my skull at the high-gearing needed to absorb and appreciate this momentous story.  An experience similar to when I first read ‘Martin Pippin in the Apple Orchard’ all those years ago – and that’s a major compliment to this book but it is a book that needs my now maturer self to cope with, i.e. just before I start fading back to a second childhood on the brink of this Autumn of my days!  [This book with its own iconostasis  coming down like  a safety-curtain within Ombria’s church … till I pick this book up again, hopefully tomorrow].] (2 Jul 11 – another 2 hours later)

The Votaries of Autumn – A Portrait in Bronze and Vermilion

“…adyta of malachite that are filled with the friable debris of the ages and dusts that were laid down uncounted centuries ago,…”

Aptly, after my ‘Autumnal’ thoughts last night, this piece reveals itself as an ominously, yet inspirationally, theatrical prose-paean in Wagnerian-Parsifal-yet-more-feminine mode to the  Goddess of Autumn. [I feel cumulatively attuned – even affixed – to this book as if it is, even now, sinking its roots, from above, into the tangled branches of my brain amid the promise (or threat) of “gales that violently play the high limbs of the trees together like darkened old bone“.] (3 Jul 11)

Lord of the Porphyry Nenuphar – A Nocturne

This is no mere Chopin Nocturne, unless Chopin… Well, let’s not go there. Meanwhile, I sense that the book’s prose is becoming  even richer, if that were possible, as if I have needed to be tutored with the refrain or incantation of rare and beautiful antiqologisms time and time again – thus tutored by earlier stories to reach and properly experience this milestone of a story, one that is so utterly ominous, blushing with sexual ambivalence and jackdaw-retributional, amid “death-fragranced gardens“, near the Dark Tower type edifice that inspired Wagner, Browning, Orson Welles, Stephen King,  Mark Samuels, where – as in “Betrothed of Winter” – a curse or previous haunting  returns to the protagonist (here a Prince)…and the implications for us are diverted for a while by the sound of the “winds of autumn to blow over flotillas of amber,  cerise and aureate leaves and to send them scurrying and whispering strange and curious things along the elongated streets.” but only if you return to the beginning of the story to re-live it, something I shall resist. If I can. (3 Jul 11 – another 90 minutes later)

Aevernia, My Lady of Reflections

“This haunted mansion whose towers ascend into infinities of ancient twilights and cold oceans of sunfalls.”

The Galean refrains and incantations continue to grow like incessant music, not minimal music like Glass, but maximal music but still just as relentlessly repetitive (in a good way) and coming in waves upon waves of itself – becoming madder, or is it me merely becoming madder because of them, while they remain as sane as ever?  This is a dark paean to unrequited love.  Unutterably rich with words.  My journey with this physically impervious book – judging by the number of stiff pages remaining in it – is drawing to its conclusion with me eventually at my maddest point, I predict … if I can still predict for much longer! (3 Jul 11 – another 2 hours later)

Fires of Remembrance

“…all, even the slaves, wore silks,  furs, and jewels.” 

Even this book’s conjunctions, prepositions and pronouns.  Meanwhile, Lord Kandra again – a symbol for the author? obsessed with wandering realms of Decadence in search of Death where Death surely must lurk? – perhaps, but the seasoned literary theory of the Intentional Fallacy intervenes, of course.  I am clearer, however, that he is a symbol for the Reader who is caught in the web of this book, as I am.  And so will you be, if you’re not already.  The book itself is the geased and genied vessel, not the supposed vessels heretofore? (3 Jul 11 – another 45 minutes later)

Reverie at Twilight (From The Garden of Dreams by Peter Madley)

“…he instinctively knew that what he had lost would be found here;…”

This book is a pure Heaven of Literature, threaded with oxymoron emotions.  This story seems a relief somewhat that we are not truly trapped.  It is a masterpiece of release by close affinitisation.  The protagonist, I guess, finds Machen’s ‘Fragment of Life’. I, myself, find or re-find Elizabeth Bowen’s ‘Mysterious Kôr’ and Eleanor Farjeon’s ‘Martin Pippin in the Apple Orchard’. We shall all find what we individually seek in this story, as adumbrated (and this is the crucial bit) by the foregoing context within this book.  Meanwhile, the incantations or refrains persist, even throughout this ‘release’! (3 Jul 11 – another hour later.)

The Green Lady Pavilion

“…allured him with its emerald spell, for spell it turned out to be.”

Allured me too with its glinting polish set in gorgeous vintage intaglio.  Meanwhile, this is the crowning release from the book – the book’s coda – a charming, slightly self-mocking, traditional weird or ghost tale of a cricket pavilion – an English pastoral music upon banks of green willow – with moments of the Land of Faery at the edge of reality (there threaded with this book’s delightful dark-and-light-rapture plus those hallmark antiqologisms for the madreperl-count) – and a cloven-hoofed woman  both enticing and repelling by dint of her needs.  This book may have mixed feelings for an underlying eroticism but often drowned out by the resplendency of Death and its accoutrements.  I needed to pig myself on this book. It was a sort of a ‘dare’ to myself. I nearly didn’t survive. I also needed to drench myself in its music, finish it before I died. I’ve never had that degree of urgency before with any book. Either I feel I’m getting older and more vulnerable to sudden discoveries of the treasure that Death may bring with it – and this book was simply an advance part of that treasure — or the book itself had this inescapable urgency built into it.  Whatever the case, it has been a significant read, even given the burning in my brain.

“…like a well-aged and dusted bottle of wine: it needs to be savoured lingeringly.”

I shall now read the Story Notes for the first time but as I never review non-fiction, I will not be back here again to tell you what I thought about them. END (3 Jul 11 – another hour later)


Filed under Uncategorized

The Mauve Embellishments – by Charles Schneider

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

And it is of ‘The Mauve Embellishments’ by Charles Schneider (Passport Levant MMXI).  A book I purchased from the publisher.

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

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

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

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


This is an exquisite landscape-configured artifact of the highest treebook standards of yore – complete with a beautiful dream-haunting illustration in colour for each of the many items or stories, as my quick breeze through its leaves has so far attested.

Bascade Bay – A Grotesque Confessional  Tale involving The Muslin Nonedscript by “Q”

“… paper machè clown-head.”

 I have been warned on the grapevine to sip these stories with the slow-savoured meticulousness that they deserve. And, indeed, whether by dint of my earlier waiting-room reading circumstances or through an intention within me that ignores such circumstances, I have only read the first story so far and then lived to  dwell on its discreteness – and it is one that prevails gem-like in the mind (helped by its illustration) regarding  a theatrical revenge and human-outsized puppetry that led me later to the sea near my home in hope of rescuing the plot’s worthy victim just to spite the happy-ending narrator! (22 Jun 11)

Osmiae Occularum: Field Notes

This story as brief journal notes makes me think that each artwork and item of text are mutually organic: and this particular symbiosis proves the meticulous care required to scry insect-scrobble for monstrousness as well as beauty: i.e. to establish the sip of reading … causing  the sentence – “It took me half a century to understand what he meant.” – to become retrocausal. (23 Jun 11)

In Situ

“The Bookbinder-Taxidermist sets about preserving your  face. Your head.”

I am sort of speechless at this incredible prose poem. It’s so personal to me, synchronous, serendipitous….  Vis-a-vis the multi-authored book I’m about to publish next month (the HA of HA) and its already decided-upon cover image of a human head of print emerging from a book!! And vis-a-vis ‘The Last Balcony’: “the finishing of your ultimate artistic statement”. I simply can’t write a neutral review of ‘In Situ’ and its bespoke artwork. (23 Jun 11 – four hours later)

Hybrid Revel

“Heard whispers of the growling Garbrilathes.”

A line from this poem that will at least give Google its first Garbrilathe meat of meaning to chew on.  A Poem and its Picture – a hybrid Uccello. (23 Jun 11 – another 2 hours later)

The Map

“You sure he said it was here? All I see is a buncha spooky paintings,”

Another piece that much touches me personally, spookily as if intended to do so.  In my novel – just published – there is a special ‘hawling’ within a mine: I see this as hawling that mine in the same sense. And mines are called that for good reason, i.e. a mine that is ‘mine’.  Conrad’s chance physiognomy of the human mind as both a map and (actual) painting  – a mind that is also mine: all up front as well as deeply to be mined. (24 Jun 11)

Grey Man’s Journal

“He had the most beautiful shadow I have ever seen, walking gracefully beside him.”

Not the grey man’s shadow but what the grey man wrote he saw and yearned to inveigle or exchange… [You know, seriously, I cannot really do justice to this  book’s  prose symbiosis with each of its pictorial shadows and/or each picture with each of its textual shadows. You must see for yourself.] (24 Jun 11 – three hours later)

Croppingham Fair (an old ballad)

“…the wreaths, the weeds…”

This short poem (if new, should be old) – one that I feel like learning by heart for recitation purposes – has, for me at least, a supernatural dalliance with ‘going to St Ives’. (25 Jun 11)

The Brood Pouches of Theron de Casse

“Words resembling winged segmented things…”

A difficult claim to make, but this is the best symbiosis so far. With due modesty, it reminds me of my own attempts during the 1990s (around 1,500 of them printed in that decade in obscure and less obscure publications) to create ‘magic fiction’ as opposed to ‘magic realism’.  But none as successful as this.  The parthenogenetic-sea-horse ending is so incredible, you must read it. Pity there are only sixty copies of this book, I believe. Mine is hand-numbered 20. (25 Jun 11 – another 2 hours later)

The Temple in Ruins

“There are stones within stones…”

Yes, only sixty copies and plenty of white space to protect the multifarious artwork items. A chunky aesthetic book to cherish and, depending on your purse, to treasure. This is a very short prose piece, with its own white space built in.  It is again an attempt at magic-fixing (fictioning) the soul as body, and the body as soul, its own symbiosis with itself and – at the end – a startling John-Donnean metaphysicality of a ‘conceit’. It would spoil it to tell you what it is. But it does jump out at you rather than creep up.  (25 Jun 11 – another 45 minutes later)

The Starving Spectre

“…watching the pallid wisp descend deep into the throat of these brittle woods.”

An effective ghost-story vignette using this book’s hallmark dense textured prose, but a prose loose-limbed enough for relative ease of accessibility.  Again reminded of the ‘going to St Ives’ conundrum… (26 Jun 11)

Shadow Barge of the Khalifehs: A 19th century translation of An Eastern Fragment by Anonymous

“…a mad poet’s hell.”

Three fragments, in fact, where a named reviewer is absorbed by the anonymity and parthenogenicity of a sea-horse prow tussling with Ghouls and an “amethyst-caked leviathon“.  I am the first to admit one would probably need to drown in the words of this story before fully understanding it, but having drowned, one wonders if that would serve me any purpose. Not knowing is sometimes half the battle won at least. And I just stare gurgling at the story’s blotchy painting. [By the way, the previous story (‘The Starving Spectre’) wields a painting that alone makes the book worth owning.] (26 Jun 11 – three hours later)


I am quoting the first short sentence of this prose poem, but hiding it at one remove here in case it is a spoiler.  I quote it as it seems central to my review so far. And if a parthenogenetic birth is possible on a bigger scale of creature, then I imagine the process would involve at least some form of “Caesarean pact”.  [The painting here is both vulpine and Lovecraftian, to my eye.] (26 Jun 11 – another 2 hours later)

The Stereograph

“Yes. He had heard a fragment of a rumour many years ago at a slide collectors convention in Blackpool.”

Blackpool, or Menton? Seriously, I’m sure I’ve now reached a genuine Weird fiction classic, as if I’ve been led craftily towards this story by the previous ones so the shock is processed to the fullest.  The obsession of collecting, to the point of not even sharing the primest item in the collection with oneself!  Collecting and death in symbiosis.  The secret of parthenogenesis reached but only for those of us who can ‘gestalt’ the twin paintings or illustrative leitmotifs affixed-within-white-space to this text.  A rorschach of extreme identical opposites.  Clark Ashton Smith eat your heart out. (27 Jun 11)

The March of the Greater Abominations

“A vast natural bridge was found, graven by the God of Frail Winds.”

Well, I didn’t think it could get any better. I assumed I could now travel downhill with my memories being safely packaged by the remaining stories. But no, I need to cross that bridge (via the provided painting) into the most dense and effective weird description of even weirder fabrictions brought to life beyond their own description: a meal you can only experience once: a meal with if not of Centipaux: sustenance for future travel within this book? (27 Jun 11 – two hours later)

Poe’s Inkwell

by Jeremy Lassen, 1987

I’m not sure what to think of this tale of a “kleptomaniac” or “petty criminal” who used Poe’s Inkwell from the Poe museum to try enhance his own weird writing. Perhaps the tale itself is petty, too?  The ink itself turns watery, in an attempt at distillation. I imagine Poe’s ink was mauve? I wonder if retrocausality will eventually give me a clue as to the contribution to this book’s gestalt of this story. The story’s painting (or atmospherically blurred photo) depicts a striking trilby (?) hatted face staring out at me with startling or startled eyes from between facial shadows – making me feel decidedly uncomfortable now that night is coming on. (27 Jun 11- another 5 hours later)

Night Visitation

A short rhyming poem about a sanity-threatening item of femality – one that I can imagine Poe writing in an off moment.  The painting pointedly depicts the creature’s pouting or tongue-poking head and “elastic tail“. (27 Jun 11 – another 15 minutes later)

Slith Gibbelin

Unwritable here, unreadable there / Unthinkable anywhere

An excellent extended Nursery Rhyme. If I’d been exposed to this (with its picture) as a child – whispered into my ear by my own dear mother – I wouldn’t be here today to read it, I’m sure. [The title is as I have it above, while in the textual refrain it ‘s “Slith Gibbilin”.] (28 Jun 11)

The Tuurngait: An Invocation

“…destructive and monstrous forces, hoping to leech upon a living form…”

Like picture with text, wolf and demon grapple with each other as well as with feral, fetid existence.  I intuit this is a sort of inverse parthenogenesis… Wow! (28 Jun 11 – three hours later).

Aside: like any special ink and the writer who uses it? (2 minutes later)

La Society Lumineuse du Masque Noir

“His hours consisted of mail-ordering, and then receiving, very expensive books detailing esoteric subjects…”

I shall need to sip this story again but, intially, I get the feeling that if I formed a group with the other 59 owners of this book – ‘The Mauve Embellishments’ by Charles Schneider – together with Mr Schneider himself and young Dan Ghetu and, perhaps, inscrutable collaborator, Jeremy Lassen – we’d be a uniquely artistic driving-force with which to reckon, i.e. in the sense of easing Caesarean birth to things that must exist but cannot. [You can see some of us depicted – in bandit (or, more tellingly, ‘lone ranger’) masks – by this story’s picture.]

“I hate being compared to people similar to myself.” (28 Jun 11 – another 2 hours later)

Night Shackles

“A span of wounded moons cruelly unfurled,”

… is one line from this short poem that I feel should be sung like Parry’s rendition of Blake’s Jerusalem – and, suddenly, completely unpremeditated, the crowd in the Elias Canetti painting lurched forward, in unison, and sang of Bosch and Grosz instead. (28 Jun 11 – another hour later)

The Street of the Waking Dream

“It has been said that if we do not dream, we will die.”

An exquisite piece that deals with dreams in evocatively redolent prose – reminding me (immodestly?) of some of the themes of my recently published novel (the only novel of mine to have been published so you can’t mistake it). The only difference is there we vary upon a theme of ‘dream sickness’ – here, in Schneider, the oppposite. But ending, in my 1/60th share of the reader’s mind, with a symbiosis – enhanced by the painting’s Escher, Wyndham Lewis, vorticism of Lovecraftian bending of dreams … or did I mean blending?  (28 Jun 11 – another hour later)

The Tricycle Rider

“His desire to protect the Things of Long Ago…”

A charming, truly haunting vignette of the world of childhood toys in retrocausal nostalgia – in face of our modernity today staring (like the image attached to ‘Poe’s Inkwell’ ) at the inside of the secret room where the toys are housed, as guarded by the Otto Dix-esque tricycle performer with his nurturing of the parthenogenetic past.  Claustrophobia is even welcome in such circumstances.  The art of this work to convey. (29 Jun 11)

The Mauve Embellishments – as lasst sich nicht lessen

“The Dreaded Bookmen have come! They have brought boxes with them, which they anticipate filling with your books.”

Which is very telling with treebooks vanishing into eeeeeebooks…  This is a substantial masterpiece of arcane book-collecting and – the ultimate parthenogenesis of this very book: i.e. itself. It seems the inevitable culmination. I sense the mauve ink flowing like blood round my body. A meticulous examination of dusty aesoterica as well as of love!  I too have a first edition of ‘The King in Yellow’. This new colour – in the context – gives me the willies.  And I now begin to dwell further on the various symbioses of text and picture through which I’ve travelled above.  Sin-ergies.  Gas salt. Litemauveteeth. Book as Ha of Ha. Self as enemy, and friend. Parfait.

PS: Some images of the book here:http://www.ligotti.net/showpost.php?p=65875&postcount=926  i.e. 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th and 9th images (running horizontally). END: (29 Jun 11 – two hours later)



Filed under Uncategorized

Amerika – by Karim Ghahwagi

‘Amerika’ by Karim Ghahwagi (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/ 

AMERIKA is a beautiful sewn hardcover book of 64 pages with stiff red dust-jacket bearing an outline of a cat, silk ribbon, endpapers and a full-colour frontispiece by Armand Henrion (Self Portrait, Clown with Monocle). The edition limited to 100 hand numbered copies. My copy is numbered 50 and possesses exceptionally aesthetic yet heavy-duty page paper. The red board covers beneath the dust jacket bear the word ‘Meow!’ on the front, and nothing else anywhere.

Pages 9 – 38

“You cannot write a sequel of The Master and Margarita! You were supposed to write a travel book about Malta!”

Two parallel scenes in an effective Absurdist mode, with some character names as names of countries leading to a Bulgakovian*-Swiftian tendency towards the Land of Lacuna (my words, not the book’s) – concerning much that is obstreperous as well as geographically laconic.  I can imagine it, so far, as a stage play where I’m watching from the wings rather than the auditorium.  (*I am cheating there a bit as the quote at the start of the book is from Bulgakov). (8 Mar 11)

[The scenes take place in Copenhagen, and the photograph at the head of my overall Real-Time Reviews website was taken by me there.] (8 Mar 11 – two hours later)

Pages 38 – 63

Obstreperous, maybe, but in this section, “this is preposterous!”

,,,”A cartography of bewilderment”.

For me, this ends on a very personal note, and those in the know will know why (and this, rest assured, is not a spoiler for ‘Amerika’, and indeed nothing can spoil it): “How can there be a room there? It appears to be suspended beyond the outer wall of the building.”

There are anthropomorphic matters, also, that remind me of incidents in the Cern Zoo.

Above all, it is something you will either love or hate. I loved it. Its satiric-absurdism is spot on. I dare not tell you more about it, because then I would be creating spoilers. Especially about the cat. And a door like a door from King’s ‘The Dark Tower’ (something I’m coincidentally real-time reviewing at the moment).

If you want to live in a Magritte painting and its hinterland, then you will love this novellarette. (8 Mar 11 – another 3 hours later)


BTW, the word ‘novellarette’ has never been used before, according to Google.


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The Peacock Escritoire – by Mark Valentine

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

THE PEACOCK ESCRITOIRE – by Mark Valentine (Passport Levant 2011).

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/

In common with my normal practice, I shall be giving the real-time impressions of my reading journey, knowing as little as possible in advance about the book. 

Subsequent to eventually completing this real-time review, i.e. both the book and the loose papers within the overall container, I shall pay attention, on your behalf, to the physical format…and the pecock fether.


The Ka of Astarakhan

“…as if my arithmetic and this apocalypse were pitching against each other in a mad mazurka.”

A memorable story of scrying, one that is poetically textured, where words are more powerful even than their own meanings and forms…casting spells, even mis-spells, upon the Russian soul I absorbed when in Russia a short while ago – and I the reader now cast them back at it and make the plot bend to my whim not its.  This day our crow-daark world meets the Arab Spring along the “Persian sands”…. (19 Feb 11)

The Amber Cigarette

“…those delicate tapers of amber paper made only by Desmay.”

One often wonders why and how a certain day (today: 20 Feb 11) holds a truly special experience and why not another day, with this Egyptian word-aesthetic story during an Alexandrian Spring? This strikes me as a perfect blend of numinousness, immanence, imminence, flowing from objects to souls to things that are neither… combining a style that I have earlier learnt to be essentially Valentinian but here suffused with elements of Clark Ashton Smith and Lawrence Durrell in equal measures … and Tobias Crisp, the works of whom are actually name-checked in the story itself. The text also radiates in part towards this whole book’s title as well as to the presumably intended joy of unwrapping it when it arrives from the East, complete with disinfected peacock feather…or with the breath-infused aromatics that transcend smoke. (20 Feb 11)

A Revelation of Cormorants

“…perhaps the script might be deciphered and the pale pages of the sands yield up their secrets.”

Language continues to be writ everywhere, if one can but translate it.  This story contains, in part at least, a neat reminder of the type of protagonist in “Oh, Whistle…” who, now, I feel, is beautifully etched into his quest for nailing (not literally) various birds for his bird-book, by observation and past quotation. I might mention my own ‘The Mentioning’ but Tim Nickels’ substantial masterpiece of the Cormorant (‘Supermarine’) is a better continuo for this song-cycle of divining crows (cf: the first story in this book) as well as of cormorants. The predicament of Valentine’s protagonist reaches a brilliant cliffhanger…and to tell you more of this exquisite story would foul its effect. (20 Feb 11 – four hours later)

A Certain Power

” ‘…Which power do you think he serves?’ / ‘Oh, who knows, dear. So many armies here, we ought to feel quite safe.’ “

This is a long, organic-from-piecemeal, enchantment of a ‘fiction’ (combining real history that you can discover by reading it with direct and subtle spiritualities and conspiracies) – both religious and counter-religious-by-other-religions as if (for me) Satanism versus Christianity is the same as other forces versus other ‘certain powers’ or forces within various religions – a truly haunting expression of what I have always called ‘the synchronised shards of random truth and fiction’ (here accomplished literally by use of the words ‘shards’ and ‘splinters’ as well as utilising visionary, even sinister, shadow(y)(less), powers – where, appropriately, within the convulsive times we live through this very day (21 Feb 11) when reading this story, such forces and powers are, paradoxically, even now, being both iconoclastic and synthesising of icons toward the tipping-point or metaphorical ‘iconostasis’. [In this piece, there are also crows, peacocks and an amber taper — and holy relics reconstituted ‘for real’ from symbols of those relics rather than from the relics themselves….] [As a further aside, when I recently real-time reviewed the Horror anthology ‘NEVER AGAIN’ edited by Allyson Bird and Joel Lane, I extrapolated upon my then concurrent visit to Russia and this is, I hope a relevant excerpt from what I wrote there: “…seeing the ‘blind faith’ within Russian Orthodox Churches with the altar ‘walled’ away by the iconostasis, seeing the double headed picture of a Russian and American soldier at Berlin’s Checkpoint Charlie, hearing ad hoc crowds praying at night in a Warsaw street, Moscow’s Red Square, the history in the museums and galleries &c &c  More to remember, perhaps, later.”] (21 Feb 11)

Sime in Samarkand

“The coal-hauler and the lord, eh? […] I think he wrote more than he knew.”

Oh, bliss! This, for me, is the perfect Short Weird Fiction – carved from a gestalt represented by Machen, Dunsany, Hodgson, Poe, Flecker, Samuels etc – and a fiction by Vance I’ve forgotten the title of that plays with those ‘shadows’ from the previous story in this book and extends them to things that are witnessed in the street by the narrator as controlling people (otherwise invisibly) like auras or demons…?  Anyone know that fiction by Vance?  This Valentine story – this VA author with quiet, imputedly gentlemanly, cosmic OOF! – is a true gem: conveying a feeling of truth when following an artist inspired by a poet’s work and then whose resultant artwork is thankfuly lost (or is it?) for fear of its certain power. But that description does no justice to this story. It has to be read. It has to be reprinted and anthologised forever – or, on second thoughts, like Sime’s artwork, it’s perhaps safer that it resides solely in this beautiful stiff-leaved, hard-boarded, smoothbark-jacketed  treasure of a book for we few, we select few readers to read only.  Seriously. [As an aside, there is also a most beautiful ‘dying fall’ that enhances the end of this story, one that involves the onset of the First World War, another of those concatenations of ‘certain powers’ in conflict, so resonant with today.] (21 Feb 11 – three hours later)

Morpheus House

“…some intuitive leap of recognition, some creative making of connections between images that might otherwise seem disparate.”

This is a charming, provocative but subtly humorous, tale of a cataloguing-house of dreams using record cards, i.e. dreams from Edwardian times to the present – of the house’s keepers and investigators, their foibles, whims and their own dreams and playful randomising of the cards. It also reminded me of the bird-cataloguing in this book’s third story – which is perhaps relevant in the light of the wonderful ending scene of ‘Morpheus House’…. [And it personally reminds me, too, if not directly or qualitatively, of my own treatment of ‘dreams’ and ‘dream sickness’ and the real/unreal coordinates of ‘dream places’ in my forthcoming novel ‘Nemonymous Night’ due to be published in June.]

“He always used the word “Sign” with an audible capital letter.” (21 Feb 11 – another 2 hours later)

The Antioch Imperial

A saltmarshy, atmospheric tale of a lonely, hard-kept church, its visitors, its keepers, its numismatic numinousness, its inducement of “contented, contemplative fog of thought.”  (SPOILER: an ingenious anecdote not of the Wandering Jew but of the Wandering Judas.) (21 Feb 11 – another 3 hours later)

The Tontine of Thirteen

A severe sect, then, not given to images.”

A frisson of absurdity as well as of wry common sense. Another ‘Oh, Whistle…’ type protagonist-cataloguer senses, in the seemingly empty landscape, a rippling tocsin of secular iconoclasm (compare and contrast: ‘A Certain Power‘) – depicting the backstory of a “cenacle” of depleting sharers in a word’s-meaning-is-its-use as well as in death’s.   An ironically invested shilling of “shockers”. You should not be put off by false leads or by inferences I do not intend, as this story of an eventual burial scene is one of the most haunting it has been my pleasure to be haunted by.  One that supplies to each of us our own singular plot that certainly will content we tontine of readers – one by one.  (22 Feb 11)

The Second Master

“At first, the title of Master was somewhat light-hearted and purely informal; and of course it was held for many years by Lord Lytton; for who other than the author of ‘The Haunter & The Haunted’ could have been summoned to receive such an honour?” 

 The author of ‘The House and the Brain’, I ask?

A Royal position – a civilised and thoughtful and genuinely enjoyable account of which this is – as Master of Mysteries (e.g. telling ghost stories at Christmas to the Monarch from Victoria onward), in parallel – or in conjunction as it was on one occasion – with the position of Poet Laureate: and the list of those fulfilling this position (which list weirdists among this book’s readers will particularly relish seeing) ended with a death in 1984, and so I sincerely feel that the author of this very book (The Peacock Escritoire) would have been [and perhaps is (in a fantasy falling short of or exceeding ‘The Second Master’)] a worthy aspirant to – or, even, actual current exponent of – the position in question. (22 Feb 11 – three hours later)

The Autumn Keeper

“Dark birds wheeled overhead, cawing.”

Not so much a Pilgrim’s Progress of Prague encounters but a Lantern-Dreamer’s Duress bracketed by a catalogue of scrying within the observation of someone high up the chain of narration (someone like the Second Master but one in adjunct to more fabulous monarchs than those who have mere prince consorts and hide parks) – leading to a sewn-book not as I said earlier in this review of [‘stiff-leaved’ within ‘smoothbark’] duressless durability like this boxed ‘book’ in which this autumn book is told of – but one that I imagine might fly off like air-shuffled dream cards or parchmenty flakes or singed amber cigarette-papers or iconostasis shards or cockcrows… (22 Feb 11 – another 3 hours later)

The Days on Castel Rosso

“But he, who was no fool and had kept the books for a firewood merchant…”

For me, a poignant tale of a widower’s intuition – during a necessary calendar-adjustment at “the very cusp of west and east” – of the earlier triskaideka-tontine. With leaved book references still resonating … and caskets and wood-carving – as if this book (and its accoutrements of which more later) is itself attempting to become a holy relic in literary form. Written in a language throughout so utterly exquisite it genuinely leaves me breathless.

“…he might write a book that would be a lantern to its forgotten shores.” (22 Feb 11 – another 3 hours later)

The Late Post

“…lighthouses, parcel tickets, imperial exhibitions, matchbox labels, the byways of literature, yew trees or the feeding of peacocks, all of which had interested him,”

A brilliantly witty, Coren-like, take on the eclectic collector, the gentlemanly eagerness with which one awaits the postman’s delivery for the latest item, the latest exploitation of the art of creative catalogue-searching … books and valuables amid the motley artefacts of abstruse and even popularist potentialities of object…  Variations on a theme of W.F. Harvey by a classical composer with words.  I loved every anti-social minute of it.  [There is an absurdist angle, too, an avant garde gulp that transcends the gentlemanly. And I wondered whether, initially, one item that had (not) arrived in the post was an e-book but then I scolded myself for such iconoclasm and restored my constitution by gazing at this book and its container and other accoutrements, re-assuring me that all was still well with the world, save for the odd annoying telephone call and my pondering the remarkable lack of emails in my in-box or spaces between the notes that otherwise make the music what it is.] (23 Feb 11)

Echoes of Saumur

Remarkably, for me, that last ‘dying fall’ in my review of the previous story is echoed here, here more serious than witty, more Proustian than Alan-Corenish, a Debussyan ‘submerged cathedral’ as if by Duruflé adumbrated in actual words that take on the sense of the music by a great organ composer, Jehan Alain, someone as a person I previously knew nothing about  but whose music is indeed very familiar to me simply as music.  So unbelievably beautiful both in itself as well as in the conjuration of the music in question, this section of ‘The Peacock Escritoire’ soars beyond where the lark ascends or out-curlews Warlock’s curlew of heavenly pain, and descends with “the crows returning to caw” in dark obeisance to the self that is changed or enhanced or Proustianised or Valen-tined by reading it.

“…the organist was at practice, so naturally kept returning to fragments of the work: it was as if I was getting it in huge torn shards.” (23 Feb 11 – two hours later)

The Return to Trebizond

“Below, he saw silver cupolas and arrowhead towers, high round-arched windows with glinting glass, slim finials like lances, red roofs and fragile balconies,”

This is a substantial feat of reading, the one item I’ve reached in this ‘book’ that I feel the need (rather than simply desire) to re-read, because not only of my relative ignorance of some of the history that appears to underlie it but also of my urge to ‘catalogue’ all the resonances with previous themes and tropes that I’ve found so far in this book’s rich texture of fiction – and there are many such resonances.  However, a real-time review has, for me, always been my first impressions on reading a book. And, for once, I shall draw back with great will-power from this story’s complex panoply of religions and history and their interconnections, intra-conspiracies and overt conflicts, and its artful momentary voluntary (or involuntary?) withdrawals of authorial omniscience from its ‘shardish’ audit-trail of narration or from behind the story’s iconostases – and mention something I said about a story above: “…both religious and counter-religious-by-other-religions as if (for me) Satanism versus Christianity is the same as other forces versus other ‘certain powers’ or forces within various religions.”  Here, with the “Yet all had been blotted out by the image-hating Saracen, ransacked where it could be moved, covered with whitewash where it could not.” compared, if only in my own mind, with Henry VIII’s actions within, for and against Christianity itself. And, yes, the shimmery shadows of holier-relics-than-thou floating in the incensed air…  [And the eclectic collection of the gentleman now grown old on page 222. But – oh! – now I’ve started cataloguing this story beyond my intention, whistle as I might with the harveyesque hand-fingerings on the sinister flute-holes, a whistling that is submerged by a cathedral’s silence.] (23 Feb 11 – another 3 hours later)

The Old Light

…a sloping, tumbledown congregation of books,”

A coda – a vignette about the perfect ambiance for a ghost story that treats provokingly of what I shall now call (as a result of this book) the ‘iconostasis’ between fiction and reality – a piece that (how could it be otherwise?) is in itself the perfect ‘dying fall’ of this discrete book within ‘smoothbark’ and ‘hard-boards’ on ‘stiff leaves’.  A dying fall, that is more the lark ascending than the lurk descending, in perpetuo moto.

And that brings me to the accoutrements of the discrete book as well as the book itself (all designed, I think, from ‘mentionings’, by one called Santiago Caruso).  This is how I expressed my feelings a few days ago on an internet discussion forum when I first received in the UK these intricate devices of a publication from Romania:

“In the spirit of real-time reviewing, I shall give my first impressions, without knowing anything other than those first impressions.
I make no other comment (of liking or disliking) – so far, without reading anything inside – other than describing that it is designed like a plush decorated sizeable purple escritoire which folds open to reveal a luxury book of stories (?) in an enlarged version of the previous Passport Levant formats on one side of the escritoire and, on the other side, a bundle of loose leaves (like luxury letter paper?) which I have not yet unribboned but I can see they contain text and pictures. There is a seemingly real peacock feather decking this bundle.”

I did have a feeling then, I recall, that the whole design, however interesting or partially pleasing, ‘went over the top’. I am still making my mind up on that score but, meanwhile, I shall shortly be unribboning that aforementioned bundle…. (23 Feb 11 – another half-hour later).


I have been out for a walk along the grey, choppy strand near where I live, the heavy rain having just abated. I have now returned to my desk and completed the unribboning ceremony. And I am bemused how I earlier missed that this bundle of numerous quite stiff loose-leaves (all creamy-coloured, and with deliciously multi dint-textured surfaces) is top-leaved with one headed in large red manu-script: now decipherable as ‘Shards’ – with ‘Journal Notes’ in smaller, clearer print beneath it.  There is much text here throughout these leaves – for me yet to read – and ending with, on first glance, several astonishing artwork leaves (of which, no doubt, more later).

The Danubian Order – “coaling-stations and citadels”the first essay, vignette, prose poem, journal note? – and reminds me of my first holiday abroad some years ago when we went on a Danube cruise from Linz to Vienna and back again. This cruise for the bird-cataloguer in the third story of the book? I keep my powder dry, about these ‘Journal Notes’.  I am utterly intrigued…. (23 Feb 11 – another 2 hours later)

Notes on Jünger – but it is in fact dark red ink” – two diary notes playing with Stendhal’s Le Rouge et Le Noir.

I shall list the titles and one short single impression among all the impressions I receive from each Journal Note but they need to be read in the context of the whole ‘publication’ I’ve described above. Nothing I can say here will give you the right impression of this intriguing reading-experience, I guess.  Other than the fact that they exist. (23 Feb 11 – another 30 Minutes later) —>

The Ceremony of Arnsburg – Regarding, inter alia, Hesse’s Glass Bead Game and one remarkable child-like conceit regarding it. On a Black Sea Boat – For me, a coda upon the Old Light coda.  A Dark Indulgence – And now I stumble on a longer Journal Note, almost perhaps a bonus story in itself that seems to be interleaved with – yet separated from – the flow of tontine plots … considerations regarding types of paper thickness, and inks (one like blood), another “Avant garde” gulp – and as in The Late Post: a hand toward Heaven*. Shadow Work – “A gentleman embroiderer…” (23 Feb 11 – another hour later)

*or Hell? House of Aeolus – As with the crows (?), scrying by wind. The Postmaster of Everest – a mountaineer’s cards in the late post. [These notes represent fulsome dream cards, really.  I shall throw them up in the air, perhaps, later, rather than re-ribbon?] The Golden Hollow – a half-lengthy disquisition on a real place called Nobottle. Delightful. I just feel the gratuitous urge to add two letters to its name: Noahbottle.  You will feel a different urge, no doubt, when you read it. The Reader of the Sands – this is a substantial story with all the marked delight of the fiction in this book, here cross-fertilising, inter alia, the writ sands of the book’s Cormorant story with the scrying-sand skills of the guide who once took me walking  – without drowning – across the shifting waters of Morecambe Bay. (23 Feb 11 – another hour later)

Trespassers – more glorious prose to die for, including this sentence that seems to encapsulate the whole publication, so please allow me to quote it in full: “It is a day for melancholy, for music in the minor key, for books whose words convey more than they say, for the incense of bark and berries.” (23 Feb 11 – another hour later)

Well, not really the whole publication, as that sentence ignores the humour and wit, the conspiratorial gentlemanliness, the historical / religious resonances with the past crossing the shifting waters of the present – and the avant garde gulps! Ming and Incense – I trust the artist adumbrated in this Journal Note, one who has connections with Walberswick (a place I’ve visited several times), does (not) receive the same fate as the artist of ‘The Peacock Escritoire’ – as I sense, when I finish this review later tonight (I hope), the Peacock feather will take centre stage. As pinion or pivot of the artwork yet to be studied. The Tenacity of Feathers.  (23 Feb 11 – another hour later)

Mnemotechnik – a substantial vision – over several double-sided Journal Note cards – of the nemo within the title – or, rather, I can’t believe the ‘intentional’ author of this publication otherwise uttered this avant garde gulp. A 10984 version of 1984 – with on-line nicknames written in the sand and memories or backstories akin to the LOST TV series or ‘The Dark Tower’ books (by Stephen King): books that I’m concurrently real-time reviewing elsewhere. Gobsmacked.  Masonic, catatonic. The Chart in the Portico – “a stone map“. Hugo Schumpeter – I’d like to communicate face to face with anyone who once wrote this book. The Last Thinkers – Heidegger would be a good title or author of that title. The Scarlet Funeral Company – this is a lesson for someone like me who is attending a funeral this coming Friday, a funeral of someone I’ve known since 1968. The House of a Hundred Libraries – A borgesian carrel. Cloven-Footed Angels, Or, The Fifth Kingdom Now Fully Reveal’d – Gaddafi? (23 Feb 11 – another 2 hours later)

W. Compton Leith – another Machen-find from the Undergrowth. A Fondness for Villains – The Man Who Was The Missing Thirteen Thursdays. The Lost Chronicler Leslie Barringer – I am the lost DF Lewis who wrote better than he is remembered writing.

The set of creamy-yellow cards continue, luxury parchments – ‘Santiago Caruso’ (in large red manu-script like the word ‘Shards’ earlier) – ‘Portfolio’ (in smaller, clearer print). Then a set of (for me) umber-to-subtly-dark-bloodstained artworks that are simply stunning and completely in tune with my mood as I finish this important Mark Valentine journey through a finery of words and words’ music.

The portfolio contains artworks entitled ‘The Final Gate’, ‘Around the Dutch Stove’, ‘The Ritual’, ‘The Workers’, ‘The Black Lion’, ‘Broken Icons’ (NOTE THIS TITLE), ‘The Strangers’, ‘The Amber Cigarette’ (double-sized), ‘Dualism’ (double-sized), ‘The Ka of Astarakhan’ (double-sized),  and two unnamed miniatures.  And the frontispiece in the discrete book itself: ‘A Heathen God’.

Up in the air they go. I shall re-shuffle them (a la Dark Tower), hand-edged to tidy them into a new neat pack and re-ribbon them later for restoring to the Peacock Escritoire.

Dan Ghetu has emailed me in the last few hours as a result of my earlier comment above (“I did have a feeling then, I recall, that the whole design, however interesting or partially pleasing, ‘went over the top’.”) and I can quote what he said to me (with his permission), viz: “Precisely. Not the First War World trench “over the top” but love. Love is to go “over the top”. It is about love. We should not be afraid or ashamed to be pathetic. There is still much light in that.

Like Jehan Alain – and Cecil Coles.  Indeed.

And the bird that is just a bird is not a bird at all. It needs a peacock feather or other plumage or tufted tenacity – just for their own sake. Others will judge, when we’ve all fallen from our last “fragile balconies” and only the e-books will remain or books with stiff pages and smoothbark jackets and hard-boarders playing at prayers.

END.  (23 Feb 11 – another two hours later)


Filed under Uncategorized

Mad Matinée in Baku – by Albert Power

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

And it is of ‘Mad Matinée in Baku’ a novella by Albert Power (Passport Levant MMX).

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

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

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

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

From publisher: “Mad Matinée in Baku is a sewn hardcover book of 124 pages with dust-jacket, silk ribbon, endpapers and a full-colour frontispiece. Edition limited to only 100 hand numbered copies. $55 inc. p&p to Europe and USA, $55 to the rest of the world. This is a collector’s edition.”

My copy is numbered 21, possesses exceptionally aesthetic yet heavy-duty page paper and has this design on the front of a delightfully stiff DJ:

Prior to page 9 there are two quotes, one from Mikhail Bulgakov and the other by Horace Walpole.

Normally, I start each section of any particular real-time review with, in italics, what I instinctively consider to be a key quotation  from the text, key in the sense that it is both personal to me as well as relevant to an ignition of any reader’s engagement with the book as a separate entity from that reader or from any fallacious considerations of Intention.

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

Pages 9 – 22

“The self-superannuated film actress took a sip from her tall glass of cinnamon-scented tea and winced.”

The style is tea-stained Proustian, exquisite, forcing the reader to pause, sip, savour, shudder with joy simply at the language and proceed with due care and attention.  Here we have a well-characterised, once famous but now post-maturing, lost-in-the-crowd, Azerbaijan film actress with an Armenian name meeting someone surprisingly older than  herself in a Baku teashop: he calls himself a ‘Brother’ from Dublin. The location entails she can’t order her own drink, being female…

I cannot, shall not, from this point, continue describing the plot (as it unfolds in real-time for me), but I shall describe my impressions, hoping to entice you into buying this book, as not only my first impressions but also my already enduring, unshakeable impressions inform me that you will love owning and reading this book, but especially if you can appreciate someone like me telling you about my journey through it. (4 Dec 10)

Pages 22 -25

“In 1962, I was a girl. Only a girl.”

Apparently, the ‘Brother’, amid today’s tea scents, is interested in an unremembered live play in which our actress took part in 1962. [I am reminded here, without feasible connection, meanwhile, of the fiction of Frances Oliver.] (4 Dec 10 – two hours later)

Pages 25 – 30

I learn elsewhere, significantly for me and for my previous Power review, that Horace Walpole’s Castle of Otranto was first published on Christmas Eve. And we learn in this book that Walpole’s The Mysterious Mother (about incest) was the play arguably featuring in 1962 a very young actress who is now so far the main protagonist in this book … in a Baku teashop.  But I wasn’t intending to re-narrate the plot, was I? This book itself and its wonderfully textured text absolves me of any spoilers I may inadvertently divulge, I hope. (4 Dec 10 – another 2 hours later)

Pages 30 – 45

“Guilty until proven innocent: this was the way it had become with religious orders in Ireland, averred the elderly brother bitterly.”

The side-business of the teashop (parallel with my own buzzing preoccupations regarding my daily life as I read literature) provides backdrop to an intense discussion between the Actress and the Brother. In spite or because of the multi-faceted diamond prose in which it is expressed, the ‘inquisitive’ nature of the intensity of reminiscence in 2010 of 1962 is genuinely compulsive to read-in-regression about possible abuse as I reach a genuine cliffhanger at the end of the first main section partitioned in the book’s text, as opposed to my arbitrary page number references.  As crisply page-turning as a thriller, but also as long-lingeringly savourable as a work of close-ordered poetry. All complemented  by the book’s design  itself. (4 Dec 10 – another 3 hours later)


Pages 46 – 50

“…and be the year of such scintillant sunshine 1962 or even 2010.”

I am intrigued by my seemingly unshakeable memory of the black-&-white Fifties and Sixties, while it is only artful literature that is able to shake me back to  the real golden suns that must have existed in those days.  And, without giving too much away, the story itself is now in (retrocausal?) ‘regression’ [in this book’s crime-mystery-fiction-of-what-happened-back-then-and-who-did-it? (my expression)] in a similar time-shaking fashion, i.e. back to that performance of the Horace Walpole incest play (rarely performed in England let alone under the Communist skies in the elsewhere of 1962). And back to its medicative incidental music to replace textual longueurs in the play…? By Aram Khachaturian’s onedin or Rheinhold Glière’s glorious Symphony 3? (A clue – this book’s printed dedication is ‘in appreciation of the music’ of the former). (5 Dec 10)

Pages 50 – 61

“But her touch was iceberg cold…”

History and rape sweep back into geography’s politics amid this furthering-back in a (temporary?) plot-foreshadowing regression to 1948 (the year I was born), and a love/hate panoply that is truly affecting. Prose-style-to-work-hard-at-yet-to-die-for together with a thrilling page-turning immediacy and high narrative power.  Only truly special writers can do this. (5 Dec 10 – another hour later)

Pages 61 – 78

“Whatever was afoot, whether integral to the performance or disruptive of it, the spectacle taking place in the auditorium occasioned her no small amusement.”

Which is parallel to my enjoyment of this book in the last few pages. From serious rapine and fateful incestuous parthenogeneses of history in the past’s past, I reach here an Udolpho-Vathek Theatre of the Absurd, where audience and play reach their own incestuous pitch of verbal slapstick… I am both crying and laughing. If not in actual fact, certainly in inclination of literary experience.  I fear, throughout, however, for our young heroine’s inevitable audit trail of life as seen to be in the process of being mapped out by this book.  Especialy as there is nothing I can do about it. (5 Dec 10 – another 90 minutes later)

Pages 78 – 88

I am beginning to realise this is indeed a very clever book. The slow but paradoxically rushed rushdie russonance of religions (including the catholic frailties of abuse) and magicial realities beyond Magic Realism and politics and azuzbek cyrrilics &c &c of language intertwining — but, for the 21st century reader’s health and safety to resist the brilliantly described, pre-yielded-to temptations of concupiscence, I’d advise – in the running-fast, yet slowly-textured, text – the overall caveat of Maturin’s tenet that “Terror has no diary.”  Trust in the reviewer. You see, I’m soon to have read the whole book. You haven’t read any of it. (5 Dec 10 – another hour later)

Pages 88 – 111

“But Marinitsa was being rushed headlong forwards so fast that she couldn’t even see,”

I think I have already said what I need to say about this reading experience even though I had not (until now) read the last 20 pages or so.  It’s not that I predicted the end. I didn’t.  But it sort of predicted me and my earlier words.  I feel privileged to have been able to read this cross-religious, visionary, exegetic masterpiece.  Pity only a 100 of us will be thus privileged. (5 Dec 10 – another 90 minutes later)


 And the culprit, he was Spartacus.


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