Tag Archives: Robert Aickman

Into The Wood

My walk today in the local area took me for the first time into the wood…

into5 into4 into6  into1 into3

My piece today on the story entitled INTO THE WOOD by Robert Aickman.

More photos in comments below.

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Margaret’s mört

“So eat up your mört, Margaret, and take no notice of all these gloomy thoughts.”

…a quote from INTO THE WOOD (1968) by Robert Aickman

My review of this story in the context of THE MAGIC MOUNTAIN by Thomas Mann: http://weirdmonger.wordpress.com/186-2/#comment-292

I think the story entitled WOOD is Aickman’s masterpiece, but, without teaching any granny reading this to suck dead mörts, I don’t want WOOD muddled up with INTO THE WOOD.

A picture of a mört: http://holsljunga-fvo.holsljunga.com/FISKARTER/mort.htm

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AickMANN

Having completed my month-long real-time review of THE MAGIC MOUNTAIN by Thomas Mann (HERE), I am convinced that it must have been an enormous influence, outweighing any other influence, on the fiction of Robert Aickman. This is not only because of the similarity I seem to be the first to observe between The Hospice and The House Berghof, and their residents, and their meals, but also because of many other factors, including tone and beguiling disarming undercurrents and tropes, an absurd-weirdness that borders on nightmare as well as rationality.

I am now revising my thoughts on the AickMANN story ‘Into The Wood’ and I shall report back in due course below in the comments.

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The Plura-Monist

weirdmng3

Time cools, time clarifies, no mood can be maintained quite unaltered through the course of hours.”
— Thomas Mann (The Magic Mountain)

My month long real-time review of this book is now complete:
http://weirdmonger.wordpress.com/186-2/

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Read it between jumping and hitting the ground. The last balcony, you see, is at the top of a building with many stories…

“I already know that I’ll be recommending it most highly to any and all readers who love original weird fiction…”
RHYS HUGHES, from his review of ‘The Last Balcony’ HERE

I’ve owned the rare book INTRUSIONS by Robert Aickman since the 1980s but I can’t remember having taken it off the shelf since first reading it (all its stories are contained elsewhere). I had occasion to look at it recently and was amazed at the wondrous synchronicity between its front cover and that of ‘The Last Balcony’ (2012). On consulting Tony Lovell (the artist who shaped the real object photographed for the ‘Last Balcony’ artwork) he also drew comparison with the shape he created and photographed for the cover artwork of ‘Busy Blood’ (2012). We’re both pleasantly surprised at this inspiring correlation. Perhaps we should call this the ‘Close Intrusions of a Third Kind’ syndrome?

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The ‘Intrusions’ cover in 1980 is by Andrzej Krause (Andrzej Krauze?)

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March 20, 2013 · 10:55 am

The Hospice – by Robert Aickman

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

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

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

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My reading-lifetime’s Hall of Fame

Image by Tony Lovell (2011)

My reading-lifetime’s Hall of Fame in no particular order:

Charles Dickens, Christopher Priest, AS Byatt, Enid Blyton, May Sinclair, HP Lovecraft, Barbara Vine, Reggie Oliver, Anita Brookner, WG Sebald, Jeremy Reed, Ian McEwan, Elizabeth Bowen, Stephen King, Oliver Onions, Marcel Proust, Salman Rushdie, Glen Hirshberg, Paul Auster, Mark Valentine, John Fowles, Edgar Allan Poe, John Cowper Powys, Lord Dunsany, Algernon Blackwood, Jack Vance, Philip K Dick, Jeff VanderMeer, Samuel R Delany, Anthony Burgess, Susanna Clarke, Rhys Hughes, Lawrence Durrell, MR James, Robert Aickman, Sarban, Ramsey Campbell, Thomas Ligotti, Tommaso Landolfi, Kazuo Ishiguro, Quentin S. Crisp.

This is a list including writers I once considered in my Hall of Fame but now rarely read, and new writers whose works I read quite a lot and have included in my Hall of Fame fairly recently and variations upon that, but all have been major reading experiences some time in my life.  Apologies to those I’ve inadvertently omitted because of my semi-Proustian memory.

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When I’m in the Hospice…

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

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BLACK HORSE and Other Strange Stories

I’m due to start below another of my gradual real-time reviews, turning leitmotifs into a gestalt, drawing connections…. A book I recently purchased from the publisher and received a few days ago.

BLACK HORSE and Other Strange Storiesby Jason A. Wyckoff

Tartarus Press 2012

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

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

All my other real-time reviews are linked from here: http://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/ (3 Mar 12 – 8.50 a.m gmt)

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An author whose name is completely new to me. But I relish the promise of ‘Strange Stories’, being, as I am, a ‘sufferer’ from Aickmania.

The Highwall Horror

“…he hung his North American wildlife wall calendar open to April and briefly considered the mallards in flight.”

Joe is a young ambitious architect – with a “honey-do” family of wife and daughters at home – and, at work, he moves into what I see as a glorified carrel or here called ‘cubicle’ whence its predecessor architect had left the firm suddenly.  Ranging between Ligottian ‘corporate horror’ and a Kafkaesque feel, we are suddenly tipped into a Lovecraftian panorama through the cubicle wall…. The prose is textured, sophisticated but easily accessible and highly effective. I sense we  have a significant Weird Fiction writer here – sensed even this early in the proceedings of reading the book.   A story that I am sure will linger with me as emanating from its power of what I gradually felt I was made to see as insectoid wordprint within the “oblong rectangles” of white walls … lingering until I read this book’s next story? “Terrible connections in his head were trying to come together while his sanity strove to keep them apart.” (3 Mar 12 – 90 minutes later)

Panorama

“Down beneath the carpet the small people in the floor creep over electrical wires to the walls…”

Sometimes in my whole reading life – and in latter years, my reviewing life – I wonder at the displacement of a particular work of fiction. Is this the work for which I have been waiting all these years to discover: originally stunned by Lovecraft in the 1960s, next  stunned by Ligotti in the 1980s, now to be stunned by Wyckoff in the 2010s? I have already (only) made a single deliberately concentrated reconnaissance of ‘Panorama’, but it feels more like a passing glance than an act of concentration. It surely needs far more effort and time for cumulative passing glances – just as the panoramic (Sistine roof?) work of art in the story itself needs its own various channels of passing glance to be travelled, created as this work of art happens to be (a cross between Bosch and Escher and more?) with separately autonomous and unsimultaneous ley-lines of tugged eye-path (or, in story-terms, reading’s audit trails)…  all mingled with vital considerations of the artist himself who perpetrated it, of the artist’s model (the artist’s loved one who is tugged herself into the canvas’ ley-lines (or paper insect-trails of print?)), and of the artist’s agent or, here, surrogate third-person narrator who is also in love with the model and who travels to the artist’s studio after failing to raise him on the phone and, after fearing the worst, eventually discovers this ‘Sistine roof’ (that expression of mine does not do it justice)  and the various entrapments of both word and word-evoked images, in turn mingled with images of an erstwhile gallery-showing of this artist’s work. Is this a major, landmark story fundamentally to shake the Weird Fiction world or something of which I shall never reach the bottom however many passing glances I devote to it? I keep my powder dry.  The text, meanwhile, is stunning: and incommunicable to anyone who has not directly experienced the work itself. (3 Mar 12 – ten hours later)

The Walk Home

“It was always the best party they’d ever had.”

A touching, haunting, exquisitely worded vignette of sprites as ghosts or ghosts as sprites, with a death-enduring feminine loyalty theme in the face of everpresent masculine dangers or poignantly masculine protections: a moral ‘thin ice’: hinting to me again of the vaguely adaptable formula for humanity’s selfish/unselfish motive-tussles that I identified in a real-time review that I just completed about another new (to me) writer here.  (4 Mar 12 – 8.35 am gmt)

Intermediary

Who says a ghost has to look like the body it fell out of?”

An intermediary is a broker. So is a fiction author. Without hopefully transgressing my much long-cherished view of The Intentional Fallacy as a literary given, here one of the protagonists – the archaeologist Barclay following aptly the architect Joe in the first story – has his own implied ‘honey-do’ family back home: back home while he is dicing-with-danger-or-amorality (possibly equivalent to writing dangerously weird fiction) so as to wreak honour or benefit for that family. This story, as foreshadowed by ‘The Walk Home’, is concerned with (what is here now called) “moral integrity“, with Barclay also dangerously faced with his own self-perceived edgy job and the archaeological ‘riches’ he and his colleague have found in Ecuador:  wrapped round with guilt, anger, mixed motives of greed and fellowship (even murder!), reminding me of much well-seasoned high-quality literary fiction I can’t put my memory’s finger on (later filmed by Hollywood for Bogart et al to appear in?): as their tent, in the middle of the Ecuadorian nowhere, is ‘invaded’ with their apparent permission by a large poncho man carrying a  shrunken head: with morality to broker and requesting coffee to drink as the excuse for ‘invasion’ [cf: amazingly, the exact same coffee reason given in a parallel edgy situation in another of my recent real-time reviews: i.e. of the story Fake in ‘Nowhere to Go’].  Only at the end does one begin to think. Thinking is thought-provoking. This story in itself is thought-provoking — as well as retrocausally atmospheric with a prose style to die for. “While you can only see fragments of a terrible future, he is weighing options and considering outcomes.” (4 Mar 12 – three hours later)

THIS REAL-TIME REVIEW IS NOW CONTINUED HERE.

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The WEIRD: A Compendium of Strange and Dark Stories

Weird: A Compendium of Dark and Strange Stories

The WEIRD: A Compendium of Strange and Dark Stories

Edited by Ann & Jeff VanderMeer

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

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

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

CAVEATS: Spoilers are not intended but there may be inadvertent ones. You may wish (i) to take that risk and read my review before or during your own reading of the book, or (ii) to wait until you have finished reading it. In either case, I hope it gives a useful or interesting perspective. Also, Nemonymous (Cern Zoo) was the original publisher of ‘The Lion’s Den’ by Steve Duffy that is included in this book.

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

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

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

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

The Other Side (an excerpt) – Alfred Kubin

Now the area had transformed into a monstrous zoo.”

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

The Screaming Skull – F. Marion Crawford

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

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

The Willows – Algernon Blackwood

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sredni Vashtar – Saki

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

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

Casting the Runes – M. R. James

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

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

THIS REAL-TIME REVIEW OF ‘THE WEIRD’ IS NOW CONTINUED HERE.

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

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THE DARK TOWER: The Waste Lands

My on-going real-time reviews of THE DARK TOWER novels by STEPHEN KING.  Continued from here: https://nullimmortalis.wordpress.com/2011/02/01/the-dark-tower-the-drawing-of-the-three/

All reviews written without reading the books’ introductions … nor reading reviews or anything else about the books other than King’s pure fiction itself.

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

There is no guarantee how quickly this review will progress, whether it be days or years.

THE DARK TOWER – THE WASTE LANDS by Stephen King

first published 1991 – this edition New English Library 2003

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There are three quotations from TS Eliot, Robert Browning and Robert Aickman leading to…

Book One: Jake: Fear in a Handful of Dust

I. Bear and Bone. 1 -2

“…to use as much as it was possible to use so that no part of the animal was wasted;”

 Roland, Eddie, wheeled-Susannah (odetta, undettaed) – travelling the deeply wild, if textured, text of this tween-treen-countryland … R reapplying the lore of his cortish coltish upbringing to teach the instinctive gun-law to S – backbitefiring = until a LOST-like creature topples trees nearer and nearer …a giant bear? [For me, this Kingstuff-style matures with  retrocausality of  the two brains (one oldening and the other still young) within it.] (19 Feb 11)

3 – 6

“…a bear the size of King Kong.”

E’s affectioning out his childhood past – his mind ‘watching out’ now for his late brother who earlier ‘watched out’ for E – but the bear-giant (with something metal on its face?) lumbers E up the lumber, and only S’s just-found shooting skills can save him…. [I think King is carving these ideas from a singular plot that already exists in his private museland – the Carvery-King…] (19 Feb 11 – three hours later)

7 – 10

“She felt an insane urge to touch him everywhere until she was absolutely sure of his reality.”

All this almost a forerunner of LOST – with the giant  ‘wormy phlegm’ cyborg (threaded with Richard Adams) as an ancient-intended forest-keeper  … and the human adventurers (with guts and instinctive will-power of skill) within this ‘island’ of creativity still come forth or carved from within this fiction with real mystification or mysticism, but strangely real like dehologrammed hologrammes in the imaginative space before me where I read this book.  Makes me unaccountably want to weep…. (20 Feb 11)

11 – 14

“Some far-off tickle like the feeling of déjà vu…  […] …from a when someplace… […] but they were lost places, too.”

I am tween the nexus of explanation and the mystery of things that did happen or didn’t happen but should have happened: and the Jake ‘ghost-boy’ or ‘ghost or boy’ – and the “Great Old Ones” and the horoscopic coordinates of the Dark Tower… A good campfire tale – or the truth by telling it that way to make it seem like fiction to ease any danger of knowing what could happen? Borrowers live in Drawers, but that is a crazy thought (my thought, not the book’s, but the book is never in control of your thoughts, is it?). (20 Feb 11 – another 3 hours later)

15 – 20

“In the morning we’ll follow the bear’s backtrail…”

Following the chewing upon the contrails of the jawbone in the campfire – a campfire that I projected into this section of review from the previous ones – Roland knows more than even the king head-lease author it seems, but then, equally, the author knows more than Roland as the author sees into and reports one Eddie’s ritually visionary, almost ‘Masonic’, dream of keys, fire and roses…and a new version of his own New York backstory holding a real book by Wolfe: “You Can’t Go Home Again” that seems to be a prequel of the very book I’m reading in this my own version of reality, one retrocausing even real text to change to different real text in both books! [Then Dharma-like loudspeakers…]  (21 Feb 11)

21 -24

“The quickest way to learn about a new place is to know what it dreams of.”

Some beautiful one-liners, amid an otherwise pedestrian or fabricated section of time-paradox or Whovian discussion about who?-ness: Walter, Jack Mort, Jake… One-liners, yes, but I am amusing myself with the rail-ka track (my parallel review and reviewed text) of two-liners – and “I’m going insane an inch at a time, trying to live with two versions of the same reality.” (22 Feb 11)

25 – 26

“…Eddie realized that what he had taken for gray soil was more bones, bones so old they were crumbling back to dust.”

Back to dust? Well, there is something significant about that, but most readers like you only remember, in this section, the remarkable fight with the cyborgs (more robot than cyborg, I’d say) after following to the end of the bear’s tree-crushing backtrail.  Like shooting radars off of sitting ducks? Well, not quite. And that Susannah creeps up on you.  A loose cannon, I’d say.  And I’m a loose cannon-reader – be warned, any of you robots reading this!  (23 Feb 11)

27 – 29

To whom are these references: Stephen King or Roland the Gunslinger? “There’s a lot about my world I don’t know […] And there are things I used to know which have changed” and “…Because the world is growing.” Judging by the growing size of the then unknown subsequent books that hold the holy relics of this world, I think we know the answer to that question. We need the continued use of the characters’ speech catechisms to urge the un-urgeable and to unsick the sick narrator or sick head-lease author…. or sick reader? Meanwhile, Eddie dreams of dream-doorways and places he used to know beyond them. (24 Feb 11)

30 – 32

“Yeah, put it on a postcard and send it to the fucking Reader’s Digest.”

If lands have ley-lines, King Magic Fiction (as opposed to King Magic Realism) has ‘Beams’ – story-beams or paths that the words border: so, not reading between the lines as such, but moving along the letter-impeded horizontals of space: cutting them back, carving into the bits you’ve carved off…. (24 Feb 11 – another hour later)

II. Key and Rose. 1 – 4

“One was of a door – he thought it might be the one at Number 10, Downing Street, in London –“

Jake’s backstory. Thinking him to be mad when looking for doors or portals, we, in our own madness, knew he must once have or would once have entered from his otherwise normal boyhood in real-time to inhabit the desert sun of the equally real-time of this review or of the parts of the fiction – he enters so as to inhabit – that are real by virtue of this review reviewing its own assessment of the past as sections of an already written or to-be-written or never-to-be-written book now shuffled into respective ownerships or shares of reality, shuffled and re-shuffled by the readers of this review, not by any other force. Authors are just figureheads. The book being reviewed is not even a pre-requisite.  Readers are everything. This review is taking over all jurisdiction…liberating us from all king tyrants during a new Arab Spring without the constraints of any book, holy or otherwise. (24 Feb 11 – another 3 hours later)

5 – 12

“I’m in a place I don’t know, he thought. I mean, I will know it – or would have known it if…”

A pivot for the book as well as for Jake. A bifurcation of destiny in an infinite number of bifurcations?  One can easily forget – by familarity – what a great writer Stephen King is (and has been), probably the greatest ever, if one really gets down to examining him and those he has influenced and those greats that influenced him and, by retrocausality or backstory, became ever greater because of him.  Just look at his treatment, in this section, of a great day in one’s life, suddenly realised. And the doors opening on doors and what we can expect from our own internal powers that we’ve all got if we can just tap them.  Some good some bad.

“Yet he could not look around, as you couldn’t look around in dreams when something awful was gaining on you.” (26 Feb 11)

13 – 16

“It was a wonderful high humming, inexpressibly lonely and inexpressibly lovely.”

Jake’s being beamed towards premonition of things that have already happened or half-happened mingles Alice with Oz. Deja with View. Chew with Choo. Riddle with middle, and vice versa. It’s as if the book thinks it can now only be read by readers with style and panache.  And we all know that’s true.  (26 Feb 11 – four hours later)

17 – 20

“P.S. If you left school today because you had sudden doubts about my ability to understand a Final Essay of such unexpected richness, I hope I have assuaged them.”

It is now as if Jake believes he is the one who deserves readers of style and panache like us!  The actual or literary obsession with the rose (Blake’s ‘sick rose’ or Gertrude Stein’s ‘a rose is a rose is a rose’?) , the Way Station (that he visited before or is about to visit again or for the first time and indeed with him halfway between an Exam Fever at real school and the Gunslinger’s world, this is, for me, an unstated Way Station in itself, a Way Station about a Way Station), the key with its own secret ‘s’ key, and back to Jake’s own Essay in the ‘real world’, his relationship with his parents, all a dream or just a creative writing exercise, without any help from Stephen King or from us readers humouring him that it’s all one big fiction conspiracy to make him feel he’s going mad rather than becoming an authorial genius – but perhaps, if the latter, only Jake can decide whether to humour us. (27 Feb 11)

21 -23

“The needle knows nothing about magnetic north; it only knows it must point in a certain direction,”

Rev W Awdry, Thomas the Tank Engine, but here in American style with Charlie the Choo Choo, as Susannah’s name is dropped in, almost imperceptibly, dropped in a children’s book about trains that Jake was destined to find in his possession (one steeped in his own childhood) and a book we are destined to read through his eyes, trains with smiles, rhymes, riddles, often suspicious smiles… and (for me) C.S. Lewis had ‘portals’ or doors  (C.S. Lewis rhymes with D.F. Lewis), H.P. Lovecraft, The Silver Chair, The Silver Key…my own stream of consciousness like the stream of consciousness his teacher said Jake’s prize essay admirably demonstrated… (27 Feb 11 – four hours later)

III. Door and Demon. 1 – 6

“ARE you me?”

Jake still hovers between (1) those we know we follow for real and for certain and (2) those we follow for real but not for certain. This is not really fiction reading as we think we know it; this is continuously strobing between dream and religion more like (for me, anyway).  A Cheshire Cat’s smile on my face. Mid-World seems the new buzz word, please don’t Miss it. (28 Feb 11)

7 – 13

“And he was increasingly nervous about that little squiggle at the end. It looked simple, but if the curves weren’t exactly right . . .”

…as if even the head-lease creator of the currently (re-)converging worlds of Roland and Jake is tussling and grappling with the tiniest detail of a cross-section of dream and religion that forms the on-going Beam or Audit Trail. A single slip and I will merely be staring at things as they pass by and vanish over the fiction-horizon … like within the ‘mind’ of a stationary billy-bumbler.  I sense, too, there is an element of the Romantic Wild West (seen from the vantage point of this UK reader in the shape of me and from that of the paintings that Jake now sees on “French leave“) that is trying to force itself into my reading-mind, like Roland’s mind entered earlier into Eddie’s mind when the latter was “on a Delta jet bound into JFK airport.” (28 Feb 11 – two hours later)

14 – 17

“You have come from the shadow of the heroin and the shadow of your brother, my friend. Come from the shadow of yourself,”

Roland to Eddie. As Miss World starts her Mid-Wifery, to ease Jake into Threesome world. There are elements here that make you cry, but why? Perhaps because you realise you are too old to finish this ever-lengthening series of books.  The last Stand. And I realise that I earlier predicted in a previous section without foresight “A ROSE IS A ROSE IS A ROSE” in this later section today.

“Didn’t I just say I’m livink here twenty-two years? Two blogs down.” (1 Mar 11)

18 – 24

“Once again he waited for the feeling of remembering forward to seize him, but it didn’t come.”

The hovering, slow-motion strobing(?) …. and ghosts or haunted buildings (or Eddie and his brother Henry being ghosts of themselves?) is possibly explained by the interface between ‘alternate worlds’ or between ‘time-zones’ – or “dream/religion”, “fiction/truth”, as Jake still (re-)converges and the key, ka, king-pin continues to be perfected by instinctive carving or by writing, then reading the writing… (2 Mar 11)

25 – 29

“…to Jake it suddenly seemed that the man who had written that poem had must have seen this house:”

King at his horrific word-supremest – amid demon rape and haunted house (and T.S. Eliot) – as Jake is midwifed or drawn towards birth pangs from old industrial US towards (we infer) golden-spired mid-world us – waiting for him – with Roland et al.  The Beam is ‘expecting’. (2 Mar 11 – four hours later)

30 – 44

“…as if each of them had a finger stuck in one of those fiendish Chinese tubes, where yanking only sticks you tighter.”

A catatonic, almost apocalyptic, sequence of events, with chapter sizes piling up shorter and shorter like lock-tumblers tumbling, as Jake’s door-entry back or forward is not like a simple walking through it any more but a fight with a house’s plaster-saint as it kicks into being – and scenes ripe with provocative female defilement but which even Susannah’s Innah Dettah unconsciously helps to assuage…  Time and Motion in Whovian, Lostian front- and back-stories within Chinese tubes each with baffles that equally ease or block the fables, quicken or quench the veils and piques of landscape as well as the vulnerable characters while underpinned by visionary power… (3 Mar 11)

Book Two: LUD: A Heap of Broken Images

The Heap of Broken Images image reminds me – somewhat pretentiously – of my own long-seasoned considerations regarding ‘The Synchronised Shards of Random Truth & Fiction’.  Perhaps I am meeting myself coming backwards here when reading these books for the first time?

IV. Town and Ka-Tet. 1- 3

Jake, (re-)arrived, with the ‘door-apocalypse’ seemingly over, now makes up the Quar-Tet rather than the Three, and they continue, as a Quest for a Quest, amid drumbeats (that used to be heard in the ‘Wild West’ from red Indians?), towards a spired city via the onset of a small town and its presumably occupied buildings.  Meanwhile, as readers we are all here characterised as billy-bumblers (please read this section again if you’ve read it before and you may see what I mean).  And as billy-bumblers, these three quotes are directed to us by some narrator in the pecking-order or kingdom-lease of plot-unravelling:

“‘That’s a long story,’ the gunslinger said. ‘You’ll hear all of it, in time, but for now just take the pill.’ / “Some hours later Roland called a halt and told them to be ready. – ‘For what?’ Eddie asked. – Roland glanced at him. ‘Anything.'” / “It’s always better to go straight on, unless there’s a good visible reason not to.” (4 Mar 11)

4 – 7

“It’s been long and long since I’ve seen a bumbler in company with people . . . seems they have lost the memory of the days when they walked with men.”

I, incognito as a billy-bumbler called Oy (I), keep my head down. This is probably the first book review you’ve ever read by one of the characters from inside its plot.  And the ka-tet and Oy meet a group of gentle inscrutable oldsters in the first township like the amish might have been if within a cross between LOST and McGoohan’s Prisoner and this painting … a group concerned with other groups (?) called Harriers, Grays and Pubes… (4 Mar 11 – five hours later)

8 – 11

“Oy shifted at his feet.”

I was wrong about the drums being Red Indians, as the others speculate about lost civilisations, cannibals, jungles etc – or God Drums?  Whatever case, they send a shiver down my spine, as  I listen directly and indirectly to the history from the oldsters of Lud City, and whether we should cross it or go round it – its civil war etc reminding me of Libya today whose war “has guttered like a chimney fire.”  The narrative mechanics of the book itself is like such a civil war. Much else is told and heard that may be significant but I will pick it up later if it is, such as Blaine, the mono-rail…. All slowly intriguing, immanent rather than imminent. (5 Mar 11)

12 – 16

“They reached the place that would become, once the fire was lit, just another campsite on the road to the Dark Tower.”

Roland, Eddie, Susannah, Jake make a poignant farewell to the oldsters and veer off into drumbeat and  the  spired ludcity and the dream-Mono in and out of lucidity.  Oy, they speculate, am a wounded refugee from others of my kind because I am dead clever.  “Too bright – or too uppity.” (5 Mar 11 – six hours later)

17 – 21

“Do you think Oy might be part of our ka-tet?”

The book’s answer to that question makes me think that oy should cease these references to Oy as the reader, i.e. me. It is getting too close to home. Almost worrying. So however strong or weak this connection becomes in my future reading of these books, however strong or weak Oy’s character or importance becomes, I shall endeavour not to mention ‘him’ again.  Meanwhile this section treats further of the meanings of ‘ka-tet’ and ‘khef’ as we ”palaver’ together campside, the nearby builderly mechanics of the city and its bridge casting imaginary shadows on my mind.  Connections and shards (“glints“) aplenty … ‘drawing’ realth as well as its paucity (my words, not the book’s). JFK (11/22/63?), Matt Dillon…  And, concerning backtrails, is it so surprising that the words Beam and Bear (Shardik) differ by only one letter? (6 Mar 11)

22 – 25

“I feel it, and I’m scared to death. But it’s not your trouble, it’s our trouble. Okay?”

Charlie and the Choo Choo book and the connections with then and now, now and then, then and now, now and then…  [Personally, the mixed feeling in this section (‘dread’ not being quite the mot juste) about this CharCharChooChoo book and about the immanent imminence of the city that the ka-tet approaches reminds me of the ‘covered market’ and ‘Ogdon’s Pub’ in Nemonymous Night. Maybe some future reader of this retrocausal real-time review will know exactly what I mean by that. Meanwhile, it’s too early to say. Even for me.] (6 Mar 11 – an hour later)

V. Bridge and City. 1 -4

This is the sort of story where, sooner or later, the characters will come upon a “downed airplane” and then spend a large part of the narrative guessing riddles. We’ve come to that point. Someone later made a whole missing generation of TV serials on that premise.  (6 Mar 11 – another 2 hours later)

5 – 8

“The chambers weren’t neat hexagons but random holes of all shapes and sizes;”

Lethargic bees – and pushing Susannah in her wheelchair resumes its problems of surface, – and with the apparent entropy of the rail-track, Lud city’s insidiously looming presence of graduality is perhaps something we will dream about forever. Somehow, I hope Roland doesn’t accede to the request to narrate his own past at any length so that we can continue uninterrupted in this Vein towards Blaine?  (David Blaine?)  [Roland indeed seems to acknowledge our willingness to be taken slowly into the city but our equal impatience to do so.] (7 Mar 11)

9 – 14

Eddie inspected the closest one with the avid interest of a man who may be soon be entrusting his life to the object he is studying.”

I know the feeling!  As the ka-tet crosses the precarious bridge of narration deeper into Lud – and they meet Gasher with a grenado – who wants Jake. [I shall need to be abstemious with plot recapitulation as the redolence fills my memory-nostrils. Impressions should be the food of reviews, not spoilt spoilers, by assuming you’ve all been here before.]

…the stink of a mattress that has caught fire, smouldered for awhile, and then been put out with sewer-water. He suddenly understood Lud.” (7 Mar 11 – seven hours later)

15 – 18

“‘What are you talking about, Edward Dean?’ / ‘Nothing’, he said, and because that was so goddam true he thought he might burst into tears,”

Our gestalt group poignantly splits in two after Gasher-napping, as the teetering balance of wired and brokenly tessellated metal-ruins makes me giddy with the power of the words that describe this Klaxon City, makes me forget they are words at all – and that effectively, when compared, I’m just another Gash-infected zombie-reader whose real-time words here are not mine at all.  Balanced finely between Susannah’s earlier visionary balm and her now nightmarish cataclashing of sight and sound. (8 Mar 11)

19 – 21

“There are a great many machines under Lud and there are ghosts in all of them – demonous spirits…”

I have written eslewhere today:-  “As I get towards the end of the third volume (The Waste Lands) I realise that this section at least is a significant and original treatment of Zombies in horror literature.” Indeed, amid frightening environs that only reading will make you believe in, surrounded by Proustian or Dwarfish selves populating both machines and heads. Tick-Tock Man, Spanker, Blaine …. Gidifee? (my name for someone, not this book’s).   A civil war as a scatology of eschatology.  Taken willy-nilly along a god-drumming, rail-sleepered Beam (or B(l)ane or Blame?) of Literature. (8 Mar 11 – two hours later)

22 – 24

“I thought he’d come after his  juicy little nightnudge a right smart, if he was to come at all, and so he did.”

There are things I’m realising about Odetta/ Detta / Susannah and how the first two blend to come the third, and then the mighty citysight of the The Cradle (as we learn something else that Eddie has given her or put inside her and waiting to be taken out of her!) – and the Manhole leading down to Lud’s hawling-grounds (my expression, not the book’s).  And Gasher – and the ‘dying fall’ of the Hansel & Gretel couple, their smoulder-love paralleling the love of Susannah and Eddie – and that nameless one (I vowed namelessness to save my own skin) who can help with certain aspects of the plot having ‘read’ other aspects of the plot: i.e. leading people accordingly through obstacles. I could ramble on. The book rambles on. That’s what so good about it … leading to the Golden Statue of the Cowboy at the end of this section. As if it has always been there. Not only in this book. But in all my dreams before I started reading it.  (8 Mar 11 – another 7 hours later)

25 – 27

“Ther’s haunts down here, boy.  They live inside the fuckin’ machines, so they do. Singin’ keeps ’em off…”

And singing is like telling, in the way of Johnny Cash.  And keep telling, Stephen, keep rambling, keep singing, I say! Things are getting big, some of the chapters longer and longer, as our trifurcation of protagonists race with or behind Gasher the booby-trapped maze under the city or inside their own tri-furcated minds.  And vast visions – like the pink Blaine Mono – burrow right into what I dreamt last night even though I hadn’t read this yet.  Passwords and doors. The only way to say ‘bountiful’ to the Tick Tock Man is with all the letters mixed up, like the names of junk email senders.  A Symphony of Sirens, this city, and tannoys for lost passengers in time.  Lost readers each with a different book, but who still understand my daily reviews. [Miss a day, and you’d wonder where I was, wouldn’t you? Or gone crazy.]  (9 Mar 11)

28

I am just about to start 28. of this section – and I’ve had a revelation, a sudden Road to Damascus:- The Dark Tower is an important premonition of the Large Hadron Collider: (cf the Blaine Mono, the Lud under-city shaped like LHC in ancient retrospect, the Beam, The Berne Zoo Bear, the Cern Zoo Lion’s Den, the Retrocausality, the doors, Charlie’s Choo Choo – it’s all here. AMAZING!  And today of all days, as I realise this, I also learn we are all going to die next Wednesday possibly as a result of the LHC (and, if so, I am never going to finish the Dark Tower books). [NB: I was editor and publisher of CERN ZOO in 2009.] (10 Mar 11)

“Running all around the single curved wall in vertical lines were tubes of neon in alternating strokes of color: red, blue, green, yellow, organge, peach, pink. These long tubes came together in roaring rainbow knots at the bottom and top of the silo … if that was what it had been. […] Another draft, this one issuing from a circular band of ventilators like the ones in the tunnel they had followed here, swirled about four or five feet above Jake’s head. On the far side of the room was a door identical to the one through which he and Gasher had entered and Jake assumed it was a continuation of the subterranean corridor following the Path of the Beam. […] The hands of the clock were moving faster than they should have done, and Jake was not very surprised to see that they were moving backward.”

I believe this scene  – which I watch (“Two gold-ringed eyes floated in the dark behind the chrome louvres” and that’s me!) – is one of the greats of Literature with a capital L, i.e. the meeting of Jake and the Tick Tock Man.  Gobsmattering. (10 Mar 11 – two hours later)

29 – 34

“He had seen doors like this a long time ago – you couldn’t shoot out the locks, and you certainly couldn’t hear through them. There might be one; there might be two, facing each other, with some dead air-space in between.”

As an aside – or, indeed, entirely relevant to the above – Stephen King announced yesterday that in 2012 there would appear a new novel as an inquel to the Dark Tower series: The Wind Through The Keyhole.  Do I leave reading this new novel till the end (ie until after reading and reviewing the current final book entitled ‘The Dark Tower’) or do I pause my real-time review after Wizard and Glass until TWTTK is published? [A genuine question to those who have already read the whole series to date. Please kindly reply to dflewis48@hotmail.com.] Meanwhile, this section proved how brave I am as a reader – or foolhardy – to add to my own “dry pragmatsim and wild intuition“!  Riddling Little Blaine, Tickling Ticky into mistakes, this book is brave to have such wildness itself.  One wonders who is really in control.  I’m just intrigued by the concepts of a Large Hadron Choo Choo… one that speaks and has witty rejoinders as well as fascination with ‘frictive patterns and dipthong stress-emphasis’. [But shouldn’t it be diphthong?]  The tantamount-to-a-wild-west-shootout at the end of this section is still shooting-out as our protagonist groups begin to re-converge or shake-out or ‘shuffle’ back… (11 Mar 11)

35 – 37

“…huge engines powered by frictionless slo-trans turbines awoke the command of the dipolar computers the Tick-Tock man had so lusted after. For the first time in a decade, Blaine the Mono was awake and cycling up toward running speed. […] … who had always believed that the ghosts lurking in the machines below the city would some day rise up to take their long-delayed vengeance on the still living, … […] … the unthinkable machinery which maintained the Beams…”

As our ka-tet’s plot potential re-converges in this section (much danger resolved but noises and beams still at play), I must point out that the link I gave here yesterday to that ‘Next Wednesday’ Earthquake & Hadron Collider article contained a picture of a huge devastating whirlpool. Without making too much of it in times of tragedy and catastrophe – to which we are all today giving our thoughts and prayers – on the news this morning, there was a live broadcast of a similar whirlpool near Japan. (11 Mar 11 – two hours later)

38 – 40

If madness can be creative, we have it here. Not King’s madness, not mine, not even yours. But the soul of this book (is it Wizard, or is it upon an even higher pecking order yet to be revealed by the book) as the Tick-Tock Man (now with name: Quick)  is exhumed by not frictives or diphthongs, not by fictives and dibbuks, but by us-as-the-book, or not exhumed, but resurrected ‘religiously’ – as we grow pleased at our ka-tet‘s own regrouping but fearful that forces are growing beyond all control, as we fictively travel within or through or upon or as the Mind of the Mono itself (a mind that feeds on, inter alia, Riddles) – or so I interpret.  Intrigued, too, how the forces of the book that are insulated within another discrete world can still tap into our own discrete world (from where we read it) osmotically or by some other means of poetry… “‘IN THE ROOMS THE PEOPLE COME AND GO,’ Blaine said, ‘BUT I DON’T THINK ANY OF THEM ARE TALKING OF MICHAELANGELO.’“(11 Mar 11 – another 90 minutes later)

VI. Riddle and Waste Lands. 1 – 6

“Violet dots appeared at irregular intervals along the line, and even before names appeared beside the dots, Eddie realized he was looking at a route-map, …”

A premonition of the sat-nav/ gps in ‘Full Dark, No Stars”? Here the journey is as on a Hawling-Drill – with an obstreperous Blaine-voice like Jules Verne’s Captain Nemo and with both comfort / décor and deliberate danger as Lud is crossed in the aftermath of the Tic-Toc, with Susanah beset internally and externally by versions of the Odetta and Detta souls – and another premonition, this time of CGI as views are either chosen or discarded for viewing in real-time from the train’s viewing cabin… (11 Mar 11 – another two hours later)

7 -10

“The lands below had been fused and blasted by some terrible event – the disastrous cataclysm which had driven this part of the world deep into itself…”

We are riddled towards an outcome. But I remain very sad that – today of all days as the world is driven even deeper – I earlier disowned myself and dare no longer even say my own name or, if nameless, exactly who I am.  Perhaps I can outstay my welcome by failing to answer my own riddle.

“There is some deep sickness at the Dark Tower, which is at the heart of everything. It’s spreading.”

END (11 Mar 11 – another 2 hours later)

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I shall be real-time reviewing in due course the fourth book in ‘The Dark Tower’ series. Please watch for an eventual  announcement and the link to it in the comments below.

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