I find myself suddenly reading three books in overlap:
THE BEST OF ALAN COREN – TBOAC (1980)
The only one by my own volition, having impulsively bought it while on a shopping trip with my wife in Frinton-on-Sea a few days ago. It actually gave birth to my Expen the Scusil website, as well as amusing me with Mr Ocren’s slightly dated off-boat humour.
THE DARK TOWER – THE GUNSLINGER – TDT – TG (1982) by Stephen King
At the behest of some members of the Message Forum Stephenking.com I just joined following my Real-Time Review of Full Dark, No Stars. You see, I admitted to reading all SK works as they came out except ‘The Dark Tower’ books.
WAR WITH THE NEWTS – WWTN (1936) by Karel Capek
This is at the behest of Quentin S Crisp. Not that I had to read it. But I was strirred to do so by his intriguing reports of it.
These three books – into none of which I have as yet got very far – are beginning strangely to harmonise with each other. Off-beat, off-boat, brooding yet absurdly creaturifying.
Who knows where they are taking me. (14 Jan 11)
WWTN : I. 1 – 3
A cross between Alan Coren, Stephen Leacock, Rhys Hughes, Jonathan Swift. A blend that makes me believe in the creaturification of words. Tails lumping between the lines.
“And God has no shingle at all, on earth or in heaven.”
Interesting use of uppercases and uppercuts. (15 Jan 11)
TDT-TG: I. 1 – 5
“…where demons undeniably walked;” I’ve reached the end of Chapter 5 of the first section. (I’ve not read the Foreword or any other impure non-fiction gubbins that precede these chapters). A brooding spaghetti western, brilliantly evoked in King’s inimitable style. The last Gunslinger in an oblique quest, meeting strange characters, feeling strange feelings, surrounded by the creaturification of the words that bear him on their backs. “And pigs would dance the commala in the light of the Peddler’s Moon.” (15 Jan 11 – two hours later)
‘Yes,’ said the voice, ‘one does not run into four-foot dragonflies every day of the week. However,’ it continued, unplucking itself from the roof and dropping to the floor beside me, ‘we do not, contrary to popular myth, sting people.’ – TBOAC (Page 57) – (15 Jan 11 – another hour later)
WWTN – I. 4
“Those poor little buggers so multi-pigged themselves in Devil Bay – “
Amazing stuff. Narrative and disbelief of narrative by others within the same narrative, plus memory loss – concerning giant walking lizards that the locals see as Devils, the pearls that our Jules-Vernian captain is teaching them (he says) to harvest. Multi-plied, not -pigged. (16 Jan 11)
TDT-TG: I. 6 – 7
“Somewhere something was tottering, and when it fell, all would end.”
Narration within a narration as the Gunslinger is told by his one-night stand about the Man he follows, i.e. the Man in Black with an ability to resurrect the dead, particularly a told-about corpse with a sick grin, amid more mysteries and oblique wonderful weirdmongerishness and not davinci but numeral codes….nnnnn nineteen… [I keep expecting one of Capek’s giant lizards to stump along the tussocky horizon as a cameo.] (16 Jan 11 – two hours later)
Beethoven’s living liver: “Shrunk to half its proper size, leathery in consistency and greenish-blue in colour and bean-sized nodules on its surface.” (TBOAC – page 61)
WWTN – I. 5: Captain J. van Toch’s Trained Lizards
“Back home, man, we have devil priests who are downright wizards.”
Gossiping of Capek Toch – and the transportation of his lizards and their human-likeness or king-kongish novelty – “ts ts ts ts ts” – they go – or do they speak like we do – in tongues? Like Eliot’s cats? Stealing our own pearls of wisdom? I am getting a feeling for this sf-topian fiction, a feeling that it is true, because it makes so much sense in the context around me. My birthday tomorrow. (17.1.11)
TDT-TG: I. 8 – 10
“He was like something out of a fairytale or a myth, a fabulous, dangerous creature.”
Like King himself in 1982 as distilled by his fiction? And what is over the other side of the endless desert? Devils? We’re not told. Too busy looking after the Gunslinger’s mule. There might even be giant lizards brooding inscrutably out there? Reading this book and wondering why they’re not mentioned? Thinking aloud. (17.1.11 – an hour later)
From ‘Semitopia’: “However, these urges do not die; the semi-spirit lives on.” (TBOAC – page 208) (17 Jan 11 – another 3 hours later)
WWTN – 6. The Yacht In The Lagoon (Part One)
This book is really taking off nyfely. A gradually benuding Botticelli nymph nommed Sweetiepie Li watched by male admirer – ABEing, after original considerations of cannibal talk & kingkongish ‘gorilla’ nature with their fay wray – she meets the lounging lizards – doing obeisances before her and giving some sort of communion by pearl-fishing… Nyfe in the Water. Ts ts ts. Who would have read this book without some sort of pushing…. (18 Jan 11)
TDT-TG: I. 11
Another knife and another nude woman. The Gunslinger has a past & it is being eked out non-collusively to we bystanders of this very strange konking fiction. I wish I had read this book before. It sheds light on other pieces by this author I’ve enjoyed piecemeal from the time of Carrie in the seventies. But the light The Gunslinger sheds is diffusive, misty, intriguing, a dream that is slowly fitting into shape in a parallel way to how the story of the lizard-newts is emerging within the other novel I’m reading randomly alongside it. (18 Jan 11 – an hour later)
“English Bohemianism is a curiously unluscious fruit. It does not belong in the great, mad, steamy glasshouse in which so much of the art of the rest of the world seems to have flourished – or, at least, so much of the pseudo-art. Inside this hothouse, huge lascivious orchids slide sensually up the sweating windows, passion-flowers cross-pollinate in wild heliotrope abandon, lotuses writhe with poppies in the rich warm beds, kumquats ripen, tremble, and plop flatly to the floor – and outside, in a neat, trimly-hoed kitchen garden, English Bohemians sit in cold orderly rows, like carrots.” (TBOAC – page 210)
Like carrots, or , rather, lizards … or weirdslingers? (18 Jan 11 – another hour later)
WWTN – 7. The Yacht In The Lagoon (Continued)
This lagoonery seems to be a panoply-within-panoply of the emerging lizards (now nown as newts) – as if the book itself is giving gradual birth to them via its own literary-real process of evolution… and it appears I was spot on at least with the kingkong ethos and faywray … and the photostatoo — of a giant lizard hugging a woman within the comments below — that I used for the cover of a book called Cern Zoo in 2009… I am protoplasmically entranced by WWTN. (19 Jan 11)
TDT-TG: I. 12
“The gibbering madness that walks and crawls and wriggles through men’s most awful wants and desires.”
From that beautiful woman ‘surrendering’ to creatures just now in WWTN, we have here in TDT-TG, almost by inversion, a grotesque woman preacher creating creatures from herself as conjurations of her gospelling prayers … while the Gunslinger watches her memorable ‘performance’, here in Tull.
“I have walked arm in arm in the lion’s den…” (19 Jan 11 – another hour later)
” ‘I blame the Zoo,’ said the Lion.” (TBOAC – page 224) (19 Jan 11 – another 45 minutes later)
WWTN 8 Andrias Scheuchzeri – 9 Andrew Scheuchzer
Scientific context and technical names for our new newzardy friends emerging from the primeval waters of a rare fiction-reality and London Zoo where they’re human-language-talking freely about their new readers who have come to them as a result of my review. Or rather Quentin’s suggestion that I and others read about them. Thanks, Quentin. It is so much like the ethos of ‘Cern Zoo’, I can’t quite believe it. Not that you knew that, really, I suppose. It’s like serendipity has emerged from a ‘one in an eternity of trillions chance’ conflux of dream and reality.
“As can be seen, fame demoralises even newts.” (20 Jan 11)
TDT-TG: I. 13 – 20
“Why do you have to think you’re in the middle of such a mystery?”
In 1982, when this book was first published, it must have been a horror genre trail-blazer. It stil is – and the Gunslinger continues his quest for the Man in Black, piecing together, yes evolving (in the context of this whole real-time review) items of gossip into truth, prehensile myths into first hand experience, a Tullish killing-mayhem, weirdmongerishness (prefiguring as I now realise for the first time my own ‘Weirdmonger’ story published in 1988) – as, here, the first section of this book (called ‘The Gunslinger’) comes to an end. Very impressed.
“The wind walked restlessly, told its tale to no one.” (20 Jan 11 – three hours later)
“Call me Passepartout. Should you ask why, I should have to reply, in my mortification, that it is because my shoes are bound together with adhesive tape. In the old days, you could have called me Ishmael.” (TBOAC – page 244, ‘Flying Dutchman’) (20 Jan 11 – another hour later)
WWTN 10: The Fair at Nové Strašecí
” ‘How much is six times seven?’ / ‘Forty-tw0,’ quacked the newt with an effort.”
A hilarious but equally sad freakshow type scene – with both Capektain protagonist and newt shrunk to tin-bath or book’s own size. (21 Jan 11)
TDT-TG: II. 1.
“Because the man in black had shrunk two full feet…”
The book’s 2nd section starts here (THE WAY STATION), resonating, via high fantasy, and a self-concocted nursery-rhyme merged or muddled from the gunslinger’s childhood, approaching a sandhouse waystation (where I imagine tiny lizards foraging but not by dint of any words telling me that) – and has the man in black whom he seeks really shrunk…? Only at waystations can plotspoilers roost without compunction but then fly off as if they’d never been there at all, I guess. Meantime, the prose in this book is genuinely some of King’s best I’ve ever seen. (21 Jan 11 – another hour later)
Under The Influence of Literature: “Dear Mother, / Please do not be alarmed, but I have turned into a big black bug.” (TBOAC – page 250) (21 Jan 11 – another 45 minutes later)
WWTN 11 – 12 – Of Men-Lizards; The Salamander Syndicate
“(You talk as if this is a novel.)”
Indeed, I wonder if this is a novel at all but rather a specialist literary exercise never seen before (except possibly in Lovecraft), plus piecing together clues and documents – team-building by means of suppositions and Minutes of a business meeting trying to value the share price of global geomantic upheaval or the tangible creation of the very SFtopia we are reading into existence via our imaginative-ontology-teleology or simple ultimation of unneutered fiction neutered by truth (or vice versa?).
I still have the Appendix: The Sex Life of the Newts to read and review, but otherwise we have reached the end of this book’s first section (entitled Andrias Scheuchzeri) (22 Jan 11)
TDT-TG: II. 2
“It was not fair to ring in innocent bystanders and make them speak lines they didn’t understand on a strange stage.”
But who is stander and who is bystander, I ask. Our protagonist meets a boy called Jake who speaks of memories that may or may not be of a real world that we readers or bystanders know, a world that haunts the gunslinger’s world. Which world neutered, which unneutered? The book in my hand seems to indicate something real about my own once-upon-a-time world of old-fashioned TV sets. But what if it were now a slippery text on a Kindle, instead? (22 Jan 11 – two hours later).
“I have taken the trouble to enclose a brick of the Leaning Tower…” (TBOAC – page 279) (22 Jan 11 – another 30 minutes later)
WWTN – Appendix to ‘Book One’: The Sex Life of the Newts
“…the important concept of the sexual milieu, which represents a separate intermediate stage between parthenogenesis and sexual reproduction.”
We must remember, I suppose (although I yet fail to see how, in the light of the Intentional Fallacy, it could ever be relevant to a textual appraisal of the book and its pure imaginative resonance), that WWTN was published in Czech in the period leading up to the 2ndWorldWar. Meanwhile, this section talks of the sexual patterns or mating dances, erotic, religious, physical, spermatic, of a collective newtork. The Collectivity of Andrias Scheuchzeri -Andrew Scheuchzer as a single character in this book rather than a breed of giant lizards or salamanders or newts. The book’s Gunslinger with the bullets built in. Entailing parthenogenetically the distaff- as well as spear-carrier.
[NB: The first ‘Nemonymous’ in 2001 was printed with the subtitle: A Journal of Parthenogenetic Fiction and Late-Labelling – later giving birth to lizardy CERN ZOO as its 9th edition.]
“…the Great Copulator…” (23 Jan 11)
TDT-TG: II. 3 -4
“Somewhere a radio is playing a song by the rock group Kiss.”
[Cf: “This, if we may so call it, kiss continues for several days;” in today’s WWTN reading above.]
A past car crash (like exploding lizard sex?) is emblematic of Time’s retrocausality as the Gunslinger and Jake, at the Way Station, seem to transcend destiny – as well as the thought that the man in black may be slowing deliberately so that he can be caught up with? (23 Jan 11 – another hour later)
“Man here wants to have a go at the salmon.” (TBOAC – page 282) (23 Jan 11 – another 15 minutes later)
WWTN – II. Up The Ladder of Civilization
This section with much data (some in very small print) may take me a while to study and absorb. So all readers of this real-time review need to be patient. Fundamentally, it appears that Mr Povondra, seemingly exhibiting today’s fashionable form of male aspergers, is collecting all the News of Newts, i.e. cuttings and other data, with the condescendingly indulgent permission of his mother, who recognises that men should have their boyish ‘nutcase’ obsessions. Apparently, too, Mr P is also doing this for his own posterity or legacy as the doorman who allowed Capektain Vantoch in to see Mr Bondy and hence ignited the world’s (currently) 70 million Newts and its consequent geomantic transfiguration (akin to an erstwhile benign form of global warming?)… (24 Jan 11)
This Review of WWTN will continue on another page yet to be announced in comments below.
The Review of THE DARK TOWER – THE GUNSLINGER will also continue elsewhere, to be announced in comments below.