Tag Archives: Thomas Ligotti

Tristram Shandy

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THE LIFE AND AND OPINIONS OF TRISTRAM SHANDY, GENT. by Laurence Sterne

My gestalt real-time review of this 18th Century novel HERE.

Incorporating a potential thesis on this comic novel as a tract of Antinatalism and Internet Grooming.

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“Nor does it much disturb my rest, when I see such great Lords and tall Personages as hereafter follow;—such, for instance, as my Lord A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, K, L, M, N, O, P, Q, and so on, all of a row, mounted upon their several horses,—”

An important aside:
After due investigation, I seem to be the only person in the world to have noticed, in connection with the above ‘Tristram Shandy’ quote, that Mr Ramsay in Virginia Woolf’s ‘To The Lighthouse’ always foundered on getting past Q in the alphabet!

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Perpetual Autumn

I posted a blog entitled FOREVER AUTUMN HERE in September 2012, conveying some of my philosophy of life and literature. And this morning just after 5.30 a.m., the BBC Radio 4 weather forecaster stated that our Winter went missing and it was replaced by what he called “perpetual Autumn” – referring to the serial strong Autumn storms that have been besieging our UK islands for most of the Winter so far and into the foreseeable future.

For me, it seems apt to mention, in this context, Thomas Ligotti’s recent mass audience recognition written by Michael Calia in the Wall Street Journal (WSJ), a recognition for Ligotti’s bleak philosophy. Death Anxiety plays a part in this – and probably in some of the Scandinavian fiction bleaknesses they often show on UK TV on Saturday nights – but here the WSJ article concerned something entitled TRUE DETECTIVE of which I have no experience (nor do I have any experience of the Scandinavian TV fictions, for that matter!)

Regarding his Fiction art in particular, Ligotti already had in my view a well-deserved mass audience recognition a few years ago with the Virgin paperback of his fiction entitled TEATRO GROTTESCO, a book that I saw in all manner of public places, at least in the UK.

And I am intrigued by this new recognition for his philosophical standing. Although believing such recognition to be well-deserved by Ligotti in respect of philosophy as well as fiction, I wonder whether — with his perceived tenets of such philosophy within ‘the Contrivance of Horror’ entitled THE CONSPIRACY AGAINST THE HUMAN RACE (CATHR) — the above heightened profile of personal recognition could be seen to be either counter-productive or irrational for his type of bleak anti-natalist philosophy: a dilemma I first raised HERE in 2007 before CATHR was published. (Ligotti replied at that time as shown on that link.)

I remain to this day open-minded about it and would welcome further input from Ligotti and others. If further thoughts of mine should arise on this matter, I shall include them in the comment stream below.

Meanwhile, I suggest that any writers who propound bleakly philosophical anti-natalism and so forth deserve name recognition for their writing where such recognition is deliberately sought rather than ideally or logically subsumed by the nihilistic subject-matter. Financial reward for such writers (as a symbol of such recognition or simply as a human pragmatic need) may also be a deserved consolation to appease their Death Anxiety that often remains otherwise unconsoled by the sublimated or distractive creativity of hard work employed in writing about such matters. Perpetual Autumn indeed, never Winter’s Death. Infinite Fall.

For the record, THIS was my real-time review of CATHR soon after it was first published as a book.

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The Plura-Monist

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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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Cathrianity

My tentative, perhaps futile, definition of CATHRIAN:

“One who espouses actively the tenets he or she infers from the great but knotty Ligottian tract upon nihilism or pessimism – further threaded with thoughts about Horror literature – in a book entitled: ‘The Conspiracy Against the Human Race’ (The CATHR)”
.
…to be distinguished from Catharism, Cathar, Catharsis, Catholic, Christianity…
Relevant to the ‘ligatures’ of Ligotti.
above image by Tony Lovell

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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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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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Nightgators

Doctor Who’s new story this weekend on BBC: Night Terrors by Mark Gatiss. Definitely Ligottian.  And George’s Dad was the spitting image of the new editor of the Pan Book of Horror Stories….
 
Throwing all childhood terrors into the mix plus the kitchen sink — and the high-rise block lift. (The CGI effect sinking into the carpet was a bit unconvincing.)
I think it was meant to be a culmination of night-terror cliches (cliches to us Horror Genreators) – but the ‘dolls’ / ‘dummies’ etc. were effectively Ligottian. And I suspect there were a lot of scared children going to bed last night…

 
Yours, df lewis (birth place: Aickman Road, Colchester)

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I Wonder What Human Flesh Tastes Like

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

I Wonder What Human Flesh Tastes Like – by Justin Isis (Chômu Press 2011).

I Wonder What Human Flesh Tastes Like by Justin Isis

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/

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I Wonder What Human Flesh Tastes Like / Unauthorized Egg Model Book Cover

“He started changing history.”

A story (?) of three pages. Memory loss through a grandmother’s old age or memory loss leading to onanism with one’s own sister makes this early days for any real-time review of this book of 335 pages. Licked its face, as they say on Bargain Hunt. (25 Jan 11)

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The book I finished real-time reviewing yesterday ended with a story of a clown that (by my interpretation) licked faces clean after (or while?) killing their owners, and this new book’s first substantial story below has a Japanese woman’s smile like two clowns kissing:

Nanako 

“…because Nanako had no opinions…”

I am not reading anything about this book (such as its introduction) until I’ve read and reviewed it. The ambiance so far seems Japanese. The style’s exquisite, flowing through my tired and sore early-morning vision like the purest dream-ointment.  It seems to convey, inter alios, a Lawrence Durrell laced with some form of minimalist music, even though the syntax has satisfying traction that would belie the second analogy.  It also reminds me obliquely of two stories called Violette Doranges and Even The Mirror (by two different authors) that reside side by side elsewhere, only mentioned on be-half of those deliciously lazy enough not to want to know why or wherefore.  Nanako, seen by the male protagonist, is a woman who grows in two fields of vision, the apparent real and unreal, but we are not properly told which is the most whimsical and why one field outfaces the other.  We just sense that the real woman first met is retrocaused by (and despite) what she later became.  A late-night visionary sadness, with even later slicking rather than licking of faces, laced with odd analogous scrotums, semen … and onanism.  But do we ever know when we are alone? (26 Jan 11)

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Manami’s Hair

“There was a faint pain, and she could feel something cracked and rough like a lizard’s skin.”

[The tooth-brushing type of obsession (within the story’s main character or within the author himself?) reminds me of certain facets of Robbe-Grillet.]

If the previous story was one woman in mis-synergy with herself over time, this story is about two women – sisters – living together within a single point in time, one a drain on the other.  The draining one, as opposed to the drained, seems obsessed with TV drama and indeed much of the plot could be part of a ‘Neighbours’ episode, e.g. dates and mis-acting.  Star-spaced, if not star-broken, by both enrichening colours and skin-diseasing static, the delight in imagining death to others as a fiction, wanting to write an autobiography although she is only 20, I think, and been housebound through (delicious?) laziness for 6 months… 

The story’s ending of faltering steps is another ellipse… or series of ellipses … … … (pores where hairs now grow). (pores or prose?)

[The story-breaks, textually throughout this book, all have a simply-drawn symbol (one that I think I happen to recognise) as a divider between them…. You will possibly recognise it, too, but, so far, I have drawn a meaning-blank.] (26 Jan 11 – five hours later)

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The Garden of Sleep

“If you have a garden inside yourself to tend,”

…then you will need to read this story so as to find what comes after the comma.

The discovered lover of this story’s narrator – discovered while ‘I’ am still within the story telling it to ‘you’ – is contrasted by the mis-synergies with various people in the narrator’s family. The lover is a chameleon, an almost genderless, precious waif, called ‘you’.  Earlier in this book, two women within one woman through time, then two women together as sisters … and, now, here, an ‘I’ with a ‘you’ both in and out of time. And I see this story, if not the whole book, as a fascination akin to the ‘you’ of the story itself. I, of course, can’t tell yet after only 84 pages what other garments the book shall wear amid an imputed ‘genius loci’ (Japan?) that has not grown as clear as it may do after reaching page 335.

When I read this story tonight, it seemed to take less time than it should. A plain, easily consumed style, but tantalisingly beautiful in its plainness, with moments of a chance section of purple prose here and there that sets off its blushes. I shall keep watch to see who else reads it… 

[Meanwhile, a very short extract from elsewhere and elseother seems to comfort me at the thought of any unrequital that may ensue upon leaving this story, and eventually this book: “The paradise garden is a magical place. We can only dream when there, but we cannot dream of it.”] (26 Jan 11 – another 5 hours later)

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I Wonder What Human Flesh Tastes Like

“That’s part of my strategy, to force the reader to make connections between things they wouldn’t normally connect.”

A core statement for my own real-time reviews in general – as well as for this book?  I feel as if I’ve travelled ‘fictionally-religionally’ for most of my life till I reached this point of possible crystallisation. 

This story – let’s be bold – connects with this book’s first ‘story’ of a similar title:

IWWHFTL / UEMBC: “When she smiled he saw the chipped edges of her teeth;”

IWWHFTL: “She smiled but her lips curled strangely and he could see too much of her teeth. They were unevenly placed.”

This eponymous story is about gratuitousness, heterosexual park-cottaging leading to talk of cannibalism, but direct participation in sudden concupiscence and pet-dog toilet-drowning; meticulous cartographic spotting of life’s reality-stains with undercurrents of burning it all up as a first best to the second best of curing these ills. I am aghast, sickened – but conceptually exhilarated. I’m not proud of this exhilaration, though. I’ll flag-mast myself clean, I guess. (27 Jan 11)

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The Quest for Chinese People

Pages 103 – 121

“…everyone on Earth is descended from the same woman in Africa millions of years ago and there used to be these other people that weren’t really human but we killed them all,”

Amid the protagonist’s ordinary workaday life, his hidden desires, sleeping, brushing teeth, the people he knows, his wife, his brother – the first half of this story is a revery upon his self-discovered obsessing about the enormous size of the Earth’s Chinese population and his ‘guilt’ at his lack of knowledge of these Chinese people.

I know the feeling – a niggly worry that expands … and expands … in the dark watches of the night particularly.  Towards an epiphany, as the story describes it.  Maybe this is another example of gratuitousness…coupled with a darkly fine-print  ‘pointillism’ of aesthetics concerned with this book’s ‘genius loci’, one which I may still not have grasped other than the name ‘Japan’ and the Japanese sounding names of the characters.  Meanwhile this story flows nicely : while also possibly being a “camouflage” like one of the character’s shirts.

I watched as she cleaned her teeth.”

[I’m beginning to think this book may be the primest example of a literary theory of mine that I’ve explored for many years, i.e. on record as “The Synchronised Shards of Random Truth and Fiction”. I’m now beginning to wonder, too, that the ‘shards’ may here be symbolised by teeth, chipped or unchipped, false or deeply rooted,  i.e. those implements that one would need, presumably, to consume human flesh. (Thinking aloud.)] (28 Jan 11)

Pages 121 – 139

“…I had assumed that it would not be possible for me to act without some definite intended aim.”

Now reading on, I sense this story somehow expresses the horror of the syllogism argument as an existential angst.  The Intentional Fallacy (another bee in my ancient bonnet) expressed as demographic history’s flabbiness or laziness or inert immanence  (expressed in part by culinary un-inquisitiveness), i.e. in contrast to a more focussed aesthetic acting as an assumed (Asian-pointilliste?) backdrop that readers who already know about the Japanese ambiance may take for granted.  The story’s protagonist, meanwhile, oblivious of this complex audit trail he treads, fulfils (disintentionally?) what I earlier called his hidden desires – but is foiled by two women who are this time in pure synergy, unlike the mis-synergy of earlier pairs in this book.  And a final-catalyst force that possibly is the story’s inner ‘tabula rasa’ disguised as the story’s own protagonist’s brother.

“Her mouth cracked, but she never quite smiled.” (28 Jan 11 – two hours later)

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A Design for Life

“His teeth pressed against her lips. / — I love you, I love you, she said in English.”

Another “Neighbours”-type soap-opera plot, yet one subsumed by an ambiance of pretentious art and music, and the artistic and sexual politics of furthering one’s career in that field.  I saw myself as the amenable (affable, passive, inert, immanent, flabby?) older man, Takeshi … until, out of character or as spear-carrier, he managed to score!  

Indeed, in more ways than one, this is a story of passively inert and flabby immanence – and an existential angst ignored by the story’s characters while sublimating their so-called Artform of becoming Andy Warhol.  In tune with the ‘connections’ theme I mentioned earlier with that seminal quote from IWWHFTL – I suddenly discovered here a sensibility that I’ve been trying to identify as permeating this book so far. A sensibility conveyed by, inter alia, the paintings of Magritte.

“…a garbage truck emerging from the back of an enormous human skull,”

belonging no doubt to the out-face in Nanako. [Or a Cronenberg / Carpenter burrowing backward from the jaw as a ratcheting teeth-monster?] (28 Jan 11 – another 4 hours later)

============================

I Wonder What Human Flesh Tastes Like Etc.

Pages 171 – 187

“The feel of the raw meat in her hands was unpleasant; it reminded her of other soft, wet things she hated: slugs, perhaps, or rain-drenched socks.”

Another soap-opera bubble, this one of ‘Home and Away’ schoolgirl crushes and relationships (two sisters again, both vegetarians, one whose teeth have braces), quirks of their  thought captured as part of routine reality, particularly one of them who has an unrequited crush on a boy in the class – but threaded through with aberrant (gratuitous) thoughts that she should break her vegetarian fast, with sinews and redolences artfully conveyed to the reader, as part of a matter-of-fact, but haunting description that also dwells on comparing the thought of an actual slaughter of a cow for meat with an imaginary slaughter of a human being for the same purpose.  There is something fundamental about the synergy or mis-synergy of these aspects of the story: the meticulous matter-of-fact-in-trivia and the gratuitous motivations incubating within. [Tonight, I shall allow this story similarly to incubate within my body’s sleep and see how things develop when I pick up this book again and finish the story. Good night. [Btw, news just in, Isis = is is]] (28 Jan 11 – another 3 hours later)

Pages 187 – 203

“Lying on her bed at night, before she fell asleep, Ayano had vague dreams of all the different kinds of meat she had yet to try.”

I’ve rejoined the two plain sisters along their continuum of exploratory fiction.  It may be because it’s so early in the morning, but I now feel decidedly queasy, if not shocked, having completed this story’s inner journey of self-tasting.  We have an astonishing description of the meats, their various timings of cooking (rare or not), speculation as to human meat, bodily oils, face-carving (cf ‘Nanako), &c – leading to quite ground-shaking passages I dare not divulge. Teeth are part of the process.  What has gone before makes this story even more powerful. The synergies, the mis-synergies, the eschatology, the scatology, the syllogism of ‘the Chinese and the rest of us’ … the meat that is the all of us…

[Before completing this story, I wrote, this morning, on a discussion forum elsewhere, about this book: “For me, this book is in uncharted waters or waters that the ship ‘nouveau roman’ once explored so as to allow other ships like this one to pass through on the way to an as yet undiscovered el dorado.”  Hence, the divider-symbols between story sections? And will we reach that el dorado with this book, or will it feel its job is done by showing us first sight of it on the horizon?] (29 Jan 11)

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The Eye of the Living Is No Warmth

Pages 205 – 230

“Instead of analyzing lyrics or predicting future lineups, he recorded his sweat, erections and breathing changes;”

…a far-fetched description of an internet reviewer!

This story is of a pair of two late-twenties men who are fans of music girl groups and are active on internet forums about this world … and one star girl is arrested for smoking at the age of 17. Breaking Japanese Law and her contract or generally contravening this book’s ‘genius loci’.  The two men – amid a flabby or Magritte-like detachment I note and feel in myself quite often – pursue the photographer who took the photo of her smoking.  They meet the photographer’s mis-synergous girlfriend who has “a redness at the tips of her teeth.”  And I await, detachedly, the outcome. Meanwhile, regarding an as yet assumed aside, but one significant for me, the main male protagonist here is known to be writing a pessimistic philosophical tract entitled “The Book Against the Human Race” (Cf: “The Conspiracy Against The Human Race” by Thomas Ligotti). (29 Jan 11 – another 4 hours later)

Pages 230 – 249

A Karaoke session for our two men and the girl, followed by a Ferris Wheel ride, all of which actually starts to fill in for me this book’s  Japanese ‘Genius Loci’ more trenchantly than the previous anticipatory imminence (sic) of one. The philosophical tract against the human race (not just against the Chinese one) together with the amorphous ambiance of characterisation make this possibly the first classic work about the Detached and the Internetted creatures that are begininning to populate the world (or my head that is my world). The closing scenes of the transferred ‘handshake’ (cf: My “But do we ever know when we are alone?” question earlier in this review) is a ‘deliciously lazy’ but perfect ending to this story. Bravo!

“He’d eaten a lot at the Chinese restaurant,” (29 Jan 11 – another 90 minutes later)

==========================

A Thread From Heaven

Pages 251 – 271

“In that ruined city foxes nested in sunken basements;”

A pair of adolescent males – part of another student soap-bubble scenario – start a friendship on the school train-commute but are immediately bullied by an actorly or inscrutably or detachedly leadered group of cruising men, with our main protagonist Park (whose dreams, we were earlier told, include airships) then giving his stomach up as part of a voluntary punch-bag puppet (that fits so neatly with earlier ‘flabby’ feelings in this book) – and he has his teeth actually or almost cracked.

A reality-stain of rust iconising a simple daily object. A trainload of human meat ready to be fused by a chance crash: Park’s speculations that float here as cousin threads from the rest of the book’s own world of the human race laid-back for us to pick over literarily, if not literally. (29 Jan 11 – another 90 minutes later)

Pages 271 – 290

“Time is the same as language.”

The threads (including the starkest or cruellest from the rest of the book) continue piecemeal to pour through Park’s thought-pores as if this book is a sort of Bible or actually Park’s own Christian Bible, then creating a ‘paradise garden’ of reality (my laid-back expression, not the story’s) that is cultivated not by awareness itself but by the awareness of that awareness by others.  All within that soap-bubble. (29 Jan 11 – another hour later)

Pages 290 – 306

“Gradually, the past was slipping into fiction,”

At the end of this section, my premonition of the ‘garden’ comes to stunning, undivulgeable fruition, as Park, having sealed up the surface of Gods, watches dead human meat – what shall we say? – succulate…  [At least we have the continuing thread or anchor or fishing-line (or noose?) – of another Karaoke session to give local colour and therapeutic self-miming /mining.] (29 Jan 11 – another hour later)

Pages 306 – 335

“Artists are also wind-up toys that have been set in motion. If they weren’t artists, they’d be politicians or comedians or something else. The shape of the mind determines the role. Everyone is given a role at birth and that role is their mind.”

I dare not impart the powerful climax of this book, the ultimate tracing or karaoke or palimpsest.  And I would be here all day imparting Park’s ‘waking dreams’ as a completist task or the way they interweave the threads. This is probably the most positively shocking book I have ever read, and this last section seals that contention beyond ‘probably’… probably. It is extremely well-written …and builds as the reader progresses through the stories. Don’t take any one shock as something that should turn you away from this book.  In symphonic music, a sudden atonal blast is no reason to walk out from the rest of it.  The rest could be as spiritually beautiful as the Lark Ascending or as spiritually darkening as the Lurk Descending.  All done without touching the sides. Laid-back. A new gear in literature now clinching….

 But what were those divider-symbols?

If I think of more to say, I shall used the ‘comment’ facility below, as I hope some others will do, too.

“…exist, exist,”

(29 Jan 11 – another 90 minutes later)

END

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