The Autumn is ending…


“Now I’ve whetted appetites for this book, I am going to relish the rest of it in private.”…. written today at the end of a particular review. This is part of my recent decision, in my closing year or two, to significantly reduce my public reviews of books by living authors in preference for reviewing random stories by dead ones.

Since 2008, in addition to a consistent number of old or classic books, I have concentrated on advancing the case of many modern books that I have enjoyed. But now that focus will be fading. Till the whole focus itself fades out. Any modern books in the pipeline of subscription and new books by particular living authors (or anthology series) upon which I have concentrated in the past may still have appetites whetted for by me! Especially if I can be provided with epub versions while I continue to downsize…

ONLY CONNECT by D.F. Lewis & Gordon Lewis

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Absolutely wonderful for me to see this digital publication of the ONLY CONNECT ghost stories, each of them a shared creation of myself and my father Gordon Lewis (1922-2007). This is a new version of the book first published last century. Obtainable here: https://manyoyo.press/products/only-connect

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A bellyful of sadness, a stoup of hope,
if stories have threads, real lives don’t.


Eyes have eyes, spooks have spines,
souls are switched, with made-up minds.


Worlds within worlds, heaven in flight –
only connect, only go bump in the night.

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Copparded

Re the ONLY CONNECT stories I did with my late Dad…

“The result is an offbeat, metaphysical horror fiction that, like the work of AE Coppard, manages to seem old-fashioned and avant-garde at the same time … The title suggests illumination; but the light of these stories only serves to remind us of the darkness outside.”
– Joel Lane

‘What Dreams May Come’ by Walter de la Mare

“….huddled and stooping forward on the backmost seat of all, elbows on knees, his face cupped in his hands, his eyes, it appeared, fixed on the floor.”

…as a part of the description, at the start of Emmeline’s benighted journey, of the conductor on the motor-coach that mysteriously stops for her, after she studied her own reflection in the window, striving to fix her own identity much as Lawford did in ‘The Return’ and, coincidentally earlier today, Jaffa Codling in Coppard’s story reviewed HERE where I already mentioned WDLM’s name! And I did have a strong sense of déjà vu as I read this work from the point of view of so-called Emmeline, as if I were trying to fix my own identity, and I believe I have not read it before…Also that sense of inward eye of ‘A Mote’ above: “…she kept her inward eyes fixed on the reflected image of the face, of her own face, as she had seen it in the coach window glass. […] She couldn’t be utterly helpless, utterly astray, with her own inward eyes for guidance.” And later….

“Her handbag clutched under her elbow, she descended from the coach. […] …completely detached from her surroundings as a character who has escaped from a story.”

An iron gate … “A dense avenue of evergreen trees…”

“‘“Emmeline”,’ she whispered to herself. ‘“Emmeline”, I must remember that!’”

“…that in order to see the picture fully she had to mount the stone that stood in front of this altar-like chimneypiece, with its fireless and yawning cavity.”

A face with eyes like stone caverns and, facially, “exquisite zigzag sutures,…”

A sort of modern password … “sesame”…
Patient reader of a story that is the reader’s nurse? Or one that has escaped? No accounting for each reader’s bespoke dreams…

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My other WDLM reviews: https://nemonymousnight.wordpress.com/1005-2/

And now I wake…

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ADAM AND EVE AND PINCH ME by A.E. Coppard

“It was a rann of a name, but it had euphony!”

Jaffa Codling or Gilbert Cannister, this tale of a Jekyll and Hyde, where, like Gabriel’s toy sword, neither is bad or good, makes the clock tick as if its ticking is an ‘indecent act’, indeed, a clock as ‘mocker’…
Yet, a story of pervading ‘brilliance’, whereby we think its plot is being told by a ghost of this named man amidst his own family of wife, and three children: Adam, Eve and Gabriel — a tale of ‘fiendish door-handles’, perceived marital disloyalty, a gardener called Bond who left the story before it finished, and Gabriel’s box that emitted wondrous things, including a “a fish like a gold carp,…”. This, his story’s rannamaari? Or, more likely, a ‘vessel of light’? Yes, a husband who, after all, ran not away from his wife, but straight through her. The Child as pinched from dream.
A treasured work that apotheosises and supplements many of the stories of Walter de la Mare currently being read.
Mare= mari= a husband all at sea?

“He was like a new Adam flung into some old Eden.”

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More reviews of AEC: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2022/10/03/the-field-of-mustard-by-a-e-coppard/

The Stories of Attila Veres

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THE BLACK MAYBE

A story literally up to its elbow in larvae. Tourists and locals in Hungary mix, the locals demonstrating a harvest ritual that will make you hope you may be the one with black eyes. Utterly transcendent with the genius loci and with something accepted even as much as Hungary perhaps endures the EU against its better nature. The story of a tourist girl who refuses a young male local’s sexual advances — eventually  to her soul-depleted cost — and of how, subsequently, beings with different coloured eyes are made from snail oil (and the concomitant oiling of silver chains), and you have to swallow much in order to fly around the staggeringly shocking elbow room of this story — there are four mentions of ‘elbow’ in its ‘fishing’ finale involving broken mirrors, larvae lures and the ‘essence’ of virgin young people or children. But be wary, the whole process is laid out here, and if I were you, maybe your literary virginity should be shriven elsewhere by much transcendent literature  before you enter, towards the end of your life, this major example of it … in case you never come out of it again as whole as you went in.  That may explain this possibly misguided or depleted review of it.

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Any further reviews of Attila Veres stories will be in the comment stream below

THE PAMPAS CLUMP by L.P. Hartley

“Who can tell where it ends and you begin?”

A tale of an obsessive phobia, the nature of the eponymous clump, its feel of all ages in its striated colours, and its transparency at a distance and impenetrability when nearer, or is it vice versa in this story? Its overt softness made of razor-sharp leaves. And Thomas (who owns the house and its clump) and Fergus, his friend, entertain Julia and Hilary, the former a widow who has shed her now dead husband and thus regained her own character if still permeated with his! — and her new (Sapphic?) friend Hilary whom Thomas perhaps fancies, subject to the obsession that someone hides behind the clump, and they hold a sort of professional experiment or game that I cannot cover fully here … a bit of the Two Vaynes and the Travelling Grave, and who is it immolates himself on the clump? And because of what unrequited love? It was Fergus, though, I believe who loved himself! — and of all the many clocks in Thomas’s house, the one Fergus loves is the one that lags!
The story reveals everything and nothing, meantime. Impenetrable and transparent in one fell swoop, indeed.

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Full context here: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2022/09/03/other-stories-by-l-p-hartley/

THE BRIDE COMES TO YELLOW SKY: Stephen Crane 

“He was like a creature allowed a glimpse of another world.”

Or a simple glimpse of a simple truth. A scratchy truth, too. Truth is never that simple. Glimpsed by a man’s man with a man’s gun. A gunfighter called Scratchy who scares the town. Meanwhile, Jack Potter, with brick-red hands, town marshal of Yellow Sky, along the 4-stop 1000 mile line across Texas, returns unannounced with his simple bride, under the condescending glances of ‘negro’ waiters on the train as he affords a wedding dinner in the dining car for his bride. He should’ve told the town what he’d been about, as they would have had a welcoming party at the station for the simple, simple-minded stranger who’d become Jack’s new bride…
Meanwhile, the town is under the high tension of a new high noon, its recurrent scratchy, scary gunfight instigated by the scratchy man, who normally faces out or is faced out by Jack Potter, but when the latter arrives ‘married’, this gunless, guileless fact takes the Yellow Sky’s wind out of Scratchy’s certain sails. The foreign state of being married is one that fazes even a lethal gunfighter. Fazes the bride, too. Another simple glimpse of a scratchy, uncertain truth.

“…her face had gone as yellow as old cloth.”

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’That Glimpse of Truth’ context here: https://nullimmortalis.wordpress.com/26965-2/

An Ideal Craftsman by Walter de la Mare

“He struck a match soundlessly on the edge of his mattress.”

That, in some insidiously oblique way, triggers what now happens to the boy who struck the match. The eventual mock-up of a suicide by hanging from a rope the dead body next to a craftsman’s ‘master-touch’ of a kicked-over chair.
The story of a boy who remembers his beloved mother dying, and who now, while having been put to bed by his father and showy step-mother before they went out for ‘entertainment’, ventures from his bedroom with his swashbuckling belt and toy dagger, into the creepy darkness of the large house, eager to dodge the notice of Jacobs, some surly, ferrety servant who hums nauseatingly and often catches the boy and canes his legs for taking eatables from the larder when he should be in bed.

“This passage, if followed to the end, turned abruptly at right angles; and at the inner angle near the fusty entry to the cellars he paused to breathe and then to listen again. […] But before reaching it [the larder]. the boot cupboard, sour den of long-legged spiders and worse abominations, must be passed,…” — in which cupboard he later finds the rope. But suddenly hears panting…. “Even when, with sleeves turned up and sharp elbows bared, Jacobs was engrossed in any job, he never breathed like that.”

And he finds a fat woman in the kitchen who was panting. Who is she? And he helps her recover from a fit, as he might have done once, I guess, for his now dead mother, by burning something under her nose. “She walked in angles to a chair and sat there rocking her body to and fro and smiling at him – an odd contorted smile of blandishment and stupidity sicklied over with fear.”
With her “whites gone up”, I thought of ‘A MOTE’, above, and, so, was this her inner vision, expunging the sense of omniscience we had heretofore received from the boy?
SPOILER: And Jacobs is somehow in the cupboard, was he dead already, and had she been brought into the house to gratify him? He had said she wasn’t the first. Or had she murdered him, a crime of some unknown passion? And the boy (somehow, under whose influence? his own? the author’s? or the woman’s?) mocks things up by crafting a hanging? Although her offer of sixpence was declined, with later reference to the whistling of the gas, and the boy’s own florin… “And all the blind things of the house took wooden voices.”
Eventually the boy frightens her. And eventually he frightens himself. And certainly he frightens me, as this story’s reader, its latest victim, most of which readers have self-evidently never lasted long enough to tell others about it. Its own ‘soundless’ ‘gaslit’ ‘master-touch’ as struck from paper. 

“Something had gone wrong – the house was changed; and he didn’t know how or why. He glanced up at the clock, which thereupon at once began to tick. […] The whisper in the dark outside of the uncertain wind, the soft bubbling whistle of the gas, the thousand and one minute dumb things around him in the familiar kitchen – nothing had changed. Yet now every object had become suddenly real, stark, menacing, and hostile. Panic…”

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Full context here: https://nemonymousnight.wordpress.com/1005-2/

AHOY, SAILOR BOY! by A.E. Coppard

“true as the dust in the road”

“As still as death it was. And then the shock came; the sudden feeling that there, round about him, just behind, some malignant thing was watching, was about to pounce and rend him, and he shrank at once like a touched nerve, waiting for some certainty of horror—or relief.”

This ghost story is a great one, just discovered. Beware spoilers, this review being intended for people who will never be able to read it..
A sailor in a town needing lodging for one night, is matched with digs run by a mulatto woman. But that intriguing start is not the story at all! The story ranges from most intriguing pub talk he has about dead people. That most people you have known have not died. And when strangers die, you cannot empathise, they are simply dead people you never know, dust to dust. Till he plans to sit quietly at night before going to his digs and he senses the “smell of an actress” and suddenly a white hankie appears on the seat he sits on. And the lady he earlier glimpsed is sitting next to him. And she enunciates the best description of becoming a ghost that I have ever read. And the need for her own best clothes in life instead of the dull stuff she was dressed in as a ghost. 

“‘Then I died, suddenly,’ she went on. ‘Imagine my disgust when I realized, as I soon did, that I was buried in a stupid ugly gown of cheap cotton, much too big for me! Ugh! […] Then my thoughts began to swirl around and come back to me, my worldly thoughts; and though I knew I was dead, a waif of infinity, my thoughts were only of what I had prized in life itself—my wonderful clothes. And while I thought of them, they too began to drift around me, the comforting ghosts of them all—gowns, petticoats, stockings, shoes.’”

And it has a very telling elbow moment, too! —
“‘I’ve never seen anything like him in my wanderings!’ He held the packet towards her, indicating the picture of a fathead seaman with whiskers and the word HERO on his hat. ‘Have one?’ he asked her, but she declined. So he leaned his elbows on his knees and puffed smoke at the ground between his boots.”

He thinks she is mad or the fine actress whom he originally smelt. And to his delight she takes off her clothes to prove she is a ghost…
Yes, a great ghost story. The dust puffed between my books.

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Other reviews of A. E. Coppard: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2022/10/03/the-field-of-mustard-by-a-e-coppard/

The Picnic by Walter de la Mare

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“….there had presented itself in the skies opposite to her the most astonishing sunset she had ever seen. It appeared as if the clouds must have been waiting in the wings all day for this last huge transformation scene. They were journeying, rank on rank, each to its appointed place, not only drenching heaven and earth with an enormous pomp of colour, but widening, shallowing, patterning the whole western horizon and even the zenith arched over her simple head. It was an amazingly joyful spectacle. One could hardly believe that again and again and again throughout the centuries of the earth’s solitary and peopled existence just such vast preparations as these must often have been made before…”

There are ‘glimpses’ of various lengths and regularity in this wondrous story, a story about a woman’s obsession. A story that should be one of the best 100 stories of all time in ‘That Glimpse of Truth’ I have been reviewing for months now (HERE). It embodies the non-supernatural sides of Elizabeth Bowen and Elizabeth Taylor as one, and even exceeds them!
This woman is now in charge of a shop. An efficient life. And she nears spinsterhood, and today she glimpses a blind man outside the shop where she works. And she thinks of memories of holidays at the seaside when she was younger, a seaside that you know for what it is, utterly believable in that era when it is set, and the solitary picnics she had on the sand-dunes, and the glimpse of a man sitting on a balcony — a resident or tourist or, somehow, neither? — a glimpse that turns into a recurrent period of hope and passion, while reading a trivial, badly-written novel of romance back in the seaside hotel, as she puts herself within his sight with such slavery of obsession that cannot have been more overpowering. Then that lingering glimpse of a seaside sunset, that is nearly as temporary as glimpses go. And that brings us full circle, just after this very dying sunset, to the final glimpse, embedded within time’s own pervading of its own succeeding glimpses of itself, a glimpse of another blind man being led….

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Other WDLM reviews: https://nemonymousnight.wordpress.com/1005-2/#comment-998

The Stories of A.E. Coppard

THE FIELD OF MUSTARD by A.E. Coppard

“Can’t tell your guts from your elbows.”

“Dinah Lock, the vivacious woman full of shrill laughter, with a bosom as massive as her haunches,” and two other women collecting faggots in the wood. In a style that is textured with relentlessness, fraught with hard countryside (“Beyond the field of mustard the eye could see little but forest. There were hills there, a vast curving trunk, but the Black Wood heaved itself effortlessly upon them and lay like a dark pall over the outline of a corpse”) and small mercies, and a devil’s care, Dinah’s sick husband (“When he coughed, you know, his insides come up out of him like coffee grouts”) and shared men, and one woman said to another woman she wished she were a man.  This tells time like this story’s  watch that still ticks when swimming as a fish under water. Never to fully evolve. But a windfall shilling for stout is better than everything .

“…with elbows sunk in her fat thighs, and nursing her cheeks in her hands, she puffed the gloomy air, saying: ‘Oh God, cradle and grave is all there is for we.’”

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Any further reviews of A.E. Coppard stories will be in the comment stream below

My previous reviews of older or classic fictions:  https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/reviews-of-older-books/