Elizabeth Bowen and Robert Aickman


GREEN HOLLY by Elizabeth Bowen

“They were Experts – in what, the Censor would not permit me to say.”

“She never had had illusions: the illusion was all.”


And perhaps for the first time ever I reveal this INCREDIBLE ghost story to the wider public? I am seriously excited by this particular re-reading, and, let me admit, it has not haunted me as it should have done since I first read it years ago — because I have been haunting myself, as a man does within it. The most remarkable ghost story ever written, one that makes you believe in ghosts, because they may be you. […]

Just suffice to say that this story alone proves to me that, as rough contemporaries, Bowen and Aickman were great mutual literary spirit influences as synergy upon and from each other, but without letting the literary world know. Or the literary world has kept wartime secrets about it, by not mixing apparent horror genre with literature? Till now. (continued…)

Full review here: https://etepsed.wordpress.com/1004-2/

My review of a story entitled LOVE by Elizabeth Bowen as another Aickman-infused example among many: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2021/10/05/the-collected-stories-of-elizabeth-bowen/#comment-23127

Elephant in the Memory, with little Room remaining…

Just now, a tweet by my son — a tweet first seen, liked and retweeted ten minutes after reading the next story:

Feed 
Jason A. Wyckoff

“Nell turned her head to see to whom the offensive odor clung, but her view was blocked…”

An effectively and increasingly nightmarish series of Venn-word diagrams of people whom Nell sees in real life, prehensile stenches and felt traumas on a train, all overlapping piecemeal with one’s Facebook feed, post by post, a unique mixture of other people’s lives and their current preoccupations, and friend requests, and pictures one is polite about and ‘likes’, those that make one angry or sad, toward a whole dead elephant in the headroom, I guess. The ultimate Zeno’s Paradox story, where a scream is ever only partway complete. But still time enough to snap…

My full ongoing review of the latest amazing NIGHTSCRIPT anthology: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2021/10/06/nightscript-7/

“Eternity is inside us”



No. 16 by Elizabeth Bowen

“Eternity is inside us – it’s a secret that we must never, never try to betray. Look where just time has brought me; look at where it’s left me.”

…In “the end house […] tacked, living, to the hulk of the terrace.”

Another seminal, serial Null Immortalis story, where Jane visits the (once) famous author Maximilian Bewdon, now down on his creative luck, who had reviewed her proud book of prose, now wanting to hear her poems. Always to return to see if he was still there within this Bowenly cracked end house of an otherwise empty terrace, even a ghostly piano being played in the empty no. 15, next door — a St John’s Wood area that had seen better days, Maximilian living with his caring, tired, confusedly endearing wife.

Young Jane should never have come, having missed the telegram not to come because of his currently suffering another era’s earlier version of influenza. Jane had it, too, so both feverish minds wandering, with near delirium, his with dementia, too, I guess, his mind as old as mine, even though he was then probably physically younger than I am now. I can empathise. 

They end up sleeping together while the wife slept upstairs. But not exactly, but you will know what I mean should you read it. 

“Every corner brings you to something out of the scheme – even without a touch of fever on you (and Jane Oates had more than a touch of fever) some starts of taste or fancy look like catastrophes.”

“To walk there is to have a crazy architectural film, with no music, reeled past. Every corner brings you to something out of the scheme – even without a touch of fever on you (and Jane Oates had more than a touch of fever) some starts of taste or fancy look like catastrophes. Pale tan brick blocks of flats, compressed cities, soar up over studios all trellis and vine.”

But what about the bunch of coloured, if flaccid, balloons, he had hanging inside? 

“They [Jane & Maximilian] looked like a suicide pact. The room smelled of the scorching of Bewdon’s rug. Mrs Bewdon, when she had drawn the curtains, stooped and gave Jane’s shoulder a light pat. ‘Tea-time,’ she said.”

Jane ends up back at home, finding the telegram asking her not to go. Does that mean she is forced to go again and again, to match the pattern of unconscious defiance in the nature of time? To go play the piano at no. 15 for real? As a feverish poltergeist?

She ends up with a pillow, a pillowghost, I infer. Ever within the pact of their co-vivid influenza dream of going back not simply to thank Mrs B for her ‘chagrining’ kindness but, above all, to hear Maximilian say to her again and again: “Don’t write”, and to burn her book? As he had burnt his rug? That telegram from lost time is sent by time yet again and again? This time with an invitation to a party, the balloons now strung pointedly outside the derelict terrace to show at which number the party is taking place?

“Eternity is inside us – it’s a secret that we must never, never try to betray. Look where just time has brought me; look at where it’s left me.”

***

All my Bowen story reviews: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2021/10/05/the-collected-stories-of-elizabeth-bowen/

Dot and Carry One

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THE DOLT’S TALE by Elizabeth Bowen

“Dot-and-carry-one”

This is the maddest story I have ever read. 1944, it says. In London. Far more Mysterious than even Kôr! Why do I not remember first reading it? My mother listened to doodlebugs before they cut out. She told me about them. Here a male narrator who rambles neatly enough, I guess, and is the dolt, to go with the doodles and someone’s duodenal? Well, his chat starts at a club and those he meets, Margery and her so-called husband, Ken Timpson, and shenanigans and someone is a saboteur, but who?

“Joining up at the club, we would then trool out to their place, Ken running me back into town again next morning.”

A saboteur is worse than an unreliable narrator, I say. Another hanger-on, Denis, is in the art world and he is a ‘sissy’. Who’s getting off on whom? Who the troll, who the victim? And there is even a co-vivid dream to match our days of lockdown with the war then, and the madnesses that prevailed then and now.

“It was like the sort of dream that you are told about, which I have I am glad to say never had. Not, I mean, like any form of real life – in that I think I may say I always know where I am.”

I really think Bowen is a prophetic genius through her preternature of literature, making her even alive today beyond her coastal haunt in 1973! But what happened to Margery’s dog, her clumping mules and the Timpsons’ ever unseen kid? What happened to us? Who among us still waits the next jolt with bated breath?

“As it was, there was a silence over the Timpsons’ place like there is overhead when a doodlebug has cut out: that or something or other gave me gooseflesh.”

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All my ongoing reviews of Bowen stories: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2021/10/05/the-collected-stories-of-elizabeth-bowen/

Elizabeth Bowen, Katherine Mansfield, William Trevor & Robert Aickman

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— renée c. hoogland on Elizabeth Bowen in this book: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2021/09/27/elizabeth-bowen-theory-thought-and-things/

Seems relevant to my preternatural or fearless faith in fiction that has been engendered by gestalt real-time reviewing as an instinctive or naive process…

Remember to Breathe


Although not directly connected with the next story, this photo is one I happened to take earlier this morning, without any forethought, and before first reading the story — a photo of a funeral parlour window, that turned out in hindsight to be remarkable, if oblique, collateral! 

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BEWARE POSSIBLE SPOILERS, though, for me, it already worked even if with firm forethought.

The Summer King’s Day
by Timothy Granville

“The crown of wildflowers seemed a grotesque afterthought, a mockery like Christ’s crown.”

Alongside the ending of the previous story above, this was as great an afterthought as it was a hindsight…. A suspenseful story of a young couple and a toddler called Poppy, the latter learning to talk as well as walk. They seem to have booked a holiday in a place off the beaten track called Elveley, and are surprised, in fact at first slightly fearful, that an off-season day’s festival with rattling of pots and pans coincided with their visit. It centres around the eponymous King played by a tall man in a mask, who for me — via the words describing him and what is said about him by others, and his choice for quietness — actually succeeded in making me shudder. And also made the husband have one of his, what I deemed to be, asthmatic fits. The family later decide to cut their losses and on the same day leave the village for a trip to a wooded barrow in the area, whereby the hi-jinx chasing and hunting with Poppy insidiously merges with chitinous chirring and a flowery mound to mimic what had been buried — yes, with a chirring if not cheering! They had been foolhardy enough to break the festival’s bounds and to travel to leave Elveley on the day in question… Hindsight was never enough, I guess. Afterthought is ever being transcended by forethought, too. Earlier that day, you see, before their reaching the end of the story, there was for the wife … “a bluebottle still buzzing in a cobweb on the window frame, gathering the dusty mesh like a spool. She felt strange, apprehensive, as though there was something awful she had to face but she’d temporarily forgotten what.”
Remember — ‘remember to breathe’.

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The full context of this review: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2021/10/06/nightscript-7/