Elizabeth Bowen’s message for us today…

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May 29, 2021 at 9:43amweirdmonger said:

THE DEMON LOVER by Elizabeth Bowen

“You have no time to run from a face you do not expect.”

Another story, many times read, where I always seem to expect something but always get something else, something ever or even more frightening than I remember it possibly being. Today was no exception. Following this woman, as she returns to her bomb damaged London home, age 44, her life lived, husband, children, and a prior sinister troth to a lover who never returned in 1916 … until, as promised, today. Sleeping till today in some waiting room or gallery of vendettas, I sense, and I somehow find myself acting as her taxi driver for the night. All of this couched in Bowen’s immaculately fractured style of unexpected words and rich covert threat. Tempting the reader to become so involved that words are added that she did not intend but somehow simply knew, if not expected, would be delivered one day. Today.
A mysterious core that only rare great stories such as this one can harbour. “To smoke with dark”, the smoke of 25 years, those “creeks of London silence.”

My long-term website for this author: elizabethbowensite.wordpress.com/


“All of this couched in Bowen’s immaculately fractured style of unexpected words and rich covert threat. Tempting the reader to become so involved that words are added that she did not intend but somehow simply knew, if not expected, would be delivered one day. Today.”

A portrait of Elizabeth Bowen that I saw for the first time yesterday (12 June). I find this quite amazing, as I have never seen her with long hair. And also the finely rendered hands together with her eyes create a combined gesture that seems to speak a message to us across time!

“You have no time to run from a face you do not expect.” — Elizabeth Bowen

My reviews of the other stories chosen by Robert Aickman for his Fontana book series: dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2021/04/30/the-fontana-great-ghost-stories-chosen-by-robert-aickman/

Gambier by Oliver Onions


I intend shortly to empirically real-time review this novella recently published by Tartarus Press in the new collection of this author’s work here: http://www.tartaruspress.com/onions-ghost-stories.html

My previous reviews of this publisher: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/r-b-russell-tartarus-press/

My recent detailed review of The Beckoning Fair One: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2021/05/28/the-3rd-fontana-book-of-great-ghost-stories-edited-by-robert-aickman/

My public comments about OO’s collected works, comments made yonks ago: https://nullimmortalis.wordpress.com/2010/08/09/tentacles-across-the-atlantic/

“There is no dream that has not been dreamed before.”
– Oliver Onions

When I read Gambier, my thoughts will appear in the comment stream below…

The Swords


THE SWORDS by Robert Aickman

“And I don’t mean I just wanted her body. That comes later in life. I wanted to love her and tousle her and all the other, better things we want before the time comes when we know that however much we want them, we’re not going to get them.”

“That night I really grasped the fact that most of the time we have no notion of what we really want, or we lose sight of it. And the even more important fact that what we really want just doesn’t fit in with life as a whole, or very seldom. Most folk learn slowly, and never altogether learn at all. I seemed to learn all at once.
Or perhaps not quite, because there was very much more to come.” (my italics)

I have always thought this story to be the most tawdry one in literature. Now it takes on an even greater power of attrition in the context of what I have discovered to be the prevailing Gestalt of this series of Fontana Great Ghost Stories as chosen by Robert Aickman. The gluey torpor here of the callow, sexually inexperienced narrator, a commercial traveller in seedy digs in seedy townships and currently staying in a “nasty bedroom” in Wolverhampton. I once had the ‘pleasure’ of attritionally having to struggle through 30 locks in a canal boat through a relatively short distance in Wolverhampton, at first looking forward to later visiting more scenic sights on the canal ring, but was unexpectedly made to laboriously turn the boat in a winding-hole and struggle back through the same 30 locks because of weather conditions! This feels like the Words of The Swords. The narrator’s witnessing, at a seedy fairground, a woman being somehow penetrated, and later being given himself the same chance to do so to the same woman in the nasty bedroom of his digs. The inability to unburden himself of a “silly pie”, as a metaphor for something else he can’t rid himself of. The dead meat of the woman to be penetrated, with her too easy dismemberment. Her unpromising burdensome blouse and her other garments. The disarming nature of the seaman and the seamen’s trousers, ‘seaman’ as a homophone?
I, Des, wonder if Mr. Edis actually got to hear the full story to quench his vicarious desires.
“Suddenly it had all become rather like a nightmare.”
Only the actual reality around you can be LIKE a nightmare. Nightmares themselves can be woken up from.
Just like that silly pie, I can’t get this story out of my brain’s ownership. It teases and ‘tousles’ away at me like an endless worry.

Full context of above here: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2021/06/07/the-5th-fontana-book-of-great-ghost-stories-edited-by-robert-aickman/

The Dancing Partner


“Do you like Wagner?”

…one of the chat-up lines exemplified here that men issue mindlessly at dance parties in this story. Thankfully, the mechanical doll invented here does not include it in his chat-up armoury; he has far more lethal methods of embrace in this famous brief story. An endless dance of death, the ultimate nullity in token love-lines of lust and mortality?
Cf the Mark-2 Wife by William Trevor reviewed here.

Full context of above: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2021/06/07/the-5th-fontana-book-of-great-ghost-stories-edited-by-robert-aickman/

The Library Window

As well as being an equivalent to Oliver O’s Oleronous beckoning enchantment, this Oliphant is a novelette with a figurative ‘elephant-in-the-room’ transpiring to be a diamond ring that bites and stings — and do please compare this with the ring that I coincidentally (!?) read about this very day in ‘Him We Adore’ HERE!


“Or was he thinking, still thinking, of what he had been writing and going on with it still?”

“It is a longing all your life after — it is a looking — for what never comes.”

…being that gluey never-ending or nullimmortalis that attracts Aickman so much in the stories he chooses for this book series. Here, the so-called window opposite, in the library, that — in this work’s wonderfully evoked conditions of changing light — often looks less like a window at all, and the well-characterised naive girl narrator, amid older ladies as companions, including her aunt, gradually begins to see a man writing endlessly, and beckoning, and waving to her from deep within it, amid the narration’s stray thoughts of enchantments and fairy folk and the conjured covivid bubble of dream and reality. Intensely and incrementally haunting not only for the girl but also for us, as we piece together the intriguing backstories behind it. Her agonising pangs become ours.

Full context of above here: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2021/06/07/the-5th-fontana-book-of-great-ghost-stories-edited-by-robert-aickman/

Lord Mount Prospect


This must have been a major influence on Aickman. It is a masterpiece of absurdism involving obscure Irish Peers, and a strange religious sect in North London, a rhinoceros, a Gilbert and Sullivan opera and a vision of the ruined Taj Mahal in an Irish bog where Aickman’s propensity — that I recognised earlier in these Fontana reviews – to being gluily stuck in Zeno’s Paradox is rife!
No half measures though (!), as I give you the whole of this story to read here: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/lord-mount-prospect-by-john-betjeman/
Sorry if there are any textual glitches. When I got rid of some, others appeared! On and on and on…again and again!

A story included by Aickman in his Fontana Ghosts Book no. 5

My reviews of Aickman Fontana Ghosts: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2021/04/30/the-fontana-great-ghost-stories-chosen-by-robert-aickman/