My Bowen and Aickman Summary
It was my recent re-reading of Elizabeth Bowen’s ‘A Day In The Dark’ (my having now re-read all the Bowen stories in a random order), that became the first occasion ELBOW dawned on me as a significant word in her work, my having instinctively related the meaningfulness of the two elbow incidents in that particular story. I then started noticing more and more elbows in other stories. I think there are about 80 elbows in the main collected stories book and I haven’t yet counted all those in the Bazaar EUP collection of her stories. For me, these elbows add to the stories’ meanings in different ways. There are 38 elbows in the novel ‘Death of the Heart’, too! And many also in the other novels.
Robert Aickman (1914-1981) and Elizabeth Bowen (1899-1973), as far as I can see, had significant mutual friends and entered the same sort of social and literary circles. Aickman collaborated with Elizabeth Jane Howard, for example. He was also a big noise in the British Canals society. I think he knew the Sitwells etc. I have no hard evidence that RA and EB met in person, but surely they must have corresponded, as Aickman included a Bowen work in his edited Second Fontana Great Ghost Stories in 1966, and called her, in the introduction, one of the greatest exponents of the ghost story.
As I have done with Bowen, I have recently re-read and reviewed all Aickman’s fiction work….. And I have found that many of Bowen’s stories are in significant synergy with Aickman’s. Incredibly so! I am convinced the influence, if any, was mutual, although by dint of age he was probably first influenced by her. Bowen’s most Aickmanesque stories (and for me most of her stories are Aickmanesque at least to some extent) are Mrs Moysey, Human Habitation, LOVE, The Inherited Clock, Mysterious KÔR, Her Table Spread, Green Holly and, even, perhaps Gone Away! I could extend that list almost indefinitely. Some I may have forgotten.
Many paperback firms and Gollancz and Tartarus Press have published Aickman over the years ostensibly in the Ghost Story, Horror and associated genres, but, for me, Aickman’s work transcends any labels.
Edited by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer
My earlier detailed review as a proud participant —
Elizabeth Bowen – Eva Trout
Roger Keen – The Empty Chair: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2021/08/29/the-empty-chair-roger-keen/
“She bowed her head, acceptingly, then folded her arms, consoling the elbows.”
A description of Iseult, but tellingly by Bowen in her final novel.
Especially now I know the importance of the word ‘elbow’ in much of her fiction.
Quotes from the book HAMSTER DAM by Quentin S. Crisp….
“…the longer one spent immersed in the secret haven of books, the more one became aware of the subtleties of their infinitely varied relations, one to another. These subtleties were a whole world,…”
“I mean that being a reader is as much a skill as being a writer. There’s no shame at all in being a really good reader and not writing a word.”
My ongoing review of this book…
THE DANCE (Chapter Eleven of ’The Hotel’ by Elizabeth Bowen)
“…a close-packed row of onlookers sat or stood along the walls, pressing up so near to the band that the red-coated fiddlers began to look desperate, having scarcely elbow-room.”
This is almost as if the hotelbow has been turned into one of those fairy-tale balls rather than tennis ones, while still harbouring the various characters and their interactions, but potentially with any inhibitions removed…
“…several couples of girls were dancing together. Some of the elder ladies had also taken the floor and were spinning round at a high velocity in the arms of their usual bridge-partners,…”
Mrs Duperrier watches her husband vanish into the garden after …Veronica, is it?
But the main outcome that Ronald’s sudden arrival in the role of Mrs K’s son is almost unnoticed, an anticlimax he feels, as if snubbed, while he watches the dances. Mr L-M takes charge of him, I recall.
Milton, meanwhile…is flirted with by Eileen Lawrence, I think.
“…she had less on than he could have imagined possible.”
“Heavens, if this were Monte!” Or Monet? …
Milton “thought of the whole band of white hotels like palaces along the line of coast into which their own seemed now to be knitted – hotels with light streaming out of them towards the tideless sea that, never advancing on the shore or receding from it, was like an inexorable unfailing Memory,…”
What a wondrous image. Bowen is second to none.
Gauche Milton with so much attention on Eileen’s arms without even mentioning her elbows, but the elbows are of course absurdistly inferred, at least for me!
“‘What jolly arms you’ve got!’ he, feeling still immensely far from her, was moved to exclaim.”
But it is Sydney whom Milton so gauchely wants, not Eileen? But he still wants to dip a finger in the latter… with the smouldering of a luminous-nosed Dong?
“…laid a hand on her arm to detain her. He entreated, ‘Not till the end of this dance!’ His unwillingness to give her up was not decreased by a sharp irritation that she with her white arms and her attractiveness. […]….which he was conscious of as something as material as phosphorescence, in which he could have dipped a finger curiously…”
Love is spoken of in the same breath of his mind as the name Sydney, as Milton counts the balconies in the night and Mrs K at her balcony turns into Sydney and, so, who is the shadowy third to his hopes of ‘love’ with Sydney? Ronald or Mrs K?
Meanwhile, to explain my startling Dong thought above…
“Their cigarette ends glowing and fading preceded them like a pair of luminous noses, and equidistant spots of fire advertised that other pairs of Dongs were promenading solemnly.”
One of those chapters of literature that should be enshrined.
My ongoing review of THE HOTEL here: https://elizabethbowensite.wordpress.com/2021/11/27/the-hotel/
THE STATION OF GREY GLANCES by Thassio Rodriguez Capranera
Translated by Alcebiades Diniz Miguel
“There was an old man, a guy named Linotti, he was a pussy, an asshole as they said . . .”
Beyond this story’s factories, I am that old man, too, who also comes back in at the end and defeated yet again as reader and controller, thanks a bunch! This is craquelure literature supreme, with a black narrator who sets the tone of colours, him black and tall, and others who are or become white, grey or even transparent grey if you are dragged under by the train from the station you do not recognise that makes you think you had lost a day; I do not recognise this place but it has factories and the narrator works oppressed in one bottling beer, with noise and noise. I’ll quote bits below, or retell bits, within reason, to show the context, people called Italians and others, in South America or Italy or wherever. The venue of the plot with factories and shopfronts is thus, for me, like his missing station, hanging fractured like haunts … and his wife with big belly who stinks. The stations of the turnstile, not the cross. “I would slap Christ if he looked at me funny.” Importing Waki, too — and a train going “slower than a stuttering priest’s mass.” No clock in the station, so allowing Zeno’s Paradox to go even slower… turning into rats, rats, rats. And “TRANG TRANG TRANG”, train wheels, and the brakes like a squeaky girl’s scream, big belly birth of wife as a natural progression, thus snuffing out any Anti-Natalism thoughts by that first asshole old man, I guess. Or are the rats the rats of a Rasnic Tem? “I remember well that it’s still with the Tac tac temm temm of the factory, and the tchaquetchaque of the train…”
“After all, it worked to wait, another time.” Bottle cap, loose. So much more I’ve not told you of what is in this story. And some things I may have told you that are in the story that are not? And then, of course, as I said, here I am, near the end of this story’s text, now, still writing this, just! — but soon out of control as the reader, the biggest asshole of them all “like a bunch of old man withering.” (sick) (sic)
“…silent and gray-eyed people with no names.”
My full review of GHOST TRAINS from Raphus Press here: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2021/11/27/ghost-trains/
Yet more synergy with Robert Aickman in Chapter 5 of Elizabeth Bowen’s final novel EVA TROUT…
My ongoing review:
PS: Later today, in the ’Mr Milton’ chapter of Bowen’s first novel, ’The Hotel’, I discovered what might have inspired Aickman’s ’The Inner Room’ as well as Bowen’s own ’Mysterious Kôr’! (My review here: https://nemonymousnight.wordpress.com/861-2/#comment-808)
In great literature, there is a battle between a work’s birth in the author and its new berth in the reader.
How resolvable are such separate battles between a work’s initial birth and its various subsequent bespoke berths determines the extent of its greatness.
Pretentious, moi? Well, fiction as truth is pretension and fiction as lies is pretence.
The review is here: https://elizabethbowensite.wordpress.com/2021/11/27/the-hotel/