DEFEATED DOGS – by Quentin S. Crisp


Eibonvale Press (2013)

A collection of stories by Quentin S. Crisp

Book & other items purchased from publisher. Signed and lettered E.

Sculpture made from QSC’s shed hair: Miranda Keyes
Cover Art: David Rix
Quentin’s haircut: Jazz Topalusic
Quentin’s trousers: Dominika Kieruzel
Quentin’s Shirt: Emily

My ‘RTRcausal’ review will be conducted in the comment stream below as and when I read each story.

It may take some while to complete this review during the period I remain busy preparing the ‘Horror Without Victims’ anthology.  Anything beyond the stories and their physical accoutrements are outwith this review.

[My previous reviews of Quentin S. Crisp fiction: HERE]

11 thoughts on “DEFEATED DOGS – by Quentin S. Crisp

  1. defeateddogs1

    The Fairy Killer
    “…that’s why I like the trees. They make me feel like I can remember how things should be,…”

    …not that this story is didactic. It is a tale of Uncle Abuse by an eleven year old girl. I almost felt sorry for him. Not really.
    In all seriousness, this is a wonderful story, combining the childhood fantasy of Sarban (cf: his masterpiece: ‘Calmahain’) blended with a variety of what I can only describe as purple patches by John Cowper Powys with some wild reader-conjured scenes of mysticism, except Crisp knows how to write English better than JCP. Tinged with Tinker Bell. Completed by untouched Crisp.

    If this story is didactic, it seems to be against logical thinking. Count me in. I am ever the brainstormer.
    But essentially it is something I will treasure as a reading-memory or rich fantasy for its own sake. It is just up my street, as I knew it would be. Visions and Dreams caught in childhood butterfly-nets and fairy-muslin. Dark, too, with prefigured human-sloughs of despond worthy of Bunyan.

    And the last sentence is perfect.

  2. defeateddogs3

    “Here she was running from the bole of one branchless tree to another,…”

    This story seems to read as if it needs to ponderously describe fantastical happenings in the mode of a Government Bill or a dry technical document – but, strangely, it works. A father takes his daughter into a fairground attraction, managed by an inscrutable character, like a Charlie being taken into Dahl’s Chocolate Factory. The attraction is a cross between a Bouncy Castle and a world of ambient music and weird happenings or visions. At the end of it, I feel like the father, strangely conscious of my own ponderous breathing. It somehow leaves the reader in a disturbed state or with the impression that human relationships are ever one notch ahead of reality and you have to catch up with things so as to fulfil one’s life properly. The young daughter, I sense, is the winner, by being left behind in a world where her own more engaging stories come true under her disguise of having come out of the attraction dead. And it is the father who loses, just like the girl’s uncle did in the previous story. Although I enjoyed or rated ‘The Fairy Killer’ more, I fear it will be ‘Dreamspace’ filling my dreamspace tonight.

  3. defeateddogs4

    “Life itself is the true enemy of the censor.”

    I think this is the only story in the book that I have read before, but I have just re-read it. I have not yet looked at what I wrote about it in a previous RTRcausal but I shall link to it in the next ‘comment’ when I have finished this ‘comment’.
    It seems to be quite a different story from the one I remember. And this is probably because, since first reading ‘Tzimtzum’, I have re-read ‘The Glastonbury Romance’ by John Cowper Powys (it was a faded memory till then, as I had first read it in the early 1970s). The chalice and holy grail themes, the mystic efflorescences, and, above all, the reference to SOMERSET-Maugham have convinced me that we have kindred works here, even if Crisp has never read Powys and I have no idea whether he has or hasn’t – and, as I said above, Crisp is, for me, a better writer than JCP, but I love JCP’s works that I’ve read. So that must say something. Meyrink eat your heart out!
    Tzimtzum is the sound of bells. Related to these and other ornaments hung on trees. And “pollarded” again – – and truncated – self- or short-circuited harm (a sculpture of stiffened hair as part of that trunkation?) – then coming in a generational circle – factoring into my observation regarding the previous story about human relationships being one notch ahead of reality [please compare, if I may be self-indulgent, my work ‘The Exquisition’ which can be read here or heard read aloud here] – – this now ‘Charlie’s Chocolate Factory’ become a Porridge one, as the protagonist wavers in and out of truth, mundane or mystic, random or synchronised, each shard an emblem or relic or reliquary, a religious quest through the art of fiction itself, a personal quest, too, I propose, given the forbearance of the Intentional Fallacy. Another Pilgrim’s Progress.
    A major, deliciously bleak work for those who are meant to read it, self-urinated. … …

    “These projects had become a physical maze of books, written notes and so on, taking up the floor of my room. This literal maze was also a conceptual model of an abstract maze.”

  4. defeateddogs5

    I have just consumed this novella-length story in one sitting. Utterly compelling and potentially the most memorable QSC fiction I have ever read. Where has it been hiding! I also sense it is nearer the truth end of the fiction shards spectrum. Arguably real and personal. But with a deep sense of the foreignly fantastical that created such a reality, a reality we know actually happens somewhere on the Earth as a diurnal normality.
    Like ‘Dreamspace’, the text seems to be struggling (I think the word used in the story is ‘grope’ in this context) to perfect this as a dry clinical document of truth, but, as part of that struggle, it comes through with the most engaging, yet textured, prose with deeply-felt-yet-often-under-the-surface-emotions of anxiety and wonder (more anxiety than wonder, I guess). I felt anxious myself when reading it. An anxiety bordering on panic.
    Overtly it is a travel document, a journey to a Japanese island by the English narrator and his brother. I don’t think I have ever before been gifted with such a strong ‘genius loci’ by means of a work of fiction, more than could ever be gifted by any other means of communication – possibly even better than going there myself! I don’t say that lightly.
    The silence (“a silence you seem to feel in your throat as you breathe” (cf: the father in ‘Dreamspace’)), the sadness, the alien ambiance, the encroaching shafts of perceived normality only to be quashed by further weird ambiances and people, the flesh-crawling curtness of curfew, the fight to structure meaningfully (this time a fight for logic that the earlier Uncle would have favoured) – and I am not surprised when learning that the narrator is fascinated by the “instruction-manual” ‘glamour’ or interface of, say a hydraulic dam and a comic book hero. You need to read this work to even get close to what I am trying to explain there.
    There is also a provoking mini-essay on life and strangeness. The drumming in my ears. Hilarious meal with teardrops, but not hilarious, really. A ‘Death in Venice’ sense of tourism. Memories becoming fragmentary. Gurning lips. And much much more.
    Here the narrator explicitly states he is groping for meaning in this ten year old ‘revisit’ to the island by describing it as fiction. I feel the same way about the narrator of this story himself (whether that is the author or not). I am groping, struggling to assess this ‘island’ of a person I have envisaged by means of this fiction. It makes me almost feel I need to redescribe the whole story and the inferred author to that end. And in ten years time, perhaps I will or, if sooner, when I do a real-time review of a new book where this story is republished, as it certainly will be, with great honour and acclaim.

  5. defeateddogs10

    The Gay Wolf
    This again seems very personal, but more amorphous than ‘Sado-ga-Shima’. I would suggest this is a story for QSC completists. The visiting of this dog-like creature with glowing eyes in the protagonist’s garden is haunting in itself, the dreams had about it, the conversations with it, and the evocation of a certain house party, all memorable and well accomplished. But I wonder whether the story as a whole — with the philosophical meanderings (albeit ones with which I have sympathy and that shed more light on the ‘anxiety’ comments I was making about the previous story) — actually works other than as an entry in a private journal. Having said that, the Monty Python sketch reference alone with its contribution to the plot makes it worth reading this story.
    I was wondering what other work of literature may exist where a philosophical or philosophy-provoking animal or pet keeps visiting the protagonist. I feel in my bones that there is one.


  6. “We are too late for the gods” – Heidegger

    I must also mention a striking phrase from ‘The Gay Wolf’: “the opulence of defeat” which not only hints that the eponymous dog is a defeated one, but also sheds some light on the next story, where there is a concept such as ‘eloquent absence’ while I think the extruded figure-of-eight Qu hair waxed-design is not really infinity on its side as I thought, but the pattern made in the air by the “whirl” of blade-tips ‘piercing the emptiness’ on more than one narrated occasion in ‘The Temple’….


    The Temple
    An engaging fable of tricksy conceit and Dunsany-like plot, where I was particularly fascinated by the forest that served as its own camouflage and the temple with all its intricate ornamentation outside and an emptiness within.
    When I was younger, the members of my family thought me mad when I proposed the theory that if you weren’t looking at, say, a particular tree then it didn’t exist. I am glad now to discover that they were wrong.


    “…the tiny purposeless shelf. His eyes fixed on the surface of the shelf…”

    I could not resist constructively overdosing today on QSC fiction and this is another novella-length story I have just read in one sitting! This culminates in another, if more implied, fulmination on an equivalent to the words ‘deliciously bleak’ first raised in ‘Tzimtzum’ and the transcendence of writing a book threaded into ‘The Gay Wolf’ – but, equally, it is a compelling story that seems to share ‘Brave New World’ with Ishiguro’s ‘Never Let Me Go’ as filtered through the doll-like manga of Chomu and Proustian ‘selves’ come to life when the idyllic world of partying skiers at the Resort starts breaking down – where characters jitteringly walk like someone from ‘Thunderbirds’ – and we have to face any number of images and ideas to process in our reading-mind to make sense of an internal Socratic Dialogue about reality and identity and ambition and the necessity of things to overcome rather than wallowing in parallel eternities that merely need a tweaking ceremony to keep on the straight and narrow train track. Like the traction or friction needed by the POV of the Glenn doll-with-thoughts whom we first follow in the plot, this story itself ironically provides, through its own complexity of process, the very traction or friction we need as readers to make us a “gestalt organism” of dream-readers ourselves, if not the ‘dream-writers’ that Glenn hears about from himself! Needs re-reading one day, or as the story puts it, ‘rekindling’. Don’t go there. But do. You need to. It’s your ultimate ‘dreamspace’ equivalent of Dahl’s ‘chocolate factory’.

    “She had large grey eyes and a face of inscrutable innocence, like someone freshly transplanted into the world fully grown.”

  8. It is now another day….
    To complete the above quote from ‘Lilo’: “His eyes fixed on the surface of the shelf in which tiny flecks of something shone in sweaty pinpricks of light.”

    “…Lec thought he saw infinitesimal gleams of light there, as brilliant as the light that glinted on the blades, seeming to shine out from inside the hand through gaps made by a loosening and recombining of particles.”


    This seems to be a Hellish coda to the previous story, but ironically within the Temptations of Heaven! A test at the antechambers of Serenity, where Glenn vs Glenn becomes Luke vs Lec. I suspect this is the evolving of the Nihil Garden from ‘The Gay Wolf’, a new oriental vs occidental spiritualism. Needs re-reading. But real-time reviews are ever based on my first reading from the book being reviewed.

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