Dogs With Their Eyes Shut (2013) by Paul Meloy
I purchased this hardback book with dust jacket for £24.99 from PS Publishing. Signed by the author and numbered ‘6’. Sixty-six pages. Cover: Vincent Chong.
[My earlier review of ‘Islington Crocodiles’ HERE.]
MY REAL-TIME REVIEW WILL TAKE PLACE IN THE COMMENT STREAM BELOW AS AND WHEN I READ THIS BOOK:-
Pages 3 – 13
“Colin told me that he had been renting it out to an old friend who had recently moved to Dartford.”
I bought this book because I loved, over 4 years ago, this author’s classic gestalt collection ‘Islington Crocodiles’ and this seems to be cast in the vein of a sequel or at least something connected to it. As I started it this evening, I was already wondering why I had spent so much money ostensibly on a 53 page story, albeit in a hard-wired book format with two thick heavy-duty board covers having edges possibly WIDER together than those of the text pages themselves — plus a cover design to die for and an authorial signature and a number. So, I keep my powder dry. My mints, too.
This opening has dragged me into an empty-enticing scenario of Eastern England comprising East London, the Fens, Norfolk Coastal towns, also what I feel is a sense of Eastern Essex, caravan sites, dog homes, that remind me of so much I love and hate about the area I live in. It so far spans the male protagonist’s life from childhood to adulthood, cross-sectioned by dogs (eventually a dog called Bix) and people that also cross-section time itself, and is fraught with a baseboard feeling that it is hard to explain in a review. It seems we are on the brink of an extrapolation of imagination or dream of a world (Lesley and her adventures in Quay-Endula), the world now introduced here that is probably something about to unfold and I suspect it will favourably resonate, for me, with an ostensibly similar extrapolation in a much longer work, ‘Valiant Razalia’, by Michael Wyndham Thomas, a duology I read recently and dubbed one of them my favourite novel of 2013 (HERE).
Pages 14 – 21
“Krait wouldn’t let me sit at the piano without ministering to my appetite with slices of lamb as thick as bibles.”
…varying from life’s slender tomes for more refined appetites, then, and we enter this rarefied, sharp-pointed machine world I sense by our protagonist’s osmotic connection with the Dog Bix, where I dare not tell you the story of Lesley because this book is that story and you would not need to read it if I told you more than was necessary other than it is couched in Boyo Meloyo’s customary myriad sharp-pointed prose that will quench any appetite for fine literature. Generally, war is afoot in this osmotic dream or real separate fantasy world (if that’s not a contradiction in terms), with a quay, ships, Lesley as captain of one of them, other characters we gradually try on like tentative clothes, and cages each crammed with a child. It reminds me of my own vague memory of the sharp-pointed in autoscopic ‘Islington Crocodiles’, each tooth a word. And even more vaguely of my own ‘Yesterfang’ novella where children are kept within the housing of domestic electric cooling-fans. I will mention, more particularly, Meloy’s concept of the Incursion Compass. When you read about it here you will see how the way it works is an inadvertent metaphor for the process of how gestalt real-time reviewing has been working since 2008.
Pages 22 – 31
I can’t believe I am already halfway through this book. I wonder if there are elements of Kubrickian eyes WIDE shut, having been taken there for some initiation shindig in the cross-fertilisation of Colin’s Bar in Invidisham-next-the-Sea (NEXT the sea, not on it, like Wells-next-the-Sea in real life) and of Lesley’s Quay world with the medium between the two being, we sense, Bix who may be a bitch not a dog after all. Still, the sharp-pointed sea battle rages in this ‘recurring dream as recurring reality’ (or vice versa) with things called things, people called other things, which we infer we should already know by name as if, in the form of a captive audience, we have been shown this eyes wide shut world before, Nurse Melt, the Flyblown Man, Toyceivers and other contraptions as contrivances, a thin world, fattening along with its spikes beyond the hard shoulders of this book as our eyes continue to close wide shut.
“‘Where are you, you Bitch?'”
Pages 32 – 39
“A couple of fly blind strips lay across his thinning scalp…”
And my own words about the book widen, even as the book’s lane grows branches beyond the book itself; an Ingress Gantry lurches overhead like a factory complex thunderstorm, as the two worlds interlock and it dawns on you that our protagonist was chosen to find this world and fight for some reality against another reality, as you were chosen, too, to read this book, despite the barriers to get past it. The link-up is complete, ready-latched, measured out words like the autoscopes themselves?
Good job you took along some extramural mints for the “stummacassid”.
“This was chance, and fate, all rolled up.”
From my book of Heath Robinson pictures.
Pages 39 – 46
An Uproar Contraption features in this amazing section as we begin to understand the visionary rationale behind the fantasy and its implications of winning or losing the battle that we first met in ‘Islington Crocodiles’. This book seems to be a machine-mutant form of William Blake’s epic mystical poems (not his songs of innocence and experience like tyger tyger or other short poems but his epic, wide-arched, thick-as-bibles verse-piles that hardly anyone reads these days) as cut down to size by Heath Robinson. An unholy alliance that one would have thought was a Heath Robinson contraption in itself! But it works paradoxically by not working, scything blades often snagging each other, the book’s own pages making themselves scarce for fear of rainscissors…
Pages 46 – 56
“And lying on the cobbled pavement at our feet, a dying tiger.”
Impossible to have predicted, even half an hour ago, how that is now so telling.
The ending is not quite an ending. How could it be in such a short book? But it is a satisfying ending, a satisfying book. A book eventually of growth as well as destruction, a romance (in more than one sense) across the cutting edges at the interface of two worlds. I had to smile, too, as I thought of the caravan park’s social club as a version of an amazingly untouched St Paul’s Cathedral after the onslaught of war. And indeed it has turned out for me to be a fair comparison that I made at outset between this book and Michael Wyndham Thomas’s great ‘Valiant Razalia’ duology, indeed fair to both works being compared. I would find it hard to believe that either author has read the other … Yet.
The Large Hadron Collider or the Weirdmonger Wheel?
PS: I note that this book ends with the prospect of going straight to Lakenheath. Sadly, there is much laken heathland in existence this Winter’s day…
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