7 thoughts on “TALES OF THE GROTESQUE by L.A. Lewis

  1. Lost Keep
    I know that, a number of years ago, I somewhere read a LA Lewis story – and it haunted me so significantly, I vowed to search out more stories by him or her. But life being what it is, the vow slipped my mind and I have even forgotten the title of that story. It may even be in this collection I have just purchased where I have learnt, from the back cover (I am saving the Dalby intro for when I have finished this review), that the author is Leslie Allin Lewis (1899 – 1961), born the same year as my beloved influential grandmother who died in 1984. Born the same year, too, as my favourite writer of all time: Elizabeth Bowen.
    The oxymoron-like title of the first story LOST KEEP seems highly significant in the light of what I just said. Having now read it, I am pretty sure it is not the story I read all those years ago. It is quite new to me. But it is the beginning of a new haunting, I guess, a story of an inheritance, a model fort, a black lens, and those tiny microscopic, perfectly formed human skeletons that recently appeared, out of nowhere, in my own fiction. It is a compelling tale that chases its own tail, as it were, at one minute delightfully, old-fashionedly supernatural with a tinge of Sarban, the next moment something wilder, something that is beyond modern in an opposite or indefinable direction.

  2. image

    Hybrid
    “He keeps hopping and sidling about like some horrible crow, and even in his sleep he looks only half human.”
    Serendipitously, above is the cover of a book I am coincidentally real-time reviewing at the same time as this one, and its image would make a perfect accompaniment to “Hybrid”. This is a story told in a different real-time, amid nuts and wine, as a marine surgeon tells another man of a mutual schooldays friend who is beset by the most horrific imaginings – except they are not imaginings, as evidenced between various crossovers of reality and madness’s visions…finally a purging birth in physical form. Lewis is of the old school story-teller but of a new school affectivity that truly shafts the susceptible reader who is similarly beset by the horror in the room or the head where he is reading the book.
    Meanwhile, I wonder whether ‘the marquee with heraldic designs’ relates to the environs of the fort/keep in the previous story and why having cream and talcum powder on one’s face makes you look like a ‘sexual pervert’.

  3. The Tower of Moab
    “…the monument was discontinued after attaining to a height of some two hundred feet.”
    Now and again, I come across a story such as this one – a story that I know is a masterpiece of the type of fiction that I love at heart. I am reasonably sure this is not the single Lewis story I read years ago, but it still seems to represent a vision that must have inspired, in some way, the collection title I created a few months ago from an identical set of words within a story of mine that was published in the early 90s: this set of words being ‘A Dead Monument To Once Ancient Hope’.
    This is a story of a travelling salesman who notices the Babel-aspirant Tower of Moab in an otherwise nondescript industrial town, like the tall spires and steeples and towers of mysterious aura that I have often noticed myself when I was once a sort of travelling salesman among many towns and cities. His attitude to alcohol and spurning pub small talk also resonated with me (and I don’t think I am taking things too far when I claim that the brief story ‘Sometime After the Night Before’ (that I reviewed here a couple of hours ago as part of the earlier mentioned concurrent real-time review) is of probably inadvertent significance to this Lewis one!).
    It is an intensely Machen-like spiritual experience to read this Lewis story – it possessing retro-tinges of Mark Samuels fiction, too. And the ‘alarming optical phenomena’ resonate with the black lens and model fort in this book’s first story. And the madness of ‘Hybrid’ that shafts the reader with thoughts of what is sitting or slithering or squawking on the couch next to me as I read this LA Lewis fiction – sitting within my head, too. The tower set to burst through the carapace of the skull…
    “It must never be forgotten that the most transient, trivial thought born of a human mind is as real and lasting a thing as a house built of stones and mortar.”

    Since the new publication of this LA Lewis collection in the last few days, I couldn’t help but notice an article just issued by Mark Valentine about ‘The Tower of Moab’ here. I will now read this article for the first time…knowing whatever it says has had no effect on what I have already written above.

  4. The Child
    “‘Mrs Jackson,’ I said, ‘because I arrive in the village on a motor cycle, a form of transport I detest, but can afford, don’t class me with the type that carries a leggy flapper on the pillion and sports a cigarette holder a yard long.'”
    There is a sense of good humour and honest foolhardy ghost-hunting about our visiting protagonist to the out of the way village as he learns from Mrs Jackson of the rumours concerning the cottage in the middle of the wood and what is said to dwell there or haunt it. This is genuinely creepy, despite the melodramatic nature of the discovery. And the vision of the child – and of its playthings not dissimilar to the tiny skeletons earlier seen in this book through a lens darkly – will continue to scuttle more than or less than playfully in my dreams…
    Lewis seems to have the knack to conjure genuine horrors that seem to rear up from the book. I don’t know how he does it. It’s the deadpan charm, perhaps, or the sense of madness in the pen that writes it.
    (I still may be getting carried away by an increasing uncanny synchronicity with my other concurrent real-time review, i.e. of the fiction in the BFS Journal book: just go compare the ending of the Gullen story – that I reviewed here a few hours ago – with the ending of this Lewis story!)

  5. The Dirk
    “…control of the muscles is easier than control of thought,…”
    …which relates to the psychokinetic materialisation theme of ‘The Tower of Moab’, but, compared to the previous contents of this book, this story of fraternal conflict, murder and spectral retribution, reads for most if its way as merely workmanlike. However, it has an intriguing slant on the earlier optical illusions and lenses, a slant that eventually shafts kinetically from within the human body as a result…a memorable ending that potentially picks out this story as a work beyond workmanlike.

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