20 thoughts on “The Function Room: The Kollection

  1. The Rape Waved Yellow
    “…between the spinning stones.”
    I needed a sticky price label to tear from this book, like a scab, I guess. Though there is a sort of torn ticket on the back cover that I shall scrape off with a paring knife.
    This is good healthy horror fiction, judging by this first stylishly gory story with each word seeping something on to the page, teetering close to caricature but uniquely, for my money, transcending its own caricature… And the recurrent lisping of universal truths more or less seals the deal as our protagonist, Marsyas Mire – visiting Leddenton to cover its Corn Festival for a magazine – is pared and feathered. And much else before that.

  2. Who Begat Crow Man
    “…he renames himself and seeks to make use of the abundant bird life that fills The Function Room.”
    If I tell you that the function of the previous protagonist’s millstone-room derives from the Leyshon-Leddenton equivalent of a Heath Robinson contraption that – while foreshadowed by the previous story’s “So much nature felt unnatural to him” – has been created for tapping the power of “avian energy”, my telling you that would give you completely the wrong impression. Only by reading the story can you be given the most tenable impression which in itself is very very WRONG. Not only by-standing characters like Maudlin are bird-trapped and made to become the bird-traps themselves, but we the readers are, too! It’s as if the text itself is beaked and clawed. And giving off such bird songs as a mad organist playing Messiaen.

  3. The Function Room
    “…Gloom is in his butcher’s shop. Gloom sets his time by Daisy Time for Daisy always enters his shop at 9.15 to buy chicken liver for her cat’s breakfast.”
    It seems appropriate that I have read this only a day or so after suffering our national movement to British Summer Time, appropriate, too, that a story about The Function Room deals with the concept of ‘routine’, most important to me, routines…
    I can sense mutual literary and televisual and atonal sinew-pulleys within this intertentaculated Bosch-machine of a wordfest, such as Meloy (whose fiction work I have indeed read) and The League of Gentlemen (that I have not seen but I have witnessed internet people talking about) and Xenakis music still inside my head from the last time I allowed it there. But, more than that, Leddenton-Leyshon solidly breaks my routines with something else, something new – plus finding myself called ‘you’ as if they mean me, grooming me, teasing me, tantalising me, trolling me, now so common on the Internet, as I am invited to collude with this horrific contraptive abortion that, as I said before, miraculously transcends its own caricature. And thus transcends my resistance to it.

  4. The Butcher’s Confirmation
    “Nearby your lung expands and retracts with a wheeze between supports of stiffened tendons and elongated tumours.”
    …which seems appropriate as today we all suffer (certainly I am suffering) unusual levels of air pollution that carries dust from the Sahara – and maybe from the old Biblical lands?
    This ‘confirmation’ seems some sort of Christian confirmation or Baptism, where the body and soul become pulleys of skin, tissue, blood and various body parts, and the prose style is now in slick thick overdrive, reminding me of William Blake of the long mystical poems — blended with the fiction work of Hertzan Chimera/ Mike Philbin or James Havoc but, so far, refreshingly (if one can use such an adverb regarding this book!) the Leyshon-Leddenton text is without those two writers’ hardcore sexual descriptions, although sexual body parts are mentioned in this section of the Kollection. This text, in fact, seems paradoxically healthy, in tune with my first stated impression that this book reveals a good healthy horror story, gory but cathartic, caricatural but artistic like Bacon. Even ‘clagging sewerage’ has something of the cleansingly sacrificial-Eucharistic. I wonder if the female character Therine is supposed to resonate with ‘theremin’: a musical instrument you play without touching…? Meanwhile, ‘you’, i.e. Me, seems to be abandoned as a point of view in the butcher’s preference for looking through Therine’s eyes rather than yours. So much for being groomed!
    Above I have tried to make sense out of a growing confusion which will perhaps be resolved later, and I may be wrong in these suppositions of mine. Or the Saharan dust may have already got to my brain!

    Cf: “Gasping for breath as he choked upon the sour ash,…” in this book’s first story.

    PS: I was sure that there was a character named Catherine earlier in this book but I can’t find her now. But I just discovered “a grinding rotor groans a noise like ‘Cthulhu'”!

  5. The Butcher’s Progress
    “Within, clinging limply to The Function Room wall like an anemone, your eye gently turns in its pink flesh cup. Ass sputum bubbles gently in the folds like hot fudge and then films briefly over your iris.”
    It is as if the prehensile text knows that I personally have suffered severe recurrent iritis in my left eye for most of my life. And the text and its characters keep looking in ‘your’ (my) eye. And anemone is one of the very few words in the English language (like Bournemouth, mnemonic and unemotional) that has NEMO embedded. This text makes the reader feel paranoiac, I suggest, and designed to do so.
    Disregarding that, this is an engaging story (chapter?) that tells again of Gloom’s scheduling with other time images as he viscously exploits the Body Monstrous of another character in this slough of a town so as to use its samples to win a Butchers’ competition at a local trade show!
    Meanwhile, I will not keep repeating in this review how this text actually lives and breathes and suppurates like something else, or like nothing else! Please take that for granted as I fully expect the text to continue in this manner exponentially – for good or ill. I can’t do justice or injustice to it. You need to read it for yourself, dear real-time review-reader.
    “…listening to dentin bearings click against each other in runners like beads counting prayers to long forgotten gods.” Cf Leddenton-Leyshon’s story I earlier reviewed here.

  6. Sac
    “Pale shadows and amber light wrestled effetely, blurring the outlines of buildings and trees like an undeveloped Polaroid.”
    I remember Polaroids. I have been tempted onward in this book, now no longer addressed as ‘you’, tempted as a student of literature since Polaroid cameras were commonly used, posing for the first time in my mind a question, whether one can really judge literature’s cause and effect?
    This story goes down a gear or so in its wordfest text suppurations of semantics, phonetics, graphology and syntax, but up a gear or so in subject-matter shockability. Leddenton is a very strange place and I am not sure if even Leyshon can control it and it may be controlling him. This story of a policewoman training modern day castratos for her opera company in Leddenton, training them by means of what we have learnt from this book text to be Function Room type processes, here used on abducted girls, represents a scenario so off-the-wall that, as a literary critic or reviewer, one can only keep one’s powder dry and wait for the bigger picture…trying at the same time to ensure that one is not sucked in anachronistically into that picture as a willing participant of the posed setting or airbrushed out of it or snapped too early into premature condemnation or praise without waiting for the picture to develop as photos were developed in dark rooms before digitalisation and polaroids. But one remembers that such boy castratos in opera were once common and indeed one can read about their history here on Wikipedia. Furthermore, the male singer you can hear here in the piece of Xenakis music entitled ‘Aïs’ – to the youtube of which I linked in that other review of mine of a Leyshon story – sounds as if he has already been ‘done’ or is shrieking against being ‘done’!

  7. The Butcher’s Scat
    “You wonder what all this might mean for you, and Leddenton, your hometown.”
    …and thus this book glibly continues to implicate me, with further attacks by Gloom staring into my eye as well as, now, threatening my scrotum. Leddenton is my hometown? Captured or captivated? It is as if, upon this new day of reading The Kollection, with the air still dust-ridden, that I am facing the reincarnation of a transcendently scatological and eschatological version of Jean Genet (who once tried, inter alia, to subvert the moral values of his assumed readership) as he conjures anew the darkest visions that I assume he once self-censored during his first life. It is like a literary circus where the costumes are plucked human body parts. And the Pilgrim’s Progress is utterly Grim and Gross, whereby, to avoid drowning in ‘faeces’, one is explicitly trying to retain one’s ‘focus’ – but it is as if one’s mind has only the clumsy shutter of an old Brownie camera with which to fine-tune any possible rationale beyond the text’s onslaught. Seeking “some fearful code”, Internet passwords and captchas, as I recently did in my on-line review of ‘Finnegans Wake’, a book that is possibly another precursor of The Kollection, together, more arguably, with ‘Tristram Shandy’ (also recently reviewed on-line by me).

  8. The Blood Promise
    A perceptive fable of children and their child-like loyalties, as threatened by adults, adults that the children themselves will thus become. A fable with a moral.
    As an aside, a book’s readers are its children?
    Self-indulgently, I give a link to a story of my own that is a slightly rewritten cohered version of three different stories that were originally published at separate times by diverse publishers in the 1990s (including by the great Karl Edward Wagner in Year’s Best Horror Stories), wherein I feel Billy Belly is a humble comparison with this fable of Leddenton’s Gloom (or Gloom’s Leddenton, as ‘The Blood Promise’ itself implies).

  9. A Worrying of Sheep
    Or a reader is a sheep, not a child. And this book will no doubt worry many such sheep. It worries me, too, despite seeing it essentially as a new Pilgrim’s Progress or Dante’s Inferno or Blakean epic where the eventual big picture will possess the ends that justify its means. But… “A woodlouse scurries over your eye, and through the segmented darkness of The Function Room she comes into focus,…[…] Your eye, clinging to The Function Room wall like an anemone […] …to observe how Annie responds.” It as if a whole Anti Earth Mother who is clumsily equipped with God’s part is being created by the Function Room, a force that is developing around its recurrent characters in Leddenton. It is also as if the head-lease author has relinquished control to each of the sub-leased characters by means of the increasingly horrific Heath Robinson word-contraption he has let loose and they in turn to each of the sub-sub-leased readers to exercise their own influence or not… “You withhold your influence and allow her dream to continue.”

  10. The Earth is a Drinker of Blood
    I am stolidly and quietly reading this book for most of today because I am not taking any outside physical exercise (as I usually do) for fear of sucking too much of the noxious air into my lungs. Those in the UK will have seen all about this on the rolling news. That breaking news that now never surprises me. Unlike this surprising story revealing some cathartic expelling of the Great War (that started 100 years ago) as if by vomiting blood we are issuing some Eucharistic redemption. This is a story that lowers the wordfest prose-style gears again and seems to be a side syphoning from some unseen part of the Function Room but it raises all manner of queries as to this book’s big picture slowly appearing upon the negative plates in the blood-drip trays of the dark room. Here as a vision within a chalk cave. Some Hadron Hard-On CERN Zoo or Cerne Abbas chalk giant, I wonder, as a family man turns to slaughter… Meanwhile, I wonder, too, why the ‘mouth-breathing’ epithet was necessary when telling us that “A mouth-breathing youth appeared from the beaded doorway behind the counter,…”

  11. Leech
    “Afghan’s Dagon had left him snottier than a tench,…”
    …which reminded me that there is one author I have not yet mentioned in Konnection with the Kollection: John Cowper Powys. He is its soul mate, I have to say, where countryside towns are filled with things that should not be filling them, mystic things, fear funnels, and more, and anyone who ‘enjoys’ this book will do similar with, say, JCP’s THE INMATES or THE GLASTONBURY ROMANCE (in which latter giant novel there is a crucial question that eventually emerges: WAS IT A TENCH?). And if JCP is an influence on the pecking order of author, characters, readers etc. in Leddenton then I suppose there is no real point in seeking a redeeming big picture for this book from inside one’s own darkroom head… Just sit back and let it flow over you, instead.
    In LEECH, meanwhile, the low-life druggies in Leddenton get a Lesson from the Function Room! And a DRUG called DAGON.

  12. A Development
    This is an engaging, page-turning weird story that could have appeared in any normal book, as opposed to this one. In many ways, it does provide the big picture I have been seeking. And it also explains the name Function Room in a very hoity toity way. A house with inexplicable turnings, like this book itself.
    Yet, does it really need to humiliate me, frigging well finally ‘ungroom’ me, by explicitly reminding me on page 102 of a certain real book, its title and author’s name, a book I have loved for years, a book that features photographs and Polaroids, a book that I should have mentioned before as more important than all the other possible influences on the Kollection… But the book in question had slipped through my mind into some darkroom behind a darkroom in my empty head!

  13. The Estate of Things
    One of the low life druggies in ‘Leech’ tries to better himself by being hired to create religious converts from the Leddenton housing estate tower blocks, only to be faced with werewolf type zombies who live there instead – but he is rescued by some Just William with a catapult. Sorry if that is the first spoiler in this review. A reader now with a grudge.
    Yet, I can’t help loving this book, rather in spite of myself. And in spite of the way I have been treated. Stalked by a book. A book upon every surface of which are over-generous layers of dog muck, syringes, body parts, blood, shit, glue, gloom, grue, grume… and shrieking castratos or dead readers.

  14. Disc Eyes
    “Her pupils retracted like disturbed sea anemones…”
    “In the darkness his irises expanded like ink blots.”

    This investigative crime story with seaside flings and shape-shifting in Blackpool seems like one of those bonus tracks there used to be on Compact Discs. Just a way of letting me down slowly from the rarefied height of the depths of the Function Room? A coda.

  15. Zombie Ho!
    Another coda. And another story of Inspector Spicer and his seaside flings but here not shape-shifting so much as posing-orientation shifting – where, as in ‘A Development’ a bathroom features in this centrifugal book-of-leaves at the point when man and woman lose contact with each other…. Reader and Author, too. Almost.

  16. GODsWILL
    “You focus acutely, as if seeing the world through a pinhole camera.”
    A decoda.
    You are not disappointed. You are merged into one of the characters visiting Leddenton for real. You thought you would be disappointed. But this is the perfect climax, bearing out what you have somehow foreshadowed in this review; then the most poignant glimpse of an old man on a bike and later ‘a dead monument to once ancient hope’ at the book’s very end. Reprising, too, the connected characters, even the Blackpool hotel manager from the Inspector Spicer story who once slaughtered his kids. All the trappings of the Function Room are reprised, too, with the wild prehensile wordfest that subsumed you as its reader. A silting absorption of a rare prose pâté made from castratos, you guess, as served by Gloom. “A poetic deconstruction of flavours in which he would humanise tastes with personalities and emotions.” You wonder if they will make an opera of this book. One by Harrison Birtwistle or Peter Maxwell Davies – other old men, like you. Covered in shit. A stone rocking.
    “…two oddly-shaped stones lying solemnly in the long grass, shaped rather between a flattened pillar and squashed pyramid.”

    end

  17. I think the usual etiquette for writers tempted to respond to a reviewer is not to – but it would be ungracious not to offer my thanks for such a thoughtful, perceptive review, and for your seeing fit to make reference, in some small way, to John Cowper Powys – so thank you.

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