I have just received my purchased copy of INFRA NOIR:
I am astonished as never before at the book’s design inner and outer. Has to be seen to be believed and then appreciated. Artwork galore amid aesthetic materials…no words can do it justice. Linear as well geometrically dislocating.
Edited by D.T. Ghetu
Zagava / Ex Occidente 2014
Smoke by Mark Valentine
Inflammable Materials by Thomas Strømsholt
The Unfolding Map by John Howard
Soot by Dan Watt and Andrzej Welminski
The Salamander Angel by Damian Murphy
The Slaves of Paradise by Colin Insole
My previous real-time reviews of works by:
MY EVENTUAL REAL-TIME REVIEW OF THIS BOOK WILL TAKE PLACE IN THE COMMENT STREAM BELOW AS AND WHEN I READ IT.
smoke by mark valentine
Pages 8 – 21
This is not a review of this book. How can anyone review it? Yet, I need to give some account of myself, why I even try to say something about it that would be useful to you. Prose and poetry – with large mock inkblots – effective textual tricks – photographs and other artwork generously scattered through these first 13 pages, an initial impression that matches my earlier skimming survey of the rest of the book. If one has read any of my previous reviews of Mark Valentine prose and poetry (linked above) and then later read the work itself and were not let down by the promise of my reviews, then that, I believe, is still very much the case.
This is Pogrom Panjandrum Ghetu giving us a new experience in literature imminent, as well as in literature immanent – merely by my possession of this book’s osmosis and its potential possession of me.
More much later once I have dug deeper into it.
Pages 22 – 46
This book has two silken bookmarks, one deep violet, the other black, and that tells you a lot about its non-linear nature although I personally am reading it linearly. This Valentine section continues, with bibliographic lives, machinations of booksellers and agents, together with a word-repetitive black sash ash jerkin cymbals word-Huelsenbeck rhythm driving into the brain…
As I experience this, I happen to be listening to the CD that is embedded in the front cover of another book here, and it seems to fit, with its deep bass tinnital rhythms…
“…he also has conversations with street lamps and so on, and writes down what they say. However, the language of street lamps is hard to decipher.”
Pages 47 – 69
I am now listening to Schubert’s Piano Trio D929, something I feel I have grown up with, although until I was in my late teens I heard nothing but music from the Light Programme and whatever else chirpy my parents had on. Here we have rooks. Rooks that are black with a touch of purple. More blots. A pink tram ticket. Scrying the rogue patterns of life in a pervading dusk, I sense, yet the blots put out tiny random speech bubbles or comic caricatures of faces of their own, splattering the page, as if the words themselves are rooks or particles fading (like the typographical ‘shadow’ earlier) toward smoke, itself to be decoded. The territory of the mind, that we cross every day; out of chaos comes order, because order itself is chaos? But someone might decode or infer what I write here or elsewhere on the Internet as about politics, living as I do in Clacton where British political history is about to unfold, bigger even than Scottish independence. Clacton is a place where they switch off the street lamps on the dot of midnight (seriously).
So ends the Valentine work, and I look forward to the rest of this startling book another day before I put this work into its own further context or pattern or parliament or murder or other collectives of birds.
inflammable materials by thomas strømsholt
A truly poignant rapture of an urn burial as a theme and variations upon smoking, cigarettes or burning, and setting photographic images alongside the lines of prose and poetic text where, for example, “he’d” is tantamount to “hed” with the go-between apostrophe near squashed out.
“Resolved, he leans across the wrought-iron balustrade and takes a final pull. […] And down in the street below the balcony, his attention is drawn to a movement…”
the unfolding map by john howard
This is a compelling, page-turning novelette of a hotel’s history situated in (from my experience of his work) Howard’s often reality-fictionalised Romanian town – portraits, too, of its waiters, its management, cleaners, electricians, plasterers, its luminary and political and royal and military guests, plus a knowing wine steward. — And talk of conniving conspiratorial discussions in the hotel during Hitler’s warring era at which time this story takes place… Austro-Hungary, Romanian, Transylvanian etc. borders up for negotiation…or arm-twisting.
It is not only page-turning, beautifully written, delicately well-characterised, but also containing a truly ingenious plot, involving the mazes of the wine cellars, a special bottle of wine, and an unfolding map… A conniving upon conniving with which the reader falls into step amid the gentle clean air of historical hindsight…
I mention today’s clean air, for, while reading, I carefully sought for myself, in this beautifully detailed hotel called The Crown, any signs of smoking, say, yellow stains on the walls, remains of cigarettes or cigars provided for those meeting over folding maps, Art Deco cigarette cases or lighters et al. But the place is completely empty of such signs of smoke or smoking. Only wine and chocolates were provided. No mention at all of smoking provisions that I understood to be prevalent in such an era. The eventual plot-pivotal protagonist waiter, you see, “Walter Auersthal had trained as a painter and plasterer, and had often worked with his uncle in keeping The Crown’s public and private spaces in pristine condition.”
I was wondering how many people would be privileged to be able to read this masterpiece by John Howard. At the end of the copy of my edition of this most singular book is this:
soot by dan watt and andrzej welminski
“The room was thick with cigar smoke.”
This work is generously artworked – an exorcism by adoption of all that had been earlier cleaned from the hotel walls in the previous story? Actually, it is, for me, a delightfully old-fashioned Avant Garde theme and variations, with prose and washed drawings, depicting “It was a time of macabre, and maniacally mystical transformation.”
the salamander angel by damian murphy
“…thick atrocities of soot…”
This is a novella that uniquely dreamcatches you, before you can dreamcatch it, as it builds on various characters approaching a vision of earth’s centre as temple or lodestone or conflux of answers to everything in various religions, in a theosophical balance of the profane and the holy (see my on-going review here of another book yesterday), including inferentially or predictively (even unintentionally) our world’s connections this Summer with Isis leading to cosmic recriminations about to be transcended or exploded. Illuminati or otherwise. I was also taken, just as one example, with a character’s sending out letters to unknown people to tap the synchronicity not so much of ‘found art ‘ but ‘found people’ with ‘found information’ – and the pasting of documents up in a library.
In a probably vain attempt to dreamcatch this still chasing novella, I hope the author or publisher doesn’t mind me quoting liberally from it:
“…stepped out onto the balcony to share a cigarette before the rite begins.”
“Simon raises the cigarette to his lips and partakes deeply of the fruits thereof. “Alas,” he confers, letting the smoke pour out of his mouth. “I must admit, I understand myself no better.” […] “The more you know, the less you understand,” she takes the cigarette.”
“…the sweet smelling smoke of the incense.”
“She takes one last drag, and hands what remains of the cigarette to Simon. “The men who play at managing affairs of great importance in the world are like frail sheets of rice paper. They have no destiny.””
“Nobody else in the family found much time for an old man who seemed to be losing his mind. Ah, but what a mind to lose.”
“There is a place within each of us, a place hidden within the depths of the soul, where obedience and transgression are as one.”
“A single star shines brightly from above. Its tumultuous rays cut through the smoke filled atmosphere…”
“Telluric tides pulse through infernal mansions as angelic dignitaries collaborate in nocturnal conspiracies never to be divined by man.”
“…that the western world is in the grip of nothing less than a full scale ontological crisis.”
“And yet, I absolutely maintain that the Divine will make itself known to us through the very architecture of our collective nihilism.”
“…they share a final cigarette for the night.”
I am that aforementioned old man.
the slaves of paradise by colin insole
“And from the lofty balconies of the gods, for four centimes, they entered a paradise of ribaldry, raucous humour and the smells of oranges, cigar smoke and cheap scent.”
If you think you have a favourite Colin Insole story, don’t decide too soon before you have read this one! It is a highly atmospheric, hedonistically prose-textured Insolution for Vichy France (Nice) and its postludes, and the intricacies of Resistance codes amid a panging love story of two artists, where one item of her art is manhandled by a sort of Laurel and Hardy on a chimney and the other, his sketches, like the washed drawings earlier in this book, that sort of lead to codes being broken in a tragic way I am still grappling with enticingly. They are in a sort of Enfants de Paradis film, too, by dint of the words, and things happen without you knowing they are happening till it is too late and you are on to the next thing.
“There was a cold emptiness in the soot and ash of the grate.”
This highly sensitised story by Insole leads within itself to madnesses and close shaves off the soul – and you must beware yourself where you step or have stepped between its lines of print, as tutored by the tenor of the whole of this book and its overlapping ink-blot pointillisms and pierrots, whereby things automatically radiate between the collages and variations: dreamcatching the dreamcatchers: even foolhardily encouraging me to radiate out toward other books I am concurrently reading and reviewing, for example, the emblematic Othello and Desdemona from the Insole story now seeming to be ‘charring’ with the interracial couple here. This book makes you stretch wider than you have ever stretched before. There will never again be another book like it. In fact, I suspect some of you doubt that it has ever existed at all.
Another review of this book: http://bibliophage.postach.io/infra-noir
This review in 2014 does not now seem to exist?
Infra-Noir as Literary Gazette in November 2018: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2018/11/12/infra-noir-the-literary-gazette-issue-no-1/