17 thoughts on “ONLY CONNECT

    • A paperback book (1998) as new: ONLY CONNECT written, in collaboration, by DF Lewis (1948 – ) and his father Gordon Lewis (1922 – 2007).

      It contains ten honestly strange and mostly ghostly tales.

      “The result is an offbeat, metaphysical horror fiction that, like the work of AE Coppard, manages to seem old-fashioned and avant-garde at the same time … The title suggests illumination; but the light of these stories only serves to remind us of the darkness outside.”
      – Joel Lane

      “A weird and wonderful collection that I totally recommend.”
      – Tales of The Grotesque & Arabesque

      “For those who’ve squinted and wondered at DF Lewis’ sometimes impenetrable prose, he’s demonstrated here that he can tell a coherent tale as well as the next writer.”
      – Allen Ashley

      “Monumentally odd … pick up this book and you risk being carried off to a netherworld of the unconscious.”
      – All Hallows

      Roger Pile on this book: “These stories have a rather lovely timelocked feel, recalling an age when Boots had its own lending library and duffle coats were (almost) fashionable. A number of scenic descriptions have a dreamlike quality, like the postbox in A Trick of Dusk, especially when the narrator imagines it in his garden with plants growing out of it.”

  1. The Eyes Have It
    “‘Partially occupied’ was a strange expression I thought for Mitch to have used earlier…but surely, this is what he meant: a sporadic caretaker,…”
    It is pleasant to be reminded how good this story is, if I can be forgiven for making such a statement on behalf of Dad and myself! It has a snowbound scenario in an isolated terraced row of five twouptwodowns, with a long communal loft. Identities blend, a vengeance feared, coincidences posed, with a truly felt uncanniness that cannot be pinned down. The style is disarmingly or puckishly naive, including a competition of views from the protagonists (or authors?) regarding Radio Luxembourg!

  2. A Trick of Dusk
    “A tiny girl on a tricycle asked: ‘Are you the postman?’ / ‘No,’ I answered with conviction and assurance. / ‘I told you he wasn’t,’ said an even tinier boy nearby. / I walked on, feeling unaccountably sad about the encounter.”
    This is a substantive story for me, thanks to Dad, I recall. Straightforward, but with complex, surreally Aickman-like undercurrents. It tells of businessman in his office car, with brainstorming plans in his brief case, someone who reminds me of my old self, someone encountering a trysting-gate, a haunting, if not haunted, mansion, accreting coincidences between self and others, and a wonderful breakfast. It all came up fresh to me on rereading it just now, and I found myself highly entertained. I suspect some of the other stories in this book are not as good as the first two, but I may be wrong. I was also intrigued how each story so far contains the titles of some of the other stories in the contents list.
    “And as I lowered my level of vision to the ornate windows, I noticed lights were coming on room by room, indeed faster than would have been possible if it were only one retainer walking quickly along the hall throwing switches as he went. But slower than if there had been simply a set of switches on one master-console for the whole building.”
    A bit like matters in the plots of the first two stories dawning upon their main protagonists.

  3. Pipe Dreams
    “The property was called ‘End Cottage’ – which was odd, seeing it was the only dwelling in a lane some one hundred yards or so from the hub of the town.”
    A story, upon this rereading, I found quite disturbing, telling of a retired sailor, his memories of his sailing days converted into the style of his bedroom, and dreams of the present mixed with fact, but which is which? “Pipes and Buckets after all had completely different tasks in the world of water.” And who is listening to him tell about this and his idyllic garden? And what was really in the broken bucket he found? And who did he love, relation or stranger? The seemingly unique but accessible style of these mostly ghostly stories, so far, are perhaps summed up by the rhyme on the book’s back cover…

    “A bellyful of sadness, a stoup of hope,
    if stories have threads, real lives don’t.

    Eyes have eyes, spooks have spines,
    souls are switched, with made-up minds.

    Worlds within worlds, heaven in flight –
    only connect, only go bump in the night.”

  4. Only Connect
    “There was a novel by E.M.Forster (wasn’t there?) entitled ‘Howard’s End’ about a house and its inhabitants. A house with a derived personality –“
    I had to smile as this house, a similar house, seems to cringe at having its library continually loaded with such books! This lengthy combination of Howard’s End, Ingrid Bergman’s Gaslight, the Yellow Wallpaper ghost story — and its accretion of clue-to-clue paths through secret passages in the house, in its furniture and in the people themselves — seems to reach an unsatisfactory ending … Except of course for the pit in the garden that Albert was digging throughout it! I was absorbed and entertained, but hmmmm…

  5. Heavenly Contract
    “The house had a plain black door and, at night, it looked as if it were open.”
    I have not before noticed (or I forgot) that there are various connections between the stories in this book, some more subtle than others, and hence the overall title is possibly a preternatural one: Only Connect? Here, the ‘turnip’ connection comes home to roost as a hugely grotesque one. This is a ghost story, plain and simple, with puckish undercurrents of marital loyalty, the prehensility of soil and moonshine, the allotment of identity…. I cannot lie, so I have to say I loved it; I had no idea this story was lurking so powerfully within this book. I had forgotten it almost completely. Or am I biased by seeing my name on the cover?

  6. Horn of Plenty
    “He once fired off a letter to the local newspaper recommending that all potential bus passengers should be allowed to audition for the contract – or at the very least be introduced to – the driver, someone who was to be in sole charge of so many precious lives.”
    And so our hero with the hated Christian name of Basset travels by bus to meet his father, estranged from each other since Basset was in nappies. Involving such OCD issues as a duffel peg on his duffel coat etc, we are treated to a tapestry of how Basset variously sees or hopes the day going and what actually happens. I’m not sure it works. But it sticks in the mind somehow. It takes all sorts, I guess.

  7. imageBetting on Heaven
    “Sometimes I wonder if it’s best to bet on God existing. Then you can’t loose.”
    Another Pascal’s Wager or Heavenly Contract. Another turnip and ‘Lamb and Flag’ pub. And more. The book’s connections intertwine like literary or ghostly tentacles.
    I had forgotten that this story contains details of the Priory Ruins near where Dad lived with my Mum in his last years. And the story’s character spends some time photographing them, as I coincidentally did myself a couple of weeks ago here. Also, Dad enjoyed a mild flutter on the horses, and Football pools earlier, the National Lottery later. Other than this mild gambling, there is nothing else in this story that relates to him, like winning the Lottery jackpot, the character’s wife’s marital infidelity, a trip to Gibraltar and Spain to gain vengeance on her, and the truly uncanny links between the benches of the Priory Ruins and the beaches in Spain, and an incredibly haunting image of something that lies on the carpet, a bit like a large dog? Or a floosie? Nobody will ever know. This story is MUCH ‘better’ than I recall it being.

  8. A Touch of a Switch Away
    A very Welsh story that proudly features Dad’s birthplace of Llanelli, with no doubt my own extrapolation of Welsh as a Lovecraftian language. Y’ha-nthlei as a place is actually mentioned in an HPL story. Meanwhile, our story concerns a businessman’s ‘virtual reality’ journey in Australia on a train, with the strangers he meets on that journey, a journey that gets stranger and stranger. Again, I found it constructively more haunting than I remember it, but I’ll leave you to judge.

  9. The Boots He Bore
    “But accidents often do happen, even if, by rights, they shouldn’t.”

    …as turns out to be this preternatural book from 1998 (its stories written earlier than that), a book, substantially forgotten in detail by me, containing connections throughout and between stories, as if planning, by accident, for my embarking on gestalt real-time reviewing in 2008! One of the many connections in this particular story involves Boots the Chemist that in even older days doubled as a lending library for books. This story — of accidents and tragedies, inheritances and missing persons, confused identities, in the protagonist’s family, as well as his retainers and lovers — is at first confusing, but I found the ending unexpectedly poignant, where such confusions miraculously seem to vanish…or do they?

  10. Needless To Say
    “Indeed one must summon up absurdities on purpose in the hope that they, once discovered and discounted, will reveal from beneath them the solitary pearl which one originally set out to seek.”
    This story, like the rest of the book, is a revelation. Sorry if this sounds self-indulgent, but this book has come up today as if I had never been involved in it. Here, in this story, we have the book’s growing familial and romantic connections, some uplifting some downright imprisoning (the story’s protagonist was a POW in the 2nd World War) – and this story is about a sort of war over a world, Uncle Johnnie’s seemingly valuable globe of the world, a bit like his own Dickensian belly, a globe when ruptured by accidental or vicious screwdriver is full of stink, not necessarily his pipe smoke when he was alive but other things, too, like ‘a bellyful of sadness, a stoup of hope’. Intestines and oubliettes. Interstices of text, where things lurk. And the ending is diffuse, but memorable.
    The book’s contents list of story titles when read as a poem seems to tell its own story. Thanks, Dad. Needless to say, there was something I found between its pages 112 and 113, too.

    end

    • Terry Grimwood, living in Stevenage as he does, tells me that “there is an EM Forster footpath that begins at St Nicholas’ church and winds away into the Hertfordshire countryside. At the start of the path, in the churchyard itself, there is a small monument inscribed with the words “Only Connect”.”
      His photo of it is shown below.
      A number of EM Forster novel titles etc. are mentioned in the title story ‘Only Connect’ in the book ONLY CONNECT. There are a number of connections between all the stories and I now see this 1998 book as a forerunner of my gestalt real-time reviewing.
      image

    • Having thus re-read ONLY CONNECT by me and my Dad, I have found it even better than I remember! And I have discovered I have several copies of it from its publication in 1998. I am willing to sell these at the 1998 cover price of £5 (plus postage) to anyone interested.

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