A fearless faith in fiction — Employing, since 2008, a Kantian or Jungian sensibility and an ‘intentional fallacy’ consciousness — Various passions of the reading moment — Walter de la Mare, ELizabeth BOWen, ROBERT aiCKMAN and many others old and new — Please click my name below for this site’s navigation and my backstory as intermittent photographer, writer, editor, publisher & reviewer.
\”You know him as Dean Martin.”
“She spent hours behind the closed door of her room listening to monotonous and eerie orchestral music. She read strange books.”
If that were ‘he’ that’d be me.
I’ve read the first two sections of this book with a bold title each, whether discrete works or not, I’m unsure. But certainly not discreet!
Reading this, so far, is like sliding a pointer along a wireless dial, to which I used to listen as a child in the 1950s, picking up stations on Long, Medium and Short Wave, never knowing what I was going to hear.
This fluid motion – along darkly evocative language trails like a consequences game passed from hand to hand – summons childhood sex yearnings after other boys’ mothers – with amorphous engulfings and encounters, like Francis Bacon trip-switched with Max Ernst or Lucian Freud?
If this book’s leitmotifs are eventually to have a gestalt, I cannot yet foresee it. But mightily struck already at what I seem to have picked up.
\”eating the rain, the leaves, the sky.”
“It was just Bill, a Bill devoid of emotion, looking upon a scene as though it was happening in some depressing movie. Dispassionate. Detached.”
This tranche of text conveys a very disturbing and original sense of being yourself and yet someone else committing a murder through one’s own eyes and with one’s own volition. And other frightening things. And somehow involving clock radios stacked in parallel with each other.
But what I find most amazing is that I read and reviewed HERE — only half and hour before reading this section of the Bartlett book — a story written by someone who was born in 1867, with a theme so similar, yet so different, that it felt like two stories running side by side on a train track for a while. And for ‘leech’ in this one, please read ‘cholera’ in the other one.
There is no way that I am implying that one story is deliberately echoing the other one. That is impossible; they are not alike in that sense at all. Indeed, they are not alike at all, except organically. This is yet another example of the preternatural synchronicities that plague me from book to book the more I conduct these types of real-time review, something I have noticed more and more since I started doing them in 2008.
Since writing the above about the story featuring Bill, I can’t now resist linking to another story in a third parallel real-time review that I read and reviewed about half an hour after this one, a story about Billy, HERE. The synchronicities pile up.
\”I tasted fabric. I blacked out.”
“…among the first of my many tasks was to locate a dentist.”
An (as yet unfinished?) story, with short intriguing Intermissions, of Ben Stockton’s visit to the dentist – a dentist chosen because of his name – and he is referred on to a specialist for possibly more serious dental investigation. I thought this would become a timely lion story, but Ben met a goat instead!
Actually, this is a continuously trip-switching ride of a surreal Kafkaesque journey into all manner of nightmarish links to normal life. For example, I have an illness at the moment that causes me similarly to be pushed from pillar to post, one of which incidents was a bone scan where I was left staring at a ceiling full of floating demons and angels.
Here, though, there are radio and static leitmotifs, plus the leech again. We all have our bespoke reactions, our own eventual gestalt, and this is Ben’s – or Bartlett’s.
\”a most grim and unspeakable picture.”
“I could tell you that I was now a part of an army of the dead, whose instructions were dispersed by coded messages on a radio station.”
I continue to move the dial-pointer on my old-fashioned British wireless, receiving some short staccato signals where I soak in a sort of meaning, and then longer stays at other stations, meeting Ben Stockton again and, at another, a house in the woods…
I am definitely hooked by this book, but intend to take it as slowly as it deserves. To rush would be to miss crucial spots on its dial, I guess.
\”and unholy designs.”
I am already thinking of putting this book in the Room that I set up here a few days ago for such books as this one is promising – or threatening – to become.
A man having a symbiotic relationship with a leech in a house that should have been empty, and Ben meeting another goat, all strewn with the most Francis Baconian truncations and appendages in literature. An infunctionarium.
All threaded or predicated upon a radio station leitmotif of captcha signals, I sense.
\”papers and diaries.”
“Strangely, the room was fairly quiet.”
I am getting a stronger signal now, with much of this text focussing on what I gather to be a central character in all these otherwise absurdistly disparate vignettes and prose poems or stories. I shall henceforth call this central character ‘me’ when within the relatively quiet and settled function room of my own brain (others would call it a DYSfunction room, no doubt) and, here, I am faced by someone with his own brain in a bowl wondering if I want a good time. That bowl is like this book and that person is the freehold author or his leasehold spokesman or narrator, and I end up in a sort of ‘Eyes Wide Shut’ type of experience that is a blend of this still unfolding experience of the book itself and a separate experience of what is happening to me within its ‘plot’.
\”a belly dirked beyond exfluntication–”
And I thought my own neologism about this book – as an infunctionarium – was bad enough!
“I AM Cancer, he’d say again, AND I CANNOT BE BEAT.”
There are many items of incredible writing together with haunting images and memorable strings of words in these texts to which I am hardly doing justice in this review so far. You really need to experience them for yourselves.
Indeed, the images are not always just haunting because some of them are brain-grippingly aberrant, even distressing, in the true tradition of the books in my Dysfunction Room. If it were possible, this book potentially outdoes most of them already in there, and I am sure I was somehow destined to pick up this book for my next reading only a few days after first creating that room.
\”and his Slippery Symphony.”
“It is easier, somehow, for me to blame the radio. The surprising heft of the thing; the square, rusted speaker; the red vertical line all the way to the left of the green glowing dial; the dented, crooked antenna.”
It is as if I am living a charmed life with all my real-time reviewing of books, a process that seems to evoke all manner of cross-references, be they from a Jungian Collective or not, bearing in mind that all Literature could be one giant gestalt, and the dincopated music on the radio here seems to factor itself into this transmission of all manner of slippery connections arising from within this singular work by Bartlett as well as from outside it.
It is unique by being BOTH unique in itself AND summoning all these messages from the airways or ether. Sorry to shout.
\”unfolded like a flower.”
“You’re listening to WXXT.”
I had cause to wonder today who else might be listening to captcha radio WXXT alongside me? Each scene, each vision, each character seem to be weighted in destiny, despite its random appearance. The school near the woods. The car journey, accompanied, at the moment, with dincopated organ music, then an encounter with a humanised couple of goats in another car, and the uncle in the hotel, and much more. This reminds me of when I was still at school and heard transmitted on life’s random radio some music entitled The Rite of Spring by Stravinsky and I thought it was a collection of random noisy orchestral sounds, but they inspired me, nevertheless. And, over the years, I heard it so often, it became, for me, a series of fate-laden harmonies so utterly tuneful, it was as if it was simply meant to be. Later, there followed music by Xenakis (is that a goat braying in his abominated ‘AIS’ piece of music; I think it is). I predict that, eventually, this book’s explicitly ‘hypnotised road’ — accompanied by WXXT threaded through the TXT, via a transmitted series of semantic, phonetic, syntactic and graphological gateways — will become engrained in you (you the reader reading it alongside me) as an alogically joined-up form of todash truth.
\”like winged things.”
“A lurid feature in the weekly exacerbated that unease, with its tales of disappearing sons and daughters, supposedly lured away by charismatic voices on the radio,…”
Commissioned to investigate an illicit radio station, a character visits a sort of Twin Peaks scenario (visiting cafés etc) plus a reference to Quabbin Reservoir (a reference that comes home to roost at the end of this chapter in a very intriguing and, I guess, significant bookshop containing, I infer, clues to some names etc) – the same reservoir that is named in Stephen King’s novel entitled DREAMCATCHER (a book that, perhaps significantly, I also recently real-time reviewed HERE).
Also, about half an hour ago I read and reviewed HERE this 15th century scenario (“The ‘Papier Rouge'”) in one of the other two books I am concurrently real-time reviewing, a scenario that is perhaps relevant to this scenario (the power of writing) and vice versa. (Read for example the written details in Bartlett surrounding “a fat, mouldering old tome bearing the name Abrecan Geist.”)
\”and the trees screamed!” (End)
“The girl looked wispy and somehow transparent, like a moth whose wings have been rubbed free of dust.”
“There was the story of the Whately baby born with gossamer black wings that grew from its shoulder blades…”
Some cumulative images continue even beyond the end of the whole text, until someone switches them off. Some shocking images like wallowing in places where others would never wallow. I think this book well deserves a place in my exclusive room here, switched on permanently. Not Muzak but a self-tuning scan reaching, sporadically, enlightening tethers and darkening tethers alike. It is one of those rare books where you know it will never reach full meaningful exquisition with a key to all its secrets and objective correlatives in your hands. It will never allow you to pirouette off, after closing its covers, with smug literary satisfaction. But at the same time you know there IS such a key available should someone find it one day. The beauty, though, is in not finding it, in the confidence that there is such a key but never finding it.
Meanwhile, I will wake fitfully during the finite nights as stirred by the nocturian leech that besets me. Angels and demons upon the ceiling.
And below is my yieldingtree (an image that many who regularly read my reviews will know) and today I see it is more a tethered goat than anything else.