13 thoughts on “The Night Clock by Paul Meloy

  1. Pages 7 – 21

    “The girls had great bodies but faces like a witness description.”

    Two pubs opposite each other, one with this book’s title as its name and the other with THE DOG WITH ITS EYES SHUT as its name, based on another Meloy book title. There is a knowingness here that none of this is real, well, of course it isn’t, but having accepted that, shaken hands again with its author, even if metaphorically, so that I can now sit back and allow it to be really REAL, as things happen to people, brutal, just a few synchronised or nightclock-timed moves along the LUDO board from sanity into nightmare — and a jobsworth special constable picks up my tiny incontinent turd and bins it for me. He wants a good review as a backhander in return. No, none of that is real, as I sit above the text that crackles with potato crisp images, things that are knowingly, word-acrobatically cast around to astonish the reader that this is the BUSINESS, better than Amis or Rushdie. But I know this author from old. I sense he can even outdo himself. We shall see.
    A play area with a kids’ slide. A third pub now, the Snowcat. And the special constable Gollick cock investigating a Joel Lane like urban area and its general store where the owner seems to be nailing up its front entrance. Perhaps he doesn’t want me to come in?

  2. Pages 21 – 32

    “Once certain paths had been trodden, certain choices made, then it seemed only a matter of time before the mind turned in on itself and began to cascade despair along its pathways.”

    …which is a succinct view of life itself when stupidity is often mistaken for life-enhancing freedom, I guess — and this book resumes its own wittily hilarious and impressively modern-literary pathway, but too early to say whether this tone is typical of it, but signs are already promising, as Gollick the jobsworth policeman on his straitened path and his newly met, scatter-pathed pal from school days together clumsily face out one of those potential gunman massacre situations that beset society these days, already prefigured as well as foreshadowing my own pathway through the book.

  3. Pages 33 – 50

    “Hit delete.”

    This novel now seems to have become genuinely enthralling as a best-selling popular book might, a page-turning experience about a well-characterised Phil Trevena (even art, ever ant, rave ten?) who is a believable Mental Health worker in a Crisis Team, dealing with the repercussions about the earlier near-massacre incident, details tying together previous characters and their place in this scenario.
    Genuinely chilling moments as some of the crisis clients with known hallucinations spread effects that now seem to be growing real to Trevena…?
    Some crisp images also continue (“The room smelt of biscuits…” and “a foamy sorbet of excreta unflushed in the toilet”) plus some striking effects like square shadows…

    I do not intend to continue itemising the plot of this book, but hope to adumbrate my own broad reactions to it as I happen to read it in real-time. So far, my knack of choosing to buy books to review them continues to pay off, judging by this one. “Here, in this grotty, flyblown hovel.”

  4. Pages 50 – 67

    “An opening paragraph so clever it was impenetrable, you just had to accept it meant something and move on. Like life.”

    Meanwhile, “meaning implied destination.” Those pathways again, and here, at first, I am impressed by Trevena’s subtle, if panicky, handling of his boss Stibbs, despite the inexplicable cluster of topping themselves by Trevena’s ‘clients’. And impressed, too, by the ‘yellow’ of Dog and C**t, and Gollick’s cowardice, a cartoon squirted into the eyes, and no doubt Ethel’s uniform if not her lollipop, and Rob’s “lethal force” as another Yellow Sign? This stuff is making stuff, too much stuff to itemise here, each paragraph making tough love with meaning and shape-shifting. Old Moley, Cheshire Cat, Norfolk Pike, men giving concrete ball clumps in pubs. It all somehow makes sense and some of this sense is very very worrying. Romany ghettos, notwithstanding

  5. Pages 67 – 82

    “Dog eat dog. Or at least dog takes a little nibble when the other dog’s not looking.”

    …especially if it’s a dog, that other one, with its eyes shut?
    The previous section of this book that I read finished with yellow and lumpy milk, and I can imagine that sort of fluid coming out of things that fight in Robot Wars or Extreme Machines on TV, especially if such machines are almost like cyborgs? Here, the stakes are heightened, the shards more scattercast, as some of our human characters reach a pecking order of being decimated or bone-riven — or promoted to Hypnopomp, depending whether they control a large domineering bunch of keys or, at the other end of the scale, have thoughts less meagre than a child’s cheap damp fireworks…
    A Ligottian like Doctor named Doctor Mocking here, too, and the Night Clock’s “ten past three” as reference, I guess, to the first line of a Larkin poem: http://allpoetry.com/poem/8495749-Love-Again-by-Philip-Larkin
    This whole prose syntax and its semantic fields present a rigorously emotionless portrayal of such bone and brain tectonics as well as leaving us with such synchronised and random shards of truth and fiction embedded in our own contrastively emotional brainpan … thus demonstrating, by the nature of the text’s own style, the same text’s own stated “taxonomy of distress.” REEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE.
    Ending towards the end of this section with another (yellow?) ‘reflective jacket.’ One we need to wear when reading this book.

  6. Pages 83 – 95

    “Was death a fuel for other universes?”

    A highly moving shift into new characters, now seen from the first person singular of Daniel, his childhood, his meeting with a girl called Elizabeth and her grandparents on holiday, all these characters (including his own parents) you can truly believe in as accompanied by sharply etched, equally believable personal eccentricities that you will probably never forget. It is, fundamentally, a skilfully literary and page-turningly accessible portrait, leading to Daniel’s more tragic later life, with a slotting in of elements that share kinship with Ligotti’s philosophical ‘Conspiracy Against The Human Race’ together with a provocative view of the treatment of so-called mental illness and its transfer to the community, something else you will probably never forget.
    Elizabeth’s postcard, by the way, brings clocktime from 3.10 to 3.20.
    And Dr Widge, Dr Sat, Dr Kun, to be added to Mocking.

    • Pages 97 – 103

      There are certain things I can’t tell you about this book. Call them spoilers, if you like. But there is one possible divulgence I forgot earlier – Elizabeth’s missing eye (she has a glass eye where it used to be). And Bert the tiny conch shell hermit crab. Not sure whether they are just connected by my connecting them, as is my usual wont when dreamcatching books, or actually they are the same thing. (The dead crab has its own eyes).

  7. Pages 105 – 125

    “If there was life inside it moved with the slow dreamlike glide of fish dying in dense, polluted water.”

    I feel Dr Natus may be central, combining the Ligottian Doctor with Nativity (birth) (anti-Natalism its opposite), and Natation (swimming) as I feel I am swimming in this book, often out of my depth. The slots now take on a Kingian Dark Tower aspect, ‘Dark Time’ measured by the Night Clock, as ECT treatment and/or community care seem to be ciphers in opening the gates back and forth to the world of Quays, Paladins, AutoScopes of this author’s previous fiction works. This book itself seems to be just one of the slots of access. The words flow over your swimming mind as well as digging points in either to wake you up or inject you further within dreams. I cannot judge how a new Meloy reader will be affected…
    Even a Whovian payphone in that other world.

    “…an equation mocking good order and progression.”

  8. Pages 127 – 156

    “– oxidizing plates and wine-glass thin shells, of liquid meat and powdering bone — they were terrible. They were a nightmare installation set up in a deserted town by a troupe of artists obeying the compulsive, baying creativity of their disrupted and railing minds.”

    Remarkably I read this section as its own tour de force of dream or alternate world machinations but also in fascinating kinship with a story called ‘Mrs Rinaldi’s Angel’ by Ligotti that I coincidentally happened to review HERE this very morning.

    Meanwhile, from Dr Natus as a sort of dead birth or a communicable aborted foetus or homunculus in a jar, we now aptly meet another birth, this time of a fully formed woman named Chloe in her own Quay world, at first in a cave, as if a sort of womb, and we are artfully led to grow up alongside her, as she finds, say, bookshops and DiY books, grappling with her own as yet unknown identity in the same way that some fiction authors need to help mere names of characters become the fully grown characters that they had to find for themselves FIRST. Never seen the creation of a character by her own creation of herself done so well as here, except possibly in Nemonymous Night! All of this wrapped round with the reader’s accreting view of the world wherein she is becoming a self, with, say, words or spiders invading a comfort zone, and more. And the people she meets.

    And when I learnt that Chloe is an intrinsic part (Escape Wheel) of the Night Clock to allow it to work I was immediately reminded of my all time favourite Elizabeth Bowen story (in my top ten of any story by anyone), from which I show an extract below. Not in any way the same as Meloy’s Night Clock, but a passage that I think lovers of Meloy fiction will enjoy and find fascinating in the light of this novel.

    ————————
    The skeleton clock, in daylight, was threatening to a degree its oddness could not explain. Looking through the glass at its wheels, cogs, springs and tensions, and at its upraised striker, awaiting with a sensible quiver the finish of the hour that was in force, Clara tried to tell herself that it was, only, shocking to see the anatomy of time. The clock was without a face, its twelve numerals being welded on to a just visible wire ring. As she watched, the minute hand against its background of nothing made one, then another, spectral advance. […]

    ‘I’ll tell you something, Clara. Have you ever SEEN a minute? Have you actually had one wriggling inside your hand? Did you know if you keep your finger inside a clock for a minute, you can pick out that very minute and take it home for your own?’ So it is Paul who stealthily lifts the dome off. It is Paul who selects the finger of Clara’s that is to be guided, shrinking, then forced wincing into the works, to be wedged in them, bruised in them, bitten into and eaten up by the cogs. ‘No you have got to keep it there, or you will lose the minute. I am doing the counting – the counting up to sixty.’ . . . But there is to be no sixty. The ticking stops.

    From ‘The Inherited Clock’ by Elizabeth Bowen (1944)

  9. Pages 157 – 186

    jumbo“It’s the devil-in-dreams…”

    An archetypal tiger akin to Blake or, more importantly, Henri Rousseau’s painterly naivety (even a talking dog here from a previous Meloy work), plus a blend of the DOGAN from Stephen King with this book’s own ENDWORLD or ENDULA, with splattering, cranking, industrial, sometimes Heath Robinson-like monsters, natural life like a scorpodile, a book (about a boy besieged by these bristling creations that lethally compete with each other to scare him) within a novel recited to us (and to Chloe) by that Bix Beiderbecke of a dog amid Dream Sickness and monsters like urban features or rough-nosed architecture, such as water towers etc.
    I grew up with a significant, but relatively unknown, water-tower, one nicknamed locally as Jumbo (shown alongside) and this can be found in Colchester, a strange town at the upper urban end of marshy Flatland or Fennish Essex, akin to Meloy’s added-on world, Jumbo being an ancient folly that engenders madness or a landmark upon which to hook one’s madness for a healing while? I was never sure exactly which of those two possibilities that Jumbo was (and still is). A time for the mind to fish for healing amid the dark tower’s precincts…?.
    Some stunning passages in these latest pages from this off-the-wall, off-the-world book.

  10. Pages 186 – 221

    “No child should have such existential insight. Life stretches too far ahead to sustain it, an impossible slog towards nothingness.”

    This author is already in my Dysfunction Room HERE with his ‘Islington Crocodiles’, but this book emphasises that the Meloy Mythos should be in there TWICE.

    There’s nothing funny or fantastical about mental illness, but both the grotesque humour here and its dream archipelago pier like the long pier of Essex’s Walton on Naze that happens to be near where I was born in 1948 and the shoddy beach huts and the splendid vision of Quay-Endula make this a seminal work for such illness to be at least bearable or poeticised — even, one day, to be actually healed by such a Dream Sickness catharsis.

    There are dreams here for boys to become the train driver they always wanted to be, travelling on the Railgrinder, fighting all manner of monsters of mine, hawling the mine-pits of their minds.
    This section of pages is the backstory to the whole Meloy Mythos.
    And we haven’t finished yet.
    An old petrol advert from my youth – a Tiger in the Tank.

  11. Page 221 – 256

    “The Night Clock is calling its numbers to its face and a man and his son stand together on the stony earth in the middle of a disused and abandoned reclamation yard.”

    Why abandoned as well as disused – belt-and-braces?
    This book is itself a reclamation yard , an art installation of machines and monsters or a scrapheap of Meloy’s previous published works, Islington Crocodiles, Dogs With their Eyes Shut, Reclamation Yard, including the two collaborations: Loose and Compartments of Hell. This book itself is also perhaps a collaboration, one with the devil-in-dreams, a Toyceiver that is pitchforked to death, or one with the prophet-showman himself? Or with the child murderer from ‘The Frolic’ or with some Autoscope who a year or so ago preached a rabid anti-natalism on TLO having once worked for Toys R Us?

    This is no easy read with its eventually dysfunctional plot worthy of my aforementioned ‘dysfunction room’ of honourable literary traumas. One that started with an engagingly modernistic and stylish scenario that might easily have won a prize literary accolade (seriously) if it had carried on in that way.

    As I said before, I can have no idea how this novel will affect someone completely new to Meloy fiction. All I know is that you can’t unstick yourself from the goo of its parts, from the bristling word-family of characters that started off real but tragically flawed.

    The catharsis of madness BY a madness that remains.

    “Make it personal.”
    Father and son, empty self and created self, mother and child, doctor and patient, head and hermit eye, community carer and client, dreamer and dream, seaside and pier and more – let it fit where it may.

    “‘It’s inside there,’ Colin said, and tapped a bony finger on the centre of Barry’s forehead. ‘Trapped in a dead dream.'”

    end

    ———————————-

    “In the Bible there is a beast,” he said. “You know this, Andrew. But did you know that the beast is also within you? It lives in a place that can never see light. Yes, it is housed here, inside the skull, the habitation of the Great Beast. It is a thing so wonderful in form that its existence might be attributed to the fantastic conjuring of a sorcerer or to a visitation from a far, dark place which no one has ever seen. It is a nightmare that would stop our hearts should we ever behold it gleaming in some shadowy corner of our home, or should we ever — by terrible mischance — place our hands upon the slime of its flesh. This must never happen. The beast must be kept within its lair and not reach out into the world. By now you must know that the beast is a great power that may work changes on the world. Darkness and light, shape and color, the heavens and the earth — all may be transformed by the beast, the great molder of things seen and unseen, known and unknown. For all that we see and know are but empty vessels in which the beast shall pour a new essence, therewith changing the aspect of the land, altering the shadows themselves, giving a strange color to our days and our nights, making the day into night, so that we dream while awake and can never sleep again. There is nothing more awful and nothing more sinful than such changes in things. Nothing is more grotesque than these changes. All changes in things are grotesque. The very possibility of changes in things is grotesque. And the beast is the author of all changes.”
    — from ‘The Tsalal’ in NOCTUARY by Thomas Ligotti

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