14 thoughts on “Blue on Blue – Quentin S. Crisp

    Pages 3 – 15

    “…this town, like many others throughout the ASAF, was a centre of wonders, though there have sometimes been complaints that individual aviation now constitutes a traffic that half-obliterates, for the simple pedestrian, the periwinkle sky…”

    I don’t think it is a spoiler to tell you that ASAF (as embellished by the book’s first footnote) is The Alternative States of the American Fifties. The narrator – who couches his, for me, beautifully textured Erithian style in a compellingly page-turning quality – is Victor Winton who lives in Brookdale. A style that describes being between a rock and a hard place of eternity and individualistic modernity, or, on better days, between blue and blue. Reading art books, visiting a museum, castanetting his steps along the pavements, working in a tedious office, writing flyers for Sea Monkey Kingdom, telling us about a slap-happy craze for X Ray Specs… (I had already placed a temporary opaque paper cover upon the outside of this book before reading about the X Ray Specs!)
    I am still feeling my way, but I already have good vibes about this book.

  2. Pages 15 – 27

    “In our lives, does not the resonance of antiquity, as manifest in an ancient statue, meet its equal, at least, in the trivial, immediate resonance of the familiar, as manifest in the cartoon character?”

    As an ‘old’ reader of this book, I can safely say that I have now been mind-boggled by it! There are some very strong colour-synaesthesic and Kabbalistic things going on here. And sexual-gender themes, obsessions and coloured gussets or thongs (my expression, not the book’s), that may infuriate some new-born Facebookers of our world, I guess.
    And the most bizarre interface of ‘analyse’ and ‘anal-eyes’, and a stylistic study of the word ‘between’, that I can only admire. This brought me back to the 1960s when I was taught to do these stylistic studies of words on a daily basis.
    Victor appears to make a study of his passionate interest in comics and cartoon characters, e.g. Snow White v. a Bablyonian statue, individualism v. eternity, and I can only hint at what some of these remarkable passages convey – insofar, anyway, as I understand them myself!
    (A ‘nameless faith’ that SEEMS to approximate my own Nemonymity?)

    “The blue was the principle that transcended principles.”

    Pages 28 – 36

    This book takes off in a wonderfully resplendent cinematic lucid-manga, I guess, with Victor’s after office hours spent drawing the comic book heroine, Lara Lovelily (a sort of alternate world Betty Boopty-Boop?) to whom he introduced himself in the previous section of this book, a book that he writes evoking such a cartoon or comic book creation on his part, agonising over the words to describe this activity, no doubt, as he must in turn agonise (WITHIN that agonising) in his styling itself of, say, the image of Lara’s knee with obsession – an obsession once needed by the director of the cinema film Claire’s Knee (my observation, not the book’s).
    All this is coupled with Victor’s lucid environs of Brookdale that surely strengthen in the reader’s mind with the narrator-writer’s own transportation there, a place not only of, inter alia, X Ray Specs but also the invention of that very transportation as copy-original teleporting, in turn strengthening Victor’s theories of copy-original comic book styling, all to the exquisite sensation of his spreading out a crisp new newspaper about all of this on a cafe table!
    That’s me rambling on about something that is much tighter and mind-fantasy meaningful in the book itself, about which book this is my own spontaneous news report spread out in my reading-room mind with its own instilled lucid dream of what is radiating from the book.

    I do not intend to go on at such length as I read on, but who knows! Whatever the case, I know already this is a book that is rather special.

  4. Pages 37 – 52

    “What, in establishing connections and correspondences between the multiplicitous nodes of existence, could make those nodes effloresce unimaginably…”

    Em dashes, here in this book, not en dashes, and no spaces ‘between’.

    Victor’s visit to the museum outside of office hours brings his chicklit encounter with someone called Jenny, and the altered marks around her lips change how she briefly at first seemed like Lara into eventually not seeming like her at all. A sense of truancy, and foreign memory, not my expressions, but the book’s. Whistling as innocence. Recurrent reflections of re-living a conversation as dream-bubble or a form of trampolining…sans serif.

  5. Pages 52 – 59

    “The air itself—void—is easier to describe, though notoriously ineffable,…”

    For any text to agonise—as much as this one appears to agonise upon its own emerging heuristic hesitancy or (to quote this author from elsewhere, yes, from elsewhere) upon the ‘preternaturally secular’—would seem off-putting at least.
    Yet, both his simply ‘seeing’ Jenny Mills (put thus literally in the text, but with the double meaning of ‘seeing’ as ‘going out with’ or, possibly, ‘having sex with’) and his tentative engagement with putting his hand just above her knee (cf my earlier reference to Claire’s Knee) seem to summon such a powerful fascination of projection (hologrammatisation) and subtle plot-advancement, the type of reader attracted to this book actually learns much from—and is entertained by—such obsessive agonising in literary print.
    The guitar and its soundbox, too.
    (The Literature of a Samson Agonising?)

  6. Pages 59 – 74

    “It is a strange thing to feel connected to a person by warmly linked hands, but to feel your two heads are compartmentally separated—yet in their isolation immersed in the same world.”

    There are some truly astonishing passages describing a visit to a Sea Monkey Show by Jenny (a lip-synch short of a connection with Lara who, in turn, has some frame-link with Superman?) and Victor, whereby the audience members are helmeted up to the aquarium itself. Some extended stylistic flair here about sea anemones et al, that is seriously mind-blowing.
    But all this is (deliberately?) offset by some rather wooden speeches by a sea monkey itself who seems to be intent on mouthing a series of statements from Twin Peaks a bit like “the Owls are not what they seem.”
    The mental and physical relationship between Jenny and Victor is one of “transparent sincerity”? This phrase is also how I see the whole book so far… Transparent and transporting. Limpid as well as lucid but, paradoxically, transported by an em-rich text that is not always thus.

    “…an eerie transport in the heart and mind of the watching periphonaut.”

  7. Pages 74 – 86

    “One has to decide either to live with flaws or to hold out for perfection.”

    A möbius non-choice, I suggest. Now Victor (probably given that name by parents who settled for his perfection on day one!) is optimising (settling for flaws but whittling them away one by one in bouts of heuristic artistry?) his professional image of Lara in the plot scenarios that he hopes to sell for cinematic usage, based in some aspects of Sea-Monkery. He almost issues the literary equivalent of a social media vaguebooking post after getting a promising letter about it —– all this in interface with visiting the Buena Vista Castle with Jenny.
    You need to take a breath here as reader, because, from my studied instinct based on long experience, this text takes fantasy into realms where fantasy has not gone before – when establishing the margins between where Victor and Jenny are and where they are about to go, together with the concept of the castle itself from this unique standpoint and of the standpoints of those who built it. And that is where I leave it, all of us straddling this pathway in-media-res, between here (their here not ours) and there on page 86.
    That castle’s “blue room”, notwithstanding.

    “The general public perception is of a benign fog of wonder, promise and hinted wish-come-true.”

  8. Pages 86 – 102

    “People who reflect, struggle all their lives to put things into words.”

    And I am struggling to put into words what I feel about some of these passages, as Victor and Jenny cross the various margins through a distance that kept the Buena Vista castle ever a vista. I could, easily say: Wow! But that seems a cop-out, even if it is justified. For example, I get the feeling this is not predominantly an epiphany towards holding hands and a kiss in a romantic setting (although it is that as well), perhaps not even an ‘optimisation of “crucial loci”‘ (that is called to mind in another coincidentally concurrent real-time review of a book (‘The Siren of Montmartre’) here), but rather its otherwise ungraspable essence is crystallised here in Blue on Blue by, for me, a convincing reference to Dennis Potter’s “blossomest blossom” speech during a now famous TV interview with Melvyn Bragg shortly before Potter passed (I usually say ‘died’, but ‘passed’ seems more appropriate in the context of Blue on Blue.)
    You need to read these passages to get what you happen to get out of them. You may get different things. I was simply left with an impression of the area around a Zoo that is close to my heart where dream is recognised as dream, even it is a dream, rather than, elsewhere, where dream is impossible to differentiate from reality.
    The exact moment when a cinema film becomes iconic rather than a fabrication of cameras and actors?
    Meanwhile, this ‘II. Buena Vista’ section ends with a beautiful, o so poignantly true, word-musical ‘dying fall.’


    “I don’t know who will be reading this, and under what circumstances, or if I shall ever find out who and under what circumstances, but I feel now, before I continue, that I would like to ask the reader a question.”

    Well, unlike this author’s lack of knowledge regarding the Nemonymous reader, I think I know something about the nature of the author, one that colours my view of this book. I feel authors as well as readers should be Nemonymous to isolate the book as an item of study.
    What is the difference between a montage and a palimpsest? I have used the latter word in connection with this author’s previous works. I sense ‘montage’ is more in tune with Victor’s artistic work in comic strips and cartoons when laying one transparent thing over another, and palimpsest more in tune with what seems to be his ‘real-time’ at such creative work layered upon his inscrutable day job in an office. Many of us have this palimpsest if we are creative beings who cannot make a living through such creativity. Still I am procrastinating in rambling in this way. Indeed the author or his narrator Victor seem to be procrastinating with their heuristic artistry as if they are ever on the brink of going off on some errand that will delay the writing of this book or continuing to address us as readers. Each page becoming its own trampoline like a bendy tracing-paper skin…
    This chapter is full of such trampolining empiricism, a transparent sincerity, as he bounces off his relationship with Jenny on buses and her partially lip-synched montage of Lara in comic strip creation, Lara being someone who, Victor tells us, Jenny denies being. Jenny’s elided ‘old’ tells a whole backscript to her own existence in this book as opposed to that of Lara in this book’s second skin of conceptual creation of the comic strip that in turn creates her?
    The montaged layers of blue in rain. The cliche of ‘coming out of the blue’.
    The Dao as non-interference: another form of the habit of vanishing off on errands in case one disrupts, by staying, the set course of events – or in case one inadvertently unpeels, by compulsive toying with them, the natural tracing-paper skins of the living and the dead?


    “I think we wandered right through from one night’s dream to the next, though I am not sure exactly where the boundary or turnstile might have been.”

    The day job diminishes like a dot on an old TV just switched off? Meanwhile, the teleportation volunteering and Victor’s Lara Lovelily comic strip success entailing his working on a sequel are themselves, for me, another montage, but the need to create the reallest Lara possible entails probably the most incredible passages in this book that you are ever likely to read in any literature, as his studio becomes more of a science lab, with the use of grids for, inter alia, multiple palimpsests of Lara’s own quimmish ‘Origin of the World’, as if Victor is virtually painting-by-numbers alongside the painter Courbet himself when teleported to 1866 (Wikipedia link here but not for those easily offended – and it may also be a spoiler?)
    Function and form, “…you shall be born, but always that you shall be born again.”
    I can now possibly see why I mentioned ‘gusset’ etc. earlier in this review without realising then why I did so. And Betty-Boopty-Boop. Betty Boo or Blue. All a bit ‘squishily personal.’ Each crevice unbridged or scooped free of its troll within or under its uncrossed lips and folds. And tracing-paper skin.
    Any snow, notwithstanding – whether officially vaporised or malignly / haphazardly so. Erased or pointillisted.
    Brainstorming, not rambling.

  11. V. CODA

    In my reviews, I often find myself seeing the last story in an anthology or collection, or the last chapter in a novel or novella, as a CODA.
    But, for the first time, the job is done for me here already!
    I note the middle name of Victor Winton is Sernik. Inkers? Cartoonists and diarists et al. We creationists at the Origin of the World are all such, and ink I assume is expressed from their nipples by sea monkeys and other marine life, I guess. To complement or supplement the white as snow milk of ordinary mothers.
    This Coda Is expressly not an obituary but a hindsight view by the editor of Lara Lovelily who’d asked for her sequel. (Jenny?)
    ‘Transposition intervals’ as interferences parked elsewhere to allow a smooth daoism or dadaoism.
    This is a remarkable book where I have only scratched its upper surface. And that’s surely an understatement.
    You need the book’s own X Ray Specs, provided at the beginning almost in passing, to be able to see deeper.

    “Outside is inside now. We have our own land and the branch blossoms outside the window.”

    Potter as pilot. In the wide blue.

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