The Gift of the kos’mos Cometh!

in praise of night and kosmos

edited by damian murphy and geticus polus

l’homme recent bucharest into the indigo abyss mmxv

stories by Andrew Condous, Quentin S. Crisp, John Howard, Thomas Stromsholt, Harold Billings, Alcebiades Diniz, Joseph Dawson, Jonathan Wood, DF Lewis, DP Watt, Stephan Friedman, Avalon Brantley, John Gale, Adam S. Cantwell, Damian Murphy, Colin Insole, Charles Schneider.

My previous reviews of books by this publisher HERE.

When I conduct  a real-time review of this massive and gorgeously produced anthology, my comments will be found in the thought stream below or by clicking on this post’s title above.

26 thoughts on “The Gift of the kos’mos Cometh!

  1. image

    This book as a physical object is quite out of a word’s world, a sort of Galaction (to filch the protagonist’s name from the first story) – Galaxy, lactation, lux etc all imbued with Byron’s eponymous Darkness from that incredible poem of his.
    The hedonist-thick texture of the 380 pages, the brassiere-bookmark, black ribbon marker, the sumptuously hefty design-embossed board covers beneath the papercut-inducing dustjacket… are all unimaginable until you duly handle the tactile proof, the tactile truth. And the designs of the title page, fly-leaves and other pages, artwork by Denis Forkas, and the no doubt thought-inducing quotes scattered throughout chosen for each story, will make this an unmissable reading experience, I am sure.
    My copy is numbered 7 out of 100. I am proud to have a few pages dedicated to one of my own stories, written short enough to leave more room for others.
    I suspect I shall read this wonderful prospect of a book in true slow-motion, so please do not keep returning to this page expecting me to have added to it.


    GALACTION by Andrew Condous

    “A statue listening to the wind.”

    The story that truly sets the tone, I suspect, not one masquerading as its tone.
    Those ‘easy’ words in the above quote as example do not prepare the reader for the densely packed ‘difficult’ ones that magically turn out easy enough when you let them flow through the reading mind and fulfil a true sensory-cerebral experience fitting for this book’s imminently immanent shape.
    Galaxy, lactation, lux etc all imbued with Byron’s eponymous Darkness from that incredible poem of his. Yes, indeed, that is Galaction Demodolescu, whose childhood we are told about, including his unique qualities, his family background, his later regular work as the night’s first lamplighter in the city, the nature of that city, the nature of books and ornaments. The experience of this work is still only half-hintable at by having that demoded experience yourself. It is matchless, but nevertheless lit.

  2. “Luis de Léon saw it in the fatherland
    of his shuddering soul.”
    – JL Borges

    THE DARK DAO by Quentin S. Crisp

    “…and therefore the reader should ask not who the author is, but who they themselves are.”

    This is splendidly vintage or classic QSC heuristic hesitancy expressed, as ever, in highly aesthetic quilts of syntax. An Art of Wandering in September 2016, tinged with speculation on seeking a self beyond suicide notes (“that stalemate of pity and horror”), crisis fending, a buffer to budding despair, prison as homelessness (or vice versa), rain as otherworldly comfort (like SF, initial scenes in the film Bladerunner?), redemption, nirvana, “interwoven genesis and apocalypse”, “some venomous centipede of undoing” inside him, ‘spirit bank’ disguised as some shop on the high street in Catford, people at the top of steps leading to front doors without leaving or entering even ending up as if they lived in that limbo, the accidents of acquaintance and other connections beyond dreamcatching, the soul inside stationery enveloped, gifts as debts, the future no longer a beallandendall, the style of an earlier generation to the narrator (ie MY generation), a generation often starved of higher education but still having its own wisdom —
    ALL THIS and more couched in a trinity of echoing narrations, the original Art of Wandering leading to a cold calling of an old, neglected friend of the narrator upon whom he now chances a meeting by knocking on his door unannounced, a friend of the narrator who himself narrates of ANOTHER cold calling visit he had that tells in turn what that second cold caller said and his inner narration of ‘The Dark DAO’, a cold-caller itself, an inchoate essay which INCREDIBLY (for me) justifies my earlier ‘blind’ mention above (before I read this QSC work) of Byron’s ‘Darkness’ poem, arguably making the searching of the figurative wayside of the railtrack-near-the-bridge of this dreamcatcher review almost a task worth doing, even if beneath the rainy sky of nemonymous night (where the stars are thus hidden?)…(and now please forgive a lengthy quote from this lengthy QSC ‘story’ to end my review of it) —

    “Think of how some dreams recur — lost completely to memory, then returning. Now think of the second darkness in the trinity — the night of the cosmos. Is this darkness different to the one inside you? Heat death, you might think, is the end of all the dreaming of this infinite sky of uncountable worlds, but not if heat death is itself a dream. ‘Last night I dreamt I was trapped in my dream forever,’ says the night of the cosmos. ‘The dream was trapped in me.'”

    Do please renew your acquaintance by cold-calling the Byron poem:

  3. “Must the morning ever return?” – Novalis
    “For newness of the Night –” – Emily Dickinson


    “and stars glowing so close to touch”

    A truly haunting incantatory, refrainful versification, imbued by that now perfectly pre-envisaged Byronic Darkness of mine in hindsight, here with its enjambement of unrequited love and a tantalisingly requited search for she who lives within such darkness … In hills but also a yearned for city.


    “We will prove this Luzie, you and I, by netting a nightmare.”

    And, so, yes, I thought of my own Dreamcatcher book reviews as soon as I read about the Phobetor, its Jungian tuning into, even perhaps creating, the brand of dream, sweet or nightmarish, as part of sleep investigation. With me this is gestalting texts.

    This ‘Mad Scientist’ exercise in discrete dreams and dreams within dreams of those stewarding or simply witnessing the experiments, features a group of people who know or once knew each other, with agendas, and rivalries, presumable deceasement, whilst in a genius-loci that competes with such rich deployment of dreams as well as dream theory – plus a gothic-baroque prose style – all by means of and in contrast to a ‘cheap motel room’ ambiance, unless I myself dreamt that bit! Interesting.

    • Interesting, and ultimately disturbing.

      Has the Byronic Darkness syndrome, too: “The azurite sky itself seemed a body that whirled and coiled around the blazing stars,…”

      And Keats. And Van Gogh’s starry night. And Chandler, who wrote works somewhere between motel rooms and sleep! Cf Luzie and light / lux.

  5. “Crackajolking away like a hearse on fire” – James Joyce

    THE LOST WORDS by Harold Billings

    “I was sometimes blessed with a falling star plunging into poetry’s sunless sea, or the sight of a flickering meteor aflame, if only briefly, on its pilgrimage across the constellations.”

    Now and again you come across a story that, counterintuitively, fills you with joy. This one does. It is one of those great stories, literary, empathisable, poignant, hilarious, intrinsically TRUE about life and death.
    It is Uncle Hiram, a poet, getting older, REALLY old perhaps, someone who literally, rather than figuratively, loses his words, words escaping into his book collection, but losing his words in a sad old way, too, that he dresses up as something he knows how to write about beautifully (and he does), while besieged by his family to encourage his move to a rest home. One grand-nephew in particular whom he calls Lionel, later Leonard, and a transcendent scene in the attic ensues. If you are anyone like I am, at the age that I am, I wish I were Uncle Hiram’s son. I’d not let him wait too long in his casket for burial, consigning him to a better rest than a rest home. Swaddled in his own lost words, now found.
    A basking in the acceptance of a paranoia that the ‘pestiferous’ is out to get you.
    An adoration for words. Still very much alive, perhaps forever.
    “the friction of dada”
    This is great literature. This is the one.

  6. However Des comes down on a story or book in review, one can aπpreciate the thoughtfulness of what he has to say. And appreciate his words I do, but how did I screw up Leonard and Lionel! It’s the old age perhaps. Where joy can be found among still many words. –HB

  7. THE EXTINCTION HYMNBOOK by Alcebiades Diniz

    “The inhalation of an abyss coordinated the swirling regions, holding galaxies in infernal gears whose function was to devour and exfoliate.”

    Is a forthcoming shot from a gun imminent or immanent? This story proves it is the latter, a recurrence not only of death, but of life, when the gun is pointed at you. This is a visionary text, one starting amid the abysmal conditions of the French Revolution in Paris, giving me a feel of some of the more non-‘Yellow’ stories in the King in Yellow. Leading, for me, to that Byronic Darkness again (you really must re-read that poem linked above!) – and, following the headless woman, and that gunshot, you reach some observation tower (“cenotaph for a plethora of souls” or dead monument to once ancient hope?), a vantage point upon the churning ‘universal mill’. A plethora of wonderful passages in this extinction hymnbook.

  8. “She walks in beauty, like the night
    Of cloudless climes and starry skies;
    And all that’s best of dark and bright
    Meet in her aspect and her eyes:” – Byron

    This is, for me, an original set of poems that is, inter alia, a theme and variations on the above poem, as filtered through this book’s perceived soul so far.


  9. BLACK NIGHT TESTAMENT by Jonathan Wood

    “And I don’t want this to be a narrative as such, more a memory gash, a scarlet rend in the mystery of myself –”

    And so it was. This ineffable and incantatory blend of intertwining style-swirls in meticulous verse and prose is an intense and lengthy outpouring upon the eschatological self and the cosmic return to source, being a cross between the strictures and beautifully couched spirituality of TS Eliot’s Four Quartets and the inchoate gossip of Molly’s Monologue in Ulysses, but more the former than the latter, despite a tiny peppering of sexual terminology to predicate the cosmic and the astrological.
    This mighty text swells the reading mind then engulfs it. You don’t know whether you have been gifted with the finest uplifting literature or bombarded with the wildest effusions of spiritual despair/joy. Probably all those things, and that is no mean feat.
    A self-admitted posturing nocturne…
    And it also touches upon Byron’s Darkness, again…
    “If I stare inward beyond the outer reaches of the glacial terrain of my own self, so fearfully scattered with boulders, to the furthest shores of Night, where the impression of melting stars descends into the certain darkness…”

    I cannot possibly cover everything here in this short review, but I will bring out two personal points. I wrote a very short prose piece (here) a few days before starting this book, something that seems to be relevant to this book but also to this Wood in an oblique way about ‘the return to source’. Secondly, in the Wood, there is an interesting passage about the word ‘orthogonal’. In that specific context, I think it is apposite to point out that someone recently started a publication called ORTHOGONAL (I reviewed it here) – and it publicly claims to be inspired by my ‘Nemonymous’ publication of a few years ago, and nemonymous as a word might aptly describe the nature of some of the themes in this Wood work.

  10. I rarely break cover……and then only to gather food for thought. We drip, drip, drip into eachothers’ consciousness through the medium of thought and telepathy and the past and the trudge into the future; whatever that holds for us. I am currently composing a new work – Shadows of London – inspired by Mark Valentine’s notion of a story that I should write. Strangely, the first component of this is a piece called ‘The Photographs’ , and it takes me back to the late 70s, the catalyst being a book of photographs sent to me in the post late last year, that resonated and brought the period back to me with a vengeance. ‘Back to the source’ has so many connotations, it is hard to know where to begin, outside of the birth canal of our everyday experience; the eternal transit camp, the final home of us all. As for ‘Orthogonal’ and ‘Orthogonality’, my referencing of it related to a close associate, an academic of some note, addicted to these words and the multi-syllabic power of their presence on the page and on the ear and in the mind, like uncertain new music being composed and overheard in the next room or on the street. The angularity of these words helped me compose this tale and they are a coumpass point, a reference trig point that has haunted me for at least the last 12 years….but that is another story; but still his love of these words and their musicality play on my mind like insistent rain. I once intended to call a vagrant periodical of mine – ‘The Orthogonal’, but it came to nothing – the sub-title was something to do with the tangential – another beloved word of this academic. Strange things, words. I shall dig deep into my archive to find them again. I think the reference came in one of the issues of my ‘Through the Woods’ or one of my fabled rare book lists. I think there are references in ‘Through the Woods’ issue 6 in the Heidegger Institute piece.

    As for ‘Black Night Testament’, it is the mirror without glass, the frame without its painting, the gateway to whatever you will and the addiction that lies behind it. The lonely intention at the start and at the end of every day, where stars are no longer necessary. ‘The hideous dropping off of the veil’….if my Poe memory stands the test of …..

    Jonathan Wood

    • Thanks, Jonathan, that is quite astonishing. I am so glad you ‘broke cover’ to draw such synchronicities into being. I was not going to ‘review’ my own work (Sleep’s Lost Labour) that happens, by this book’s editorial choice, to follow yours, but I will simply draw attention to a single relatively minor correlation: your corridors, passageways, rooms of night that you orthogonalise as I think I triangulate mine. (The word ‘triangulate’ has often appeared in my book reviews and I note it also happens to appear in that short ‘photographs’ work of mine, to which I linked above.)

  11. My great pleasure, Des. It helps me very much to excavate and make sense of the past and the floating synchronicities of the present and the future, through the wonderfully rich and poetic stimulus of your unsettlingly insightful reviews. I cannot wait to read your contribution, when my copies arrive in the post.

    Triangulation and orthogonality frame the absence of the pictures upon the wall.

    Jonathan W

  12. “But Los saw the Female & pitied
    He embrac’d her, she wept, she refus’d
    In perverse and cruel delight
    She fled from his arms, yet he followd”
    — William Blake (The Book of Urizen)

    ‘Tis a Pity She Was A Whore



    “…and we are ready to become again.”

    Another crafted text that teems with resonant power and the rockstars of a Byronic Darkness, depicting an “ever-proliferating dock shanty” by the city’s river, where the narrator, instead of tough and evil as this place requires, suffers the ‘disease’ of using the words ‘friend’ and ‘happy’, but after befriending a suffering whore, an ostensibly different female figure leads him instead to a hardening epiphany…an eponymy once named Uriel.
    This is a remarkable work in the sense that it leads us astray, with a soul seemingly beyond the control of its narrator and freehold author that lets us down with a downrush of despair, where before we had expected the author to ensure that the narrator spread his goodness beyond himself in this evil land, as if we are made to read to the end, by some perverse imp, an imp that makes some sense, for the first time, in my experience, of the maxim that “the road to Hell is paved with good intentions.” The narrator and his brother, too. Even the Villa of Ormen?

    “That ominous night brought me dreams of stars — yes, Stars!”

    cf Pity the Whore, from Blackstar album!


    “It is the Dog Night / And the skies are rent / Lonely black windows / Scream silently / With their toothless mouths”

    Victor’s collage of a secret Gnostic order in prose and verse, including a mock,premature burial and a Proustian memory of his mother. And clouds that form an amazing C**t.
    Inter alia.
    Read me, it says, as if to Alice, I guess. A memorable work, at least as long as I live long enough to need to remember to check up on its memorability.

    “The seed won’t grow unless it dies.”

  14. NOCTERNITY by Avalon Brantley

    “And how she feeds the Darkness,”

    Through the night, in a vastly rolling symphony of verse and prose movements as an effundament to all things arcane and (un)devout, readable as one should read Finnegans Wake, with all the neologistic, graphological, semantic incursions, and, when read aloud, as I just did, some pretty incantatory refrains and wild phonetics. The essence-fumigations, notwithstanding.
    Blake and Byron “inter-erupted.”
    “I’m a whore!”
    “I will come and I will go, forget and almost remember, incarnate and collapse over Aeons, like a Star, all in the endless search for where you are. And I will find you, just as surely as I will lose you once again.”
    Too much teeming across the page to cover properly here. But I will mention the word-subversive Christmas Tree on page 236, branches to heavens. And the holy grail on page 253. And this line of verse: “And faith is designed to be lied to;” which is the perfect complement to a concurrent real-time review of ‘The Lie Tree’ here.

    “I had thought the dogs returned to the streets from their hiding, but these proceed upright. They have no need — would not have come here — for the dead.”

  15. ALTARS by John Gale

    And a mighty gale called Imogen blows today in southern England.

    “…a circle of ghosts: and he experienced the moth-soft caress of millennia-dead lovers…”

    Read through the pale iris of the moon, this short work seems even shorter than my own, and it is engorged with an ancient pearlescent texture of prose but aching with the contrast of wan tendencies, telling of a journey from a grey city to one with “the mysteries of Night the imperishable.” The hills as altars whence his own soul drifts with silent currents of a lugubrious breeze I guess, not a gale.
    Whenever I have read work by John Gale (HERE and HERE), I have imagined my brain change shape and substance.

  16. BLACK CHROMA by Adam S. Cantwell

    “Over his shoulder the rigging rattles against the flagpole in the ocean wind.”

    A still mind-working collage of a bibliography, some verse and two longer prose pieces.
    I am left with the anxious vision of some August disaster with surviving folk building fires on the beach but the narrator knows his family is still in the summer house, but then he builds a covert as shelter for himself, into which the sparse stars permeate…
    But was it a star’s explosion that ignited all this? Ignited this Darkness? Another Blackstar?
    Some beautiful language in here.

    “Anonymous, ‘The Noctations of Lady L. (London: 1889)”

  17. THE HOUR OF THE MINOTAUR by Damian Murphy

    “Howling winds entrap the ensuing silence like an endless roll of gauze. They uplift me, these winds, my nature is exalted by them rather than dispersed. I arise like a speck of illuminated dust into a courtyard filled with weeping angels.”

    This relentless novelette (of objects and the connections between them) might be called compelling and page-turning (and it is), but, rather, I felt it was obsessive, as if I was part of an arcane spell, a thread of impulses beyond my control, partly attuned (like the tuning of the contraption described in this text), in any event, with my sensibility of usually finding a preternatural thread or gestalt in all books that I review or dreamcatch, here triangulated or orthogonalised or explicitly octagonalized, alongside me, by some figurative or actual (at one point overtly seen) compass within the words.
    This journey starts on a train with the protagonist Matthieu, where he starts the thread of objects and ceremonials, indeed including a prayerful ceremony of smoking cigarettes that is later reflected by finding cigarettes as part of the onward thread. I will not itemise all the objects in his thread, but it starts with the chance finding on the train of a solitaire game to reveal a cathedral image, his grandfather’s esoteric article read on that train, Matthieu’s own research, the tuning contraption, the compass, the laptop, Masonic symbols, the thread of his patrimonic lineage, grids, maps – I could go on and on. It is relentless. One major find is that of the Minotaur’s journal (written by a soldier with one eye injured) that is imbued with the trenches of the First World War and with war medals that also figure significantly as objects in Matthieu’s thread. The core or convergence of that thread or spell being the star Alkaid (Bowie’s Blackstar?) and an epiphany in the Basilica, and “the gulf of the firmament and into the city of perilous night” in tune with this whole Byronic or Blakean book. I cannot do justice to all the references and powerful images, couched as they are in a relentlessly adept onward prose, but less wild than the prose of the textual collages and word symphonies elsewhere in this book.


    On a personal note, I will mention the Nephilim connection at the end, and the whole tenor of this novelette fitting my own thread in my coincidentally simultaneous real-time review (here) of THE LIE TREE by Frances Hardinge, a novel that recently won the Costa Book of the Year: and the concept of its 14 year old girl heroine named Faith and her ambivalent patrimonic relationship including a specific mention of the Nephilim with reference to her scientific Father’s prize fossil, and much more that cross bridges between both works, without either, obviously, knowing about the other, but reaching out in some inevitable literary connection of unconscious ineffability. They are otherwise significantly different from each other, with wildly different target audiences! The connections are not always clear cut and may only work in part, but I thought it worth mentioning as an appendix to my reviews of both fictions.

    “He arrived at a chapel besieged by the Nephilim; its steeple lost in mist and fog, its foundations decayed by apostasy. […] The terms of his service eclipsed his name, his self-image, all his personal agendas; he was to sever the bond between faith and doctrine, to overthrow the tyranny of necessity, to reestablish the ascendancy of the Mystery in the Temple of Uttermost Night.”
    (The bold is mine within this quote from the Murphy novelette.)

    Also compare re the starlit rip-gash between the bandages with that in the covert of the previous Cantwell work.

  18. DANCE FOR A WINTER MOON by Colin Insole

    “The night had given up its pretence of glamour and beauty; its tinsel tricks of moonbeam and sentimental star glow. Little flurries of frost or dirty snow scudded in the air, as if the firmament was swollen with their filth and they dropped like lice from an old mattress.”

    This story needs to be treated in isolation from the rest of the stories so far. Not because it is another fine example of Colin Insole’s meticulously stylish prose (which it is) but because it depicts unadulterated gloominess, beneath sickly moonshine, after a doctor and his wife as expatriates in Bosnia-Herzegovina in 1908 slide from success at dealing with the locals’ physical ills toward an incantatory superstition of a downward path, where everything around them decays with, for example. vandalism gouging out eyes from the icons’ faces in the church.
    It is BEAUTIFULLY gloomy and tragic, not only with the present day’s entropy but also by retrieving sad memories, such as the father of the doctor’s wife having broken his neck picking apples when she was young. I have never read a story that has such effectively managed gloom, with a moon that keeps popping back in different abjectly visual forms to accentuate this gloom.
    It is gloom for gloom’s sake. Moon for moon’s sake. Utterly perfect in its rite of accruing imperfection.

  19. THE PASSENGER FROM MORNOLOC by Charles Schneider

    When I first saw the title of this novelette, I was sure I knew the name Mornoloc. From within a dream of reading it in a rare book, like the title-and-author-itemised rare books that the plot’s narrator collects around him? (One of those rare authors is one moment Glarken, the next Glarkin, cf the Lionel-Leonard name change of of Billings). Or does ‘The Passenger From Mornoloc’ so readily resonate with the famous ‘The Visitor From Porlock’ that I think I know it already by knowing the other one? Especially as the Narrator himself experiences such a Visitor from Porlock or Mornoloc into his cabin during his long train journey, a Visitor whom he welcomes because of her dark Beauty and gems, but, then again, what dangerous madcap kos’mic Gifts and locked cufflinks ensue to revert such a welcome?
    As the Damian Murphy novelette also started with a train and his thread of ‘object correlatives’, so does this one. The thread here is the train journey itself ex occident, an enticing dream-like floating, a hint of time-travelling, too, a bit like King’s Blaine the Mono in a land, inter alia, of ice-harvesting. A world system with the accretive build up of Swiftian strangeness acceptable as normality, a build up tantalisingly akin to Krohn’s Tainaron (by coincidence, currently being reviewed here).
    The style is made up of ‘word-demons’. With the opal blood of Gale’s moon or Insole’s moon. The Dark DAO I am sure is also one of the narrator’s rare books, even though it is not explicitly listed in the text. And Bowie’s Villa Ormen? A ‘banded agate’. The ‘Whelping Sphinx.’ There is also a rare magical word deployed in the text that the text itself makes clear is alone worth the price of this whole book. And I wonder if Yuri Gagarin pissed for good luck on the back bogey of the train before it set off?

    “These were ancient intaglios, as black as night. NO. They were the night.”

    On another personal note, there is a short sentence (“She covers our flesh with torn pages, we both grow drunk on the smell of old books mingling with us.”) in the entrancing Schneider novelette which astonishingly resonates by chance with a scene in my story ‘Salustrade’ (readable as linked from here) a story that once appeared in ‘Year’s Best Horror Stories’ (DAW Books 1994).

    This whole kos’mos book is wondrous – physically, cerebrally, spiritually, benightedly, kos’mically, eschatologically and sometimes experimentally.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s