22 thoughts on “The Lure of Devouring Light – Michael Griffin

  1. THE LURE OF DEVOURING LIGHT

    “Most classical players have no use for electronics. Lia takes a more modern, experimental approach.”

    A dichotomy, like this book’s first and eponymous story. The mutancy in the muse.
    I have a history with this story (explained here) and I now sense I might have been too scared of this story to publish it. I recall, as an adolescent, just getting into modern classical music (if that is not a contradiction in terms), hearing, by chance, on the radio, a broadcast performance of Thursday an opera by Stockhausen, although Thursday was a translation of its title – Donnerstag – and that sounds far more ominous than mere Thursday! In fact it was one of the seven complete and full-sized operas (as days of the week) that make up the overall massive work of Licht upon which this story is centred, a story itself also divided into seven numbered parts. No coincidence.
    It is a powerful present tense telling of the woman Lia, and the past tense girl called Celia, subjected to a Polanski-like Magus (magus being my word for him, not the story’s): the 60 year old musician working on the whole Licht performance about to set the university intellectually and aesthetically alight. There are some vivid scenes amid a devouring force behind this work that one should not enter lightly.
    The cello Amato is, for me, their shared soul, Lia and her Magus. And Licht eventually prevails.
    Cello-Celia?

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  3. Dreaming Awake in the Tree of the World

    “I knew very little beyond what I could see.”

    A blend of a man in a tree with a naked girl called Nomia and something akin to a tale of Tarzan, but there the similarity probably ends, because instead of apes, we have a beautifully and meticulously conjured fecundity of vegetation manipulated and spliced, and technically named, and contiguous, it turns out, with technical equipment, even in this accretive world of the tree, whence our hero tries to escape back to where he thinks he belongs, like he is manipulated by Nomia, myself by this storyteller and this storyteller’s growing tree of visionary breeding. All for the effect the storyteller wants. Part of me will forget that I again feel lured, while most of me remains entranced.

  4. Far From Streets

    “Dane and Carolyn’s life together followed an unremarkable, almost blandly linear trajectory.”

    Dane and “Care” as he calls her.
    21 chapters with their own trajectory like a work of art by Richard Long (Google his ‘Line across Exmoor’ and ‘Line Made by Walking’).
    The text starts simply, page-turningly, like the novels that Care obsessively reads. A dichotomy of life aims, whether to buckle down and earn a good living from a routine job or escape to those walking-lines in an outlandish place, like fishing and throwing bottles into an enlarging river. The “crossfade” becomes “cross-purposes”, for them and their two areas of abode, and at first I thought it was him luring her as Nomia lured the treeman with that story’s equal contiguous modernity, but eventually one learns – in a cataclysmic ending with some very disturbing events – whence the lure truly emanates.
    It is as if the couple live a whole lifetime in these 21 chapters, including its end mutual Alzheimer’s? A mis-circular trajectory back to himself as boy with the wrong eyes. Or something far worse. Or better?
    I loved also the way tropes like the swallow, stone disk, barefootednes and bottle accrete mutantly. This is a significant work that I am still working at in my mind. This is my initial real-time trajectory of impressions.

    “Everything ran faster despite grinding gears misaligned.”

  5. The Book of Shattered Mornings

    This is a projection of self from ‘scratch’, where we can usefully compare it with another story I read just an hour ago in a single author collection I am simultaneously real-time reviewing, a story just reviewed here, and the two stories complement each other, while remaining distinct, strengthened not by similarity but by difference, for example the difference in what the respective evolving selves do to or have done by quite different ‘Fathers’. One carrying the burden of self, the other trodden underfoot. My happening to read these two stories together is a hopefully meaningful synchronicity.

    Now to this story alone…

    Seven numbered chapters, seven days, here we again have this book’s Licht, or, as this story has it, ‘allure’.

    “The cumulative value of the word and the sentence is not additive, but exponential.”
    This is exactly what I hope the process of gestalt real-time reviewing brings out from the books that I happen, through guided instinct, to subject to this process. These seven chapters are of this very process, the real-time awakening of the man to the self, to the boy and to the future older man as a single entity, and perhaps relates to what I called the mis-circular trajectory back to the boy at the end of the previous work. And here the circle seems to be perfected as we see his synergy with the book of text to which he awakes and to the ghost of self with which he blends, dealing with his Father, his loved one, entities who leave and only come back as part of dreamcurrents or “recurrent ecstasies”.
    A staggering portrait of self as text, which of course the portrait itself is.
    “…to divine what may come.”

  6. I have previously read and reviewed the next story – and below is what I originally wrote about it here: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2013/07/23/black-static-35/#comment-995
    Rothko and Morton Feldman: interesting complementarities with Stockhausen?

    ——————-

    Arches & Pillars – Michael Griffin
    “It’s a surprise, yet totally expected. Happening again.”
    Rothko paintings, from my steady gazing upon them, often seem to develop a sense of black static. The pre-internet world’s first empty chat rooms. Yet another unspoken dimension, the geometric quietism of ‘Rothko Chapel’ by Morton Feldman, the old student flats that I once knew and were soon to grow into the William Gibson / John Shirley ‘The Belonging Kind’ moving from gallery to gallery, cocktail bar to cocktail bar, with recurring Ligottianism as a social badge of honour towards a suicide pact that our violent society as a third party would soon be only too willing to help along … obviating the need for people like me to face the last useless struggle against death in old people’s homes?
    I am tentatively interpreting this intriguing story and it may become clearer (even quite different!) with the retrocausal context of this magazine’s stories I have yet to read.
    “405” line TV screens now disappeared into their own fundament of white noise.
    “It feels like an old marriage and a new thing, both at once.”

  7. Another story I have already read and reviewed here: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2014/10/04/puppets-in-carcosa/#comment-3315 – and below is what I wrote about it.
    Of course, the book in ‘The Book of Shattered Mornings’ above simply HAD to be a tangible paper-aesthetic one, not a ‘domesday ebook’ –

    ———————

    Diamond Dust by Michael Griffin
    “One of the plans appears to dictate the assemblage of thousands of moderately-sized components into an enormous whole.”
    Another story personal to me, whatever the author’s intentions. Each word a stigmatic burn mark on the paper, but not if it is a domesday ebook that you read. An exercise in Avant Garde and Utility. A wonderful Blakean vision of an ‘industrial doomsday’, personal to the protagonist, someone who, for me, eventually becomes a Hawler, in this world of corporate rivalries and collusions – to reach that centre, that story-core we all seek if we are the sort of people who find ourselves reading books like these ones. Each neighbour, each romance, each book, a cog in the pattern.

  8. The Accident of Survival

    “The stereo spins quiet electronica.”

    A story imaginatively based on the onward bifurcation of paths when one path seems terminal.

    “He’s living out a story with no room for collisions.”

    A couple in relationship, but who is truly steering whom? (As in previous stories, cf who is luring whom?)
    Breaking Winery glasses, in envy of another couple who made them. Or heading towards the hills of Lethe? A visualisable series of recurring terminal paths, as with a gun or in a car. Attempts at renewal imposed from outside? Imposed by some inscrutable muse in charge of the exponentially evolving bifurcations?
    A provocative work using a simply told language but conveying complexities, with telling angles of authorial or external muse steerage. [Also an interesting mutual foil to today’s reading of the simultaneous collection mentioned above, a story there of life’s or death’s seeds and their steerage taking a different form of terminal path?]

    “Reality ends when no eyes remain to see.”

  9. NO MASK TO CONCEAL HER VOICE

    “Actors, we reads scripts. Then to get drugs to fuck our lives up, we need other scripts.”

    A well-characterised Lily Vaun, not quite Sunset Boulevard, but certainly on the Yellow side of Autumn in her film career. Still famous not necessarily because of the acting mileage left but of the train-wreck of her life.

    “Black stars shimmer against perilous depth.”

    That was an early clue to something. As she is taken by an inscrutable chauffeur – who later stokes more than a chauffeur’s ever stoked let alone steered – to this book’s second Magus and that Magus’ fountain decorated and filmic memorabilia filled home, with Lily then encouraged to utter actressly synchropations, or even shriek atonally, as dubbed speech for another woman in vision. A role-playing in salaciously coercive/playful dressed rehearsals that are induced by intrinsically careful, overtly manic, machinations of daily conditioning, driven or steered not toward memories of the famous men she’d had sexually over the years but of someone less famous and not a man at all, someone who perhaps haunted all her moments of a broken life, haunted her in different disarming masks? But who steered whom?
    Art as love’s retribution via coaxed or luring memories of the coming death’s lethal chamber that awaits us all.

    “Sound is blind.”

  10. The Jewel in the Eye

    “Wants to quest for the book’s bloody heart,…”

    As I do, as Sibyle does, in this constructively sprawling ‘book discussion group’ story, with her lady friends, powders and inhalers blurring but making more possible the truth like the truth of Mieske’s book they seek by discussing it, real-time reviewing it (does Mieske mean ‘immanence’ when he or his translator writes “death’s perpetual imminence”?)

    A Proustian touch in this work depicting another Magus, Sibyle’s famous pianist husband, whose work is described like an evanescent Morton Feldman’s. This time the Magus has been provided his younger female prey from the Licht story, an earlier version of herself provided by the older version that is today’s Sibyle using an equally evanescent concept of “shaper” as gift for her husband. Her younger self as mistress.

    Eventually the piano music becomes more like a tortured coaxing of it, luring it.

    “It seemed at any moment ready to recite poems Sibyle used to know, the old words imminently about to spill from that new mouth.”

    Her shaper is the student version of Sibyle, student of the Romantic poets.

    “Nobody can make her a victim.”

    “Within the book, there must be clues.”

    And indeed there are accretive clues, the threesome, as witnessed by the other women in the group, evolving from the aging couple’s “straight-line mutuality”,
    and later a foursome, as a younger shaper version of husband Magus evolves, or rather evanesces, into existence. Where does your laughter come from, as a mysterious laughter, too, evanesces in this story? This story text works without need for laughter, even if my description, interpretation and evaluation (this very sentence I’m writing), of this constructively evanescent story make it (wrongly) seem pretentiously rarefied.

    “One stands for the other, without replacing.” – here like a pancake, also like Proust’s Petite Madeleine.

    Seeing each past self as separate is indeed essentially the famous Proustian feature.

    “A book is just a cipher, faceless and without color, waiting for someone to project herself upon it.”

    I have projected myself upon this work, too, as I often do.

    I also project other works upon it, like the previous story in this book and its fountain.
    Growth and decay, mind and body. As book and discussion are in synergy, this work and my review, too. The rest of this book’s context as gestalt. The powder makes me both linear and diffuse, too, the powder in the words themselves.

    ‘ “Shapers, I don’t really understand,” Bellamy admits. “I keep hearing people say the word, but how do you make one?”
    “Yeah,” Autumn says. “I wonder too. Is it like something you can buy?” ‘

    I reach not this book’s heart but instead this book’s own shaper, perhaps?

    The various triangulations make me wonder who or what we all are. Looking into people’s eyes tells us nothing.

    “Like it validates our path if we convince somebody else to follow.”

    Horror without victims.

  11. The Need To Desire

    “An accident of timing, Scott’s fault, led to eye contact.”
    Explaining the earlier jewel embedded within a face of flesh, a flesh here as “hard as diamond”?

    “Morning, a sunlit addendum to night.”
    … With this short short an ultra-evanescent addendum or coda to the previous Shaper story, as the women and men on ski holiday In cabins by the frozen lake melt as well as harden and soften physically in their flesh in seemingly atonal tune with their relationships, the manoeuvring of exes and new partners and other fluid symbolisms of modern romantic politics, I guess. But, no, not symbolism, as this purely IS, a melting into each other then unmelting, the coaxing by Licht as an addendum to darkness as well as by the consistency of flesh itself. No need to interpret this as the text gratuitously lures you in by its own instinctively valuable process of melting, you in it, it in you. Just need this description followed by mutual evaluation. Each story in this book a new day’s partner. Soon be Thursday again, if a different one.

  12. The Black Vein Runs Deep

    I. Kinosha (in 11 parts)

    “Mines are just manmade caves.”

    Eleven short chapters to straddle today towards tomorrow and eleven more as-yet-unread chapters, I guess, for when tomorrow becomes today again.
    I started by thinking that this work is apocryphal to the book I am reading, but is it? I keep my powder dry. (Powder in the normal sense and in the sense it has in an earlier story). The previous short short seemed the perfect coda to the book up to that point.

    It is an immaculately structured prose suited for this, so far, linear story, but laid-back, almost lackadaisical as a slow romantic development with conversational infodump backstories of a male and a female forty-something, Colm and Adi, in a terrain that reminds me of some Nicolay stories, involving caves and mountains and mines, and inimical forces at work (forces cosmic as well as human, I assume). I say romantic, but the pair of them seem reluctant to get it on. I won’t bother you here with their backstories or the ins and outs of their relationship, but everything is neatly relevant to the business (green as well as financial) that takes them to these here hills.

    But there are memorable touches, too, like the blood fingerprints melding, a frisson of some of the earlier couples in this book and their subtly cosmic and achronological concerns, plus the nature of the sublime and transcendent terrain that at one point towards the end of this Kinosha section involves a towering black monolith, as if from the film 2001, one that remarkably reminds me of the boulder at turns with and without roots to which I linked above this morning in connection with the previous short short in this book! And there are coordinates and triangulations, and an unmarked path, reminiscent of what I said about the art of Richard Long earlier in this review.

    “Being half a rotten relationship doesn’t make you half rotten,”

  13. Another day…

    II. Hood Highlands (in 11 parts)

    “Days blurred together,…”

    Don’t get me wrong, this is beautifully written, even if with too many infodumps, a rather chicklit approach to character development, to the running background of tension between land developments and land culture, with villains and gunshots, even carnage, spaced between to give it a seasoning.
    The character of Adi is is indeed fascinating, mixture of exploiting Colm and something much more, with her huge tree tattoo.
    “Maybe everything we know is wrong. It’s stones that have roots. Trees walk around on legs.”
    And there are are some enticing objective-correlatives like golf as a metaphor for life, Thunder Egg Inn, Betty Page bangs, Room 111, Sinatra and Farrow the waif from Rosemary’s Baby, the sense of things beneath the surface of people, as well as the land, Adi’s nativity to this area and her father… and the stooped pair of figures who walk down the street.
    A popular “Philosophy” made novelistic. But possibly just a novella as a trainee novel? But it has not finished with me yet, I note.

    “I read in one of my books, sometimes angels would come down,…”

  14. III Seeking Below (in 7 parts)
    IV Black Dawn (in 4 parts)

    “An ocean of stone. Billions of tons of resolute earth between us and the sky.”

    Cohesive, but, for me, melodramatic, as its own inevitable gestalt of the couple gratuitously travelling with an elongated form of Buddy Holly into the deepest depths of the mine. The end of this novella seems inspirationally written but I am just not convinced. That’s my fault.
    I did enjoy, meanwhile, the blend into the mine’s ethos of my “powder” comment earlier, when here their euphoria is described as drug-like and, indeed, the raison d’etre of the plot’s villains is that very prospect of a revolutionary permeating drug to be mined. Its smell, too.
    This is catharsis indeed, with everything thrown in. The nature of fear. The couple’s inchoate relationship forged hereunder….

    “If I had different eyes, I could see.”

    “Angles bend, distances distort. Vision lies, a broken lens.”

    “The only way to handle a long trek? Always keep moving forward. Never stop. Don’t look back and measure. Always forward.”

    “A straight path is really a labyrinth”, my dreamcatching labyrinth?

    “Hidden truths arise within every seemingly vacant interstice.”

    ———————–
    I loved this perfect book up to and including its coda ‘The Need To Desire.’
    The end novella beautifully written, but, for me, merely interesting.

    end

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