13 thoughts on “Dissonant Intervals – Louis Marvick

  1. Number 32 of 300 numbered copies of this aesthetic book, with over 320 stiff luxury pages, and a see-through dust-jacket over the hardback cover where Andrew Marvick’s design ‘The World’s Great Snare’ is shown.


    “…there was no reason why I should not take my time.”

    …as I generally do with my real-time, often slow-motion, book reviewing and as I have already done by waiting till now before starting this book, dreamcatchers that slowly slowly catch the dream, leading to a slow-accreting gestalt — here a slow-accreting ghost.
    It is a delightfully told ghost story, told in those customary narrated told-narratives spoken around a gentlemanly fire, a fire here that has just ‘collapsed’, as the story-teller’s thoughts later “combine in one black collapse.”
    The storyteller is observed and judged during his telling the story. All is indeed in slow motion as is the journey the story-teller makes over the Dutch polders for a lecturing job after suffering ‘a private loss’.
    All is build-up of something, slowly, leisurely, atmospheric locations, stoical people, but with a sense of depression and impending discovery of the visions of private loss within the people he meets. The eventual connection between the ‘souvenir’ he obtains and those visions of loss is masterful. A genuine ghost story masterpiece, I am convinced.

    It is appropriate that the book has a DUST-JACKET, the one that I described above, in view of some of the subject-matter of this first story. Exactly how appropriate I will leave it to you to find out by reading it…


    “Where now we have the modern shadows of tonality, then they had the living originals.”

    Seventeenth-century sacred music forms not the backdrop but the forefront of this abstrusely crafted work — but understandable, in the sense of listening to music that you can always understand should you open your mind to it — this audit trail of MR-Jamesian academic interactions concerning a ‘whistle’. I will not describe the amassed music technicalities here, the subtle innuendo or the brazen organ ringing out in a Lower Saxony church, the Christian religious dynamics of each character and how this religion borders on its devilish opposite, nor will you need to know, till you actually read this dark, and “desultory” onward path of a, story, the characters involved, the narrator, the teller of an inner told-narration, the villain villainous because of not only his actions but also his bearing and physique, the rivalries and jealousies in this field of music, the potential plagiarism, the keening edge of notes ceasing to be pure but played together, or whether the whistle will work within any part of a human body.
    Just let this story flow slowly over your mind, its texture of words that convey sheer horror simply by their envisaged phonetic sound and tentacular syntax, as well as these words’ well-tempered semantics.


    “He was certainly no rake; […] At the time of his marriage, however, he had been fifty-seven years a bachelor, and it would be naive to suppose that he had avoided the opportunities to ‘burst joy’s grape against his palate fine’ that had occasionally arisen in his way.”

    Keats here employed to reveal the natural instincts of human man within the constrained, politically-incorrect world that one usually associates with fiction that is imbued with MR-Jamesian shivers and, indeed, there is here a character called Karswell (representing a concertina retributory theme) and this story is in many ways an ingenious satire of such works as well as a respectful tribute to them. That is no mean feat.
    Ingenious, too, by use of crafted synchronicity or coincidence. A grotesque-amusing Reggie-Oliver touch, too.
    And the work is cynical, too, about the wiles and ways (and retributory instincts) of BOTH men and women in the gender stakes. And there are decided frissons of genuine horror as the mirror begins its work within the context I have just adumbrated.


    “Following the death of my mother…”

    This is a memorable work, as if memorable back toward some distant past that is not my own past, although it somehow seems my past, too. Another classic work for those who relish the atmosphere of traditional ghost stories, blended with extra dimensions that transcend such tradition, ending with a Latin quote from MR James: to be sorry that you cannot be sorry. But I have discovered more from this work of literary art about grief (relevant to me today) than I have ever known from grief itself. And also about the conveyance of truth by fiction and by other arts like opera, the atmosphere of graveyards and their denizens, the effect of synchronicity (here by means of a rented room little better than a cupboard on a landing of a house in Paris where the story effectively takes place), plus a spyhole in that room created from such a literary creation as this story, a spyhole upon deeper levels or palimpsests of that story itself, the peripeteia of one grief ghoul stalking another, a stalking perhaps set in motion by the reader looking at other people of the reader’s own nature through this story’s spyhole. The theme and variations seem endless.
    This reading experience was momentous for me, even monumental.

  5. imageI have just now discovered HERE my original review in 2013 of this book’s next story and am surprised that I used the word spy-hole there, too.
    This is what I wrote then:
    The Red Seed by Louis Marvick
    “The Church would have it that evil is a ‘falling away’ from good, a deprivation, a refusal of grace; in short, a lack. That is a neat theological solution.”
    This is a highly sophisticated, mind-bogglingly plotted (as well as with beautiful Henry Jamesian clause structure) investigation – by use of devising Dickensian characters – into documents and objects … an extrapolation upon the Cartesian view of the pineal gland as the seat of what each of us is … a panoply of mind-stretching concepts ranging from Gnosticism to the ‘chakras’ — and, via Huysmans as documentary intermediary, we effectively have the book’s spy-hole again, here in the grand daughter’s head, the seat of the rarified thing that will ignite a kill or cure, and the story’s disturbing ending that involves the stone or rock with which so far this book has been petrified. And by Angel Head or Real Presence, I sense I will never shake off this book’s exquisition.


    “an austere truth of geometry.”

    “One was supposed to feel, upon entering each room, that one had surprised its occupants at some moment of their daily routine, and so gain a livelier impression of the past.”

    A series of rooms in a historical French house with tableaux of waxwork dummies and other contraptions – and role-playing enactments or rituals – portraying tussles of American smugness versus French recrimination, of goth girl versus posh-bred girl, of leaking earphones versus silent living faces, of geometry of angles in trees and through the side of throats versus a similar geometry within the building and its rooms, mirror versus portraits, fingers versus candles, wordy passages (beautifully written in themselves) here seeming out of proportion to what they are describing versus the perfectly-set passages of previous stories in this book, and, finally, this, for me, sadly unconvincing story versus this book’s story classics heretofore.


    “The space around him seemed hung with a darkness that was not the darkness of evening and that stayed with him even when he got to his apartment.”

    Imbued with the atmosphere of the Low Countries in ‘Pockets of Emptiness’, the 1670 landscape painting in this story, painted by an epigone of a famous painter, seems to me to combine classic landscape technique of that period and nuances of Turner and Abstraction, giving off more than just what you see in it, and you do see different things in it at different times, like, as this story implies, an Advent Calendar of darkness, disease, unease and innuendo. Without hyperbole, this painting is probably the most wonderful painting ever described in any ghost story, indeed in all literature, and I cannot do justice to it here. It needs to be experienced.
    Having said that, none of the characters convinced me – nor did the plot, its antidote to such an inimical painting being Charity, and a stock plot of inheritance and retribution. The prose describing these, for me, unconvincing events, however, is highly honed, atmospheric and satisfying. But it is the painting itself that counts. Do not miss it. Perhaps hang it on the wall of a different story?


    “Indeed some of the weeds on the unpaved no man’s land were of quite spectacular size, having the height and fullness of trees without their structural dignity.”

    This novelette is one of those works that I am too rarely privileged to read; it is perhaps even something alone that makes me feel grateful that I have lived long enough to be able to experience it. It feels as if it were written specially for me, combining some chilly desultory hothouse (so typical of this whole Marvick book) like Mann’s The Magic Mountain or the same author’s Dr Faustus, and an essential experimental Kunstreligion both to exorcise by immaculatising the maculate vision of the previous story’s Charity without Compassion and to incubate sins and thus transcend them like some grotesque form of Mahler’s Kindertotenlieder or Antheil’s machine symphony. Interpret it as you will. I know how I do. It is very powerful and haunting.
    Taking place in Pirna, at a time soon after the reunification of Germany, and with buildings among those unpaved areas of weeds still redolent with the wall-scribbled evidence of the crimes of the Second World War, since temporarily factories or admin buildings, before becoming the venue of a music festival such as that of Bayreuth – or that imagined by Rutland Boughton for Glastonbury? We watch through the eyes of a young Icelandic girl who is part of a group of older teenagers come to perform this musical ‘happening’, each with a child ‘Charge’ to tutor in the Round of their choral input. Their performance literally comes off the page at you.
    The interactive characters of the young musicians and of those who are in charge of them are believable and fascinating. The whole scenario is still working around my mind, including features like the funicular railway and others I can’t cover here regarding the unforgettable ambiance of time and place, expressed by the most exquisite prose. Musicological and darkly spiritual, but that gives no real clue to this experience.
    (The reading of this story, for me, also seems astonishingly to have come for me at just the right synchronously optimum moment, i.e. soon after recently reading and reviewing – here (the story ‘The Lure of Devouring Light’) and here (the novel ‘Mr Suicide’) – two other fiction works covering the effects of Kunstreligion, and, with the latter work, the handicapped nature of the Marvick ‘Charges’ truly takes on a complementary mutual power.)


    A neat coda to this remarkable collection in the form of a succinct character study of someone disliked — or whom you feel SHOULD be disliked, except later for the dissonant interval in hindsight.
    (I happened to be listening to Ravel’s Violin Sonata as I read this last piece.)

Leave a Reply

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

WordPress.com Logo

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

Facebook photo

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

Connecting to %s