15 thoughts on “Sylvan Dread – Richard Gavin

  1. image


    “But I cannot remotely recollect his face, though I am certain that he had one.”

    It is as if the Thistle Latch allows you through the door into this book itself and then out of it again to see the world differently, to see a ravine revelling…
    For me, this is an intensely haunting form of sylvan nature’s all-embracing pareidolia, where the shapes are not only visual mirages but also bodily ones whereby they make you, as a physical as well as a mental being, part of the pastoral pareidolia itself, and the mirages become the truth and the clear sight some form of hoax.
    You reach into the future when you are older, more achy and less athletic and you renew your acquaintance with the owner of the latch… A latch to something thistly within the reader – as happened last year, and still may be growing there, depending on who is asked to help, the occultist or the medical.

  2. I read and reviewed the next work in July 2009 here and this is what I wrote about it then:

    Primeval Wood

    Having real-time reviewed Richard Gavin’s collection OMENS (HERE), I couldn’t wait till I entered that ‘often parish’ again … so the arrival of my purchase of this novelette in my bungalow-house today was timely in order to quench such cravings.

    As well as being a fan of Gavinostic fiction, I am a lover of Proustian works, too… and here we have a concept of Proustian weekends, whereby the protagonist, Neil, spent self-indulgent decadent periods insulated within his bed pigging, tripping and reading…

    No wonder that another point-of-view (his girl friend Kate) left him for yet another point-of-view (Darren) – and Neil goes to the holiday cottage alone instead of with Kate. So, Neil, upon this voyage of discovery towards consciousness (as tutored by a believable discussion forum on the internet) … to become what? A spoiler in himself for other points-of-view to suffer? A muse that is the actual author rather than an external force? An Aickmanesque ‘fetish’ of textured Wood? He is all these these things and more. Leaving the reader himself literally growing out of Primeval Wood or even, perhaps, being sodomised by the wooden soul within its pages’ paper?

    [Kate left Neil a note early on saying ‘We’re Done‘ on the medicine chest mirror. NightSun on the internet forum may also notice that the holiday cottage had a note faded out into: WE___ME.]



    “If you want to know the truth about something you have to do the same thing more than once.”

    That quote was indeed a sudden dawning truth, as I found out that I had read this story before and reviewed it here in 2014. You see, the text is identical but this is no longer a run-of-the-mill ghost story, but a great hauntingly recurrent experience of a boy’s encounter with a ghost of a girl of his own age during a summer ‘elation’, while staying with his grandparents. As enhanced by a comparison of the genius loci of the ‘revelling ravine’ with the gravel pit and by remembering this book’s earlier Thistle Latch of which this ghost now reminds me with incremental force and telling poignancy, upon the brink of fallible trust and danger. Ice and fire.
    Ice thistle as thistly ice.
    And a cancerous fire within.
    Rayburn. Redbrick.


    “A pillow of fog swayed lazily over the seam where island and sea intersected.”

    Twin sisters, one the narrative viewpoint, the other seemingly having enticed that narrative viewpoint to this wedding group, where all the guests appear to be women in a face-fronted community of possibly abandoned buildings and the inn where they stay…
    There is something missing or lost about this darkly florid text, something that is found wanting, but later replaced under the cover of mist. Replaced by what? By a part belonging to the narrative viewpoint? Or by a huge engorged part too big for where it needs to be replaced? A choice of two groups, the first supplementing the other with part of itself and the second removing something from the other as self-fulfilment, but chosen as used or user?
    This story, too, attempts to entice us all, but some of us may wish not to have gone there, whilst others like you will relish it and decide to join the others already there. Which of the two groups chosen depends on the one you naturally orientate towards and finally join, finally fuse with.

  5. FUME

    “Whatever was filling him now was something foreign, something incorrect and offensive.” …bearing in mind that this story’s officious, small-minded male protagonist has always enjoyed ‘corrected coffee’, and the mind boggles, as it boggles at the whole of this in-your-face horror, at this obnoxiously pungent ‘fume’ that besets him from the swaddled object in the ravine that first meets his obsessive meddling and clearing-up scrutiny after the ‘summer people’ have left the community, a place where he lives all year round.
    That ‘fume’ is boggling enough, with its ability not only to exist in a sane world but also to be described in such a floridly escaping gas-like way, with all its effulgent, spiritual nastiness laid bare, making you wonder whether this is a fable with a moral or a sheer iconoclastic horror for its own sake. You decide.
    Meanwhile, a horror even worse than the ‘fume’ itself is the male protagonist whom this horror attacks! A man whose impotence and dowdy life cannot be revived even by arrayed women (perhaps recruited to stir his loins from the previous story at various age-stages of their fusion with fuming).
    But sometimes even a standalone potency, especially for such a man, cannot be re-ignited or sufficiently have its clogged conduits fumigated. And that is the case whether his impotence was induced by bodily disease as trailed earlier in ‘Thistle Latch’ or whether it was infused by some mental stagnation of self-corruption. You again decide. You should know.


    “Although only her lungs and eyelids were moving, and, even then, scarcely, Marietta nonetheless felt as though she were cart-wheeling forward, spinning through the borderless country inside herself.”

    …as if ‘country’, by dint of its pure sound of phonemes without seeing the word itself, is something laid open, un-latched…the girlish self as physical as well spiritual ‘country’ or receptacle, a sumptuous sump welcoming something at first like the swaddled ‘fume’ creature now evolving as another version of the appendaged feral creature of ‘Tending the Mists’….
    Those jigsaw patterns of mutuality, with the ending indicating that the horror between rider and ridden continues to be frighteningly mutual.
    The actual text is a special unswaddling creature, with its words actually BEING the ‘ichor’ of which they often speak while fulfilling the apotheosis of, say, Clark Ashton Smith and MP Shiel within its own ‘country’ of style.


    “The architected silence of the two monks was suddenly broken by a susurrus that echoed up from the cleft.”

    Cleaved or again ravelled from a ravine as an inverse holy mother’s birthing cleft, this is a darkly intense cross-breeding between eucharist and lithopædion – telling of a new monk at the Trappist community witnessing other monks’ rites with birdbath and blood by wood’s side. Cardin-al as well as uniquely Gavinostic, heretically or aspirationally Gnostic, a horror that seems so real coming out of the page’s own envisioned cleft, the horror indeed so utterly real by its ability to horrify, a horror from the Christian religion by which it is birthed, so that that horror makes even the unbeliever like me somehow believe, at least for an ecstatic moment, in that otherwise personally eschewed religion. Somehow makes me want to pray that the moment lasts no longer than a moment.

  8. imageTINDER ROW

    “: the sweet, almost inviting scent sat heavy in the blackened tunnel, clinging as surely as stale cigar smoke, or the funk of sex on motel room sheets.”

    A swarm of insects towards or from a hive, to the accompaniment of vanilla, this pungent tale of rediscovering a woman called Agnes from your past and taking her from under the boardwalk to where her makeshift sign points, an exercise in body-moulding sac or clinging forest-clearing, in moulting soul, in sacrifice and guilt for taking her where she simply wanted to go.
    This is the breaking genre of hedonist horror. The unforgettable genius loci of Tinder Row is a masterclass in such an oxymoron of dark spirit and elation. image
    Unforgettable, I say, but how can anyone logically know whether anything is unforgettable? You won’t believe this but it is absolutely true – when I finished this story I noticed a squashed flying-insect upon the inside of this book’s back cover. The stain is still there after spontaneously, in disgust and shock, scraping it off with my fingernail. It must have found its way there during this morning’s photographic session at the Yieldingtree. That is why it is unforgettable – till, at least, my own death’s hiving? The winter or l’hiver…

           “Open thine eyes, for meek St. Agnes’ sake,
    Or I shall drowse beside thee, so my soul doth ache.”
    — John Keats

    As a child in winter, I often remembered endless summer elation by the squashed fly or stain of picnic food inside a favourite book….


    “He could see hairs from the painter’s brush lying trapped within the smears,…”

    This is a story of a man ‘between’, a hypnotically deadpan, yet sumptuously florid, portrait (a masterful bridging of such styles in narration), a story and backstory of a man with flu just as I was yesterday a man with fly. I feel, as a result of this new text today that I am ever hovering between.
    This between is a balance of my dreamcatching obsessions demonstrated by this website (a personal subsumption as a votary of bookish truth disguised as fiction) and my ordinary life with its duties and other realities. This text bridges that ‘between’ by means of various ‘objective correlatives’ such as ash faggots and an aunt named Thora within which name is a votary’s oath, a highly textured tapestry of words that not only rarefies a creative fever within me but also underpins an unshakeable belief regarding forces that truly live within that tapestry. A new state of being. A ‘fey radiance.’


    “Buoyed by his petit mal, he lay back in the humidity, hoping that the encroaching dusk would cool him.”

    … as if the previous story is instrumental in buoying this one?
    A richly haunting tale of an about-to-be engaged heterosexual couple arriving at the distaff’s cabin of her childhood when grownups told her and her sister scary stories as well as stories told between herself and her sister themselves – and the would-be spear-carrier listens to her stories of these stories, until are switched changelings as well as engagement rings.
    And another vision or apparition of a Yieldingtree for this real-time review, I feel, after a story of a story of trees – “We mimic them, they mimic us.”

  11. I previously read this story and reviewed it in the Autumn Cthulhu anthology…and this is what I wrote about it then.

    The Stiles of Palemarsh

    “The openness of the lane, the visibility of the cloudless sky was too immense, too open.”

    This is an honest horror story with its exponential openness, honest inasmuch as its horrors are perfectly pitched to cause terror, and any literary nuances are in the darkly evocative turns of phrase and the sense of love for horror words and soundfest constructions for their own sake, and honest in the sense that the reader is not fingerposted through this outlandish Welsh village, as the Canadian protagonist named Ian is both confused by this place and squeezed by a remarkable concept of a squeeze-stile, crossing a step-stile, too, via the various styles of squeezed fear and missed steps. Honest, too, in that we cannot have sympathy with this protagonist, based on the implications of HIS words, that he had jilted his own stile-squeezed bi-polar fiancee at the altar, with him now come to Wales whence her family derives and unforgivably attending the planned honeymoon holiday alone, the honeymoon he alone aborted. And no wonder the demons that pursue him are inchoate as all fears are, as all squeezed depressions are, and we admire his honesty at admitting by clear implication that he is no horror story character with whom to empathise or sympathise or cheer on towards safety, a safety, without dishonest fear of a plot spoiler, he does, however, reach, despite our not caring whether he did so. And the one he abandoned at the altar, as it were, is now possibly just one of several monsters (so utterly nightmarish in themselves) shambling after him in an honest horror story. And I let out a deep sigh as the two sides of a story’s character are finally brought together by his own vice. But none of that takes account of what is envisaged transpiring in the possibly on-going plot after its claustrophobic text releases us from its captivating style, releasing us into the open. Unspoilt and endless.

    “…and though their thick eyelids remained closed, Ian was sure they were seeing him.”


    “And if they stall the growths a bit, they consider themselves heroes. If I die in the meantime, well, then it was bound to happen either way is probably what they’d tell you.”

    And this work chimes perfectly with my own personal take upon the Thistle Latch. And here that Latch is a husband’s exploiting of his own sculptural work with found objects, found triangulations of love’s coordinates of location, black granite, and shapes not unlike my own Yieldingtree.
    All of this to forge a shell or clinging clearing or other well-fitting force (of pastoral radiotherapy?), a force by mysticism more than by physics or botany, to encase and hopefully cure the cancerous growth of his growth-dying wife, and eventually to create some union beyond their two human souls and their two human bodies, using prize pieces of each as found art, a ready-made precisely made as well as haphazardly constructed…. A horror without victims.
    This is a substantive and raw masterpiece, I feel, transcending the previous works in this book but enhancing them retrocausally, too, and then apotheosising the work of another sylvan dread’s John Cowper Powys (such as his ‘The Glastonbury Romance‘ and ‘The Inmates‘). And that is a huge compliment from me. The ultimate ‘found art’. A ‘ready-made’ both ready and yet to be made. Crazy with the intelligence of sublime instinct.
    Intense but relaxed in its syncopation of synchronicities. The fleshing of dream.
    Of willow leaves and stout wood configured. Self and other.
    “in the Grotesque, as the Grotesque”
    “She no longer triangulates the poem’s inspiration with words on paper, She is the living language of the Poem.”
    “Hunched within the unyielding shell…”
    “; perhaps not quite sacraments but certainly a fledgling gestalt, the seeds for an object that would be greater than the sum of its parts.”

  13. Pingback: Grotesqueries – Richard Gavin | THE DES LEWIS GESTALT REAL-TIME REVIEWS

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