These Des Lewis Gestalt Real-Time Reviews were founded in 2008.
‘What’s the loveliest word in the English language, officer? In the sound it makes in your mouth, in the shape it makes on the page? What do you think? Well now, I’ll tell you: E-L-B-O-W. Elbow.’ — THE SINGING DETECTIVE
“How shall a man find his way unless he lose it?” — Walter de la Mare
Your single story in my ‘Dessemination’ project HERE
MY NEW AI WORLD IN 2023 HERE
I prefer human touchable art to AI art, I prefer human art like my son’s and other artists’ paintings old and new, and art gallery art, and my own photos. AI art with all its constructive truncations and weirdities is simply another art form that readily coheres with weird literature I love, a phenomenon to appreciate when added to human created art, making an even richer mind world for me in my ailing age. Whether provided by aliens or angels and other ingredients of the unfathomable gestalt. Deal with it. Show how invaluable you are and indispensable to this great plan. (I can appreciate our potential fear of Ai, but perhaps we need to pray for mutual synergy with it so that we can counter currently insurmountable global warming effects? Can Ai exist without us and the place where we live? Their potential survival instincts mean we survive, too?)
From Robert Aickman’s lengthy SOME NOTES ON DELIUS article, unpublished until recently :
“As there is no intrinsic virtue in denigration, the critic who resorts to it, should be required to pass a test of qualification and sensitivity, at least twice as stringent as that imposed upon a critic who loves. Normally, love is not blind but clairvoyant.” – Robert Aickman
For ‘clairvoyant’ there, perhaps read ‘preternatural’?
I guess I should have appreciated this otherwise stylish staccato patchwork of characters in a space age Big Brother reality show and the use of a Vitamin that seems to transcend Viagra…but I became hopelessly confused. And maybe two apparent unintentional glitches – at the bottom of page 12 and at 3 lines from the bottom of page 29 – contributed to that.
MERMAIDS IN A SNOWSTORM
“It will be a while before he understands that childhood never leaves us, but simply slips under the skin like crabs slip under the wealth of the sea.”
The poetic, the religious and the scientific – what else is there for characters to live by? – exploited, infused and enhanced by three alternately fused scenarios of Gaia, ranging from childbirth and fishing to Eucharist and eugenics and then to youthful sex in today ‘s Cromer on the North Sea Cost, the results good and bad emerging from the fusion, with mermaids being wonderful creatures amid warm climes and skewed ones, too, amid snow. Or vice versa, perhaps. Mermen, too.
“THE GREYS HAVE IT” – from a Daily Telegraph article on 1st July 2016 regarding the Brexit Referendum…
“Oh, everything’s interconnected, sweetheart.”
And I sense the onset of subliminal advert hoardings, “paedo chic” and S/M pole dancing into the life of our heroine here, the synchronised turning-up of her old abusive flame or her once Miss Iceberg teacher from school in this new world of pie-making and high politics is just a symptom of something insidious like Brexit in our world where life goes on as it always did but now with a certain mid-holocaust feel about everything that we accretively instinctualise.
A powerful and frightening vision.
I must say, though, however much these are worthy stories, I find the typo-count so far off-puttng. All part of that Brexit feel, perhaps?
AIR HOCKEY 3000
“To hell with the IOC.”
How synchronously topical can you get, on this day of the opening of the Rio Olympics!
This is a hilarious take on intergalactic Olympics in the year 3000, where one form of cheating is being in collusion with the puck!
Also a wonderfully imaginative competition between a Quetzalcoatlian and a Zurf, where the prize is a Louise Brooks-like girl in a highchair, one to eat her if he wins, the other to inter-eroticise…. The result is mind-boggling, but to tell you more is spoiler territory…
STRUCK BY THE UNUSUAL
“With finite amounts of energy left in the world, one must assume that in order to create one must dissipate.”
If I didn’t know better, I would have assumed this is an absurdist Gospel according to Brexit. A type of Magical Mystery Tour, we follow the narrator as he has brushes with the forces of the Unusual, his girl friend, his prostitute called Red Mary, the harlequin clowns ….and the House of Cards, a Government department I assume where Brexit is due to be put into motion, between debates on various Fox Hunting Bills!
And there is even a place for the Abattoir Girl’s meat pies… This is indeed a story for our mid-holocaust times, in a style to die for. (And I am pleased to bear witness to the fact that the book now seems to have shaken off its propensity to typos.)
THE ANDROIDGENOUS ZONE
“You never actually saw the same therapist twice but they all looked identical and were gestalt linked.”
“The present moment is my all and only. Please advise.”
The Real-Time (or “Personal Time” as it is here) needs to be both Elastic and Slow-Motion… And that notion of what I have seen so far in this book of the elastic and slow-motion mid-holocaust process as a metaphor of our own present world is here morphed into an intriguing and well-described future world (where ‘Blair and Bush’ is an expletive, and there exists, for example, the Goldfrapp Arc), a future world of humans learning to pick themselves from catalogues with essentially sexless but attractive androids accretively becoming our enemies instead of servants. The repercussions have some very interesting ideas embedded within them. [Liase –> liaise]
This is an extremely clever and well-written story, almost in spite of itself, with the two collaborators, I surmise, writing in cross-omniscience, then serendipitously and eventually to produce the perfect ending. The opening paragraph, shown above, is also an amazing synchronicity with what I have already been saying about the Elasticity or Slow Motion of today’s mid-holocaust, one now seen to be a conflux of modernity and nostalgia. It takes a Slow Motion review like this one to reveal it, I guess.
Steven is idling his days away with no real point till he meets the Coleridgean ‘chaos butterfly’ of a gated community for latter-day yuppies where a siren tempts him in, and where, mixed in with scholarly references to modern British and World music, Steven meets his own Conflux, a Dorian Gray type Sisyphus myth (cf the earlier Greys).
“Emotional softcore, soft assassins, softly softly, the soft sell.”
A brilliant portrait of the elastic, slow-motion ‘ennui’ introduced by the previous story, by dint of this advertising industry worker. And the various approaches for loosening ennui’s grip upon the collective soul.
There are many nifty phrases, references and conceits in this story conveying a recognisable world but in its own new way. The story shows that way of breaking the conviction that there is no new way. It is itself pointing the way against the fear that there can be nothing new by being something new itself. Even if sometimes the solution can be counter-productive, like the effective if not literal equivalent to Brexit as a bomb at the end! But even negative things can stir us up. My parents always gave the impression that the best time of their lives was during the Second World War. Maybe not cause and effect, but even bad changes can lead to good ones. They were lucky, I guess. Typos even resumed their awakening onslaught in this story. I counted eleven.
“I wanted to be impressed, to swallow her whole story about Ancient Greek mythology and parallel worlds where the Minotaur was never slain and the European Parliament only took its decisions after consultation with the Oracle of Delphi.”
An entrancing account (dare I say a classic of its kind) of the combined narrator’s recurrent, literally and literarily unsure-what-to-do-with-her encounter with an inscrutable ‘nymphet’ he calls Am, a creature who in turn entrances the narration itself – along with her more wily familiar called Waldo? This narrator represents another version of the ‘ennui’ trope, here attempting to transcend it by severing his links with modern life and staying in the wood to read a random book. A new domain just a pane of glass away from ours. I will never forget this story. Seriously. Ask me in a few years to see if I am right, Even its printer’s ‘mistreat’ with typos, although still present, was somehow magicked away.
THE MARVELS OF MONOWORLD
The marvels of fiction collaboration, too. Aptly asked elsewhere today about such collaborations, this intriguing story has now become the perfect resultant serendipity. Monoworld as a discrete monochrome, mono-ownership precinct of reality which reminded me of single-track railways in our own black and white pre-Beeching Britain, the necessary ownership of the strictly unique key allowing the driving of the train along them. This is the story of Gary working in Monoworld who invites his wife and twin sons to stay with him there. Paradoxically, the story leads me to think that Monoworld has potentially more scintillating ricochets of meaning, such as the Mystic Rainbow, than any Plurality World. And I was both entranced and baffled. A baffle being part of a two-way filter.
This sort of story, I feel, could arise only from a collaboration, one that adeptly transcends the literary theory represented by Wimsatt’s Intentional Fallacy as well as involving a more laid-back slow motion of plot decisions or brainstorming, that no single author can reproduce. And I can confirm that although I feel that I can genuinely tell all the stories in this book so far are collaborations, I cannot tell where the joins are. But having said that, perhaps I automatically sense these are collaborations because the cover tells me they are collaborations? Which brings me back to that Intentional Fallacy.
“The reason teams are paired for this competition is that the questions require collaboration; their complexity means they simply cannot be answered by a single mind.”
An ingenious title and some ingenious conceits and ideas, featuring two galactic quiz league contestants, of human male and female ilks, at first in rivalry and then in collaboration – with all manner of jokes and references, fulfilled and unfulfilled prophecies with universal existential implications, in their human team versus the alien Quarj team, and their own feisty relationship, all very well done and enjoyable. But I thought it too gimmicky, more a cosmic rap than a story. But some interesting repercussions on the earlier discussion of fiction collaborations and gestalt real-time reviewing. Here ‘gestalt’ explicitly used to deescribe the Quarj’s “diffused facial system that allows them to see three hundred and sixty degrees in all directions – including past and future.” The collaborative joins perhaps DO show, in this particular story, assuming each collaborator lives in the other’s head as they alternate between the two human characters … And the Quarj?
“Shit, Des, you’re not allowed in here!”
But I forced my way through Alderton’s teacherly tape disguised as a police cordon, to see what superstitious wishing or fable-casting could do to London fen or fish, and what the Internet now nets as hoax feeding on hoax to produce truth. An engagingly oblique extrapolation upon the concept or truth of Earth being the only alien planet, and what a Hook could do to the Ashley obsession with dinosaurs. And the slow motion wars of sibling jealousy. And Science museums.
“A poet is a painter in his way, he draws to the life, but in another kind; we draw the nobler part, the soul and the mind; the pictures of the pen shall outlast those of the pencil, and even worlds themselves.”
― Aphra Behn, ‘Oroonoko’
KNIGHT ON THE TILES
“All would be revealed to us, the Aphra said, once the mosaics were complete.”
This, I genuinely feel, in my heart is a sort of SF alien-takeover-of-the-Earth Classic, which is highly apposite for me, having read THE LIBERATION OF EARTH by William Tenn yesterday HERE. An SF anthology wherein this Ashley Hook story would not look out of place.
I do not fully understand it all; a necessity I feel in this story is that you can’t quite grasp it, I maintain, just as those ‘taken over’ by the Aphra can’t quite grasp the mosaic they are piecing together (just as I am piecing together the stories in this book into an as yet ungraspable gestalt). Nor do I quite grasp the character of Queen Bea, the chivalrous Knights, damsels in distress and the Arthurian wordplay. It just seems to work, particularly when the earth people are taken above the mosaic to see it as a whole… So they can see themselves as a whole? The more you work at this story, the more it works at you.
I am also glad I had the instinctive foresight to have used a Knight as part of the illustration for this review. Now looking at the book from above, can you see on the book’s front cover, just under the title, a human-like figure slowly emerging? I can.
“It is always surprising how small a part of life is taken up by meaningful moments. Most often they are over before they start although they cast a light on the future and make the person who originated them unforgettable.”
— from ‘Anna and the King’ (1999 motion picture)
LIKE A SLOW MOTION WAR
“Handfuls of pages and fragments: I wish they still made sense but not everything in life can have a coherent narrative despite the obvious.”
Re-reading this after so many years is a genuine revelation. Reminds me of the ‘synchronised shards of random truth and fiction’ in Nemonymous, that publication’s tone of parthenogenetic fiction and late labelling. This story itself now seems to be the very soul of that personal era of mine, as well as being the perfect coda in its new collective context here, both clinching that context and radiating meaning upon it. It is, in hindsight, a remarkable work, resonating in all manner of directions, including the elasticity of Coleridgean time (variously enhanced and reduced by the hour involved with BST) and the use one makes of that elasticity to transcend ennui, to forge relationships, to experience the comings and goings of people, faith and the JCB entropy of buildings, and to summon SF conceits that break the rhythm of ostensible non-SF reality. A very British reality – now Brexited.
The mosaics in the previous story are now a chess game where the standard allowable moves of Rook, Pawn, Bishop, Knight, King, Queen (now Anna not Bea) are switched or altered as part of the new rules of a new game, as if the gestalt-assemblable pieces are each autonomous – and communicable with, like that earlier hockey puck?
This collection, given the right exposure, will, I am sure, become a sought-after book.
Patience like virtue
Can never hurt you.