9 thoughts on “Death and the Seaside

  1. I
    1 & 2

    “She found a picture postcard, with a design from the 1930s, advertising Butlin’s holiday camp in Skegness and Clacton-on-Sea;”

    An intriguing start where the woman Bonnie in 2 is writing 1 as fiction, fiction about another woman Susan she has created, someone who has moved to the Seaside.
    No curtains in her room yet, although she has been promised. Legs optional.
    I am captivated for many reasons, all of which would spoil it for you if I described them, like sensing I’ve read the fiction before but not the truth behind that fiction. Not déjà vu so much as knowing about knowing about Slash Lane for real from private dreams.
    A connecting door to where, from where? Between 1 & 2 themselves perhaps?

  2. 3 – 6

    Casual thoughts aside: the text’s earlier reference to literary criticism and “Death of the Author” and my long-term feeling the word ‘seaside’ sometimes chimes with ‘suicide’….
    The anxiety of fiction. The googleable ‘synchronised shards of random truth and fiction’ as I have long since called them.
    People out to ‘phish’ her…
    Sylvia Slythe, of all names, is Bonnie’s landlady at Slash Lane…she seems to know more about Bonnie’s fiction about Susan than Bonnie herself? And her reading list regarding the omens of the sea, including some well known books, especially a long-term favourite of mine, Hangover Square by Patrick Hamilton, as well as Corbin’s Lure of the Sea.
    And Lovecraft.
    Undertow and Under Toad…
    Language deprivation experiments…
    Bonnie no longer a fashionable name, but there are other Bonnies we all know. Her father’s contempt for distaff lines in The Family Tree and pride for the spear ones…
    Labelled cakes and reference to Carroll’s Alice.
    Falling fear from a bedroom window, she now prefers the ground floor, Bonnie’s surname is Falls, the Tarot’s Tower…
    Changing a story depending on who is reading it aloud. Or simply on who is reading it, full stop.
    The ‘fragility of limbs’.
    Going to sea, or going to the sea?
    You know, this text is is really filling me with the joy of the art of fiction as well as its angst. It also has an old-fashioned appeal for me of black and white films like ‘Taste of Honey’ or the ‘L Shaped Room’, without necessarily having connection with that era. Bonnie who is a simple girl with cleaning jobs but one who also writes fiction with irresistible ‘al dente’ qualities as well as tractability, I sense. Seaside does that to you. Like the Nile as the longest river, knowing the seaside is not knowing what it means. I live there, and think I should know.
    Utterly page-turning, but I shall try to eke out this book.
    No spoilers.

  3. II
    7 – 10

    “‘And if Erica dared you to jump off a skyscraper,’ said the nurse, ‘would you do it?’

    It seems ironic that Bonnie was once thus dared by a girl called Erica, as Erica Jong wrote ‘A Fear of Flying.’
    I am still consumed by this sporadically absurdist feel of a 1960s Britain, but one with iPods, and by Bonnie’s continuation of her Susan fiction story, and her growing friendship with Sylvia her landlady. There are still many ‘objective correlatives’ connected, say, with blank paper messages, dreams, seaside piers, jumping and fear of falling, and dislocation with her parents, past and present. I am reasonably satisfied that these do not yet fulfil a gestalt as I feel they are more of a patchwork of unconnectables like a collage I once did in 1967 for an exhibition on Surrealism at university. I won’t itemise here these objective correlatives or the other characters in the tapestry of her life, even though I did do this earlier above with a stream of asides. Some of them are a bit like today’s 24 hour rolling news (that Bonnie has ever rolling on her room’s TV), rolling with headlining recurrences, and déjà vus like Bonnie’s fiction about Susan.

  4. 11 & 12
    13 – 15

    “As a child, Bonnie had been troubled by the thought of these elves who let themselves into people’s private rooms and worked their strange magic, fixed their shoes in the middle of night, and then left again without being seen, although you knew they had been there.”

    Just with this book, I feel others having been in it, between my readings of it, messing with the words, messaging the text, but in a good way. BF Skinner, William Burroughs et al.
    (Altering it to fit my real-time review in hindsight?)

  5. 16 – 17


    I have reason to believe there are secret undeclared subliminal things going on in this text, as well as different openly declared subliminal things going on as part of the plot. I won’t tempt fate by mentioning specific examples of these things as subliminality spoiled is possibly even more worrying than subliminality working.
    There are also artful frustrations of expectation, such as Bonnie’s landlady being much more than the classic landlady figure. And coincidental interactions with the past between characters in the present, sometimes denied or doubted, sometimes revealed to be true.

  6. 18

    “At one junction, they took a wrong turning – someone had tampered with the signpost, turning the arm to point the wrong way, like a comic-book jape.”

    Sylvia and Bonnie arrive at the seaside resort supposedly used in the latter’s fiction story about Susan, a place Bonnie had once visited as a child. I am genuinely in suspense as to what the outcome will be. I will not report exactly on that outcome here, as that would spoil it for you. I shall twist the signpost a bit. Or perhaps not.
    Bonnie seems very forgetful with regard to her luggage, but they arrive safely at the Hook pub that featured in her story about Susan.
    The signpost incident reminds me of all the stolen road signs that happened to be in Sylvia’s owned flat when Bonnie moved into it…

  7. 19 – 21

    “‘I think you’ve been dreaming,’ said Sylvia. ‘Or harvesting.'”

    I seem now to be one kilter aside from the truth of this text. I was right to promise no revelation of the outcome of the plot in this review, other than to say that it is genuinely disturbing. Like the text itself, a frame-up, a hologrammatisation. But who, between Sylvia and Bonnie, is the gaslighter, whom the gaslit?
    The gaslit is the gestalt you will need to form for yourself.
    Arguably a bit rushed with many objective correlatives and literary references thrown in as if into a literary rummage sale, but a genuine unmissable classic of the gaslight genre.
    Rayner Heppenstall meets Barbara Vine meets Hangover Square.

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