42 thoughts on “The Ceremonies – TED Klein





    Pages 1 – 20

    “; it was like listening to a recording of one of Hitler’s speeches. Besides, he liked the idea that people out here made so much of Jeremiah. He’d never cared much for his name before.
    The Poroth woman had commented on it, the coincidence of names.”

    The near-coincidence of names or the coincidence of near-names, I’d say.
    Jeremy, a teacher, just with photos to go on, anticipates the waylaid community of Gilead where he might stay for a while, away from New York, and of the people who would be his landlords. A bus journey that is very involving in a style that is perfect for what it is conveying. Jeremy’s thoughts about the city and this isolated place with bespoke Christian religion so close to the city, following the Prologue of hinted outlandish forces, and twisted trunks, have captivated, if not yet fully captured, me.

    “It isn’t right to build a house so close against the woods.”

  2. Pages 20 – 50

    “How long had it been since his citified cock had been touched by actual sunlight?”

    That question notwithstanding, I have now progressed from being captivated to being captured by this text. It is certainly a compulsive style that is perfect for itself, and if for itself, for you, too, as Jeremy Freirs journeys towards Sarr and Deborah Poroth’s farm, in the midst of naive close-walking semi-Amish people, their “other ways of knowing”, and their “drowsy” isolated country, the Poroths naive themselves, Deborah with a hint of attractiveness beneath the serious clothes, together with the ominous fateful hints of the Troets, the Old One, the Poroth mother, and how Jeremy was destined to read the advert in New York, away from where it was pinned up, for accommodation here…
    I cannot do justice to the plot, merely my entrancement by a book that I have long wondered why it is so legendary….till now. I already have my answer.

    “Tedium as therapy. The Uses of Ennui. Time as a function of…”

  3. Pages 50 – 66

    “By summer. By summer. This was the Poroths’ refrain.”

    Freirs is shown both where – without seeming choice – he is renting for the summer, and the inner shape in the sun of Ms Poroth…
    Inbred Gilead, except possibly the Troets; they had been abstemious with the breeding…
    Hopper and Rockwell, specifically mentioned in the text, but I also mention Flannery, this fear of the City…this clash o’ cultures and imputed impassioned natures, shown coldly, with inferred heat, so far. And eccentricity.
    Meanwhile, the Old One wandering the city – after a virgin?
    Not only captured, but had my will to leave removed.

    “Poroth, taking a position at the water’s edge, stood with arms folded, surveying the brook’s winding path as if he contemplated rerouting it. ‘We’ve got minnows, here, frogs, a few turtles,’ he said. ‘Still it’s no trout stream.'”


    Pages 66 – 78

    “Her hours now were occupied by Thomas à Kempis and Tolkien, her mind by pastel visions: the Star of Bethlehem, Gandalf’s resurrection, Jesus preaching to the hobbits.”

    This is a very satisfying, traditionally literary character-study and history of someone called Carol, her Catholic upbringing, her early life, her work, her securing a job in her twenties at the shabby Voorhis library near the Chelsea Hotel in New York…

    It seems very appropriate that I am simultaneously real-time reviewing here the fiction of another ‘TED’ author, i.e. Ted Chiang, especially when I read this retrocausal gestalt about Carol in this section of ‘The Ceremonies’:
    “Someday she would look back at her life and see the reason for it all, shining through it like a golden thread that would draw her, in the end, headlong toward some brave and wonderful purpose.”

  5. Pages 78 – 105

    I love the atmosphere of the Voorhis library, Carol’s reluctant submission to its duties, her views of strange shapes or objects from its window in an overgrown garden squeezed between buildings opposite, approached by a characterful old man eventually she knows as Rosie, who wants her to help with his research into…

    “At bottom, most ceremonies are direct, distasteful, and utterly ruthless. Even the very notion of tombstones.”

    …and the way she’s synchronously linked by the plot with Jeremy who is also using the library before his summer off we know where. And a book by Machen that links the three of them.

    This book is certainly creeping into parts of my reading mind that other books can’t reach… seriously. And I also love the sense of time, pre-Internet.. its xeroxing and reliance on real books, etc. Characters and places, too.

    “She felt the great grey mass of the library building overhead, a crushing weight bearing down on her shoulders.”

  6. Pages 105 – 115

    “‘Exactly! It’s Pascal’s wager in reverse.’ Freirs stood, looking flushed, and stuffed the dollar back into his pocket.”

    Machinations of matching, a projected film, an aborted date, and an old old cleaner clearing the students out for the Summer….
    Honestly creepier than just creepy, and real people with real minds and motives, and the scene is craftily set for whatever scene looks backs at this one, to be remembered as a hindsight gestalt?

  7. Pages 115 – 128

    “Fertile women meant fertile crops; their long straight hair meant long straight stalks of corn. Primitive symbolism, perhaps, but it worked; he was certain of it. Jets flew high above the Earth, where angels played; there was room up there for both.”

    Interweaving, too, of the Poroth farm, the huge earnestly shaped and decorated cottonbread turned to a yellow mass by hungry harvest helpers’ fingers, like this old book now has yellowed pages that would have been mulched by never being read, I guess, but I have taken it up to loosen its pages. The reticence of Sarr’s mother, “The Lord don’t mean for us to love one another too much”, reticent with power. Sarr’s wife, meanwhile, with unthinking talk, ripe for child-bearing when the time is also ripe…Yes, interweaving with the simultaneous chance but fateful encounters of the city, like Jeremy and Carol, whereover, whomover the same jet flies a few seconds after it flew over the farm…or so I guess.
    There is a hushed and fearful aura over this book, too, a book that I have covered in white paper to disguise its resemblance to a market stall paperback shocker of yore…

    “Children were holy, a gift from the Lord; a woman’s body was His sacred instrument.”

  8. Pages 128 – 149

    “In the shadows of a butcher’s window, hanging carcasses and the goose-pimpled body of a turkey pressed against the metal bars like creatures in a cage.”

    It’s as if something is already pent up in this book, too. Between the interweaving farm 50 miles from NY city and NY city itself, where the characters, naively, stoically, or deliberately, wait to transcend those bars to get at each other’s plot. Jeremy and Carol, open-faced towards mutual adventuring. Sarr Poroth and naively scandalous Deborah. The homunculoid stalker. You know there is nothing you con can do to truncate the relaxed sprawling but tight narrative of onward destiny, even if you wanted to do so. Or to prevent a penetration between the wide succulent hips as well as the metal bars. A call to the Gothic Imagination or Absalom, Absolute. A Rosie-hued incarnation where once dead or as yet unwritten fiction tries to escape its own bard or bars and become alive, with “crazy old horror stories”, et al. Plant the corn-grafted distaff or the spear? The stern mother or the cold rules hardly tested.
    “They that sow in tears shall reap in joy.”
    “Beneath his neighbour’s sobersided piety he had glimpsed the painted face of the savage;”


    Pages 150 – 154

    “…and the sky is rosy with promise.”

    Immaculate notes may at first seem atonal, and so can astrological harmonics in my experience. I am the old one literally, these days….
    But the book’s old one is more meticulous than me, more focussed, and I fear for those his flute notes may control, whether it be Jersey or Jeremy, or any about to gather at Poroth Farm.
    There’s already an aura about this book that makes me see something predestined about reading it for the first time at my current age, long after my original attachment to ‘the synchronised shards of random truth and fiction’, my earlier nemonymising, my more recent hawling and dreamcatching…
    and, in all likelihood, this is an example of the kind of books that I was reading much earlier in my life, but I seem appropriately to have left the ceremony of reading THIS one until now… for whatever reason.

  10. img_2700BOOK TWO – POROTH FARM

    Pages 155 – 173

    “Long for me too. In fact, I had to keep remembering to slow down, be patient, let myself unwind.”

    As Jeremy says in his journal in Gilead, Poroth country, while also (publicly, as if on today’s Facebook!) corresponding with Carol who is still back in NY but due to visit Jeremy and she must tell the bus driver she wants his bus not to by-pass Gilead,
    I continue to unwind similarly slowly with the TEDK book, in this equivalence to a book journal. I quote from its text, as Jeremy (still publicly) quotes from his reading of Otranto and Udolpho, among others, with meticulous references to Balzac, Saki…sorting his bookshelf, not his future’s Kindle…
    TEDK quotes from Machen.
    Rosie rages.


    Pages 175 – 190

    Red-haired Carol’s journey by car to Gilead, taking three books, one dog-eared like this one that I am reading (hers being Plath, The Bell Jar), and Teilhard de Chardin, ….and Machen for Jeremy, from Rosie… (Jeremy’s reading Monk Lewis…)
    The Poroth couple planting seeds like huge insects planting their eggs.
    Mother Poroth’s book, meanwhile, is described like the one that I described a few days ago above! I feel very surprised and slightly uncomfortable at such a synchronicity…
    “…an obscene fat yellow volume, covers bulging, bloated almost, as if barely able to contain the mass within.”
    Seems as if things are coming together, in more ways than one.

  12. Pages 190 – 219

    “Inside the bag he glimpsed a fat yellow book with ornamental covers but failed to recognize it.”

    In this section of text, Sarr upstages them all with an epiphany, with tinges and twinges of FlanneryO, telling (to the other three at an awkward dinner, lines of relationship shaping into different sexual dimensions of himself, Freirs, veggie Carol and Deborah), telling about his visit as a youth to NY. And all its dark or black faces. (“There are spots in the world where the hellfire peeps through, and I’d just had a tour of one.”) …. A tranche of genuine great literature you will never forget, especially by means of this book’s accretive context in which Sarr talks of it. There are so many implications of this epiphany for this book as well as for the rest of Sarr’s life, the old man he meets in Central Park, the kitten Sarr revives, now one of the many cats at Poroth Farm. (Don’t forget the cats, and the line-up of dead body-counts they supply each night for the Poroths.)

    The sense of the countryside, meanwhile, has a consciousness and much of this book so far, I have suddenly realised, may represent TEDK as an American version of John Cowper Powys, and the more I think of it, the more I can relate the two authors and how they complement each other. See all my previous on-line business with Powys. I mean this as an enormous compliment to both of them, TEDK having just become a discovery of my old age, while Powys has threaded my whole life from the time when I was the father of small children.

    “Bekariabwada! … Beckariabwaaaada!”

  13. Pages 219 – 241

    “Spiders, doused with it, curled up like men in despair, clutching their knees;”

    Rosie’s ‘gift’ of tarot-type cards, the half sun on this book’s pages as if akin, and the book within this book that is “fat and mustard-coloured”…as my book is that describes it, too!

    And, in separate viewpoints of hindsight, the grandfather clock and the crickets synchronise the hiatus in their beats, as the night’s post-prandial foursome enact an equally synchronised instinctive ceremonial in counterpoint to dreaming and sleeptalking (Carol), eroticism (Sarr and Deborah) and moon-led roof-clambering (Jeremy), and you must read these passages to experience the Powysian awe in its deepest distillation.

    “…as if he were no longer reading the words but was instead being read by them,”


    “Who can say what’s in another person’s head?”

    Before Carol returns to NY, she and Jeremy mix with locals and then visit the library (on a Sunday). A community and its history that seems to be like a religious Twin Peaks…?
    Can a fiction book tell you what is in people’s heads?
    (I read this section with David Bowie’s Blackstar in my head.)


    I have come to the conclusion that this is an essential powerful book, meant to be read today in my later life, not when I was first tempted to read it decades ago, and stopped at the last minute as if by a literary ‘coitus interruptus’…
    There be Dragons there but here be Powysianisms…
    And Carol’s recounting of her own dream at Poroth Farm so as to coincide, pre Rosie’s interruptus, with her deflowering is something you will never forget in literature, as precursored and preceremonialised by her own witnessing earlier in the day of some small boys in the library getting a small girl to flash at them…
    “that frail, hairless little tuck of skin no bigger than a fortune cookie.”
    It is also perhaps significant that earlier today here, in a simultaneous real-time review of Tidhar’s ‘Central Station’, that I was speculating on the sexualising of cyborgs where the sexual parts are metal…

    “pink puppy” or “brownout”, notwithstanding….
    “She must keep things in perspective. What, after all, were a tiny patch of skin and a few drops of blood to St. Agnes’s beheading,…”


    “…for the mouth was all askew, nearly vertical in fact,…”

    Infestation and biting and choking on a live mouse jumped into your mouth, and the shape of this vertical mouth seems fitting, too, in the forbidden aspects of this book’s glimpses of early sexuality?
    Slow self-expression and freehold-authorial outsiderness, methodical planning, ceremonial, with dress for Carol and I feel that I am, as an old man myself, meticulously preparing this fat yellow book ITSELF for something in real-time, as I grub away at it, rooting in its pages for signs of guilt and shame to be played like arcane cards in some as yet unknown pattern for shuffling, then dealing them?
    Meanwhile, the characters, naively, enact and interact within these same pages, with adult yearnings of sexuality and ceremony, the ciphers needed for such codes to be thus patterned? Cat and rats weaving further patterns around them? I am in collusion or connivance with this book’s ultimate power beyond the freehold author himself, let alone simply beyond the narrative pecking-orders leased beneath him into the fabricated plot. Not an unreliable narrator so much as an unreliable controlling reader.


    “…a beleaguered-looking merry-go-round, music issuing from it, with mirrored panels and peeling paint and horses that looked somehow gaunt and starved.”

    After surreptitiously priming Carol in white, Rosie takes her out on the city, ending up at Coney Island. You will never forget, I suggest, these cinematic scenes, a skilful virtual reality in words, as we take the rides with Carol, and never forget, too, the scene on the beach with the tide and the moon. There is something special about this book that i do not think I have experienced, evocative, panoramic yet insidious, claustrophobic, almost dirty, subtly dirty but paradoxically dirtier than extreme fiction catering for such tastes…
    I pore over it, as I guess Rosie would pore over it. Against my finer feelings.
    Then there is the subject of Carol’s period described at the juncture of her legs perhaps contrasted with the wound witnessed by Jeremy in one of the Poroth cats; is this the Absolom Troet cat among the other Troets as cats? A very striking and disturbing scene, especially when it blinks..,
    Also, please compare and contrast the squashed and scorched ladybird on the Ferris Wheel with the mere shooing of the bug by the Gilead locals and with Jeremy’s later zapping of bugs.
    This is helluva remarkable writing. A book I cannot see myself not finishing.
    (And I have now ordered DARK GODS.)

  18. A quote from another TED, a book very recently real-time reviewed: “I’m closing in on the ultimate gestalt: the context in which all knowledge fits and is illuminated, a mandala, the music of the spheres, ‘Kosmos’.”
    — Ted Chiang (‘Understand’)


    “The pieces are there, simply waiting to be fitted together into what, from the start, they were meant to be: a set of instructions for the Ceremonies.”
    — (from this section) TED Klein

    …and that seems to sum up a whole lifetime. And an old man’s instinct that the most meaningful arcane matters can derive from the least likely, ordinary-seeming sources. Like a Gestalt of dance steps. Or an “obscure Welsh visionary”, one like Powys? Or possibly the fact that there are a group of knowing cats (one earlier wounded from inside) in this TEDK section and also earlier today in my real-time review here of ‘Hotel Deadfall’ by SRT.
    Mention of books, James: Turn of the Screw, Austen: Northanger Abbey (Abby being the name of the haunting uxorial force in the SRT), and Cold Comfort Farm written by Stella Gibbons (Reggie Oliver’s Aunt.)
    And old man Rosie seems to be preparing Carol for a new Ceremony of ‘dance steps’, this time with a green dress, not a white one.
    And when he first meets her, Jeremy thinks Sarr’s mother is probably anti-Semitic.


    .”Taking a bath at Poroth Farm was a three-step operation,…”

    And I’ll leave it to you to judge if a simple impulsive suggestion during these sections is literature’s most weighty sexual ‘pass’ ever!
    And Algernon Blackwood’s Ancient Sorceries (mentioned here) is the story with the most evil cats, even more than those in this book and in my simultaneous reading of SRT’s Hotel Deadfall…. And the furnace and pipes here, as the Dhol emerges, equal to the pipes without a furnace at all in the SRT?
    There are some really creepy goings on, like the aged local woman dying and something I misread as a child rather than a finger of a child under an overturned cup…
    And Carol’s infectious improvisation of dance steps, at her dance class, with ‘gay’ men and other women. (Was the word ‘gay’ in this sense common in 1985 when this book was published?)
    And mention of The Worm Ouroborus by ER Eddison…


    “But the Saki wasn’t there tonight. I found it under S.”

    H.H. Munro, A.N.L. Munby, Oliver Onions, Edgar Allan Poe…
    Sarr Poroth, Arthur Gordon Pym.
    There seems something meant to be, as if my learning about the methodical genius-loci rituals hidden in the books of Quentin S. Crisp have retrocausal bearing upon those in this book.
    Still grubbing, nosing, rooting around, as is my wont.
    The scenes with Carol in Central Park, as she performs her own Stravinsky rite among the trees with Rosie will be hard to forget, including thoughts about what lay or didn’t lie under the green dress. I wonder what ‘synchronised shards of random truth and fiction’ that she avoided dancing upon with her bare feet and what other ceremonies she inspirationally performed as part of the Old One’s gestalt,


    “I took the sickle from him & hefted it my hand — hard to believe the Russians actually put this thing on their flag; it’s like making a coat of arms out of a meat hook or an ice pick–”

    All seems pent up, its conflux of Ceremonies waiting to be completed in some as yet unknown pay-off for an Old One like me. “…waits for the right moment and prepares to spring.”
    The Poroth cats, notwithstanding. Mother Poroth and her gathered dogs, too. Even HPL had a hound, the sky a line of green moths, and Shirley Jackson heroines not worth being heroines. And why so little fuss about M.R. James?

    “As I recall, it ended with my swallowing my own foot. Jeremy Freirs, the human Uroboros.”

  22. Pages 407 – 421

    “I guess your year must be filled with all sorts of holy days.”

    Freirs plans to bail out from the Poroths, the place in general, and its squirmy ‘calamities’, grinding down on him (or simply because he has failed to get his way with Deborah?)
    Carol, meanwhile, in NY, worries about Rosie. Many people, with abortive phone calls – in those days before mobiles.

  23. Pages 421 – 426

    “Sometime,” he said, “the Christians took a pagan day and made it their own –”

    ….or vice versa, like today? In my real-time above.

    Altars built upon altars, but which is the real one worshipped? This book has its own layers, that only Gestalt real-time reviewing can transcend. Who or what protagonist human or animal or god or pattern or Ceremony we follow.
    It appears we are destined to home in on JULY 31st … eventually. Lamb or Lammas?


    “Though the surviving hens from the original four had once more begun to lay eggs, they had proved to be hideously soft things, almost transparent, that shook like jelly when you held them in your hand. He reminded himself repeatedly that, for poultry, this was not so uncommon an ailment — it might be cured within a week or two by adding calcium to their food, normally in the form of the ground-up eggshells of healthier birds — but for now the thought of a nestful of eggs as soft as his own testicles filled him with disgust; they were obscene, against nature, an abomination unto the Lord. Deborah had sworn they could be eaten,…”

    Sarr also accepts with annoyance but polite equanimity Jeremy’s leaving their farm early…or does he really leave at all, in the event, after later circumstances of feral feline attack and danger’s seeming transcendence? Or simply after the perceived imploring from Deborah?
    You will hardly forget, meanwhile, reading Carol’s letter to Jeremy about King Kong. A transference of size and reality between scenes in farm and city; Rosie’s game or test of ‘what if’ for her, it seems.
    All is pent up, ripe, primed for deliverance or catharsis, I sense.


    Pages 451 – 455

    “Everything’s falling apart.”

    …Retrocausally from our times today?
    ‘While the Earth remaineth,…’ Comma there, not full stop, until that phrase is requoted later on page 455 as now ending with a full stop.
    This is the Poroths’ turn to host the Brethren’s Gathering on their farm, as if the book’s climax approaches with a Powysian Pageant or AS Byatt Festival or Biblical reeanactment, a dance of Ceremonies, with male and female segregated…

  26. Pages 455 – 469

    “It was grey the rest of the day & I sat in my room reading Robert W. Chambers & half waiting for another earth tremor,…”

    Touching a woman’s pregnant stomach and the “heavy labor” for others as the Brethren enact a Cleansing of the Poroths’ farm. For real as well as a climactic Powysian pageant.
    Who can tell a virgin from one who isn’t?
    The plot ravels and unravels towards a fateful Ceremony. Least of which is ignoring that the King in Yellow is more than just itself. The book as fiction or its eponymous theatrical play or eponymous character.
    The ground we walk on is ever unsteady. It is just now and again we notice it.


    “When you can hear a spider walk across the floor, you know it’s time to keep your socks on!”

    Extremes and absurdities and another sexual taunting magnify and then de-magnify by turns for our Freirs, an art form of the eponymous Ceremonies, both as the book itself and as the Ceremonies it is said to contain under the guise of fiction. It does the Gestalt job for me by linking the Earth convulsions with those of the chicken eggs. The book’s words on yellow crisping pages, laced with ‘outdoors use’ additives, themselves seem to pulse under the eyes of certain readers, if only judging by my own reactions. De La Mare, Lovecraft, John Christopher, Machen…
    All additives lead to the substance itself in the end. Prepare for that end.

    “What if some stories in the horror books aren’t fiction?”

  28. BOOK TEN


    “…I was sitting in the rocking chair with his book on my lap, open to the dryest-looking Milton I could find. I was still nervous as he came in –”

    That Milton chosen at random turned out later to contain a significant stanza, and ‘dry’ became a key condition of the eventual culmination of the pent-up sexual in-flagrante in the reader’s mind since near the onset of this book. The inexplicable dryness along the thread between the pump and cylinder of love, in that its scheming grubbing nosing rooting old man — in addition to the Earth itself in its own dry seismic convulsions — awaits the culmination of his own Ceremony of bad vibes and unclear manoeuvres of lie and truth. A Miltonic Trump… Today’s blasted Trump-Elect. Tomorrow who knows? A thing at the back of the rancid mouth waiting to squirm forth?


    “It speaks the final Name.”

    If power can reside in mere words, then it resides here. The optimal words that only a deliberate fiction can produce as a version of reality more real than reality itself, I propound. As with the whole book, a mighty read indeed that I might or might not never or ever have read, the language and descriptions here emanating from some force that is akin to the force it unleashes. I will leave it to you to decide, should you read it, whether the Ceremony of ‘The Ceremonies’ obviates our current pain or tickles a pleasure from or with evil. I am an old man myself, like the evil one is an old man, too, and I may deceive you with a plot spoiler that is not even in the plot. Again I leave you to decide. Whether evil is fallible or not.
    Rest assured on one truth – that the nature of the Dhol as revealed here has a memorably striking identity, one that you might think is wielded against us by clinching this book’s intended Gestalt with its presence, the sickle or the Uroboros notwithstanding.
    And is the word ‘grooming’ (a word actually used somewhere in these final sections) also used here for the first time to describe what has been happening ineluctably with the recent events of Brexit and the US Election, and with many other dire things emerging like things swallowed and regurgitated since this book was first published. Does this book groom the reader? And if so, do you trust me, an old man, to describe it? To answer these questions, you need to submit yourself to its Ceremonies and see for yourself … sooner or later.



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