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From Robert Aickman’s lengthy SOME NOTES ON DELIUS article, unpublished until recently :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’?
1 – 3
“…and sleepy women could be seen in well-decorated corners smoking long cigarettes.”
Perhaps they were long, because they did not have enough puff?
Though the start of this novel is energetic and unsleepy enough, with prostitutes showing their Italian street wares and about films in 1950s that Clark starts to build his career on. With footnotes galore about directors and co-actors and a joie d’écrivain that makes this both smoothly compelling and modernistically clipped – and perhaps with at most a tiny spark of inspiration from the SouthAmerican, ever anonymous, also footnoted ‘The Vanishing Life and Films of Emmanuel Escobada’ in Nemonymous2 (2002).
“1. Whether moral or corrupt, of high or low rank, rich or poor, noble or base, all are preoccupied with their own work. — The Larger Sutra on Amitayus”
The actor’s early life in Paraguay up to 1950, involving others’ aggressive moustaches and more hints from footnotes stronger than those in the text thus footnoted. Relationship with his mother et al. The debate on whether he is a demon or angel.
I won’t try to continue itemising the ‘plot’ of his life, but my inchoate reactions to larger tranches of its text. Not so much a plot, as a believably real life, which it is, after all. Not fake news, in any event.
“Only lovers of fiction read the newspapers…”
5 – 13
“One day he passed by Nabokov who was gazing at shoes in a shop window. Neither man looked at the other…”
But something rubbed off without touching? These sections of the book represent the New York period. Early days, with chance unknown meetings and known meetings. Several moustaches I counted. A woman to wive. And clipped as well as fulsome references to the times and people, people real and false, but the false ones are truly in the book, and the real famous people just the book’s badges of honour, perhaps. Classified adverts as tokens of imputed knowledge. And a style that often seems to erupt with volcanic meanings, while other sections reside with contrastive and pent-up dormancy. And ten bullet points to die for on page 42. All of this accompanying the ‘talent’ touch of epiphany.
It sort of touches you, too, that touch, a talent to read.
And pretentiously to write a review in the style of the book being reviewed. Wish!
14 – 22
“You could tell how popular a film was by how much smoke was in the cinema.”
I remember English cinemas like that … and watching the 1960 Rome Olympics on black and white TV with David Coleman, and my first watching a Fellini…
Ah, I mustn’t reminisce – but concentrate on this truly energetic and literary-witty novel that will become the moment which we shall all remember as when we recognised Connell fully blossomed as an author. Not that he hadn’t already.
Firstly in Paris, José is reborn eponymously as Clark, other than the fact we already glimpsed someone calling him Clark on page 33 when he was silent. Now this book becomes his talkie.
He has a laid-back destiny or duty to blossom in this energetic novel, to make ostensibly mediocre films greater, touched with retrocausal fame, as he proceeds exponentially through film after film. He then travels to late 1950s Italy (and what a wonderful description of it at the end of page 61.) Brushing destinies with, inter alia, Jayne Mansfield. Life compared by someone to the sun and the universe. Seeing mention of a woman with a moustache. And men with tiny moustaches. Declining even greater fame in Luke Starkiller. And more.
23 – 30
“‘You really aren’t a very good actor.’
He put the cigarette in his mouth and lit it with a match. ‘Maybe I just have a hard time playing myself.'”
Well, I know this may be one of those literary passions of the moment that real-time reviewers can experience, but this novel seems exponential in getting EVEN better and better as you go along with it. People should know. The publisher should get ready for a reprint. Market it to literature outlets as well as genre. Get the film rights sorted out. Seriously.
I really need to resist reading it too quickly. I am already a third of the way through, I guess. The rest of it might disappoint me. I don’t expect so, though.
In these sections, Clark continues to wive and swive in almost a lackadaisical manner and he even becomes a möbius cuckold. As a smouldering South American he is already temperamentally chilled enough for Kebab Westerns as a forerunner to Spaghetti – he does do a filming stint in Turkey until a list of bullet points that crops up from time to time in the text produces an actual bullet!
Clark may sometimes be listless, but the book is generous with lists!
We are now in the 1960s, and we learn of actresses lean or fulsome, and there is more of epiphany’s TOUCH, as well as tantalising touches with an actress during filming, and the ineluctable yearning for renown’s touch by the book’s eponymous hero and possibly by its author in parallel.
The ‘cul de sac of the infinite’, some title music with “rhythmic maze of blank tangle”, and many more moustaches.
31 – 37
Both a caricature and a spiritual truth, as we follow Clark into the 1960s vogue for so-called spaghetti westerns. This is not fake news (although disguised sometimes as fake news), but a skilled and hilarious apotheosis of this cud- or cheroot-chewing, sweating, staring culture where Spain and Italy become the Wild West, with Clark as its recondite actorly apotheosis within an apotheosis, and makes a fruitful synergy with the rôle scenarios in the #UBObook I have just read and reviewed in real-time before this #CLARKbook’s “…every moment we are reborn and we live on memories of our dead selves.”
. More bullet points and even a reference to the film ‘Bullitt.’
. Sixteen ways to die by gunfire.
. “A few boards nailed together and you have a town.”
. Over 20 films made with the word ‘dollars’ in the title.
. “But in life, you know, sometimes you must die.”
. Music from empty holes.
. Clark’s “epiphanies, memories.”
. Painters like Goya and Delacroix.
. Hypothermia and deserts.
. Bad dudes, bad hombres.
. A book dying to live up to its own wonderful expectations.
. And it so far it does.
Yesterday I wrote this tweet: https://twitter.com/df_lewis/status/836253182523232258
Its laid-back / zest seems to match today’s heat / ice in chapter 37.
38 – 42
“When he passed by theatres displaying posters with his own image, he smiled, glad that people were in there, watching him on screen and was like the moon which probably feels a certain amount of self-satisfaction as its face is reflected in various ponds and pails of water…”
And Clark, like the moon, really existed and this book is his story, his history, reflected back from your eyes. And I now know more about that earlier epiphanal touch I told you about. Just imagine, as I have just done, the parallel or alternative fact of a popular singer who might have been created by a similar ‘touch’ on 3rd February 1959 instead of 30th September 1955. Clark perhaps could be said to have gone East of Eden when he followed, via Paris, the Western, followed it east to Rome. This is a strong history, so strong it has become great fiction, too. And Clark’s poignant disappointment of a short return trip to Asunción (the city as once Clark’s assumption of Eden?), to visit his father’s “giant white moustache” and to empathise with his mother’s viewpoint of another man’s “limp moustache”, represents a literary trip to die for, as is his later migration to comic westerns. With more felicitously footnoted historical and filmic facts, then hilariously removing “¿” part way in the type-setting and my sudden extramural realisation that my word ‘nemonymous’ was simply another version of ‘men without names.’ All sharing a witticised world of alternative facts and memorable connections with which this book teems. Each reader taking his or her own bespoke clinchings from some giant gestalt of mid-century grime and glitz.
43 – 47
“He was neither temporary nor eternal and showed greed and lust with the force of a man walking through a stone wall.”
I am pleased to report that, if anything, this book cannot resist getting even better, or it is an accumulation of context that makes it seem so, never stinting on the mid-century grime and grit, now more than glitz and glamour as we head with Clark out of the mid-century into the 1970s when he starts playing cops and others in gialli (that sound to me a bit like ice in the Italian heat.) These latest sections cover the abstract and the concrete, like that stone wall, the purpose of a Clark who knows what’s what, policemen with badges worse than those they seek, the dubbing of the world’s films into Italian, no matter the lip-synch, not men without names, anymore, as the dubbers themselves became famous, too, bullet points that I flay and flense from even the unbulleted parts of the compelling text, the anarchism and left wing aura of Clark’s parts, as interpreted by those with an eye to his actions and what is stowed in his car. How can we “discern the true and the false”, and it is a lesson for our times, too, history repeating itself, and this book needs to be read for all such lessons, subliminal or direct, as well as the sheer reading experience. A book that has ‘false-flag tactics’, as well as honest ones, a reflection of what I know about the author. But, at the end of the day, I know nothing. Except perhaps that Clark, like Escobada, is real, if not Connell.
48 – 52
“. To say he was unsuccessful would be to calumniate him. To say he was successful would be to calumniate him.”
. Reviews of Clark films — engagingly quoted in this book’s main text as well as in its footnotes — are now real-time reviewed here.
. Each bullet point in the book so far is part of some larger gestalt of glitzy grime and gritty glamour towards the late 1970s.
. Stream of conscious with some of Clark’s dreams, even though the book’s bullet points interrupt the flow of that stream as literary device.
. Clark LIVED his characters however cardboard they were, making otherwise bad or mediocre films at least better,
. Clark was loyal to a director with whom he had made films before, films now made for the working masses.
‘ Clark was also loyal to this book’s author by appearing in a cannibal film for which the latter wrote the script as inspired by his own work – a film that was banned.
. As a stunt Clark vanished like Ambrose Bierce.
. Clark would approve of this real-time review of effectively something in which he has appeared after his death, assuming he can now be said to have died.
. Two of the bullet points above are apocryphal.
. This is my second review entry about this book today.
53 – 57
“It is impossible not to be fond of what you can never have.”
This is a cross / between a nightmare and a film script and a page-turning experimental novel that really reads good and easy / fade / unfade / unfaze / an ex-wife / pornography and disgust / scenes that bring Clark’s skills to an adaptable low / but a jobbing actor who always acts above himself / off-kilter dubbing / like reading only the footnotes and imputing the rest / feel the degradation / ad libbing without this script / only the reader feels the tears filling the eyes not the cinema-goer who watches what the reader reads / hindsight shows Clark is a great comic actor manqué…
My third entry today. Must take in slower motion.
58 – 61
“He told jokes about cuckolded husbands, women with moustaches and men with limps.”
I admire the way that Clark’s life story – told through the lens of this undeniably fine comic literary novel – has already within it the ever-arrival of new fulsome characters ready to emerge at every, potentially flagging stage of that real life’s lengthy journey. And now we have the tale of Momi, the umbrella seller, whom even I feel I have heard of through the now legendary appearances he made with Clark in 1980s films, even though at the time they only appealed to Italians in Italy, and their then rubbishy aura, but with moments of comic genius by both Momi and Clark, I feel. The former’s rotacismo, notwithstanding.
“….the enemies of peace must be defeated even as identities are confused and reflection grows deeper.”
. Negligible clothes and negligible money in chapter 58, the first I guess being a reference to a negligee.
. Strange orgies and cheap strong wine.
. The drug-induced madness of the Italian film scene.
. Extremely thin moustaches.
. An esoteric disco soundtrack.
. Clark’s enjoyments of such proletariat exploits.
. In the noughties, Connell had stories in Nemonymous.
“…those few absurd moments when Clark overcomes his environment and says or does something so inspired as to make them immortal…”
62 – 64
“…but simply it had become his pattern to accept any role offered, no matter what — an addiction not so much to making money, as to having himself appear on screen…”
This and the rest of the above sentence, by the grace of God…
These three chapters are Connell in hyperdrive, exponentially riding upon the book’s previous heights, as he reports on Clark’s now noted brush with the avant garde, part of which involves the longest footnote so far, involving a woman artist and her patron who had made his wife shoot off her ear in pursuance of that artist. Clark appears in her film, and, of course, I need not tell you anything about this film, as you already know, or merely need to read this book to find out.
I love the avant garde; my whole life in literature and reviewing feeds off the avant garde, and its elements here in Connell’s book and the language used to describe them are the constructively optimum flaying and flensing of the avant garde I have ever experienced. Seriously.
(This film happened in 1982 so I may have got the chronology wrong in the previous entry of my review above.)
65 – 68
“But Clark became so involved in the role, that it seemed almost a living document, a dramatisation of angel dust to the sound of klaxons and shaken steel manes.”
…as this book has interpreted the real Clark as a living document — is still interpreting him via a now growing poignancy of human entropy and via an account of crass films* of violence and mayhem and female nudity — as a living document represented by these pages that, come what may, you relish turning each day. The only book with footnotes that I have ever read where I look forward to reading the footnotes, sometimes even more than reading the main text itself!
“– Jett Rink in the final stages of ‘Giant’ –”
*many possibly with a spark of Clark magic, a magic that this book creates retrocausally?
This newspaper cutting turned up inexplicably today in my living-room, much to my possibly Clark-associative surprise. My wife thinks it must have fallen out of some documents that she was sifting through a day or so ago, documents that belonged to her late parents!
69 – 73
“…there was something of a metaphor in this scene, primordial fear made manifest — the fear not of the unknown, but of the actual self — to find out that not only does it not exist, but, worse yet, it is nothing more than a series of masks –”
Clark’s fragmented self is evoked via strikingly appreciable descriptions, in this book’s signature style, of his filming in the Philippines and Hong Kong, his half-baked professional strivings (that I compare, amid some epiphanal sadness, to my own pointless life-long strivings of a 1000 stories published in mostly obscure organs before the millennium, then strivings with ‘Nemonymous’ as the ultimate mask maker … and now my endlessly striven Dreamcatcher fiction reviews are evoked for me by this book’s mention of a fishing-net trying to catch the wind)
and now this book’s references to –
. A ‘signature moustache’
. illicit use of Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon in interface with Clark’s earlier reflected moon as himself on a cinema screen (and TV now encroaching on him by the mid 1980s)
. He and his fellow actors unfit and balding, using live ammunition.
. REPLAY of scenes in life as well as on screen.
. Permutation of self on screen by one film made into many.
. Kicking and screaming, via drugs, against the pricks of escapism and vicariousness, a “crisis, mental, spiritual.”
And more. This book is strongly emotional (but often paradoxically hilarious) stuff, and I am already convinced (however it ends hereafter) that it is a major literary work of the 21st century, but now the haystacks and needles of the Internet (the Internet being far worse than Clark’s fear of 1980s TV) now makes such deserving books as this one remain unnoticed for too long.
74 – 77
“The moon sat like camphor in the sky.”
The only way not to escape but to remake this world is via the preternatural power of literature. Collecting the threads together strengthens them. These are words I wrote publicly a year ago today.
My second review entry here today.
These chapters see Clark ‘finding himself’ in India, a cross between his native Paraguay and somewhere else, where karma is worked out in caves, with the help of a meditational spirituality as an industry. You may know already that Clark went to India at this stage of his life, but this is new to me, having not interested myself in his life story before reading this novel based on that life. This novel has indeed been the equivalent to my own ‘cave’. The instructions of CUT and FADE echoing in my ears. As, like Clark, I meet my erstwhile touch of destiny, now by unnemonymous NAME. And other folk from my so-called artistic past. And, also like Clark, I feel the magnetic pull back to my core self, my art and political beliefs, beyond karma or potential reincarnations past and future. This is not the time for retreat. Nor for premature footnotes.
78 – 87 (and the full Clark Filmography)
“Story began to lose its importance, and films were often nothing more than a number of loosely connected set pieces.”
…films thus yearning for the gestalt-maker?
This book’s closing scenes to die for, if not in which to die. I am often not affected so deeply by books, but this is one where I think I have been affected more than most. This whole novel never lets up, and I am not disappointed by the ending. We all already know, of course, about Clark’s obsessive film project that he works on latterly in California and, then, Mexico, but this book gives a creative slant to the motives and repercussions. Clark’s bearing down on this film to give it difficult birth is a parallel, perhaps, with Connell’s on Clark.
From the dying of the Italian film industry as an alternative industry for gritty escapist entertainment aimed at all those with moustaches (I counted nine different moustaches in just these closing chapters, sad, thin and otherwise), from that to the effect of Hollywood and TV, and other factors, this film project of Clark’s is literature’s golden gritty moment of glamorous grime. You will not forget it.
A wide panoply of cinema, Errol Flynn’s last barroom, and Clark’s cinema as what it was and no more, and to what Eurotrash it might appeal. These factors are transcended by more than just the words but a welling of some undescribed spirit that comes through, say, others’ schemes of 3D westerns et al, and Clark still fulfilling “the stages of his karmic obligations”, obligations in art and politics, finding himself in real places talking to real people, beyond some invisible wall with hope on the meta-Mexican side. A “higher truth of not just his own existence, but of the entire working class,…” Clark’s hero “both noble and merciless, a poet and truly bad hombre…” Connell’s, too. “…spiced with an occasional streak of yellow as moonlight shone on a forehead or was reflected in a man’s eyes.”
“Great films take great viewers.” Novels and their readers, too.
“A thing happens when you get in front of my camera. A kind of Eden.”
Eventually, a kind of ending.
Cross-referenced this novel here: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2018/02/18/best-british-short-stories-2012/#comment-11948