11 thoughts on “An Ideal Retreat – Michael Griffin

  1. In view of this novel having just read its own first four chapters, there may be unintended plot spoilers in this real-time review.

    IMG_296201 – 04
    “Already her interest was running out.”
    Although the opposite was happening. Mine, too. A strange contradiction as we follow Noone, the woman protagonist, pronounced Noon not No-One, I guess. She takes the responsibility to visit alone her busy husband Ian’s family shack in the middle of nowhere – while driving reconstructing the four decades plus of her life with the different decades’ music she chose for the car’s player – a shack that she needs to inspect, one that had just been abandoned by Ian’s ne’erdowell brother, no doubt leaving it even more derelict.
    Imagine the semi-palatial abode she found instead. It’s possibly depicted on the front cover of this book. I am absolutely interested. So is she. A careful and effective build-up of this visual situation and imputed characterisations within the blind deserts of words, as raw words always are. It’s only their dramatic meaning in gestalt that reaches beyond interest’s cliff-edge?

  2. 05 – 07

    “…eyes closed, pretending she was invisible.”

    I do not actually believe Noone is invisible or is no-one. I believe in her too much. Each chapter heading methodically sets the scene for her like typical 18th century fiction’s chapter headings often do. What happens is what it says happens. I am clear now that it wasn’t really a shack in which Jodah, her dilatory brother-in law, has been squatting and that he has now abandoned, but a large derelict building that has long needed renovation. Presumably with Jodah’s occupancy, needing even more renovation. But do wait till you see it for yourself. This is very striking material. Intriguing and eminently cinematic. Her exploration of this building, its wine bottles, its pristine quality, its innovative architecture etc, and her dives with assumed privacy-protected nakedness into the pool, after examining the condition of her skin and age in the mirror, all of this is clear and beautifully and plainly described in a textured style.
    It is as crystalline as I imagine the swimming pool to be. Tactile, too.
    Noone does not need to prove herself to us readers as much as she seems to need to prove herself in the eyes of her husband Ian. As she begins to feel the duty to make an ‘inventory’ of where she is (like the male character’s inventories in the previous work by this author that I read?)

  3. 08 – 10

    Like the numbers on a radio dial, like Bartlett’s radio? Smooching on through the wavelengths, short wave harmonisations of voice, Noone tries this to regather her earlier musical journey with CDs, her decades of life, till now in this house when she seems more confident in the extraordinary house away from Ian, somehow inducing him by phone to mix himself up with his brother Jodah. Not really wanting him (or is that either of them?) to come out here to join her.
    “Ian’s words already seemed strange, even foolish. His odd, childish recollections of a totally different place.”
    What has she missed in the last few years, more laid back how, more Pinot crisp? Slightly spoilt by imagining a figure watching from the brush her earlier lonely skinny diving…
    This writer, underpinning her, builds well-architected not ramshackle words. But he is still just as allusive or elusive as his earlier works. Always inspiring. So far.
    The wine crisp and brilliant.
    “…the rest pure white noise.”

  4. 11 – 13

    “As she stepped into the water, she imagined her body capable of penetrating the surface without disturbing its inner stillness.”

    …especially after having imbibed several bottles (pungent red wine as well as crisp white?) after Xanax – imagining vines overrunning the room.
    Still dogged by an imaginary male stalker that leaves earthy footprints, the bedroom TV set later shows almost autonomously scenes that do not bear rehearsal here, other than to say I saw someone similar to myself in them as well as someone similar to Ian or Jodah whom Noone thought she saw.
    I am thus captured as well as captivated. Halfway through.

    Night of a Woman’s First Dreaming

    IMG_298814 – 15

    “…a vague, dark motion picture only barely recalled.”

    Striking passages, in more ways than one. The reader as a self as well as projected as Noone. Either dream or mis-memory, as Noonie, as she calls herself at one point, feels her way upon the up and down steps or stages of being in denial, feeling over-reliance, then over-confidence, submission (including sexual submission, but to whom? Jodah or Ian or some other man?), being drunk and/or inspired, experiencing precariousness and safety by turns, squatting inside someone else’s domain or her own, all of these things and more as gestalt as well as each of them as a discreteness. Only real-time reviewing might tell us. As if this experience was created with us in mind. Today’s empathy. Factored into our own steps or stages of so-called reality’s building?

    Past Vanishes Before
    Future Comes Into View

    16 – 17

    “A universe sickened, stained antique yellow and dead orange. Alone, without a clock. […] Noone wobbled from the room, across the landing to the top of the stairs. As her hand clutched the rail, an image shot to mind,…”

    Not only my predictive Duchamp illustration above chosen yesterday, today here in UK it seems appropriate that alongside her timelessness and Noonie’s seeking to tighten her grip on reality on her own following morning, I myself lost an hour last night between GMT and British Summer Time…
    This gives more traction to her establishing new coordinates, a new triangulation of self, as I often do in my own gestalt real-time reviewing, not only dreamcatching but dream fixing. A new construction, a new room in my head. Invisible builders in some ratcheting new growth of architecture?

  7. Pingback: Des Lewis Real-Time Review of An Ideal Retreat – GriffinWords

  8. 18 – 19

    Confronting, rather than remaining uncertain, Noonie starts that Guy-like inventory of the building that I predicted earlier. Sorry if that was a spoiler; predictions are often spoilers; memories, too, the hindsight of being in denial, unconfident, things one noticed, say, subliminally in some strange film you watched. She also takes the inventory into the now benighted outside, in synergy with wine and pills (or not), where her ‘sun’ bathing might not now have its own bespoke voyeur to share it? To resolve her marriage with Ian, or ditch it?

    “The whole story of her life, all her bound-together worries, how could that be of interest to anyone?”

  9. 20 – 21

    “Now touching this way, hard and hurtful. Using her body the way she wished someone would use it.”

    THE inchoate convulsion, perhaps the act of masturbation that literature has been waiting for as an allegory of our times. Not that Noonie is to blame, only instrumental as a purging or catharsis for our ills? I respect Noonie greatly. And I am pleased another prediction has come true from above, triangulating the coordinates, now explicitly geometry as part of the inchoate convulsion? Static on wireless and TV as two ends of a healing and harming spectrum?
    I have a frisson, too, as I suspect Noonie’s feeling that there are other people moving about this building seems to have some grounds in truth and not in alternative facts…

  10. 22 – 24

    “Noone wanted to say something, hoped to trigger some answer which might help clarify the situation.”

    I am glad I left reading the end of this tantalising novella until about one hour after Article 50 was triggered. Yes, an hour ago at half-past Noon, British Summer Time. And if you don’t know what Article 50 is, then you are sure in the same position as our Noonie is at the end of her rite of passage as a woman extrapolated by a man, (I-an with the I before the indefinite article having replaced the m of male). And in the same constructively confused position as most readers, I guess, including myself. Con-fused, tuned to which number on the geometry of life’s Static? I sense the building is now oscillating between or resonating with the coordinates of triangulating a sheer smooth sleek architecture and a ramshackle dereliction she originally expected after Jodah finished squatting there. As she decamps (Duchamps?) down some stairs beyond the secret or previously unnoticed door unlocked by Ian or Jodah or whom?
    The mechanics of the book fleetingly become grinding alembics and alchemical contraptions, tripods and plumb lines. Tugging at the retrocausality, I thought. Transformation as a confronting of pain, an accepting of mistakes, at “that invisible tipping point beyond which more life lay behind than ahead.”
    Mid-life, mid-day, Noon. The critical triggering. An advance, not a retreat?

    I have left you to reconcile this book, with each chapter-heading being its own précis of what follows in it, triangulating the coordinates of its own eventual hindsight, building to a singularity. My own reconciliation to this book is not yours. Each reader reads a different book, visits a different building. A different authorial architecture. A different alchemy.


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