12 thoughts on “From Ancient Ravens

  1. IMG_3080
    Around. 130 pages. Lovely hardback with dust jacket and ribbon marker.
    My copy numbered 190/300.

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    THE FIFTH MOON by Mark Valentine

    Pages 1 – 17

    “I don’t know how it is, but a piccalilli and porridge potage has never yet come my way before.”

    This is halfway through this stylishly crisp and comfy pungency of a narrative (if crisp and pungent can be used in the same breath?), with our following two men – one a photographer whose testing frames of wayward image we share and the narrator himself, a character derived from what I have already said about his style – as they try to follow the trail of King John’s famous baggage train treasure across the now reclaimed lands near the Wash. in search of socially shy pubs and a decrepit houseboat they are borrowing from a painter… in the age when there were Third Class Smokers. They are already plot-loaded with the names of two people at two addresses, the first of whom, Tanderlane with his tantalus, explains his Gnostic (or Manichaean?) view of the treasure being sought. A list followed by a nursery rhyme line.image
    Intriguing and, as I say, narratively comfy with mystery’s tradition – so far. And the area near the Wash a gestalt of dirty slime of sunk treasure spliced with a countrified genius loci drained of such allegorical slime.

    “Very interesting. I like lines leading to the horizon. Lots of opportunities for perspectives. Semi-abstracts, you know. That kind of thing.”

  2. Pages 17 – 31

    I had reason to write these words elsewhere before reading this second half of what turns out to be a landmark, if lackland, work of fiction: ‘History is ever being rewritten as a natural and inevitable cohering with an emerging gestalt of repercussions and theories as to these perceived repercussions and new discoveries about them. Hindsight can never end.’
    I could have worded it better, but it suffices. And now I draw significant comparisons between King John and Donald Trump.
    But there is far more to this work than a historical speculation on Toynbeean ‘challenge and response’ or a mutated form of a dominos game in an atmospheric pub…but, indeed, a lackland known as The Hollow, where the literary atmosphere grows to one comparable with Blackwood’s The Willows, and no greater compliment can I give. The lines quoted from Shakespeare’s King John, notwithstanding.
    The aura of attenuation and discovery of key-lines or ley-lines beyond a lackland’s apotheosis of the real drained land as a Reliquary….
    And the dreaded relics imputed here, based on historical speculation and ‘alternative facts’ regarding the real acknowledged history of King John’s ‘treasure’, are ones to conjure with in the whole context. For me, as just one example, the reference to the Angevins reminds me of the Angel Wine in ‘Nemonymous Night.’…
    This novelette is a major work, yet another from the Valentine, outdoing even The Fig Garden.

    “; A Fragment of the Horn of Israfel, Which When Gathered from the Parts of the Earth Will Sound the Last Trump;”

  3. THE ASMODEUS FELLOWSHIP by Ron Weighell

    Pages 33 – 52

    “(It is better to write good things than many things.)”

    A select dining group focussed by each rich word into their special conversing- and eating-space in Budapest, by dint of their own special look and ways, including one woman at least. The occult pricelessness of language’s apparel lent to them, as they focus still further towards the first story by one of them, as he tells of being led by three men through the complex maze of Venice away from a bookshop where he met them – hark the books’ titles and materials ex oriente et occidente, plus told and overheard comments of abstruse learning – towards a secret place in a building where concealed depths of hidden cities are at least imagined and the chance to choose his ‘dream library’, but then to skim only one of them, a fuller edition of Vasari’s lives with alternative facts, or are the facts to which they are alternative rightfully to be seen as the alternative facts themselves compared to this new truth? Or is Vasari now to be seen in hindsight as a fabulist rather than the respected disseminator of truth we all believed him to be?
    There is so much labyrinthine material of legend and art that I cannot possibly do justice to it here, and the narration of the lower leased narrator within the primary leasehold narration in Budapest in turn within the freehold authoriality certainly has its frissons at what is being experienced.
    But who from all these levels of narration and being narrated-to is truly the one who is a moderate in all things? Perhaps myself, the reader and receptor of these levels of narration and reported narration, from having chosen my own middle way of gestalt real-time dreamcatching? The middle way of being in between a reviewer of entertaining fiction and an exponent of a preternatural faith in literature.

    “For them books were not merely objects of beauty, but repositories of forgotten wonder so precious that devotion to them qualified as a religion.”

    • Pages 52 – 57

      “an uncommon example of an exhibition piece in which a mass of objects with no connection to one another are carved out of a single block of marble…”

      There may be a second diner who is female? Bella Bartok, not Bela?
      The second story from another diner is much shorter, told by a collector of statuary, and is inspiring with variations on gestalt creation via the medium of the multi-faceted sculpture on a revolving plinth, one that reveals, after earlier dreams, a secret of its female creator…

      • Pages 57 – 60

        “…making of every seam a wide, delirious arabesque of thread.”

        The third diner’s story, of a tailor and his eventually manipulated project enforced by a bearded lady and her zombie familiar.
        Its matchless language and content force me likewise, so far, to believe this work as a whole must be the Weighell masterpiece itself.

        • Pages 60 – 75

          “The foolish childhood dream of finding the lost Arimaspeia, and penetrating the mystery of the Mystic poet Aristeus. In all his life he had never told anyone of that.”

          This closing section clinches my view that this is THE Weighell masterwork, as judged from what I have previously read by this author.
          But now, though, including this story as the final story within the Budapest dining fellowship’s story competition, he has told us of that foolish childhood dream! The Identity of Lesser Prohibited.
          An inner outer story that tells of conundrums and mysterious acronym and numbers, but, above all, of Library Angels, during the life of Lesser as he travels from naïve child to Journalist, with undercurrents of the Raven and of exploring Prague. An infinite as well as vanished library. A flood, a fire, an ‘Ancient Gnosis’, a ‘bibliophilic disaster’, an inner inner story of universal brown, and more. Spicing our reading as well as the listeners’ food. An Aesthetic gestalt of arcane, luxuriously worded diversities on a revolving plinth, of which this final story is part, revealing the winner of what has been told. And the secret of its own freehold authoriality?

          “Who could predict the actions of madmen?”

  4. BETWEEN ME AND THE SUN by John Howard

    Pages 77 – 94

    “It should have been obvious that the main reason Iain loved astronomy was because he craved the order and predictability shown by planets and moons in their never-changing orbits.”

    An engaging story, so different that it seems to serve as this book’s palate style-cleansing coda, plain-spoken, if laden with accretively complex undercurrents of youthful triangular interaction between 16 year old boys, so perhaps not cleansing at all?
    It takes place in the West Wycombe area of the Dashwood mythos-truth, with an observant genius loci of countryside, unpolluted night skies, woods, close community and, yes, the caves, leading to the story’s mid-way climax that I compare to the Marabar Caves from another book, in another quite different place? A telling, uncleansed comparison, perhaps an unwarranted one? A potentially tragic triggering of ostensible repercussion from the goading rivalries and hidden-in-plain-sight motives of one or more of the three characters as established up to this point.

  5. There may be plot spoilers below… ?

    .
    Pages 94 – 113

    “It was as if an internal magnet had been turned round, so we pushed each other away and were kept apart with the same force that previously had maintained us in close contact, orbiting around each other.”

    That mathematical infinity of the Hanging Rock, a sort of impending or hanging destiny as numbers change or switch, by subtraction or addition, like stars wink out long after they truly winked out at heart? Each in different shoes or a morphed shoe shop? To assess the changes in the Wycombe genius loci, its dwellings and entertainment centres, the caves and its Styx, the map of stars themselves, the polluting light…
    This is a truly compelling work, as the boys regroup after the onset of middle age, and I wonder if it is a typo at the top of page 101 or a stroke of genius subtlety where Iain is said to be “suitably impressed” etc. rather than Clive?

    “I thought I had no illusions about past and present: the knitting together of broken threads, the reforming from old material something that had once passed away.”

    This book itself is a trio of genuine genius works, a fellowship, diverse but a morphing gestalt, too, and each represents one of the three boys in the final novelette, and vice versa. Think about it.
    The optimum book chosen from a vanished library of Angels, fetched back from the Hollow.

    end

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