10 thoughts on “The House of Silence – Avalon Brantley

  1. IMG_3222

    Copy of accompanying pamphlet above.
    285 pages in a luxurious hardback shown in my first post above. Can you see the face on the front cover? In real life, it is invisible.
    Liberally peppered with whole-page black and white images.
    My copy is numbered 32/170.


  2. I

    “The familiar landscape has changed, strangened, filling the boy with the suffocating certainty that he has not so much been benighted, but transported.”

    Well, I have already been transported by what so far appears to be the unbelievable apotheosis of style that would appeal to those interested in texts by Hodgson, Poe, Lovecraft, Shiel, Ashton Smith… a 13 year old boy’s pareidoliac, ‘gluttonous’, ‘bruise-hued’ vision, running away from home again, with his now missing dog Psalter, the pit, the house. The face at the window. No justice can be done to it here, nor can I cover the backstory that ensues as Mr Acheson now plans, after the Second World War, to travel toward his past, relations and sweetheart, in Ireland, having been apprised of his father’s death there. Backstory of himself as a boy and young man in palimpsest with that parastory of the boy in his vision…? The ‘elsewise’ of an ‘ontological paradox’, notwithstanding. Acheson –> ache son?


    “– another magical element of childhood expunged with the plunge into oldness.”

    The spurge, too.
    This book seems a new style for Brantley, accessible and engaging, yet retaining the tantalising feel of the tentacular wordiness, beauty, density, poetics of what I have read in her earlier books. This is sad as such a remarkable talent seems to be evolving, not in a straight line of improvement, but in a timeless variegation…and it is arguably a tragedy, too, in the circumstances. This promises, so far, to be a very important book, I feel.
    Here the train journey to this outland in Ireland for reunion with his younger brother, and memories of the unrequited love in the earlier classroom he now rediscovers in the present day (a present day that is the past for us.) Underlain with the friction between the Anglicanism of our narrator and the Catholic environs, now and then.


    “…Óengus the Culdee, later canonized Saint Óengus of Tallaght — his feast day was a month ago in fact — but at the time alluded to in the manuscript he was just a young eremitic man in cloak and reverse tonsure,…”

    From busybodying gravestones ‘entitling’ their occupants, while narrator Ashley Acheson’s father’s coffin is being prepared in a backroom of the wake house, a coffin too small for the occupant’s shoulders, we now have this ‘reverse tonsure’, plus this meeting with an old school friend in a secluded church near the arguable remains of a Round Tower. We sense ancient awe here, a forbidden quality, something or other about, we also sense, this author and this book? Or have we just said not only the unsaid but the unsayable?
    (With an added bonus of hearing bad organ playing; badly played familiar music often awakens its predictability into something else. God versus fallen angels?)


    “The silence in the house was massive. It made the structure feel small as a single room, or a wardrobe.”

    Some very striking touches, as Acheson renews his acquaintance with those he used to know here a number of years ago, enough years to make the remembrances meaningful if distant, such as young ‘sin-swollen’ sexual beginnings, and his nephew who looks like Acheson did at that age, and we hear through the nephew Acheson’s late father (as he now lies in state in the wake house) speaking some last words about the House of Silence….and we learn more about Acheson’s life between, his hopes when running off to sea against his father’s wishes and his hopeless attempts to become a poet. The words and the sound of literal paper protests tell us more about words and poetry in his life, poetry as a craft, and many other aspects of eras in palimpsest with each other. Beautifully conveyed In a strange modern-ancient accessibility of al dente as well as plainer, but never simply plain, prose.

    “…a chilling polyphony of keening,…”


    “The child gave a naughty smile and hid behind her mother again.”

    A stunning short chapter, of urgently replaced intention of grave site for the mourned corpse, a sunk well dug well or not well as a surprise morass of memories, as the loves, from Ashley Acheson’s past in this area, having been a wake’s co-carousers, are today co-mourners: women and girls or their own faery foundlings and changelings between. A mystery of trivial trinket or rich redolent amulet consigned to such well dug well? I am captivated, nay, too late – I am captured, I guess.


    “…and the once whitewashed walls were now every colour of bruised and pallid corpseflesh, some of the chipped and mouldy surface broken away near the decrepit roof, revealing the crumbly masonry beneath, like the flesh of a forehead open to the skull.”

    This is both traditional horror traditionally expressed and the powerful breaking news of something else within such a tradition of aura as well as of genius loci: a self-anciented House, where you once lived when much younger. A glimpse and skirmish upon you of a wild pig as HOdGson or an erstwhile unrequited lover or an inimical fuse of time as “some unnamed tributary of the River Shannon” or a denizen of “the nothinglands beyond”…?
    Your forgotten tin whistle is still there.


    “It wasn’t necessary to play so roughly with me, now was it Sir?”

    This work leapfrogs and piggybacks itself, somehow. The journey by car through benighted wilds and steep drops, a vision of hit-and-running a lonely waif on the road, arrival at the house – just read this to gain a view of this house or spite your face, I say! And then a young girl riding on his back and a character falling over a crevasse, while excited about another round tower et al. Not to mention references to the Gadarene swine.
    This book is, so far, gorgeously ominous, implicitly erotic, fey, feisty, pungent, exciting and word-worrying.
    Might be the new old-fashioned horror classic you have been waiting for? Rare, and wildly conservative in its rule-breaking, if that is not a contradiction in terms.


    “‘Just a large bog rabbit,’ O’Brien declared before swallowing another piece of it. A sliver of white emerged from his beard-hedged lips: a slender spike of bone, which he took with his fingers and clinked to the rim of his dinner plate.”

    A substantive chapter of meal-taking as repast as well as info-dump through prandial conversations as re-past, I guess. Yet, it is not an info-dump, really, as you forgive this means of imparting information and atmosphere and backstory and character and history and religion … it slides down beautifully like some of the drinks they drink and the food they eat. And the turns of destiny that Ashley the narrator regrets or, rather, turns into new patterns of self, amid glances of sexy communion both during yesteryear (where be Amanda now? ) and now (Shannon at this this repast, who once stalked and fancied him as a boy) and her fey, feisty daughter Briga, like Shannon was in those old days. And Shannon’s father, O’Brien, the same age as me, but far more stolid a person than me, even if he only inhabits fiction?
    I am just past halfway in this book and I sense it is already an important book that will haunt its author, wherever she is now. It must surely be, inter alios, a superior form of haunted-house-by-a-pit book, or at least on that borderland of another great author’s book in that form, an author whom or a scenario which she will by now no doubt have met or visited. Then beyond it. EVEN beyond it or him, with a traditional horror epic in retrocausal modern hyper-imaginative mode, towards literary nirvana, I suggest, with an old man’s lack of fear or favour.


    We reach beyond even my own expectations, an apotheosis of literary rhapsody and rapture, helped by visionary powers as well as drunken ones, in this the narrator Acheson’s post-repast. There is so much highly hedonistic wordplay here, I can’ t even begin to choose quotes so as to demonstrate it. I do NOT exaggerate.
    A vision of monstrous nightmare, later, then a purgatory or borderland of spurned erotic sex.
    This is rare stuff, no mistake. It may be too rich for some reading tastes, but I can’t imagine any reader who manages to own this book spurning his or her own emotional affair with it, when push comes to shove, lush comes to love. It is difficult to understate or overstate this book.

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