14 thoughts on “Seven Strange Stories – Rebecca Lloyd

  1. THE MONSTER ORGORP

    .
    I have so far read this novelette (?) up to “…without at least some element of exaggeration.”

    I had to laugh, as I am always tempted into exaggeration, and thus I am stymied by my own passions-of-the-moment when reading great hyper-imaginative literature. And this is probably (I add the word ‘probably’ advisedly) one of the most strikingly and simply ground-breaking openings of anything I have ever read. Monumentally odd, yet tractable with a truth of a fairy story or brain-burrowing Upstairs-Downstairs grotesquerie. Miss Wilson is employed as scullery maid in this remote house, ending up as Lady Mallet’s dresser, and we follow the nature of Miss Wilson’s colleagues in the servants’ areas, and along the dark corridors and landings where they spy things like the Thing that Lady Mallet seems to have imported, alongside her mutually and amicably estranged relationship with Lord Mallet in the same house. Is this Thing a man or woman or monster? The uncertainty is masterful and Miss Wilson seems privy to something she has not yet told the others or to us as readers. I hear a rumour she is about to do so. I can’t wait to read on, but I want to eke out this book as slowly as possible to make it seem longer-in-the-savouring than it actually is. And, remember, no spoilers!
    Seriously captivated.
    A pogrom panjandrum?

  2. THE MONSTER ORGORP (2)

    Up to “…then shortly after that came the day Lady Mallet took me to the upper areas of the house and installed me as her personal maid.”

    I am now seeing Caroline Wilson, our symbiotic guide in this story, as a naive version of Pamela Andrews from the first ever novel in literary history (one by Samuel Ruchardson) here meeting her version of Lord B in the shape of someone nicknamed the Hog, that ‘og’ again, (the house is called Hogsmoor). I gather, too, the era of this grotesquely entrancing Lloyd novelette is not a million years away from that of Pamela’s eponymous novel. (Preternaturally, I happen to have been simultaneously reviewing here another novel where there is a Swine Thing or Hog, a novel based on Hodgson’s House on the Borderland.) By the way, I have not divulged a spoiler here, because ‘the Thing’, the thing imported by Lady Mallet, the thing of which we are still unaware, because Caroline has not yet told us, is NOT this Hog (because that is the apposite name for Lord Mallet) but the Thing is some Thing else altogether, I assume.
    Oothangbart it!

  3. THE MONSTER ORGORP (3)

    Up to “…it is she who is called upon to make up the foul solutions the lady requires.”

    Caring Caroline ‘dressing’ Lady Mallet – or the Maggot as some of the servants are forbidden from calling Lady M – entails all manner of tactile and pungent ingredients, and the over-thinking, the conceitedness of conceits regarding pox and smallpox washes and other pores of a lady’s skin, make this a rare glimpse into the true 18th century that even bypassed Pamela and Clarissa or Fanny elsewhere.
    The need for puppy blood, notwithstanding.
    This continues to be a rare read and I wonder what it must take to concoct this text itself about such things, a text as ripe as the things it contains? Makes me also over-think the nature of the freehold author, let alone the leasehold narrator who imparts such matters. A body douched and prodded and picked over and blooded towards ghostliness or witchcraft?
    But what or who is the Thing that Lady M has imported? We are still steered clear of omniscience, it seems. And still no quote marks to differentiate speech.
    O oodles of doggy blood!

  4. THE MONSTER ORGORP (4)

    Up to “…I would fain have dropped through the very floor itself in my shame.”

    I don’t think it’s a spoiler to know that the other servants call the Thing by the eponymous name of ORGORP. Nor that Pamela also wrote letters home to her parents about Lord B and I never knew whether to believe her letters and whether her eponymous subtitle of ‘Virtue Rewarded’ was right! Cf Reggie Oliver’s novel entitled ‘Virtue in Danger’ that I have also real-time reviewed.
    I am not sure whether the hints as to the nature of Orgorp are as a result of Caroline being an unreliable narrator or Rebecca an unreliable author. Or both! All I can say is that this work, so far, is scatologically entertaining and sexually-politically intriguing and gratuitously funny. I wonder whether the scatology is due to morph into eschatology? That would be the icing on my literary-critical cake.
    I suspect my quirky or glitchy Kindle version of this book is making the text even stranger or more stylistically eclectic than was intended! Covfefe contabulous!

  5. THE MONSTER ORGORP (5)

    Up to the end…

    Due to both my own circumstances of reading-time and this work finally grabbing me today without letting go, I have now finished it (what I have just read today probably being longer than the first four readings put together). I have a feeling that the creeping omniscience that now ensues via the narration of Caroline is bordered with suspicions of madness, dream and deliberate self-seeking lies on her part, perhaps to protect her creator, the freehold author. Writing this within a Daniel Defoe scenario? A contemporary of Samuel Richardson, I recall. Factored into a Restoration Comedy ambiance, with patches and powders and other cosmetic devices of the era, and Comic opera scenarios of lovers not knowing with whom they canoodle in the darkness! It is that accretion of such patches and rouge and layers of identity-blocker etc. that lends its weight to a later dual narration interweaving description with description, a sororal or solipsistic nightmare, where we think we learn more of the nature of ORGORP to the background nature of the sexual antics of animals and humans alike. A disturbing, literary, darkly slapstick game of words that enthralled me. Unique and unmissable, I suggest.

  6. JACK WERRETT, THE FLOOD MAN

    .
    “Stop gorping at Miss Wood, Betty!”

    An idiosyncratic ghost story that really could take over a new fashion in Ghost Stories, old-fashioned before their time, a classic in utero, before the waters break. I truly think this ghost story will haunt you in new and old ways, growing on you like ORGORP in this book and the creeping omniscience embedded in that and also in this author’s similarly classic novel in utero known as OOTHANGBART, one which I confidently feel will be remembered as long as people get the chance to read it, by knowing about it in the first place!
    This story is about two sisters Betty and Marina Werrett grown up with their hair slides still in place and their playground behaviour intact, renting out apparently ‘their’ anthropomorphise-referenced four storey Georgian property to a lady (Dr Wood) who photographs country churches. (A pity Dr Wood would not get round to the church with the round tower as I could have related this Lloyd book again to the House of Silence book.)
    The visit to the reed beds, the naivety of the sisters, the accretive folklore, the coconuts in London, the surface tension, and the end scenes that out-whistles Oh Whistle – this work is, as I say, something special.

  7. CHRISTY

    .
    “Besides, Earl hated water Dulcie;”

    This is another storeyed house, not one this time of haunted water, but of signals whether Morse or instinct-Christian, hands-on stigmata via Christy blisters, in religion’s deep disbelief and eventual deep belief akin to a belief by a child in an imaginary friend. We are all still children. Yola who lives in this Southern Gothic type house and community, and her friend Dulcie, and her violent man Daddy Hinds, a man eventually to turn floppy like all us men, whether remaining children or not. Yola’s missing children, their residual codes of communication, through skirting board or not… An ambiance that eats away at the readers as well as giving us a code between us all, Morse or not. Not Southern Gothic as such, but embracing different versions of that sentiment of Gothic in Flannery O’Connor and Steve Rasnic Tem (Blood Kin). Those who have read all three authors, including Lloyd, will know what I mean. The house here with its own outside front door on every floor. This story is another literary hanger on or haunter. Spoken plainly, with depth.

    “Dulcie told me once when we were drinking whiskey out there under those sugar maples that she thought Daddy was just like a bear, beautiful in his innocence, yet hideous in his savagery.”

  8. The next story I read and reviewed HERE, and this is what I wrote in that context –

    ———————————-
    The Pantun Burden

    “‘There are curtains still,’ she said, ‘but since Gloria died, he doesn’t use them; the chicken shit all over the windows is good enough for him.'”

    I loved this story of a curse-filter working both ways! You’ll know what I mean when you read it. This story of a simple youth being bitten with marks that turn to scabs when helping at the chicken farm, his mother, the woman they ask to help, is extremely haunting. Not haunting in the usual sense with veils and apparitions with round corners, but haunting in a more sharp-pointed way like the sharper stories and poems earlier in this Journal, making you want to itch, to look out for bodily incisions or cracks with seepage, to think of H5N1 and to want to see a Tod Browning film again, against all better judgement!

  9. AGAIN

    .
    “….each time I have thought back to those moments in which she stood looking down at me, my idea of what happened and what we actually said to each other skews slightly as if the event itself was cognisant and would avoid capture.”

    As was that ‘event’, so also the story itself, I’m afraid. Certainly on a first reading.

  10. LITTLE BLACK EYES AND TINY HANDS

    .
    A novelette read up to “Both of them looked at the beautiful pen lying on the small table by Ernesto’s bed.”

    Another ‘Southern Gothic’ ambiance but now here in Cefalů, Sicily, a palimpsest of induced or real haunted horror between the 1920s and 1960s, with in the latter Ernesto a boy, known as the Stone Boy, a would-be architect, in a land subject to tremors at the edge, his Granddad (who hates anything Weird) and his stories in the past of the man in a green dress (“with his strange women trooping along behind him”) and snakes (cf Tem’s Preacher in Blood Kin), a man who lived in the White House, a house now reputed with ghosts, and the local bully harasses Ernesto…(a small historical mention of Mussolini, a reminder for me of another bully today, one with small hands?)

    “…his chest was broad, like that of a man, his arms and legs seemed to belong to someone far smaller.”

    and this bully eventually entices or rather forces Ernesto into the White House, one with Blood-Kin-like mural paintings inside…
    I am captivated myself, too. Captured. By all this. By Ernesto’s pencil, and his later gifted pen. The whole backstory to what is about no doubt to ensue…?

    “and the idea came to him that very old people must feel this way shortly before they die.”

  11. LITTLE BLACK EYES AND TINY HANDS (2)

    Up to end of this novelette:

    “I was chosen with five other men to enter the place and whitewash those walls and all the filth that was on them, the vile staring faces, the bodies joined with other bodies, tongues and lips, and goats…”

    Goats, not ghosts? The house over the years – I somehow discover – maybe you will discover something quite else in this inchoate text (“Inaoomofchorozondwellerinarrbismaialyoubilllldupbeaconrroobull”) – with our now seeming to follow Ernesto into 1986 and then 2016, and his becoming an architect, but beset by such madnesses in his head? Quite rich, though? And his eventual return to the original home place (Ernesto’s Grandfather and Ernesto’s pen take on deeply poignant dimensions upon the former’s death) – yes, he returns to that house of ghosts, its foul and lewd murals no longer whitewashed, factored into by some evil figure embedded with the above eponymous attributes: Il Cornacchia grigia (“He killed a cat once that belonged to Senora Fazios mother, a big orange one.”), a figure who once wore a turban! Some absurd Muslim masquerade? The implications are staggering. I am sure this author is a conduit of some kind, with her own architecture of our times, this text seeming to be on the brink of some confused conflux, a conflux of earthquake proportions. I wonder if Lloyd herself is Choronzon, without her fully realising the implications of what she is writing with Ernesto’s pen, as it were, written so otherwise adeptly and transcendingly? Not a classic like ORGORP, JACK WERRETT and CHRISTY are classics, but somehow an inchoate monument for literature lovers to have worried into their heads.

    “may all you build up become rubble”

  12. WHERE’S THE HARM?

    .

    “These women had a curious melancholic air about them that wasn’t exactly a state of sadness, more as if they – and this is crazy – carried within them a sense of all the isolated places on the earth.”

    I have adjusted my Kindle text ink above to suit the flow. There is also elsewhere in the text one ‘Ross’ used when ‘Eddie’ was meant. This text is disarmingly deadpan, almost flabby (in a frightening way), where two brothers (one called Eddie), seen, ostensibly, through the eyes of the other one called Ross, return to their original home after their parents’ death. One scared the other in childhood with childish stories. Now it’s the turn of the other one? They are repainting the house ready for sale, resonating with the erstwhile whitewashing etc in the previous story. To make a story of average length shorter, they meet a commune of women in the woods nearby, one with oblique connection with their own mother. These women also remind me of the pale women in Blood Kin, a useful co-resonance, no doubt unintended, because Lloyd would not have known that I would just have read that novel before this her new collection. These women haunt me real bad, already, and I note hints of immediately topical May-like deadpan pressure upon you, an incantatory force, not sharp, but insidiously dull. Not the “troubled women who waited vainly for the men to morph into guys they could admire.” But ones somehow collusive with men.
    I wondered how the nature of their incredibly long hair be conducive to another description of them as “fussy hairstyles”? And I shuddered.

    “Beyond my terror and revulsion, I registered that this seventh was not yet ready to feast.”

    Could each of these seven women be representative of the seven stories? This book is often insidious, often admirably so. Contains some unforgettable classics of the “strange stories” genre. Someone on FB yesterday called my own fiction “peculiar”. I think that is the word. Intended as a compliment.

    end

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