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From Robert Aickman’s lengthy SOME NOTES ON DELIUS article, unpublished until recently :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’?
Pages vii – xv, 1 – 24
“…because I’ve become convinced, in recent years, history is drawing to a close.”
The footnoted pre-circumstances surrounding this manuscript – a manuscript starting on page 1 – are enthralling and convincing and imaginovocative; its stated shortcomings – of a narrator struggling anew with his native language: Maturin-like? perhaps Hodgson born? or Matthew Gregory Lewis of a Wandering figure as modern man become ancient in a far immortal future? – are, for me, so far, strengths. I am utterly captivated and the initial narrative journey, by dint of perceived chance accidents of fate that are more than coincidental, perhaps more than accidental, as most of my preternaturally chosen gestalts reviews in the past attest, lead from past public viewing of a seemingly unpuppeteered Punch and Judy show in the streets of modern London (our modern London today but ancient from other viewpoints, or slightly ahead of us, judging by the TV quiz show we glimpse the narrator glimpsing in a pub) towards a more private performance in a wonderfully delineated catacomb with striking hellish interactions…
Dread and Terror. But as Maturin himself wrote in Melmoth: “Terror has no Diary.”
I will not in future attempt to itemise the audit trail, if such it be, of the plot, but hopefully confine myself to affective reactions and hopefully no spoilers, subject to the precarious nature of real-time reviewing, and to be eked out savouringly, too, as warranted by this book. A review that might be re-inserted between the paragraphs of the book in some edition of it in the ancient future? Itself without puppeteer except the retrocausal unknown goal toward where, by hawling, I gingerly wander myself.
Pages 24 – 33
“Coincidence? Or an obscure threat?” (Footnote on page 284)
A dread account as interlude amid other “dread accounts” the narrator later intends to seek out from others amid his own dread account represented by this manuscript which is its own reading interlude as dread account in my own life, making the life either side of it worth living, as it were. Well, that’s how I react to the Rastafarian minicab driver’s helping the narrator escape the narrator’s own dread account that is happening in real-time with the Rastafarian’s own dread account of his past as he drives the minicab in seemingly our present day London as palimpsest. Page-turning with dread, “between the everyday and the eldritch” – to contrastive undercurrents of Pärt into gestalt?
Meanwhile, perhaps topical in my own real-time while reading this: “It a duppy-man. I’s sure!”
She’s a dead duppy walking
Pages 33 – 49
“: a buried evil will always claw its way to the surface.)”
Bracketed by a smiley? We are reminded from which great distance of time this narration is being stretched to London more or less today, and, amid strains with his girl friend, our narrator goes from being Pärted to Sectioned. This followed his being investigated by the police as part of serial violent incidents in London that had nothing to do with him and now kept inside to cure his madness caused by the Punch and Judy experience, kept inside an institution that seems cross-sectioned between Aickman’s hospice, Mann’s sanatorium in ‘The Magic Mountain’ classic and the asylum in JC Powys’ wonderful novel called ‘The Inmates.’
The skilful narrative flow belies any narrative madness for me. I suspect the leasehold narrator has a freehold ghost-writer? I literally can’t put this book down. Seriously so. With luck, things in ordinary life will crop up to stop my reading this extraordinary book on some days, thus to eke it out? Luck, however, like a filter, can work both ways, especially for a sectioned reading?
Pages 50 – 69
“my eyes returning again and again to the dome of St Paul’s”
As mine did and still do from the day I put fiction pen to paper.
Anyway, I could not resist having my necessary dose of this book in the last hour (I may not be able to have a further dose for a few days?) and it continues cumulatively to captivate me. I see this aeon-grizzled literature-reading figure in the far ancient future on his Ark and the yawping, gawking savages in the wild vicinity as he reaches back by dented memory to write about events in a recognisable London (if one when people could apparently smoke pipes in pubs) and celebrity culture was discussed and recognisable personality-types clashed …whereby the narrator has invited a few strangers, now named and characterised, with their own ‘dread accounts’ to counterpart his own.
Poe is mentioned. Meanwhile, I may be wrong, but I also sense cosmotically the soul of William Blake somewhere in the region of this book. I should make it clear that while reading this (so far) utterly impressive Jarvis novel I shall be simultaneously real-time reviewing here a Romanian-published fiction and poetry book entitled ‘All is Full of Hell’, a massive and beautiful book explicitly inspired by Blake.
“Aye. All’s going to Hell, right enough.”
“These Romanians and what have you.”
Spoken by those in the pipe-smoking London pub in this section of pages.
Pages 70 – 92
“, the secrets were fictions thought up solely to compel belief,”
Pub talk, turned into one of the summoned (William, known as the Conkerer at school) imparting his ‘dread account’ to the others, as then transmuted by the alchemy of the narrator’s fiction into a tale of knights in the environs of the Spaniards pub on Hampstead Heath, a mock-chivalrous Ka-Tet against demons, whereby they seem to ape the ‘glorious’ suicidists of our own time, a veritable Ucello painting of St George and the Dragon, with gory accoutrements.
I keep my own powder dry. Be it vision or truth. A context prefiguring a clinched gestalt by eventual hindsight. “Faith exacted as the price of aped disclosure;”
Just cross-referenced this review again with that of ‘All is Full of Hell’.
Pages 93 – 105
“As I’ve written, I’m sure I’ve evaded him so long only because he wished to prolong the hunt;”
As I do, too. This is stunning and astonishingly written material back in the ancient future or forward to there along its retrocausal path? We follow the aeon-prolonged protagonist narrator as he returns from his Himalayers (my conceit, not necessarily the text’s) to the distant past London, the period and place of which he writes of or repeats the pub meeting’s ‘dread accounts’. “; lodes of lore, seams of stories.” He is still pursued by that demon at that time as much as he is in the future, and I understand more of the pursuit’s connections with the pub reciters, and to his own hinterland of memory, and a tear came to my eye when he sees a dented dome of St Paul’s (but the same St Paul’s?) and I thought of human civilisation’s vulnerable veneer (as does this text), and yesterday’s devastating tower fire in my own real-time, and my own Agra Aska vision of London, and not only does this text have the soul of a Blake (I infer), but, with the decorative and searing corpse-cigarettes, it has a smidgen of Samuels, too?
Still yowling, yawping, gawking…
Me still hawling…
“These midden are like wen, festering metal and plastic, seething chemicals of barrows, haunted by wights and rampant code.”
Just cross-referenced this review here: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2017/06/07/the-quarantined-city-james-everington/#comment-9983
Pages 105 – 126
“Reaching the hawsehole, I stretched up, seized the gunwale, hauled myself on board.”
“…and hauled him to the door, kicking, bellowing, and threw him bodily out, threw his trousers out after him. Just before the door was slammed on him, he bawled…”
Pungent, graphic, tactile, word-carved by dint of the sight of the words themselves as well as their semantics and syntax, we follow the far future dying earth narrator into the discovery of the evocatively created Ark on the Thames, alongside his self-duty to keep the past pub strand of narration going, where the Chaucerian Tales emerge from small talk, and the mores of pints of beer, a violent drunk, too, after the debriefing of William’s tale, with the far future narrator on the Ark and the tribeswoman typist-by-finger-rote producing his manuscript and thus, in turn, these Tales themselves, and now it’s Jane telling of the sudden out-of-character violence of her husband, a lecturer in Victorian poetry…apparently told as prelude to a subway tunnel in Woolwich?
Pages 126 – 150
“…but for the immortal it’s intolerable.”
Jane is a novelist writing about more brutal and ancient (Chaucerian?) times, one with a sneaky hip-flask in her handbag, taking her two sons, for a treat, along the Woolwich foot-tunnel near the Thames Barrier, her lost husband, their lost father, becoming entrammelled with the fiendish force that is to thread all these tales, I guess. Null immortalis, Null immoralist, our immortal writer included. There are self-admitted ‘horror tropes’ here, but it is indeed frightening, with the added irony of Maturin’s ‘Terror has no diary’… given the clue, too (saving my own gestalt work in discovering it) of Childe Roland and the Dark Tower, and thus, too, I guess, King’s Dark Tower, and a future Ka-Tet?
My role as gestaltist, is also made to seem frightening, my labyrinth of connections, into which I dip my own unconsoling pail or dreamcatcher…
“…that all our experiences had been wrought by a sole malevolence, and that, just as it is thought all mankind’s dreams come from a single well of horror, into which, from time to time, a poor unfortunate unwittingly lowers his pail.)”
Pages 151 – 161
“, I’d set down too much by then and had too much still to tell, to purge, of this tale, this account.”
This is a tale or account of not only narrative and semantic-phonetic-graphological traction (more ‘yowling’ here alongside the continued ‘yowling’ in the Quarantined City) but also purging and dread, perhaps proving for the first time that Terror does have a diary, derived from an ancient future retrocausality?
Here the narrator on the far future estuary in complex (sometimes sexual) relationship with his typist tribeswoman within an ‘office’ on his Ark – and the inimical forces of other tribespeople that populated our land in those distant days yet to come, though we know those days existed by their blighting and brexiting our world today?
Also telling mention here of the dislocation between reader’s time in reading and the narrative time,
Pages 161 – 170
“I’ve pledged to write only what is true;”
As have I. Here the future’s narrator and tribeswoman are now fleeing northward from the Ark. And thoughts as to the different timelines he is juggling at once, in the Ark ‘office’ writing, with the tribeswoman fleeing, and ‘gawping’ at Jane in the pub. But there is also a consuming digression on the nature of ‘truth’ involving striking meaty paragraphs on “The philosophies which held sway in Naufana and the city whose name I can’t remember,” – also explicit mention of Tainaron which I happen to know is a ‘truth’ by Leena Krohn, whom AMAZINGLY I mentioned here earlier this morning in connection with another book, i.e. mentioned by me there before reading this section of the Jarvis. Also, there is explicit mention of Ambergris in this section today of the Jarvis which I happen to know is a ‘truth’ by VanderMeer and, again, AMAZINGLY, I also mentioned Leena Krohn yesterday when reviewing VanderMeer’s Borne here.
Pages 170 – 183
“, woken from a dream of London, as it was in my youth, but clinker and ash, folk, with charred flesh sloughing from their bones, stumbling in the streets.”
Often I read books at the optimum or pessimum moment for them in my life….
Meatily-paragraphed texture by the far future narrator with his tribeswoman against the other tribes, explaining the attritional circumstances of his writing what we are reading, then we are catapulted back to the pub where we have the de-briefing of Jane’s tale and the prelude to Duncan’s. Meanwhile, I shall experiment with ‘the parallax poetry of piss’…
“, I’d pretended to be a monster, chased them, that was all.”
Pages 184 – 206
“‘ But together we could make a good haul.’ […]
‘What about this preternatural stuff?'”
Duncan’s Tale. Miners as spirits, Gothic catacombs as postludes to butchery, Duncan’s story retold meatily and detailedly (some details throwaway biographical-historical details or not), retold stylistically rather than in pub-talk, retold by narrative distance. His tragic childhood in Glasgow, his later card-sharping and spirit séances to dupe others. One séance is a group of random people as fateful gestalt, as much as the pub group of random people whence it derives to be told is equally a fateful gestalt. Gestalt within gestalt. Mine within mine, as one in the séance dupes Duncan himself into such gory mines latent inside end to end reading minds of literature’s labyrinth. Explains Duncan’s missing limb and much else, as well as gratuitous details, or seemingly gratuitous, so far.
Sometimes this is Gothic treacle, sometimes revelations of light beyond that treacle. That’s the way to do it!
Together – by readerly triangulation of fiction’s coordinates – we could make a good haul.
“: a tumult of snarls, gibbers, howls, sobs, yowls, yawps, yatters, pules, whickers, wails, shrieks, moans, groans…”
Pages 207 – 229
“…where weird devices yammered, twittered, snickered, groaned, hissed, yowled, tutted.”
Twittered and tutted indeed.
This text is the most deceptive, adroitly-syntaxed, sharply claused, strikingly semanticised gothic treacle that slides down like best syrup, as we go back and forth to the far future Ark and its ‘office’ and scatter-gun scatology-eschatology, with gore and spilling innards and weird healing then to the smoky London pub, some smoke sculpted into shapes by our central nullimmortalis of a wanderer (one of my favourite pop records I played again and again on my dansette deck as a youth was Dion’s The Wanderer) and now we learn from him via pub talk of Tartarus and how the Wanderer who ties these aeons together has been tempting other artists and writers into such visionary dangers, many of whom we can recognise from the real biographical descriptions of them. For example, I suspect this is the concurrently reviewed William Blake: “Another of my victims was an English Romantic who could not see clearly enough to follow me, as his sight was bleared by swigs of nepenthes.”
Why I happen to be concurrently reading and reviewing two books so generous with their ‘yowls’, ‘gawps’ etc is a mystery to me,
Not to forget the Wanderer Fantasy by my favourite composer, Schubert.
Pages 230 – 251
“Creation is in disarray.”
Vestigial, not inchoate, overwrought, too, from internal inspection by a character within the manuscript, self-referential as this book sometimes is, and it is the perfect subject for a gestalt real-time review, as we appear to be reading a manuscript being written in real-time before our very eyes. Creation not only in disarray, real universal mis-evolution with mutant healing and null immortality, but also in retrocausal gestalt when the final hindsight is clinched, as it now seems to be, although by the number of pages left to read with a feel of its width as paper, perhaps the final hindsight has not yet been reached. A gory story. A visionary horror Hodgsoniana. Yet, something far more, I sense, whatever its overwrought nature as internal criticism.
Here, too, more “gawking”, “yawped”, “guffawed”, “bawling” as well as “riding a tiger”.
This review now cross-referenced here: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2017/06/07/the-quarantined-city-james-everington/#comment-10044
This review again cross- referenced here: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2017/06/15/borne-jeff-vandermeer/#comment-10046
Pages 252 – 311
“, you, my real reader (and I couldn’t have wished for a better),”
Well, thanks, and thank you for the ‘hauled, hoicked, yowling, hawking, bawling’ in these last substantive pages of the book, as well as all the earlier yawping, gawping etc. The first, and perhaps last, book that gives me, at the approaching dying time of my life, a clinching hindsight rationale, with the Wanderer’s inbuilt paradoxes of narration, of bifurcation, of retrocausality, of my own googleable ‘synchronised shards of random truth and fiction’, monumentally crystallising (alongside the simultaneously unique fiction-reality infections of The Quarantined City) my long-term activity that, since ‘Nemonymous Night’, I have called ‘hawling‘.
These last sections, including epilogue, afterword and various appendices, are like a patchwork of the Wanderer himself or itself gorily, word-treacly chopped up and then spread across the Earth to prevent a regrouping of a dreamcatcher’s gestalt. The paradoxes too are shown as panning out, slowly and fast like Zeno’s Paradox itself, never finished, as there is always at least one more appendix or afterword or epilogue after the previous one, ever halfway there.
Poe as an eschatology or as a scatology to piss in.
Card-sharping with fiction pages. Or life’s ultimate truth. This book is probably both.
On another level, a truly great Gothic horror novel. Terror’s Diary.
Cross-referenced here: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2017/06/07/the-quarantined-city-james-everington/#comment-10053
Cross-referenced today with MELMOTH by Sarah Perry: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2018/10/10/melmoth-sarah-perry/#comment-13864
Just Placed The Wanderer in this Hall of Infame: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/dfls-list-of-constructive-literary-dysfunction/
“It was not for nothing the ancients had placed Tartarus under Mt Aetna,”
— From UNDER The Volcano by Malcolm Lowry cross-referenced here: