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From Robert Aickman’s lengthy SOME NOTES ON DELIUS article, unpublished until recently :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’?
I have read and reviewed some of these works already, and I am pleased to see them now available for a larger audience as they deserve. The reading experience will be different, and consequently even their tactile meaning.
I understand there may be some revisions in these new editions of them. My real-time reviews are exclusively based on my first readings of works, so I copy and paste my original reviews below.
THE MUSIC OF EXILE is new to this book and I shall review that in due course below.
The Scourge and the Sanctuary
“…an angel of solace amidst the atrocities of bedlam.”
cf the atrocities of soot, in another review of mine dealing with Murphy.
This start of a long short story, one with a great title for Boxing Day, is word-thick with antique city decadence, as Theodora, I infer, writes a letter (that is the only thing we can read) to Sebastian about a seemingly derelict penthouse appendage to a building (cf the earlier tower appendage in this book) with which she becomes obsessed, intending to use a fascinating key technique to enter, guided by astrological harmonics, as I am, in life as well as reading books such as this one. It is ‘in media res’ letter as part of a series of letters from Theodora to Sebastian, I note, that we take as a slice of some unknown gestalt.
“I’ve taken to carrying Joyce’s impossible magnum opus, Finnegans Wake, around with me in the mornings. It’s an unwieldy brick of a book, but it’s not too much trouble for me to carry in my shoulder bag. I can’t imagine reading the entire thing through from start to finish. Anyway, the text wraps around from the end back to the beginning, so where to start? I prefer to open the book at random and treat it as a form of bibliomancy.”
cf this brick of a book with Valentine’s wraith-like slim volume…
The second letter from Theodora to Sebastian, where she compellingly describes entry to that penthouse appendage. Page-turning.
A version of the name Bartholomew was that of the previous novella’s protagonist’s name, the name of the saint who carried his own flayed skin. Cf the hard thick rind of the slim volume that housed the Valentine. Here, I wonder if Sebastian is meant to represent St Sebastian…?
“How is the relationship affected by my relating these discoveries to you,..”
Indeed, Theodora’s letters to Sebastian are like my own gestalt real-time reviews of books, except she hints at not completing the Finnegan circle with the complete gestalt, having found a map in the penthouse that does not match this city wherein she wanders, a city that the map is meant to cartographise…complete with ‘nonexistent squares’…
“Theodora’s back is screaming, and the skin on the backs of her legs is still red hot,… […] ‘You’ll have some lovely scars to carry with you once you’ve healed up,’…”
In these final sections of the story, we catch a glimpse of Theodora outside of what she writes in her letters. Whence she writes them – River Station South (cf Southern Reach) – seems a contradiction in terms of fluidity and status quo, but we learn to absorb the clues from lunar patterns or, as I infer, Alice A. Bailey type esoteric astrology (does this Alice own the Penthouse?) and the path being followed, in communion with someone existent or nonexistent whom she calls Sebastian… And you need to follow the path of this book, too, whether painful or pleasurable, game or reality, wake or otherwise.
Permutations of the Citadel
“There are ways of losing yourself within familiar places.”
There are many real and false cartographies earlier in this book, and here two well-characterised wags or hangers-on working at a large hotel have a prank or jape or game with meticulously, John-Howardly, adeptly replacing the hotel map with a slightly altered one. This includes what I see as a citadel appendage, to match that of the earlier tower and penthouse. It is a fluid, compelling novella so far, where these two dabble in reading books, like ones by Jan Potocki and Gustave Flaubert, and one of these two wags philanders with a hotel guest called Miss Pataki who wields a planchette… And there is more constructively lush smoke from cigarettes and smoking accoutrements, leading, via disturbingly visionary Alice Through the Looking-Glass machinations, smoking (a fire?) for real in the hotel and more…
“Clinging to the lower section of the wall several doors distant stood a black and yellow salamander. It scrutinized him with cautious curiosity before making its way into one of the heating vents.”
I will not itemise the happenings and visions of this last section vis-a-vis the characters, but it is a satisfying ending to this novella and to the whole book, as if, all this time, we have been inescapably negotiating an intriguing role-play at many levels of situation and self, scaling several Houses, Mansions of the Mineral or the Moon, a gnostic game, toward this final Citadel, after combining door codes and matters occult and Occult. With a Mark-Samuelsian, John-Howardian, but essentially and uniquely Damian-Murphyan set of adaptly palimpsestable reality-rules, while, on page 131, “It is little consolation to us that the Caliph has fallen. We have yet to find the space left by his absence. Now leave this place. I have nothing more to offer you.”
the salamander angel by damian murphy
“…thick atrocities of soot…”
This is a novella that uniquely dreamcatches you, before you can dreamcatch it, as it builds on various characters approaching a vision of earth’s centre as temple or lodestone or conflux of answers to everything in various religions, in a theosophical balance of the profane and the holy (see my on-going review here of another book yesterday), including inferentially or predictively (even unintentionally) our world’s connections this Summer with Isis leading to cosmic recriminations about to be transcended or exploded. Illuminati or otherwise. I was also taken, just as one example, with a character’s sending out letters to unknown people to tap the synchronicity not so much of ‘found art ‘ but ‘found people’ with ‘found information’ – and the pasting of documents up in a library.
In a probably vain attempt to dreamcatch this still chasing novella, I hope the author or publisher doesn’t mind me quoting liberally from it:
“…stepped out onto the balcony to share a cigarette before the rite begins.”
“Simon raises the cigarette to his lips and partakes deeply of the fruits thereof. “Alas,” he confers, letting the smoke pour out of his mouth. “I must admit, I understand myself no better.” […] “The more you know, the less you understand,” she takes the cigarette.”
“…the sweet smelling smoke of the incense.”
“She takes one last drag, and hands what remains of the cigarette to Simon. “The men who play at managing affairs of great importance in the world are like frail sheets of rice paper. They have no destiny.””
“Nobody else in the family found much time for an old man who seemed to be losing his mind. Ah, but what a mind to lose.”
“There is a place within each of us, a place hidden within the depths of the soul, where obedience and transgression are as one.”
“A single star shines brightly from above. Its tumultuous rays cut through the smoke filled atmosphere…”
“Telluric tides pulse through infernal mansions as angelic dignitaries collaborate in nocturnal conspiracies never to be divined by man.”
“…that the western world is in the grip of nothing less than a full scale ontological crisis.”
“And yet, I absolutely maintain that the Divine will make itself known to us through the very architecture of our collective nihilism.”
“…they share a final cigarette for the night.”
I am that aforementioned old man.
A Book of Alabaster
“His lot was to play, to immerse himself in the wondrous creations of these underappreciated poets.”
…and indeed this is an amazing correlation to the Valentine book above, this story with a ‘chapel of sand’, a correlation not only with ‘underappreciated poets’ but also,with a book that ‘grew smaller and smaller’! I had already thought about the nature of an ebook when earlier reading Valentine’s conjuration of non-existent books and the ‘wraiths’ who wrote them. Now, we watch Murphy’s protagonist seeking nostalgia in buying off eBay an electronic game (a genre of entertainment of which I have little knowledge), a remembered game that had inspired his past, thus bringing this correlation fully home to roost. But the story is an antique in itself, with a delicious yet easy prose, a seasoned decadent prose that is craftily written about such a modern phenomenon, and the rite of passage into this electronic game and then back to the environment (a tower appendage on a non-descript property) in which he is playing it is very well done. That circular path from tenancy to tenancy, as it were, via a screen, reminds me constructively of the work of Mark Samuels, and vice versa. In fact I have sensed before that these two writers have kindred spirits, a compliment to each of them, but with their respective work being quite diverse otherwise.
THE MUSIC OF EXILE
Just finished reading this new novelette by Damian Murphy, and I couldn’t put it down as it slid by in one sitting. This alone would be worth the price of this book, disregarding the medium it’s embedded within. The rest are great, too, but this work I consider to be something else. He may tell me he wrote it years ago. If that is the case, so be it, as if he’s been progressing towards it all his life retrocausally. It’s about two women poets invited to a house with taxidermy objects and other resplendent accoutrements, amid the snow outside, and their literary Faustian liaison between the hours of retiring for the night and actually going to bed. The spiritual pace of this work is breathtaking, threaded through with cigarettes, more cigarettes, and birds. It is a ritual of trust, the young poetess following the older one into the cold benighted environs of the house, with a ‘passport’ of meticulous paths – towards and into what is called The Border Station. You will not ever forget some of the images, the paintings that embody the older poetess, a sort of Foreign Connection in the border station (a short something I wrote a few days ago before reading this incredible Damian work). I have pencilled noteworthy inspirational quotes galore in this Snuggly book’s version of this work but I dare not quote any of them here. Believe me this is a work that is essential reading for the ExOccian people like us. It is pure dark avian-incantatory homing towards some highly significant lode of occult knowledge at the birder station. Sorry, border. It is beyond words, no exaggeration. A work with sexual undercurrents that don’t in the end exist. Poetry as theft. Poetry as tobacco yearning. A blackened poetess, like a tower. And a description of an old photo in a hidden room to die for. In fact a work as a whole to die for.