THE SCARLET SOUL: Stories for Dorian Gray



Edited by Mark Valentine

Stories by Reggie Oliver, Caitriona Lally, Lynda E. Rucker, John Howard, D.P. Watt, Rosanne Rabinowitz, Avalon Brantley, Timothy J.Jarvis, John Gale, Derek John.

When I real-time review this book during 2018, my comments will appear in the thought stream below

16 thoughts on “THE SCARLET SOUL: Stories for Dorian Gray

  1. LOVE AND DEATH by Reggie Oliver

    “A paradox is a way of creating a new truth: a pun merely desecrates an old one.”

    A richly traditional stylishness in treatment of paintings and painters during the age of Millais, Watts, Burne-Jones, and of banal catchphrases in the good old days of variety, and the theatrical living tableaux of myth and sucked-out compulsion, of small angels at the cute end, of maleness and beauty, of foreignness amid our accepted mores….at a worrisome edge between moving stances of love and death, of life and non-life. Not sure how all that was managed, before its curtain finally fell.

  2. THIS IS HOW IT WILL BE by Caitriona Lally

    “Did life just work better for some than for others?”

    The previous story ended with the concept of mediocrity as a means of staying alive. Each fragment of the gestalt of self taken to sharpen others’ portraits. Here a relentless, deceptively simple fable, one that reads close-up to the spectacles-less eyes like a fairy story of Cinderella-in-reverse, made even more obsessive by no speechmarks. The horrifying subsumption of a woman’s life by a mansplainer.

  3. EVERY EXQUISITE THING by Lynda E. Rucker

    “Falling, he turned, and saw her on the Ha’penny Bridge.”

    Two threads out and joined again, two a penny, while reaching different European cities, and I can safely say this rhythmically yearning for, yielding to a lost lover’s requital is the most effective sporadic recognition and non-recognition I can imagine reading, as he seeks her here and he seeks her there, with meetings called by the one he seeks, mole at the corner of her lips (or not). I believed it to the hilt, so utterly haunting, whether true or not, mutual baby created together or not, and I leave it to you to discover which ha’photo bridge sucked the other one blank. Which Lally half of Reggie’s love and death subsumed the other. A classic.

  4. SPECK by John Howard

    “Are you a Guess?”

    You know, I have always liked this author’s work, and I expected a similar standard here, but you never REALLY know what to expect from him, and I seriously think this could be his masterpiece for which he will be more than just a sporadic Guess in the annals of literature, but one of its eventual Giants. Unless the future has even greater ones in store? It is simply perfect. A bellboy Nick-named Speck that this story’s found in a hotel, one who uses naïve malapropisms, words that really shed a new meaning upon themselves, like Reversal upon Rehearsal. A disarming story that sheds such a new light on the Dorian Gray template, it here assumes an original archetype as well as a haunting memory of sacks in a wardrobe, and more. Yes, it is simply perfect. With a tang of forbidden and subtle spaciousness? Sorry, salaciousness.

    My previous reviews of this author here:

  5. ALL THAT IS SOLID by Rosanne Rabinowitz

    “She ends up at the busy bus stop on Kingsway in front of a Wetherspoons. But that’s the chain with the Brexit beer mats.”

    I, too, have not been in a Wetherspoons since June 2016; one can’t say it enough. Put it in all fiction and I will quote it in all my reviews.
    This is an engaging but anxiety-ridden story about two friends, well-characterised women of relatively dissimilar ages who have made their home in Britain for some while now. We are allowed to empathise allusively with each of their points of view, as one visits the other or vice versa in South London – powerfully so, in view of the story’s eventual ending within the nature of this book’s gestalt. Two women who feel excoriated by Brexit. And by all Brexit’s barbed accoutrements. The Brexitwire borders as an art installation in a theatre of cruelties, where only the worst can happen, as a fear fulfilled. This story will stay with me for a long time. It has found its home in my brain. Perhaps only such telling fiction will remain there even when that brain becomes the otherwise unsolid space it is destined one day to become.

    “Gosia laughs. She doesn’t expect a therapist to say ‘fuck’.”

    My previous reviews of this author:

  6. A Little Chamber Music: Untology in C♭ Minor
    by Avalon Brantley

    “‘The Venus de Milo…’ Sebastian stammered. ‘Her missing arm, the one which held the mirror … do you think she misses it?’”

    I shall try to keep this review short, as good things are often cut short. This is a major masterpiece of Decadent Literature in the age of early bright young things, men who loll and talk philosophy, a darkly coruscating style to die for, and anyone who wrote this story must surely run that risk, richly languid as it is with feyness and with painterly Aesthetics – to the backdrop of this book’s Dorian Gray theme and variations as literary chamber music. I literally pored all over the text during my reading, while harvesting multiple ideas and quotes and emotional power-mirrors to pass on to you in my review. But I am too depleted, too overdreamt, something far too positive and negative at once. Just simply read it, if you dare. If you dare NOT.

    My previous reviews of this author:

  7. Pingback: Avalon Brantley, 1981 – 2017 | THE DES LEWIS GESTALT REAL-TIME REVIEWS

  8. THE YELLOW BOOK by Timothy J. Jarvis

    “; he felt again that sense that everything was connected, a kind of chain of being, welling within him.”

    A compelling story told to others at a reunion dinner party of thirty-somethings by someone who was only a peripheral guess in that ex-University group – a compelling and engaging tale within a compelling story told to us about that telling. A mix of Maturin and maturing beyond the wandering more youthful days when those in a stag party you attend are kept being referred to as ‘stags’ – and I am personally aware of the difficulty of manoeuvring narrow boats on a canal and of finding a mysterious yellow book if not one with the title ‘Day’s Horse Descend’, a title explained as a corruption of a French expression and not of ‘night’s mare’…. but I have no experience of snorting whatever powder I happen to find lodged in a mattress nor of decapitating a swan by my clumsy weaponising of a narrow boat while under the gaze of those who turned out to be pretty deadly gongoozlers… yes, a compelling story within a compelling story. With shades of Wilde and Gray and a French poetry book the pages of which I had to cut in 1967 when I myself was at university, but not the same one.

    “I think we were all wan and staring.”

    My previous reviews of this author:


    “And as he fell these entwining threnodies of delicate vapour recalled to him a memory, a remembrance of long millennia ago or of merely a moment before…”

    Surely this is either the apotheosis or a caricature of a John Gale work. When you read it you will know what I mean and will have your own view regarding that dilemma. But whichever the case, I loved its gorgeousness of classical texture, its lush and pallid poetic archaisms and its love between Male and Godly beauty. Human Male on God, then vice versa, and human Male on human Male, the interchanging between the ‘Descent’ of jealousy with deathly despair and the voyage of a quinquereme amid architectural splendours and tactile minerals with beautiful names. And I sense that the love-between that I mention above is tantalisingly a symbol of the picture and Dorian Gray, his two selves in unrequited passion, but, again, which is which?

    “…with its shadow of narcissus gold.”

    My previous reviews of this author: and


    “There I was sitting in the latrines of our forward position in Samarrah, calmly reading Thucydides,…”

    An early Isis bomb in the shape of an Ottoman mortar sends shrapnel into the head of our narrator, in this perhaps rather silly or engagingly old-fashioned yarn, depending on reading taste – that dilemma of taste in itself a bifurcation like that in the previous story of skull and Greek god, indeed, here, a whole series of bifurcatory ambiances of love and death, life and non-life, soul and body, picture and Dorian, &c. The narrator’s eventual attraction for a bright young flapper who becomes a dour perfection when the eponymous Mad Scientist type removes the cancer of the soul from the body, all via a tale mostly taking place in Saffron Walden, a tale invoking Conan Doyle type beliefs, out of body experiences, Theosophy, Chakras (as another version of the grains of shrapnel), Quackery, Radionics, esoteric anatomy, swirls of ectoplasm, and more!

    My previous reviews of this author: and and

    Overall, a wonderful anthology that has given me much pleasure over the Christmas period, including a realisation that the Dorian Gray story is emblematic of so much else, including elements of an ‘Imposter Syndrome’ (the title of an anthology I read and reviewed a few weeks back.)
    I am astonished why an anthology has not used Dorian Gray as a theme before (if that is true), and much credit to Swan River Press and Mark Valentine for not only doing that at all but also creating such a haunting blend for this theme.
    But where was the scarlet soul?

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