30 thoughts on “OF DOOMFUL PORTENT: Matthew M. Bartlett

  1. Twenty-five vignettes, each of them with two remarkable bespoke designs or illustrations by Yves Tourigny.

    1. THE MANSE

    Each death in the world an apocalypse: the cumulativeness of which faces its outside to its in. Astonishingly, about half an hour ago I read and reviewed (https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2018/03/13/black-static-62-interzone-274/#comment-11936) a Julie C Day story that somehow significantly metastasises with this work.
    Two completely different stories however. THE MANSE is a work of utter nightmare, and I am wondering if it is the most nightmarish thing I have ever read. Honestly.


    “…the two things that are decidedly, horribly not dogs.”

    Hot dogs make me salivate. Dogs themselves slaver.
    This is a patchwork Joycean interchange of voices in our age of accidental communications where crossed wires are now mischievous wireless apps. And some seemingly innocent exchanges are magical spells. And our mouths are simply physical monstrosities that need probing or lubricating like any other wounded openings into our bodies. Words are only just one reason for mouths to exist. Writing is usually secondary. This work is a rare example of written words that sound spoken. Food for thought.

  3. 3. ME, MY UNSELF, AND I

    “His left hand covers his mouth.”

    I don’t think I want to visit my babbler of a Barber again after reading this little surreal horror. And, as well as joining mouth to mouth with the previous advent vignette, this one ends with a hole in the throat instead!

  4. 08E7C267-8190-4229-A4D2-6B945E5D6A314. TEUFELSKAPPE

    “What is fear?”

    My therapist’s answer is not a million miles away from that earlier slaver.
    Read about my therapist here to see what I mean by that – and why I have remixed the above title to or from its obvious anagram.

  5. 5143BC16-36D1-450B-8394-3460692B9AF1

    “His tongue flops down like a pink, wet, bifurcated necktie.”

    Many of the men in this book are like me, if perhaps not quite so old. I feel at home. I often sit in the sand, too. The best person to review it as I am also bartlettly cantankerous and feel I am open-sored – and now I insist it should’ve been 5, not 4, as the text itself says, on the coin, the coin that, on one of its sides, was “ringed by eyes.” And the recurring, momentously memorable couplet here ends with a noun not a verb, if you see what I mean:
    I see, said the blind man.
    And he picked up his hammer and saw.”


    Echoes of previous White Noise and that blind man couplet, in another vein-probing vignette looking for life in the reader. Or, rather, death.
    Wake killings as self-fulfilling funerals.
    I once wrote a vignette about a baby as a booby-trap bomb, but Bartlett would have written it better. Take that as a compliment, by the way.


    The narrator’s thoughts as two jackals attack and tear apart a wild turkey outside his house. I wondered if they were desperately trying to find its wishbone so as to break it for a doomful or win-all wish. The narrator’s final deadpan thought, however, tends to make me think of turn-key rather than anything else.


    “He talked backwards, the impenetrable monologue punctuated by backwards laughter, helpless and warped, like the chuckling of some idiot giant.”

    For Mr White Noise’s tongue to be capable of peeling human bodies, is it twin-forked or simply knife-bladed? As an aside, Mr Black Static’s tongue is neither because it is tantamount to a soup spoon.
    Why does the title above not end with a ?


    “The radio whispers to him.”

    It would, wouldn’t it, in Bartlett? Black Static in my previous entry, now seems a preternatural premonition of this entry. The cooking, the flaying, the flensing, the mouths, the tongues, the stenches, the waiters…and of course the radio’s reception.



    Someone in this piece swallows something horrible to look at – so he must be the willing eponymous host. And, somehow, I feel this book is my own invited guest to be swallowed by my mind, but I won’t have swallowed it whole till I finish it, so I am eking it out, not reading too much of it too quickly. But I suspect it has already engulfed the author himself as he would not be able to write such crazy horrific off-the-wall audit trails of nonsense otherwise. So, it must be writing him, now.


    Another character – the Tumor Man. Now, seriously, despite whatever I have already said about audit trails, this character and this essay about him will never be forgotten by you. It transcends everything, even Trump, Brexit and the Salisbury poisoning. I literally gagged for it.


    A telling tale or fable, about reputation destroyed by the electronic age if not by oneself. The ending or fable’s amoral is both hilarious and serious, or something else I can’t quite define, an emotion new to literature…or an old emotion that only seems new to literature in our current age as we have forgotten we can feel it. This book’s core doomful portent in hindsight?


    “Some of the tasks will be so simple they could be done by a child. Others, epic in their impossibility,…”

    A child’s picture of a Ligottian Corporate Nightmare? Well, I always felt like a child when I myself suffered such absurdist indignities during my business life. Now I am retired, this pignette indeed seems too true to be real. Too horrific, though, to be believed. I would not now be compos mentis enough to write rational things about it, with my already having lived through it all, otherwise? Or maybe it was, in hindsight, a prerequisite for such inconsistent madnesses of self-analysis? Ever trying to make a gestalt from disparate factors. Transcending panic as well as paranoia with the use of external fiction frames? Making memories all part of some imagined nightmare that someone else created, thus hoping to neutralise it. My head not in the sand but in your head.

  14. 14. FATHER LIGHT

    “…Father Light’s appearance corresponded with what he who beheld him wanted to see.”

    Yves Tourigny’s bespoke illustration shows Father Light like Christopher Lee in a Hammer horror film. I wonder which came first, this vignette, or its illustration?
    A vignette about two 13 year old boys daring dares to visit Father Light’s ‘church’.
    A man “full of portent”. But, there again, I, too, as reviewer, may be the real Father of Lies, not of Lights, especially today on April Fool’s. Whatever the case, the boys think proper Catholic priests would be worse, so that particular small mercy may be something to thank God about, I guess.


    “You cavort in suites of exquisite obscenity,…”

    …assuming that obscenity includes the buildings mankind builds, pomp and circumstance within the entrances themselves to the human body. Some entrances are bespoke, such as the ribcage. The Segmented Man (perhaps the ultimate obscenity, the description of which here we shall not forget) is all of us, which is not nice to know, especially for any women among us.


    “She was moaning softly, with a smoker’s rasp, though he didn’t think she was a smoker.”

    You know, I think it is all too easy to take these verminous vignettes for granted and their perfect synergy with the Tourigny artwork. They get your gut. No half measures. Nobody else is quite up to this level of effective vilehood.
    This one about a couple making love in the graveyard and the soul-creeping concept of wormy tombfruit as representative of your thoughts trying themselves to escape from your head. Only you can smoke out your own thoughts already thought by means of more thoughts to force them out ad infinitum. The danger is when some of those thoughts are ones you hadn’t already thought!


    “You were taken aback by the policeman who met you at the makeshift gate the city had erected around the structure.”

    Only a gate made thus to shift can actually surround a structure? This journey has a tantalising Escher quality, as well as a nightmarish obscene madness at the nature of the Pope inside of the structure – and madness in Matthew is madness indeed, made to entice you to enter and never find the exit. Be warned. Too late for me.

  18. 18. BAKER’S DOZEN

    Old men with donuts. Well, that surely is foul and fell enough a conceit! Till other things fall out, amid sirens, and skulls cracked open for what watches within them. More layers now penetrated by this book, layers of something you never thought this book could ever reach ….. making me think what layers are still left for us to reach before we finish reading it. Or it finishes us.


    “At first Kevin sees it as an eighteen-wheeler with its lights out, slowly cresting the hill ahead.”

    And what it turns out to be – as Kevin, hung-over in perhaps more ways than one, sees it more closely – is something that will haunt your nightmares forever, particularly in collusion with the remarkable Tourigny illustration. I think I was half-joking yesterday about the exponentially cumulative effect of these vignettes. Now, I am only quarter-joking. Tomorrow, who knows.


    “What’s your name?” said Patrick. “Mister White Nose? Noise! White Noise. You may join the meeting, but the first time around your vote doesn’t count.”

    Thanks goodness, this is a relief from the verminous vile, from the fellness of foul, from the eschatological scatology. But its power is somehow just as powerful, tapping the insidious fears of childhood. And I am trying to imagine what I might have felt when taking my characters out of the toy box and discovering one of them was autonomous, and spoke back at me, not in my imagination, but aloud! Never to be allowed, in retrospect, I vow. But the damage has now been done, I dread to think, and today I even question my own identity as a grown up Long-Since.


    “Let’s get started,” said Patrick, “for I’m told that a great storm is coming,…”

    It’s easy to slide over reading this one at all, seeming to slide out between its neighbouring vignettes and vanish into necessary oblivion. Even with the nature of these works, this one stands out. Oops, I seem to have contradicted myself there! Perhaps, because it’s an actual sequel of the previous one makes this one slide back as a sort of reflex of having just slid out. A bit like the white noise stains on the Tourigny accompaniment. Sanity is the loser, whichever way you look at it. No doubt, many readers will clap their hands brainlessly in correlation with one of the characters. I sit on mine. Beyond the pale of any joke.

  22. 22. THE ASH EATERS

    “An historic storm, he was saying. Epic proportions, he said, enunciating as though addressing children.”

    A fable in not patronising children about what you think you know and they don’t.
    And this review has been like talking to tiny-minded readers, as if I know more about death than they do. Eat ashes I say to myself. Mea culpa. But be warned, this book is even worse than death. This vignette sort of clinches it.


    “Everything is still, anticipating the encroaching storm.”

    I notice the comma there. I am heart in mouth, anticipating, nay, fearing, that this may be the first book I have ever read where I grow increasingly certain that it is the last book I shall ever read. No accident, then, in the choice of the book’s overall title? Meanwhile, this vignette is the foulest apotheosis of my memories of business and office life that I once endured. Hopefully a catharsis dream, not a confirmation nightmare.

  24. 24. OUT IN THE STORM

    “She would bring him soup, yes, steaming and savory…”

    Just this minute, before reading today’s Bartlett of prose, I read and reviewed a section of a novel entitled The Good Terrorist here where a woman is evolving her soup and a man makes a speech to a gathering, as here. This is a major emotional experience for me today, as at least part of me is this old man, with apocalypse “metastatizing” inwardly and outwardly. As terror can be good, especially when encased here, then Bartlett is a good terrorist, too. Pure catharsis as well as dire direct action in a pattern of fate or luck.

  25. Pingback: Synchronicity rampant… | DES LEWIS’ GESTALT REAL-TIME REVIEWS

  26. 25. HURT ME HENRY

    “Just a doll.”

    Just an advent morning coda for any of us out here left alive. Just?
    The dark symphony ends and someone writes this review by rote. Yet, still just enough residual simmering in the consciousness to express what a major conflux this book has been. The Yves Tourigny artwork is I think the best I have seen IN OR OUT of the 1990s Golden Age of darkest zines. And the Bartlett viles play the choicest cuts unimaginable.

    Unbonus track:
    My own advent morning coda, as first published in ‘Grotesque’ in 1995:

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