17 thoughts on “A Spy In The Panopticon – Damian Murphy

  1. I shall start this startling box set with THE NOTARY & OTHER STORIES by Damian Murphy. I guess it is about 4 x 6 inches, with all the accustomed luxurious Mount Abraxas accoutrements. About 90 pages. My copy is numbered 12/100.


    “…as the seasons progressed backwards…”

    Apt I should read this on the cusp of March 21. This ‘apotheosis of muses’. A methodical audit trail made to look random, as the narrator plots against the plots of the Notary himself by thinking his own plots were indeed the Notary’s plots, not knowing that he was fulfilling the Notary’s strictures of ritual all the time, quite outside any such plots of either of them. Some gorgeous stuff here, “outside the dominion of history.” Think Lost Office, think surrounding forest paths and tunnel or hawling-mine. Think “the sacrament of anonymity.” Think a framed marriage.

    I first reviewed this story elsewhere in June 2017, as follows…

    “A carousing with tigers, what I shall call the most ineffable rarefied Taunting ever taunted, interspersed with Blake in quoted words and auras, the pride of the peacock, a ritual journey with keys and a so-called brothel’s rooms-within-rooms, false corridors, certain formalities and recitations, inscrutable temptresses, […] and enticements by an assumed audit trail of brothel tenants, having first been enticed there by a nefarious café-meeting’s ticketed means. An effulgent, rapturous, rhapsodic ‘candle-dreaming’ (my concept from The Last Balcony). Utterly draining, yet inspiring, too. A literary experience that can only be supplied by the forces of ExOcc. Such works only serve to create thoughts in the reader’s mind that are, by turn, to be cherished and resisted. Concupiscent as well as corpsescent. So much cerebrally and emotionally quotable to pick like fruit from this text, I have decided to pick nothing. Only your reading the whole will suffice. Left to mature even further. Original published texts, in such settings, do morph and mature forever[…]”

    My new use of bold and both ellipses.
    I am myself a spy in the panopticon?


    “It was as if the office had been transformed into a holy place.”

    This ritual of a brother and sister reminds me strongly of attending a concert in 1967 by the legendary Cornelius Cardew where, inter alios, he proceeded painstakingly to play a cello by tuning it into – or transforming – the static between stations on a transistor radio.
    Here, now, that cello has become the poems of Mallarmé and the transistor radio is still the transistor radio.

  5. “The consistency of the ink, the texture and thickness of the paper, and the shapes formed by the paragraphs entice me.”

    As here, a single luxurious document wide enough for six solid folds, thus seven columns of print each side (and two designs), dark pink lettering upon black. A ritual tale of methodical consultation between the narrator as supposed curative protagonist and a lady (the magistrate’s wife), but as with its ‘switching of solstices’, they eventually also seem to switch, with narrator and thus the reader entering some subtly moving design on her pendant, and if not the same design, similar to the effect of the incredibly gorgeous design on the most solid box that any box set of literature has been presented in, that is, this one. It is a tale with a mix of piety and salaciousness, submission and something that submission cannot submit to, involving an oriental form of chess as well as the imperative of imperium.
    Cf this author’s earlier ‘homing pigeon’ book.

    [As an aside, with unknown relevance, last night I dreamed of Boris agreeing that Putin with the World Cup was tantamount to Hitler with the 1936 Olympics, accompanied by what seemed to be a key phrase: ‘secret waters’. I did not know whether this was an occult phrase in some ritual or a reference to Arthur Ransome. With now being a spy, I was bugged by this all night.]


    “A row of pigeon holes spanned the upper section, their empty chambers bathed in shadows of deep indigo.”

    A quietly methodical observation by Sabina in a richly atmospheric conference-hotel, firstly from her room into the next, by a suddenly revealed spyhole, the room where her sister Germaine is staying, all this strangely learnt by myself as spy outside this novel, learning also that Sabina is indeed writing a novel, and that she is now taking me through a slightly deadened act of synaesthesia as a deceptively reflective tour of the hotel itself, while obliquely looking for Germaine, who, in turn, I sense to be partly inimical or detached, with now vaguely and illicitly perceived interchanges and collusive connections with some ‘Ministry’, as if Sabina as well as myself are unwelcome to be spying on them, if indeed we are. Flashed with Floaters in my eyes, I withdraw for a while, wondering whether I now follow Sabina, or she me. What has she been promised by Germaine? As much as I have been promised by this book? Whose raft, is it, of anonymity? Where are we now going? Was this real-time review’s earlier radio co-transmission illicit? And if what Sabina and I saw was a charade, what are we meant to guess about this pre-scripted game – so as to win it? Angles of knowledge as tiny collages posted by words. Or that “short, squat sticks of paraffin were arranged in pleasing asymmetries upon small saucers of white porcelain.” Just two of many wild guesses by this book’s perhaps wilder guests.


    “She would overwhelm the reader with a profusion of interweaving narratives, causing them to lose themselves within an intricate latticework of recurring motifs and themes.”

    And I admit, in hindsight, that I seem to have conflated the spyhole rooms of Sabina’s apartment contiguous to that of her sister Germaine, with the conference-hotel elsewhere which is not a conference-hotel at all but an ‘Eyes Wide Shut’ type house, but with ornate sedateness, if not sedation, and an ancient packet of cigarettes, with the cigarettes still intact, that bears one of those recurring leitmotifs. Sabina is now entrusted, it seems, with not only writing her own novel as the eponym of the one in which I read ABOUT her but also acting for the Ministry with a surveillance device in a “tiny office”, a mad-scientist type of contraptive device with panoptical ‘colour wheel.’ I feel I am experiencing Twin Peaks III alongside her. But this work is more Mallarmé-Proustian than Lynchian or Kubrickian, I guess, more Nacht than Nabokov, being my own perceptions as one of this book’s guests. And it is as if this “staged” guest (who I am) is now the work’s inferred real-time Father Brown character about to transcend its yet uninvoked and unlabelled latticework of controls (my gestalt review of all the FB stories here). And furthermore, “tangentially pertinent” is one control with the label ‘liable’. Two others being: ‘clear’ and ‘obscure’.

    “The naked keys appeared somehow indecent.”


    “A table stood in the center of the room, its surface buried beneath an intricate diagram printed out onto a dark blue sheet of unfolded paper.”

    …being a ‘blueprint’ for other artefacts in this box, bearing in mind the unfolding colours strange pastel by strange pastel and such pastels’ names. And here, amid Sabina’s manipulating of the device in the office, and what she sees as its images, such images’ encouragement for her own novel, and the looped tapes, cassette or more ambulatory head to head, reminding me of Terry Riley or LaMonte Young, leading to Glass and Reich, if not Cornelius Cardew. The fact she has not yet met her own sister in our presence, and a lapse of decorum for which I sense she needs to atone. All accreted. And the Lynchian sigil of the ‘sleeping man’. Is that me? Many of this book’s images happen to have been part of my own waking and dozing dreams since I was a child in the 1950s. But I have never been an ‘eminence’, never distinct, I am just another wheel within wheels. But all spies say that, I suppose? And prism often sounds like prison.

    “She wondered if they were being recorded in real time or if the videos had been taken from archival footage.”

  9. “I have clung
    To nothing, lov’d a nothing, nothing seen
    Or felt but a great dream!”
    ― John Keats, Endymion: A Poetic Romance


    I wonder if Sabina/Germaine is a misbegotten tapesync for Selene? Anyway, it is now ‘THE’ not ‘A’ spy in the panopticon, and my premonition of prison as prism certainly paid me dividends by the end: being fed the white stone, mouth to mouth, in a moment of deadpan passion. I served my purpose. I serve it now, by deeming this Damian by-lined novella a tapesync for Sabina’s own mighty novel, a novel that would not exist without the Damian – so utterly Sabina’s masterpiece, surely this Damian ‘blueprint’ has its own power by reflected glory? Yet, I have not yet finished this box set. One further item to be experienced, before scores are settled, the numbers and colours and stolen punch cards reordered. And, indeed, in these last three sections, outside my own role-playing of Endymion, I follow Sabina through the last stages of her journey in the Ministry building (the Ministry whose mission statement is encased in a business name), the Barton Fink/ Naked Lunch typewriters so central to the making of a surrogate literary masterpiece, the optical strain, the coloured lights and labelled buttons, the exalted nature of mad science fantasy, the twelve coloured segments of sleep, the order of the keys, the sororal sacraments and sacrifices “…between randomness and repetitions. Tape reels at various speeds,…” Codes and occult sentences deposited meticulously. The secret waters of internal self-plagiarism made open and distinct, with sleep’s help. Or, rather, a sleeper’s help, a real-time reviewer as made from dream and reality and a past that never existed till now. Fingers moving, choreographed, syncopated. An elevator in a blackout. Hum of writing machines like long-drawn out ritual minimalisms. Tapesync as Tapestry.

    • “We may delude ourselves, but that’s hardly the point. We must give voice to the irrational as an act of conscience. It’s the closest thing we have to prayer.” – from ‘The Siren of Montmartre’ by Damian Murphy

  10. 0A964F35-57C3-4EE9-B5A3-2B56614D34BF
    “Over the course of several weeks, Giselle had managed to piece together the outline of narrative from the less oblique among the journal entries.”

    This is the last item I chose from the box. As I learnt very recently (‘Schrödinger’s’ here) to think outside the box you need to be inside the box in order to do so! This text concerns Giselle a sort of girl with pearl earrings where her literary Vermeer is a mock veneer, and when finding the seemingly impenetrable journal of her master she examines it with her own occult rituals tutored by the rest of this rich sturdy pendant panoptic box created by Damian and Mount Abraxas that she is within. Exploring, too, like Sabina. Candle-Dreaming à la paraffin. With imperious white flame. A young man on the bed in a mask. The white stone again as Silene’s moon? Boris, too, I sense, (“the perils of diplomatic service”), and other “sowers of contention”. A painting of secret waters (the Ransome ‘secret water’ of a Father (Ford Madox) Brown pre-Raphaelite Walton-on-the-Naze where I first lived), “the caprices of the sea.”


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