The Parry and the Lunge – David Mathew


by David Mathew

Montag Press – Books Worth Burning 2018

Just purchased this ENORMOUS novel. So enormous, I am literally sized out!

I intend to real-time review this one day. Hopefully soon. And whenever I do, my thoughts will appear in the comment stream below….

36 thoughts on “The Parry and the Lunge – David Mathew

  1. I am not starting this novel as yet, but I have already read the short PROLOGUE: about a character called Stephen who is seen, with mixed feelings, by the narrator as persisting to come back from the dead…
    Who knows if I will keep coming back to this novel, even when unwelcome. I promise to try to avoid spoilers, rest assured. Meanwhile, I set up below the headings of the text after the Prologue, ready for when I do come back.


    (Starts about Hannah)

  2. Sections 1 – 4
    This starts brilliantly. Witty, too, full of literary conceits, So pleased my confidence in this writer has paid dividends already. Only up to the top of page 8.
    I need to eke out this book, and judging by its size, it may take the whole of the rest of my life to do so. And if it’s written in blood that will also allow the author’s blood to renew itself more easily and he will be able to finish writing it before I do.
    I love the sound of Hannah, the periodic ‘male attention’ given to her, her joke about getting into Hell, and her female friends as her unknowing diaries.
    And the quote at the beginning that seems to promise “illusory motion reversal”….

  3. 5 – 7

    “And that’s it: they start laughing properly, in the way that only close friends can, or will allow themselves to.”

    Hannah and her female friend (or diary) called Sam. You know. This is very good stuff. I am extremely impressed by the wit and lateral observations, its unique but accessible style and thought patterns, I really am. This might be a bit of an insult, as someone might say to me – what else did you expect? Well, I don’t know. It has been many years since I collaborated on a couple of stories with this author, and we have sadly not been much in contact since then. And I am genuinely taken, so far, with a potential literary greatness here that deserves far more attention than just mine. An imagination of ballbusting proportions, if not dream biplane/bipolar/jumbo jet ballasting, and a restaurant in Milton Keynes that, if it is not attacked by a gang of nerve agents, it should be! I am reading it in my Lounge, and this reading of it promises to be a real Party.

  4. 8 – 10

    “Hannah’s eyesite at this moment consisted solely of the darkened nostril of the Beretta, lined up to her forehead’s worry lines.”

    My private Party in the Lounge with this book continues, as we follow Hannah and Sam on a two-person hen holiday (with hen party sort of feminine desires for Paraohs perhaps) in Egypt seeing the sights, the tourist sites, the Book of the Dead below, and a crook as a highwayman (the ‘homophonic namesake’ of Hannah) suddenly in among their coach party on the coach itself with a Beretta, nostril no doubt leading to its lung. Just one incident among many.
    “Where she’d risen her backside from the chair in order to execute the lunge she now sat back down. Her pulse twittered.”
    These sections represent the end of Part I of ‘Eyesite’. My own I-site for the duration.

    • I said this above: “And I am genuinely taken, so far, with a potential literary greatness here that deserves far more attention than just mine.” I think you can now take this as read whenever I proceed with this review in coming months. A done deal. I will not keep repeating it, but I am already confident that it should be inferred alongside everything else I may say.

  5. II
    1 & 2

    “He’s smoking his cigarette so close to the filter that it tastes like venom.”

    Roy’s Bible Street Cars, no longer in Bible Street, and some possible scam with a niece collecting her aunt’s car after repair, and I gain some insight into how such car mechanic firms code the carkeys the customers leave with them. I have always wondered about this. The method seems akin to some oblique one underlying my gestalt real-time reviewing….
    We gain knowledge of Roy. I remain captured by this book. No hope now. Must read it to the end. And I am only up to 34 of 805 pages.

  6. III
    1 – 4

    “: because carrots have vitamins and help your eyesight, or so he’s been told.

    We now get to know James, an engaging character of a schoolboy who writes wordy letters to his dead dad, and one day steps in on his stepdad’s ice cream stall at the car park, and is approached by a policeman…he has a sister Louise who hardly remembers, it seems, their real dad. (I happen to conduct gestalt real-time reviews at least partly to help me remember what I have read. I am an increasingly forgetful septuagenarian, you see.) I love the expression ‘sad waters’ that James uses about the noxious bathroom at home. I also noted the word “hyperthymesia” which, as with this book’s earlier “remanent” and “homophonic”, at first is easily mistaken for a more common word. As with ‘parry’ and ‘lunge’, too? (I know someone who seems to have a few aspects of the hyperthymestic syndrome.)

  7. IV
    1 – 4

    “…the double-barrelled shotgun of her surgeon’s nostrils and nose — the former of a prodigious circumference —“

    The story of or by Dorothy, a 58 year old writer of plays and novels, now in hospital, treated hardly with respect, now recalling the last visit to her agency firm when the normal agent was off sick herself, again not treated with respect. You know, the style in this book is so utterly addictive, making several giant authors (that many of us may deem inaccessible) accessible and beautiful at last. If I mentioned names of these greats of literature you might be put off, so I won’t. Here, we have swimming through eyesight and eyesight given a ticket to tour, a knowing Dread, and the word ‘perspectivize’, and “reforming into new patterns like swallows in urgent flight” (see the gestalts from my happenstantially concurrent review of Murmurations here.)

  8. V
    1 – 6

    “What’s strange is — the news isn’t on the news.”

    I might have a slight ghost in the night hutch as a septuagenarian reviewer of books, but now things are nicely coming together for me in this living area of a ‘hutch’ of Tom as narrator in Leighton Buzzard with his North London born Sabrina as his lover and cohabiter, as she plans a ‘quincunx’ hen party outing, with some of the women I have already met in this book, although I am seriously worried that I earlier imputed Dorothy’s age wrongly. Tom seems haunted with that earlier Stephen coming back, a suspicious death reported in the local news not the national. Or fake news “…from planets far beyond technology’s eyesight,” I wonder. Or are some trying to “convince their own memories” as to what did or did not happen? That earlier hyperthymesia, notwithstanding. The text even refers somewhere to the concept of a reliable narrator, as if there may be an unreliable one lurking somewhere else. Ah, there are so many rich passages here that I could quote from or refer to, but then this review would risk being longer than the book! Many wonderful rich single words, too. I am perhaps overdosing you with my reactions. Suffice it just to quote something from it that is comparatively plain and simple, viz. “She is talking into the darkness, not even necessarily to me; just talking for the sake of talking. Taming what they are that live in the night. I am frightened.” I am frightened, too – frightened that I will have either over- or under-estimated this mighty tome by the time I reach its eventual gestalt. Future conditional verb, there. I am confident my spatula won’t melt, though.

  9. VI
    1 – 4

    “Me lungs are singing.”
    “The room is the same as before Mum. Nothing’s changed. The lounge…”

    …is forbidden to the home help and is also without clocks.
    From mention of a septuagenarian in this review, we reach a gentleman character in this lounge who is at least a centenarian, Annette’s father, whose list of his own illnesses give us another array of rich words, as he begs for a cigarette from his daughter. She is one of the aforementioned quincunx of women due for an outing together. She seems old and decrepit enough (even with her colourful sex life that we learn about) for my previous assessment of her mate Dorothy’s age to have been correct after all?
    This may be becoming a whodunnit about that aforementioned suspicious death of Stephen, as well as containing some of the most brilliant character studies you would need to go far to match in the annals of fiction, and, so……, I will be more abstemious in future regarding what I say about the plot in case of inadvertent spoilers regarding this story and its genius loci of Dunstable, Leighton Buzzard, Milton Keynes etc

    “Hannah and I have found a great restaurant in Milton Keynes. Called Profit.”

    • An interpolation, chancing my arm to parry towards a later lunge, a quotation to die for…

      “From the cosmic point of view, to have opinions or preferences at all is to be ill; for by harbouring them one dams up the flow of the ineluctable force which, like a river, bears us down to the ocean of everything’s unknowing. Reality is a running noose, one is brought up short with a jerk by death. It would have been wiser to co-operate with the inevitable and learn to profit by this unhappy state of things – by realising and accommodating death! But we don’t, we allow the ego to foul its own nest. Therefore we have insecurity, stress, the midnight-fruit of insomnia, with a whole culture crying itself to sleep. How to repair this state of affairs except through art, through gifts which render to us language manumitted by emotion, poetry twisted into the service of direct insight?”
      from ‘The Avignon Quincunx’ by Lawrence Durrell (‘Constance’ 1982)

  10. VII
    1 – 4

    “How copacetic of you, Royker!”

    Probably one of the most interesting storylines, Roy’s Bible Street Cars, and the girl who effectively pinched a car by subterfuge, and now delivers unbidden a nerve-agent (?) pizza to one of Roy’s employees. And Tom as narrator in The Leper pub with Roy. I really do think this book gets even better and better as it proceeds. If this actually becomes an exponential progression, I almost fear where this book may be heading!

    1 – 18

    “Maggots in his maggot.”

    You know, I keep getting scared that this book is ever about to fall apart, lose interest for me, explode my earlier high hopes about it in my face. But it ever proceeds and seems to get even stronger, if with more things to think about. Like: was the earlier reported death the same as Stephen’s death now, Tom’s maggoty uncle…? Other than that nagging matter, Tom as narrator is crystallising in my mind, his backstory, a current stalker called Caitlin writing letters to him, Sabrina’s reaction to that, and much else. It is as if I am merging with this book by symbiosis, entering something called “The Room: the long lounge-cum-dining quarters, which also served as my father’s office” (cf my mention of the Dysfunction Room to which — astonishingly, in hindsight — I hyperlinked much earlier above). And a haunting vision of an intruder in an “Empty” room.

    “The book I was reading had grown hot to the touch,…”

    Empty-handed, Hannah demonstrates a ‘lunge’ to her fencing group, then thinks about looking forward to ‘lunch’ with the girls at Profit, later talks to Dorothy (whose age I got right originally) about a ‘launch’, and later they ‘lurch’ forward. Hannah, Hurrah, Hallelujah! She finally agrees with Dorothy putting her in the new novel, the earlier novel having been rejected by the agent. No spoilers, there, I think. Oh, except Milton Keynes has a lot of roundabouts, but that was a fact I knew already from experience!

  13. 2 – 5

    “Here he comes again.”

    Or ‘Here Comes Everybody’, as it famously says in Finnegans Wake. A saying for our times, even if without the internet. I follow the quincunx (quimcunts?) on their meal out, Dorothy beset by a seemingly mad female fan of her books, a fan imputing what she looks like rather than any author photo she’s seen, I reckon, and the restaurant combines hilarity and worry, for me, and I wonder if all hen parties are like this. How would any man really know? And the approach of that homophonic thief from that coach in Egypt. I have grown increasingly accustomed to preternatural synchronicities galore when gestalt real-time reviewing, but these scenes surely take the ticket, if not the signed receipt. It is as if the characters AND the reader are becoming claustrophobically coincidenced to the gills. This is stifling, swaddling, anxiety-ridden stuff, and I hate it, he “whitelies.” Don’t get me wrong, this is highly accessible, page-turning stuff, too, flowing like surprising silk.

  14. The feeling is mutual. The signs, so far, are genuinely good for a gestalt synergy.

    1 – 4

    “Pseudonymia became a place…”

    Whether or not through the reliable or unreliable reportage (cf my comments above about the insularity of hen parties) conveyed to Tom — the book’s (part-time?) first person narrator — by his partner Sabrina about the quincunx of which she is a member, we learn about the authoring backstory of Dorothy (and her health), not as a meta-fiction itself but involving meta-fiction and exploitation as part of her devices within a publishing world that rings some very loud bells for myself. It is bell-cringing and genuinely lol stuff. Including the strangest synchronicity of all so far: Dorothy’s storename, give or take a letter. Best leave the latter’s exact circumstances to an actual reading of this book, rather than my risking a spoiler.

  15. III 1 – 9
    IV 1 – 3

    “Water connects everything.”

    In fact connects these two sections, the ‘sad waters’ of the hyperthymestic schoolboy’s life and his haunted / hunted emails. And Annette’s swimming pool where her centenarian dad suddenly turns up in new trunks! The boy remembers her car numberplate, of course. Connecting her vicinity to the ice cream stall to the suspicious death. So much here. Incrementally captivating. As an aside, I noticed for the first time the similarity of the word ‘gutless’ in this text with ‘guiltless’ which is so far not in this text. But I have not got the hyperthymestic syndrome (aka ‘piking’) that this book probably needs for certainty or exhaustive appreciation of it. A gestalt real-time review is second best?

  16. V
    1 – 6

    “Neighbours gossip; and there’s a spiteful little quidnunc at number forty-seven — Mrs Bly —“

    Now, I am really at a loss to express what I feel as I have toyed with sincere hyperbole already about this book. So where do I go now? As we return to concentrating on Hannah, and the play of synchronicity (like talking at the same speed as someone else), the play of synchronous words (noticed “lurching” again here), the play of synchronous characters, places and events, the play of innuendo and witty artfulness, the possible unexing of her ex Toby, the circumstances of her car being missing from Bible Street Cars, and her later meeting Tom, where? well, that would be a spoiler you wouldn’t believe even if I told you. Simply, this book is incredibly INCREDIBLE without losing credibility, if you see what mean. I have no idea of the circumstances of the publication of this book. I bought it from Amazon. I simply know it should be in some top ten list of new literary works, and at least considered for the Booker, seriously! (I have some experience with reading such things over the years.) I have to add ‘so far’, however, just in case it falls away, but I am confident that it won’t fall away. I am still determined to eke it out. Who knows, but at my age I do need to be determined to finish it one way or another, come what domestic or other personal issues may occur. Worth trying to keep alive for! And IS there a word for “the anticipation of nostalgia”? (There is also a new word here for me: “esurient.” Also the relatively strange word “manumission” in this section is synchronous with a form of the same word that Lawrence Durrell used in the quote with which I myself happened above to impulsively interrupt this real-time review!)

  17. VI

    “; the cloying undertow of menace she has felt beneath the surface of everyday existence in the last few weeks.”

    Dorothy again. And this is wall to wall, unnumbered parry and lunge of language and events, more innovatively observed and detailed as you have ever observed and detailed the life around you. First, with her GP. Rings so true with my own experience with the generic GP. Loved the way he confused “hypocritically” with ‘Hippocratically’. And the way she mentally undressed him in synchrony with her undressing FOR him. Second, on the bus in this utterly believable genius loci of the M1’s lower end of our London land upward. That cloying undertow and being a paranoiac stalkee opens up in-your-face with another incident on a bus, here with a new homophone: “window pain.” Hypothymesia now become involuntary! An “enforced memory-retrieval.” A brawling between memories? Good God, where can this book possibly go now? Rhetorical question. Flattened ink, notwithstanding.

    1 – 8

    “Experience has taught me to estimate justly the beauty, not so much of coincidences per se, but of the patterns that both precede these confounding ironies and then succeed them.”

    That seems to me a crucial thought from Tom the narrator as he describes a lagerish, laddish Indian meal with Roy of Bible Street Cars. But I am still trying to get the taste of Roy’s earlier ash-corrupted beer-dreg out of my mouth. And later a concept out of my head conjured up in it by “the sort of stink that could knock a lazy buzzard off a shit-house roof.” I won’t go into all the seemingly Kolko-catalysed coincidences, or the connections I personally scry in the text. I am sure, meanwhile, that locusts have featured in this novel before now but I am not hyperthymestic enough to remember. Any divulgeable kloos to be placed as a sub-comment below, please.

  19. II
    1 – 5

    “Gimme boils or impetigo any day of the week.”

    I once had a boil on my posterior that needed an operation under general anaesthetic and a bad case of impetigo around the mouth when a small child. And I sort of empathise with Annette’s Dad. This section majors on Annette in interface with the hyperthymestic boy’s Mum and then with the quincunx. I pride myself that I am keeping up with all these somehow interconnecting characters and situations, and with all the crazy-clever lunges of language, thus confident in my reading of this mighty novel, and such confidence is in no small measure due to the author’s artful manipulation of the book’s skein of complexities. I am manipulated, too, to surf the labyrinthine scenes of overkill and wild cliffhanger from section to section, here the description of handwriting with, say, quirky circles over the is instead of dots strangely in tune with someone else eating raw roadkill. I do not want or need a duck to lead me out of this labyrinth of literature. I have been made strong enough to fight my own corner by – and from within – it.

  20. III
    1 – 6

    It is dangerous to do a gestalt real-time review of this book, beyond any previous book in the last ten years since I started doing them. This is perhaps the watershed book. It certainly feels like it. I have long had a theory that if all readers of a book together triangulate its coordinates and gestalt those findings, we may approach some essence or, perhaps self-demeaningly, some consensus of its meaning and value. It is dangerous, however, to me and to you if I share my findings on this actual plot, and it does have a distinct plot that is optimally susceptible to gestalt real-time reviewing, thus helping my detailed memory of it and towards a sense of its preternatural power. I shall merely pick out things that strike me as part of the plot’s pattern without divulging the pattern itself that needs to evolve in each reader’s mind without pre-warning. Things in this section such as signs for ‘cockaigne hamlets’ when one travels up the M1, and a feeling that a certain bit of dialogue is wrong or somehow deliberately miswritten, and two people sharing the same dream of being in bed together, and a new Harry Partch concept of a courtesy car, and reading Pynchon and Ferlinghetti, and walking upon the face of God, and nobody in their right mind going to Luton, and another gunshot wound in the shoulder (another?)…
    Finally, I have a theory that many readers of this book have a strong personal connection with the word ‘parry’. Think about yours. Mine is that I went to school with the late Michel Parry.

  21. IV
    1 – 7

    “Kay. Oh. Ell. Kay. Oh. Kolko.”

    Ok, Hell. This book continues to take off into new realms. Here a momentously powerful episode of the power of water and molten metal, a boyish fight as a duel to the edge of death but not beyond, interspersed with an adolescent boy’s backstories as nightmares, his front story ‘today’ even more nightmarish, Dad or Stepdad, his sister, a stalking policeman who may not be a policeman at all. This is about the hyperthymestic boy who I shall now call James. I forget whether I mentioned his name before. It is the sort of literary material that stays with you, however hardened you are with reading such material; this somehow seems more powerful. It has the knack to charm my literary antennae. And it also seems to induce me to reveal too much, not about the book, but possibly about myself… “; he wonders if it’s all men […] who micturate in two or more goes at a time — a proficient blast followed by one or two DESultory aftershocks (and fervent windypops).” My capitalisation.

  22. V
    1 – 2
    1- 14
    1 – 3

    “That’s the third alternative.”

    Not the normal traditional literary trope of the stream of consciousness, but a vast new river of consciousness. All making sense, perhaps, in some form of authorial self now via two narrators, Dorothy in addition to or as a palimpsest of Tom. All this consuming material with the undercurrent of belief, for me, that the plot’s still structurally pushing us on, that river’s slow lunge towards some dreaded delta of embodied human horror forged as truth from fiction.
    Working as a hospital porter. Dying or just leaking sleep? Resisting the grasp of a premature denouement. Mahler. Mahler’s playing now in my room. The Banshee Hotel. Bathwater that turns someone into a boiled pullet. Not yet working in a prison for Young Offenders. The hill with the face. Today, of all days, “it was like waiting for the rain to stop.”
    “like three dots in fiction:”

  23. Pingback: This book takes you places no other book can. To understand it all is to know too much. | DES LEWIS GESTALT REAL-TIME REVIEWS - 10th Anniversary

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