16 thoughts on “The Chameleon – Samuel Fisher

  1. 1 & 2

    “The Americans had come to tell a story, but the Soviets wanted to tell one of their own.”

    They were called Soviets in 1959. It all seems highly synchronous with things that have happened here and abroad on the news in the last few weeks and days of 2018. Things that have happened since this book was already complete. But not precisely Salisbury or Douma…. These first two brief chapters span two or three generations. I sense the ‘fabulous’ narrator somehow represents all the books that I have been real-time reviewing towards a gestalt over the last ten years. But no spoilers from me. I also sense so far a man (perhaps dying) and his granddaughter today with a typical childish drawing she’s done for him, and the same man in Paris in 1959 as part of the competing sometimes childish styles of that world’s art scene. So no spoilers, or no more spoilers, hopefully. Perhaps I should go back to the beginning and write there POSSIBLE SPOILERS as a warning. But it will have to suffice where I have now put this warning. And, oh yes, I shall try to eke this book out. It is obviously one to savour.

  2. 3

    “; I might not be able to move, but I can change.”

    This book was written purely to be gestalt real-time reviewed. But that is presumptuous. I have hardly scratched the surface. This, so far, is a finely observed, witty tale of a would-be gestalt book in the role of myself, now meeting the main extra-mural character I guess, Roger, when, by preternatural synchrony and chance, I first arrive at his house where there is still signs of the blackout curtains. Open the house to read it like opening such curtains as flyleaves or hard covers or dust-jacket or softcover design or simple paper pages? And who or what created whom and whose world? I am fully entranced, myself opened up as if ‘hawled’ into a book performing contorted splits above, as I always do to every book I review when it arrives, to release its soul…and here its footnotes, too, emblems as to its changing identity.

    “— I had my reservations about whether this was an auspicious coincidence.”

  3. 4 & 5

    “It’s these potted details that give it the ring of truth.”

    Solid narration by the narrator now, more plain, more simple, but poetic and existentially striving, so perhaps not so solid. Anxiety in an empty house. The, by turns, immanent and imminent death of one Reader as Roger, death as an elephant in the room. Memories of that Reader’s own account to his granddaughter of his first pre-courtship meeting with his future wife. Then the narrator’s own perhaps ‘true’ account in this book of fiction about that event, being carried along there by the Reader as an ‘idiot’, this being the narrator’s own ‘courtship’ with an event, it feels. Mixed with Liszt. Words are lists, I say. And my earlier thoughts above about the ‘hawling’ (my word) of books are now astonishingly borne out in physical terms by the narrator’s own description. A “hawkish fascination.” “It is in my nature to interpret these inchoate gestures as statements of intent.” Despite the Intentional Fallacy, I ask.

  4. 6 – 8

    “Imagining my mother never gives me any difficulty; I just think of every person in the history of the human race. Every one that has put pen to paper anyway.”

    This gets better and better, more and more in tune with me. And we follow Roger to his youth when he still played chess with his Dad, possible connections with that Russia link I hinted earlier, and writing shopping-lists as an octogenarian (I mentioned words as lists earlier above and I promise I had not then looked ahead to see this reference!)
    And with more retrocausal implications from an obvious Borgesian library connection and a phone called a SmartAleck (my word).

    My tweet dated two days ago :

  5. 9 – 11

    “Lovely ems though. Marry my memory.”

    It is as though the narrator, with a passing snide remark about “pulp sci-fi writers”, is gestalt reviewing its own book. Things that only life and life’s real-time can teach it about characters out-living the scope of their original narrator or book, characters like Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. Here it is Roger, in those heady fifties days just before Lady Chatterly’s Lover was a Penguin; and perhaps today he is Boris (especially with that name) hidden in plain sight, as I always have thought to be the case outside the grasp of unlikely fiction. Hidden in plain sight, but hardly a chameleon? That world of hiding coded messages “between the leaves of books”. And a diversionary bad sex scene, to boot (“Her inner goddess squealed.”)

  6. 12 – 14

    “But the touch of a pencil is quite different.”
    “, the cloudy, half-baked associations that connect what someone finds on my page to their experience.”

    I, too, pencil annotations into this book, but is confirming that one of my own half-baked associations with it? I guess so. I remain drifting, as an old man, through this book and its narrator’s thoughts, whether dream or nightmare. I watch the palimpsest of generations in Roger’s family, father, mother, daughter, granddaughter, as he lies dying (Roger and his father), even seeing a real palimpsest of photographs formed by the images of the latter three women! Judging by the circumstances of conceiving his daughter (the changing will of death and a Finnegans Wake happening below), I wondered if the narrator would cease to be ‘dressed as Tennyson’ (In Memoriam) and cross-dress into Tristram Shandy or even McEwan’s Nutshell, but then more sense was perhaps made (not by cross-dressing but by a chameleon’s transsexing?) with the choice of Woolf’s Orlando. But then I wondered about The Waves as even better…? Whatever the case, this is a book not only for book lovers but also ABOUT book lovers and lovers as books. Not half-baked so much as my appreciation of this book’s overall palimpsest of time and literature as truth. Here Comes Everybody.

  7. 15 – 18

    “There was some honest-to-god spy stuff going on. Finally.”

    But who would have dreamed using a Dorothy Richardson novel as a decoding device! Still, these chapters cover Roger’s enforced Pilgrimage to Siberia… incognito with a friend as his assistant. (Perhaps they should send Boris to Siberia, too, as a double agent, not that Roger is a double agent – yet?) And also, here, we have two necklaces, one of them broken, and a modern encounter with his granddaughter before she goes backpacking Far East with her boy friend. And an unknowing dying encounter with his estranged wife. Much is expected of the dying. And the palimpsest fills out like a multi-layered old man’s bladder? And there’s more hawling… “And in every new story there is the germ of the story that you’ve heard before, one that has already put its weights in your heart.”

  8. 1DBF8C84-9F4C-4C5F-821A-D8F90CCA3BAD19 & 20

    “I sometimes like to imagine to myself that I am the word, and that there can be no other words than those that have come from me.”

    The solipsism of this book when meeting its match with another book that boasts a competing solipsism. From Sir Philip Sidney to John Milton to Alexander Pope to a scene where ‘I’ am taken along as a sales catalogue in cover for something else and the Russian procurement ‘buyer’ pretends to play chess (against Roger) while role-playing someone other than this buyer. I think this book is playing chess with me, perhaps prior to being encountered in the form of its real soul or maker? Does one trick cancel out another trick to become the truth? Who is spying on whom? Thinking aloud.
    In the beginning was the Logos…

  9. 21 & 22

    “(it is so awful that I linger here in the margins, delaying and procrastinating)”

    The chess match and its Bowdlerised match centuries ago probably presents (by footnotes at least) the strangest “game-tree complexity” of coincidences I have ever encountered in the history of my gestalt real-time reviewing – and that is saying something, when such an activity regularly evokes for me its own bizarre brand of preternatural synchronicities! The machinations of spy and counter-spy and defection, too, are tantalising when aligned with a story within a story by one of the chess players that I can only relate to a monkish form of the ‘I Am Spartacus’ syndrome. And a glimpse of the future again with Roger declining with illness and receiving letters from his granddaughter in Thailand. I am still irresistibly pulled along as if up and down on a graph of pointed roofs, if not always understanding what the book shows me through each attic window.

  10. 23 & 24

    “Elisabeth’s body had woken me up; her desire had kindled a curiosity to see if I could own myself.”

    I claim this is a core statement statement by the narrator (especially in view of the use of ‘kindled’?), as he seeks not mind-body Cartesian existentialism of self but more the book-story-soul trinity debate where a book I had forgotten all about encountering myself once (the narrator’s consciousness originally dressed as ‘Ancrene Wisse’) is centre stage and the time-distant reader Elisabeth. Some very strong rhapsodic, literary-rapturous thoughts here. All this from the vantage point of a nursery window in a forgotten ‘pointed roof’ where London’s Blitz still scars the Bowenesque soul of the city streets. The expression “hidden in plain sight” is also used in the text, I believe, for the first time. I was 8 in 1956. Also with the narrator’s inability to find interest in a new born baby (Roger’s daughter Ruth), I return my mind to Tristram Shandy and McEwan’s Nutshell and the narrative loops of baby and pre- and post-baby there adumbrated. The family’s trip together to Great Yarmouth, near to where this very book was born? Or where Salt once lived?

  11. 25 & 26

    “This is the problem, once you get started on this whole judgement thing . . . it’s very difficult to put a stop to it. Before you know it you’re screaming bloody murder, howling into the dark.”

    …or in my case, hawling. Aka dreamcatching. Scrying (along with) this book’s future backstory become front again. Significant events that will not become spoilers here. The dream caught by the narrator is Brueghel’s painting of the barely noticeable Icarus. For me, though, following Roger into the convention centre in the feel of an inscrutable foreign land (and other things, too), I catch the dream of Ishiguro’s ‘The Unconsoled’ (my favourite novel of all times, perhaps, where my autonomous soul still clings and hawls forever.) The horse-dog creatures, notwithstanding.

  12. 27 & 28

    “He fed me a lot of scraps, but it was never enough to get a clear picture.”

    …or pitcher? From Ass or Lion to a Crow screeching Eureka?
    Eureka or a mere readerly shrug, I’ll leave you to decide. This book’s subtle spine-altering calibration of omniscience as a unique variation on unreliable narration pervades the ending, too, disarmingly satisfying for me. You will all have your own personal melody to tune to this text. Mine, happenstantially, was to watch in episodes a nine hour film called ‘Shoah’ while reading this book. This synchronicity eventually seemed appropriate with the denouement’s references to the Black Death: an emblem going-forward of such episodic human history, some episodes involuntary, others cruelly voluntary? Tantalisingly, this book kept much hidden in plain sight. And much else to be revealed as still hiding.
    Surrounded by my pencil markings. Doodles of pointed roofs, included.


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