Drowning In Beauty – the neo-decadent anthology


Edited by Justin Isis & Daniel Corrick


Stories by Brendan Connell, Justin Isis, Damian Murphy, Yarrow Paisley, Ursula Pflug, Colby Smith, Colin Insole, D.P. Watt, Avalon Brantley, Daniel Corrick, Quentin S. Crisp, James Champagne.

My previous reviews of Snuggly Books HERE

Whenever I read this anthology, my thoughts will appear in the comment stream below…

14 thoughts on “Drowning In Beauty – the neo-decadent anthology

  1. The first 3 items are non-fiction:
    INTRODUCTION by Daniel Corrick

    The first story in the book is by BRENDAN CONNELL and is in deliberate and aggressively harsh contiguity with the soft Royal Wedding today broadcast live to the world from Windsor about an hour ago. Though, the bride herself had an attractive sharp-eyed patina.
    I first reviewed this story in 2011 here and below is what I then wrote about it in that context…

    Molten Rage

    “Massimo arrived back at his car, but it was booted. He shrugged his shoulders and threw his car keys into the the gutter.”

    I keep my door-key on the same key-ring as my car-keys.  All keys are a form of escape. And Massimo lives in a an industrial nightmare that is Milan (brilliantly described) and in a Magic Realism blending Joel Lane and Peter Carey, inter alios, the Leftist truths (for some, dilemmas) including direct action, are canvas-tested with ‘dabs or paints’ of words, including sniffing out dreams that risk us flying without wings in gold sunsets sown with “silicates” and “stigmata“.  To boot a car, is to kick it or remove its back-lid or ‘graft’ a clamp to its wheels like stitching angel-wings clumsily to a man’s back in more hope than expectation of flying or to turn the ignition as one would boot up or kick start a computer.  There are many other keys (some I still hope to find as they were never on my key-ring in the first place before I threw it away), keys to unlock the doors to this gloriously ‘painted’ fable of cruel modern industrial reality, artistic aspiration and revolution-in-the-streets so relevant to facing out those fosterers of our own gathering autocratic austerities as well to the Arab Spring (if not to today’s April sunshine outside) or to this book’s earlier Spartan warriors now heard at our doors (rattling keys). (10 Apr 11 – four hours later)

    My previous reviews of BRENDAN CONNELL: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/brendan-connell/

  2. THE QUEST FOR NAIL ART by Justin Isis

    “, a detachment from the decade’s worth of exhausted designs.”

    We live in decade gulps, I reckon, and this is my first gulp of gestalt. When I just now, this morning, finished this story – the day after, as it were – I pencilled the word WOW! at the end. This is one of those reading experiences that seem like a watershed, one you cannot miss whatever else you may miss to allow it into your toppling reading eyes, here a smooth, somehow luxuriously strident work of fiction, about Erina, stage name Rumika, a hostess and nail artist, feeling old and organ-splitting at age 22, connecting with an outrage of phone calls, her doorbell ringings, texts, this text teeming with status updates, stalkers and stalked, emptying to allow more in, conniving, collisions, collusions, and such mind-smacking magic of detail about her nail art and backstory. But also so utterly smooth and accessible to read. A mix of the Meghan image from yesterday and much much more, read it and see. So completely powerful. If this is what nemo- or neo-decades are about as a movement, then give me more. Stage names and her numbered boy friends galore. Masochism with envy folders. Aura stretched distances. Inferior nails the biggest sin. The concept of seasonails (my word for seasonal nails). The deepest nails, as some sort of embracing of stigmata? The empathy, or not, of massage. On-line reviews of nail bars and nail marklings. And at the end even Okada (as I later saw to be myself intruding) was rightly spurned.

    My previous reviews of JUSTIN ISIS:

  3. 0B303B02-FBE2-43D0-A29D-A2087B2D89C1
    A MANSION OF SAPPHIRE by Damian Murphy

    “She often amused herself, knowing that few would read her handiwork, by slipping linguistic ambiguities, absurdly detailed descriptions, unintuitive turns of phrase, and blatant contradictions into her translations.”

    At times a homing pigeon within the game, Stella plays it in a retro fashion with a ZX Spectrum by loading cassette tapes, a process that I and my son (with whom I have just checked) remember, well, him better than me. It is effectively the LP vinyl version of Damian Murphy in ritual process, with language to match, and it is surely supreme for all Damian lovers. With the congress of her daily translation duties and her times off from choosing her own route to resplendent adventure on the retro-religious kick, you can hardly wonder why this might become a classic, especially when splurged with a sapphire centre upon a Mansion’s Compass. It also resonates with the ritual path of this book’s previous story, when there instilling emojis on her route of status updates. Here, Stella has a Moleskine notebook. If this is neo-decadence, then give me more of it. The ultimate ‘colour-clash’, included.

    “She passed encoded missives back and forth…”

    My many reviews of DAMIAN MURPHY: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/tag/damian-murphy/

  4. ARNOLD OF OUR TIME by Yarrow Paisley

    “The moment stretched. Secrets passed back and forth, billets-doux of consciousness, cherished missives stolen from the courier of time and savoured in the vault of sentiment.”

    …as does the pigeon post women in the previous two stories, now a young man, a gradually self-identifying Arnold, on his shoe berg or a bus journey worthy of ‘The Parry and the Lunge’, and I took it to be a sort of Pilgrim’s Progress with capitalised allegories or archetypes of people, including sex objects without intending distaff exploitation, the Grand Ma Ma, and Others, as if John Bunyan had written it as a rite of passage towards Ice Cream Heaven or Disco Martyrdom, with tingle, to untangled to untingled. The Hawt Sauce was the hawl-light for me. And its essence of Dadaoism (sic), if possibly not Neo-Decadence.

    My previous reviews of YARROW PAISLEY:

  5. FIRES HALFWAY by Ursula Pflug

    “In Canada to be famous you have to be famous somewhere else first.”
    “Who wouldn’t take beautiful, exclusive, scary new drugs given to them by Lou Reed.”

    There is much beauty in this story, even, I guess, dolphins drowning in it. Colours as dosed endorphins and more. The story of Kim as created by the song of a would-be Lou Reed singer in still wall-split Berlin, a period glimpsed as Kim’s backstory that it was due to become after she then later fulfilled a Canadian career in fashion, while his fate was to be a Zeno’s Paradox diminuendo of a singing career. No, it is not the story of Kim created by a song, his song, but a song she helped create with him, to create herself — transcending any tarot findings or Sirian/Fortean events or passing troilisms of a nature sexual. But who knows what strands or connections she picked up from such a still evolving backstory to create the gestalt she is today? That’s the beauty of fiction. A Zeno’s Paradox (“And never get to zero”) of threads and colours and earworms, that can be twined any which way. God’s or the Devil’s. And which of them fires first.

    “I think maybe I have had enough of beauty for a while, you know.”
    “Beauty always pays a lower price, in all things.”

    My previous reviews of URSULA PFLUG: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/tag/ursula-pflug/

  6. SOMNII DRACONIS by Colby Smith

    “Here the world is achromatic.”

    From the Colours of Pflug to a faded ‘painting of creation’, (and from Sirian there to Silurian here), from those Colours to this to-be-chipped-away account of “failed sketches” as fossils, and the sex of stones, to this gestalt of nature’s seemingly inchoate Aesthetics, while two, I guess, grizzled land-combers, one with a dowsing implement rather than a metal detector, and “dead yarrow”, both soon to become fossils themselves, human buoys discovered by boys. I just quoted here this couplet from Anne Cluysenaar literally, by chance, a few minutes ago in a concurrent gestalt real-time review:
    ‘For ever is not the point. Never can be.
    It’s all for now. To have been again.’

    Yes, all seems to fit inchoately. Amid italicised, gradually bone-morphing conundrums of science, nature and existence.

    “Things have become too complicated.”

    My previous encounter with COLBY SMITH: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2018/04/02/vastarien-a-literary-journal/#comment-12115

  7. THE MEDDLERS by Colin Insole

    “And in the exposed rock, was the fossil of a prehistoric bird, the lines of its beak, claws and feathers, as clear as when it fell, millions of years ago.”

    The Colby fossils and his sex of stones blend here with the Insole ‘den’, called Leckles as a possible morph of Nettles, an ancient tangled hollow that holds generations of ‘fossilised’ keepsakes not kept except buried here, the consequence games of childhood or of aberrant or sexual adulthood or of more recent internet bullying, all keepsakes and fragments scrawled and moulded into a palimpsest of some gestalt keepsake, amid the snowy, ashy weather, today, near the sea, an elderly care home tenant escaped to come here to rediscover his own keepsake, while the policeman — sent to investigate that man’s death in this den and last refuge — has his own keepsakes to rediscover in the den, too. This is utter classic Insole, a redolently textured receptacle for me, too, even with the synchronicity of the Jeremy Thorpe TV drama broadcast for the first time last night as based on some ancient tangled scandal: “I’ll be your hunny-bunny, if you will be mine. Gummy, what a chap—“

    My many previous reviews of COLIN INSOLE: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/colin-insole/

  8. DA69D910-1833-4D23-B9B4-9AD7BA45B1C6
    JACK by D.P. Watt

    “all reds and blues and purples and oranges and yellows;”

    In today’s otherwise near-monochrome pub, Jack expletively and colloquially plays poker with fictional money as counters in this otherwise near-fiction, playing with two old male friends and one of their upstart girl friends, his pint spiked, he suspects, spiked, as it were, with those earlier Colours of Pflug, becoming a startling panorama of some colourful mediaeval battle and carnage, with Jack then literally and meaningfully becoming the “bloody bastard” that the suspected spiker calls him! Jack back in the poker game, now with whisky that “looked like dark, morning piss”. Some striking visionary material as born from pub talk. Overlapping realities, too, I infer. A story itself spiked.

    My many previous reviews of D.P. WATT: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/d-p-watt/

  9. GREAT SEIZERS’ GHOSTS by Avalon Brantley

    Where has this story been hiding all my life? A massive entry to this book’s increasingly powerful gestalt. This is Henry V on his deathbed, ‘confessed’ by a vision of a childhood friend as today’s jester (“that increasingly familiar smile on the man’s kind, round face”), writ in a texture of words Shakespearean. Beyond Shakespeare, even, dare I say? Don’t let that put you off. It is truly wonderstruck. You will not be able to prevent its strong positive/negative impingement on your beliefs and life so far, blending hope and Ligottianism. It starts with a quote from Henry IV, Part One, that serendipitously resonates with something I self published yesterday here (before I read this Avalon) about stalking hope and the sun and the frictional abrasions of life’s battles. This Avalon also has “Silurian” from Colby and the Colours of Pflug (“the dauphin’s cheeks”) and bottle- or battle-spiking in the Watt (“the wine whatever it was—“), their overlapping of realities and history’s ‘real’ battles (have you read my review of an overlapping historical battle in SHILOH by Philip Fracassi here?), “strut-and-glut glots out of London”, the cohering by Henry V of pre-battle fragmentary conversations that we all love from this king’s bespoke Shakespeare play, more of Connell’s molten rage, “melting gold of sunset”, and creaturely concatenations of vision. We are in the vanguard of this story’s battle with death and I am now proud to be one more party to it. I have never been a convinced fan of Shakespeare’s works themselves, but I am of this Avalon story. It is essential reading for scholar, dreamer and by-passing reader of fiction alike.

    “Thou art indeed the head of the body, Sire,” said his companion. “With English arms and Gwentian fingers didst thou seize thy day.”

    My review links and original tribute to AVALON BRANTLEY: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2017/03/28/avalon-brantley-1981-2017/


    “, interspersed with shots of precious metals in molten and solid states.”

    I desperately don’t want to over-praise this book, but, yet again, I am given to read a potentially important story, one that I am sure will stay with me. This seems to be the apotheosis of not only this book so far but of what I am beginning to understand is Neo-Decadence. Read this, and you have nailed it, I guess. This contains again the Colours of Pflug in various versions of positivity and negativity, here embodied by the protagonist’s sudden visitation — amid his normal life as an aspiring artist, envious of past artists who were enshrined in vellum and leather, and his girl friend Colette, in London today — by a chameleon, a creature that is magnificently conveyed to us in all its forms, affecting intrinsically this story and being affected in turns BY it, affecting the artist and his art but his art also then affecting the chameleon, but not in a linear way. This alchemy of Aesthetic I sense is unique but feeding off past literature and past forms of Aesthetic. And vice versa. Medieval bestiaries, the Soho art scene, “spiky black-green leaves”, “the tang of iron”, “Surreality”, not surrealism, conveying better this book’s overlapping palimpsest of history and colour, being “nettled”, giving us this “free trip” to enjoy, well free once you’ve bought the book, rooms and buildings adumbrated to suit like chameleons themselves, and so much more I could quote or reference of the Ravissante, Aickman retrocausally become Machen become Corrick, its Arcimboldo of the Spirit. (Samuel Fisher recently wrote a first novel entitled ‘The Chameleon” (reviewed here) vis à vis book’s fiction and non-fiction, a book itself being its actual narrator. This Corrick (published simultaneously) inadvertently apotheosises parts of that, too, or vice versa, but Corrick does it with painting and art, an even more formidable task than Fisher’s. Other than the title, there is very little resemblance or comparison between the two works. But worth serendipitising, as I have just done.)

  11. AMEN by Quentin S. Crisp

    “; joy must not become intemperance.”

    I have followed QSC fiction for years, and I sense this as some epiphany to expunge purgatory or ‘acedia’, an ornately calligraphic or painterly illumination — in a ‘chamber’ as a monkish version of Insole’s Den — of the word AMEN, as the clincher of some faith or lack of faith, or a hybrid that is neither. Another “keepsake”, following the envied vellum and leather indelibilities adumbrated by the Corrick work, plus words containing colours like those in Pflug (plus gold and silver), and words like ‘scriptorium’ and ‘abertive’ or, earlier in this book, “Rastafarian” and “Paludamentum”, amid now the spiky ‘thorns’ and ‘spinis’, the ‘wingéd’ (wingèd) and ‘belovéd’ (belovèd). And it seems significant to my view of this book’s crystallising gestalt that here you can see me trying to effectively ‘illuminate’ this arguably core-seminal and/or valedictory QSC work after it has already been bound in a book. Just as the protagonist is doing within it to the word AMEN! In The Beginning Was Logos. But Who Let Amen Be The Ending?

    My many previous reviews of QUENTIN S. CRISP: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/quentin-s-crisp/


      XYSCHATON (A CHRONOLOGY MIX) by James Champagne

      “(as stealthily as an under-aged rent boy seeking the flat of a British MP in Dolphin Square in Pimlico)”

      Seems fitting to my earlier mention of the latest Jeremy Thorpe TV drama and this book’s dolphins and dauphins and dosed endorphins. Starting with a quote from ‘Forbidden Colours’, this Champagne follow up to AMEN has ‘Z’ as a narrative replacement for the first person singular pronoun. Seems apt when time travel as a concupiscent visit to an earlier and younger version of oneself can thus exonerate oneself, and hopefully can be exonerated, too, by Burroughs, William S., not Edgar Rice. Otherwise one might be raided by the Authorities for simply owning this story in a book. It is self-consciously non-linear or achronologic but Z still get the picture despite references to items of music that Z do not listen to, plus the mind-banging flow of words as if by the Creation Press James Havoc, aka James, not Champagne, but Williamson, aka Julian Hallett, not Hewelet, or like a similar flow of words by Mike Philbin, aka Hertzan Chimera, and the ‘boy ocean’ that Z drown in as if in beauty. Whichever way one looks at it, the concept is staggering. (Possibly, a ‘girl ocean’, in the case of any character written by Chimera?)
      Well, Z am the first person singular reading this coruscating work, not Z who am in it. The Z as a letter-design is like what Z want to do to a much younger version of ‘myself’ in the story. Think about it.

      My previous encounter with JAMES CHAMPAGNE: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2016/06/18/marked-to-die/#comment-7468

      This Coiled Coda is arguably a loose cannon. It shall be left to you to decide whether it enhances this great book, or otherwise. Only time – and triangulation by sufficient readers – can give sufficient hindsight and perspective, whichever way you zig or zag it.
      This book is a literary landmark, whatever.

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