A fearless faith in fiction — Employing a Kantian or Jungian sensibility and an ‘intentional fallacy’ consciousness — Various passions of the reading moment — Walter de la Mare, ELizabeth BOWen, Robert Aickman and many others old and new — Please click my name below for this site’s navigation and my backstory as intermittent photographer, writer, editor, publisher & reviewer.
THE MYTH OF YOU
“I’ve just broken open a jar of ambiguity and you should be scuttling from piece to piece, sucking the information dry from every word, every turn of phrase.”
I have a shocking sense of paranoia, as this overwhelmingly powerful story seems, in every unmistakeable way, to be aimed sneeringly at the Gestalt Real-Time Reviewer as the Dreamcatcher or Hawler…. A sort of Messiah story, though …. so it can’t be me, surely, as the monster Messiah, as Yeats’ Second Coming, a baby born sired by Angels from a heroin addicted teenage girl, an unshaped baby that morphs further and sucks in the whole story (and thus the world that this story contains) from its base in the Maternity Hospital. A myth, not a story, as it says. Sucks me in, too, as a form of itself? Or sucks in any ordinary reader, as part of triangulating its own coordinates? In many ways, I hope the latter is indeed the case. That would mean it wasn’t just me. But I “tried to find connections […] tried to find meaningful aberrations.” And, paradoxically, that is leading to my undoing, I dread to say. And, so, I have no option but to begin genuinely to believe that this work is, after all, neither story nor myth but something literally aimed at my undoing. I am the Hawling infant. “You’re the Rawling infant.”
Cf The mendicant of books – https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2018/05/03/the-mendicant-of-books/
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“So numerous are these incidents that each of us tends to weave his or her own unique patchwork myth where the White Books are concerned.”
A coded series of head-subjected sections, by a narrator cursed with omniscience but a curse craftily concealed under the first person plural of “We are the stories we tell.” We are all cursed. We can see ourselves in this quilt, as I did earlier above. I who once published a blank story. The world’s first? Like a Brexit White Paper?
An intriguing sort of SF version of a Borges Library or a HOUSEofLeaves, or a place like death whence we never return to tell others what it is like. Full of methods and means of exploring, as history’s recurrent pioneers, boldly going into this eponymous section of the library. A section we are told we can only enter as a part of that first person plural, two of us as a minimum. However, at the end, we reach even the extent of keeping the door open to this section of the library after just one entrant makes a foolhardy foray, then exploring his last spoken sentence from inside as a form of Philosophical Linguistics, possibly prophesying today’s ‘would’ changed to ‘wouldn’t’, or vice versa? “It would not be inaccurate to conclude that we enjoy regaling newcomers with our tales of terror and menace.” Not my bold.
A story that continues to involve us, somehow anticipating the rest of the potential dangerous adventures into this book’s own special collection yet to be undertaken.
I read and reviewed the next story here: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2016/11/03/nightscript-ii/#comment-8472 and below is what I wrote about it in that context:
A SILENCE OF STARLINGS
“‘Today is a day when things might get better, when things might change. There’s energy in the air.’
But the starlings didn’t sing today.”
A compelling narrative from an old man, looking forward today to being taken out for his granddaughter’s birthday, an old man not unrelated perhaps to the old men in the previous Tem and White, here in a convincing Care Home residence situation (I am familiar with such residences), some of the residents suffering from Alzheimers…
I will not describe the exact situation that accretes here around him, as it would spoil the haunting quality of what actually happens, but it is skilfully conveyed with many striking turns of phrase.
A mysterious calling, humming as anti-music, a mysterious silence and attenuation outside the Home…sunlight turning grey or white, and a black that is not a colour at all.
You will not forget this story. Nor this story’s special ‘today’ today.
“The plot included ghosts and a talking dog and the president of the United States…”
“It appeared that I was inextricably trapped in my own curiosity.”
Trapped in my own head, I am forced by this stylishly frightening story to follow a woman writer about Halloween traditions, when she visits for this purpose Marrowvale hamlet, the direst of the Ligottian ‘butthole’ communities of America, where tricksy hands offer fake treats, and the Halloween headpieces for the hamlet’s “triangulated people” are utterly outlandish as a dark gallery of over-tiny mouths and Lovecraftian geometry….
…. a story I have by now thankfully never read, let alone ‘heard of.’
A hamlet’s helmets…
There may now be a short delay in continuing my reading of the Fawver book.
THE CONE OF HEAVEN
“She cocooned within herself, holding fast to those things she remembered—“
A resplendent journey to add to literature’s visions of the after-life, May Sinclair’s Heaven or otherwise, or her Finding of the Absolute, here it is Victoria Valencia, upon death, her ‘core bored through’, then via the cocoon, finally towards what I have always seen as Cone Zero (google this). A Hawling of the ‘Hollow Density’. As she blends religious learning throughout her corporeal life and her memories of parents and husband, blends them into this attenuation of a glorified journey. I use the term ‘glorified’ advisedly as the words that couch this journey make it thus, even though many of the visionary implications are Nemonymous-tending and angst-ridden. The Dissolution of Small Worlds. Yet, I am impelled to repeat something I dreamt last night BEFORE reading this work: ‘Time to throw away the model, as you now have the real thing.’
Cross-referenced here: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2018/06/06/aiaigasa-quentin-s-crisp/#comment-13235
“‘The only thing that makes the days seem worthwhile right now is baking,’ she said.”
A Reverend in rump America, hires a ‘droid’ as security guard and eventually child carer. Much tussling Socratic philosophy discussions with Droid regarding God, Original Sin and other apparent conundra of Christian faith, connected to Anti-Conceivalism or Anti-Natalism as pre-emptors with Infanticide as the morning-after method… the path to ensoulment. The Reverend and his wife have suffered a few miscarriages in the past but now delighted a child’s coming through to full term… A powerful Swiftian provoker. We all bake in the end.
The vexatious ball pit …
FROM THE GROUND, THE SOULS BURNT CLEAN
“He felt the wrong words sprouting on the surface of his tongue.”
“Is it in? So hot today. My foot.”
An apparently atonal symphony of words, through Turner’s protagonal mind, as he is asked by his boss to flame Washingtonian woodland and, consequently, its native traditions or his own. It is as if this act is part of a pattern of acts, akin to the wildfires and other phenomena sweeping the world as I write this review, but not accidental pestilences but volitionally created ones by mankind as some sort of mass sacrificial act towards … towards what? Crashing our gestalt walkie-talkie…? The dissolution of small worlds?
“Connections, constructions, reasons and rationalizations: all manner of definition went flying from some ethereal organ nestled under his heart.”
I read and reviewed the next story here: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2018/04/02/vastarien-a-literary-journal/ and below is what I wrote about it in that context:
THE GODS IN THEIR SEATS, UNBLINKING
“The eyes! The ears! They’re shading us right now, applying a spectrum of grey to everything about us—“
On first impressions, this ‘story’ is likely to be alone worth the entrance price to the whole book, with you as both audience and participant. I would love to see this playscript of Doctor and Patient really performed, if perform is the right word. I have a sense that if it is performed, it would be a big theatrical hit. Resonating between Captain Ahab and Milton’s Satan, it is also a highly accessible and disturbing means to convey the paranoia and helplessness of existence, where the play itself is instrumental in what it otherwise conveys. The contextual explanation in italics is there as a helpful decoy from actually believing what the play devastatingly implies, but if you don’t believe it, the decoy immediately vanishes! As also does vanish perhaps my earlier intention in this review above about concentrating on this book’s fiction rather than on its non-fiction. That gestalt feeling again…
“It’s fiction. It’s all fiction. Everything is fiction. We just choose to cling tightly to some of those fictions and call them reality.”
DO YOU HEAR WHAT I HEAR?
A brief horror story with which I am in tune, a father keeping his daughter and himself safe from the sound of Carol singers among the snowflakes on Christmas Eve with noise defenders. He even suffers and buffers the Carolers’ chorale as ultimate corral of himself for the sake of his own daughter’s soundproof safety (as I would, too, in similar circumstances.)
Marrowvale hamlet’s helmets versus the silence of starlings?
THE KINDNESS OF SURRENDER
“She had loved Asteria for merely existing, for being a thing so crazy and unexpected in a world of people that tried, with all their neurotic energy, to cage and order and homogenize reality.”
There is something right about wreaking one’s horror instincts, threading between the “pitchforks”and “nuanced terror” towards some Cone not of Heaven but of Hell. Here, alongside these thoughts, I experience as reader the tensions of one woman, Amy, the mentor of another woman, Asteria, whom she adopts as it were, nodding through the latter’s instincts and bodily autonymity of multiple fangs and bloodlust … like housing a Rottweiler as pet but failing to keep it muzzled? In the end, Amy’s mob pitchfork instinct wins through as she is reminded that she is not in a horror story or monster movie but in real life, albeit a homogenised real life, and she needs to end it with the monster captured, for the monster’s sake as well as the monster’s future victims. Cruel to be kind. But monsters are never really captured? They go on in an existence of neither fiction nor real life, but somewhere between, I guess. That jar of ambiguity again, the myth of you…and me. That uneraserable classroom board as an emblem of Surrender, if not Survivor, Guilt?
EVERY WEEKNIGHT AT SEVEN AND SEVEN-THIRTY
A telling absurdist fable of a caricaturally downward-spiralling man and the discovery of his and his family’s Altverse reciprocity evoked by his late mother’s old analog telly that he inherits. If I tell you more, you will not experience or undergo it as I just did. Just look out for the ironically idiomatic expression involving the word ‘total’… about a thing being destroyed when it is “totaled” (here, his non-Alt flighty wife’s car). And, on the obverse side of the Alt coin, is it heads or tails?
THE FINAL CORRESPONDENCE OF SABRINA LOCKER
…or as Sabrina Locker. You can never lock yourself up as ‘you’ forever? Just my glib thought, while this novella continues to resonate as I recall this work’s deliberate attempt to conjure an old-fashioned weird tale with naivety and contrived info-dump conversations and recognisable tropes of haunted fogs around a haunted reservoir in a wooded area full of legends, with talk of a remarkable monster and old races around a secluded house, where two strange men live and who happen to disrobe together when going out to face the monster. And a woman who is staying here as a foolhardy or brave tourist along with her ‘abusively aloof’ husband, an author in the process of writing his next SF novel. She, in turn, is writing these letters in episodes to her sister about what she experiences… towards a gestalt of listed staticky images as finale. I even wondered if this work was to be the start of her nauseating husband’s novel….? THE FLOUNDER FROM SPACE? “….scribbling at his science fiction epic.”
Yet, I was strangely perturbed, in a good way. It is indeed too good to have been written by her husband (as I grew to know him), too good to be written in the guise of his wife writing letters to her sister. It is immaculately and evocatively styled and, at times genuinely chilling. I sensed it getting better as it proceeded, chunk by chunk like Zeno’s Paradox, as if it was working insidiously into me, slipping accretively out of its hackneyed disguise. And the bowl of liquid under one of the two landlord’s beds was very striking. It comes too late in the story to save the insanity of getting there. The rending creak comes too early. Meanwhile, there are some sentences that mean more than what they mean. Haunted me and worried me. Still do. Some examples: “The fog was thick, no doubt, but as unremarkable as a Gothic potboiler.” – “Which is to say, there is only a story, and that story may not yet be ended.” – “One cannot rescue echoes.” – “But I’d rather wander in the fog than live in a pit.” – “…I felt something shift within the bowl, as though a weighted pulley were dragging it back…” – “And if an anomalous phrase or an aberration of theme slinks into that narrative from the margins, it’s footnoted or deleted outright.” – “The history of everything must be rewritten as a series of blank pages.” —— Like the pencilled marginalia I use for gestalt real-time reviewing; the alpha and the omega and what is between, or like a flea trying to make sense of what human enormity is going on around it? The dissolution of small worlds.
AN INTERVIEW WITH SAMUEL X. SLAYDEN
“We’re all flash fiction.”
A Horror-insider aimed interview with the editor of a story anthology on ‘Wanting’ in extremis, but the submissions were not cerebrally or spiritually extreme enough until the editor invited certain writers for a retreat. This method worked, but not without casualties. A satire or a gratuitous caricature, and interesting enough to keep me reading it. I think I recognised one of the writers at the retreat, Ms Kane, from real life.
ALL THAT IS THROWN AWAY
“…a withered sun that suffused the entire panorama with the colors of forgotten nursing homes and disused dumpsters.”
A tale of Torrance, a university janitor for some years, daughter miles away, wife an ex, the edge of his dustpan made razor sharp, ready for intruders on solitary nights clearing the university trash, including his own expectations to become a student. As ever with this book, there are remarkable haunting scenes and equally haunting turns of expression describing those scenes. Here a “scrapscape” vision beyond Room 0, where he rescues a student from inimical forces you will find difficult to forget. A story that ends as desolate as it begins, an emblem for our times. For me, Torrance should have turned the third person singular in this story to the first person singular. He would be proud of such a story-telling ability as narrator and the ability to affect his readers, some of them students. The undissolution of small worlds.
“It was the fragrance of the end.”
I read and reviewed the last story when it was the first story here: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2017/11/01/looming-low/ and below is what I wrote about it in that context:
The Convexity of Our Youth
MENTION OF POSSIBLE SPOILER (a rare occurrence in my reviews)
“We have achieved a level of contentment and stasis in which our primary worry is losing our contentment and stasis.”
This is the tale of the orange ball that is rumoured to have been ‘born’ in the rural heartland of America, a tale that becomes a relentless, obsessive, subtitled extrapolation-report on the orange ball’s violation of those Americans whose page-upon-which-reality-is-printed is a single trusted page rather than the wild excesses of the Internet. And while I was reading and shaping this Swiftian vision into a gestalt, or ‘rorschach’, I suddenly thought of Trump. And it all fell into place. Powerful stuff, in hindsight.
Orange balls are spreading: see ASYLUM, a review a few days ago: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2018/07/19/black-static-64/#comment-13264