25 thoughts on “Vulgar Things – Lee Rourke

  1. Pages 1 – 14

    “It feels like I belong on some separate level, something higher: a plateau designed only for people like me…”

    Tuning and retuning into caught moments of conversation in this pub talk of a book, captured and captivated by it, a bit like David Mathew stuff, so that’s a good sign. I flow along with this bloke, think I know him, someone who we have just seen being sacked from his editorial job … but he is now asked by his brother Cal to go and sort out his uncle’s death and caravan.
    Some form of rapture, it says somewhere about something else, and check out the strip joint he goes to after a skinful of drink and sees a woman stripping a skinful like someone in my own old story in the 1990s. Queuing behind crazy people.
    So that I do not spoil the plot, but just give you my future ongoing reactions to it, here is the book blurb as if you have picked the book up in Charing Cross Road, in which area we first meet this narrator, called Jon, his name according to my just tuning into his telephone call at the end of this section. Just noticed the blurb below tells you this, too.


    “Maybe someone is wondering just what I’m doing here”

  2. Pages 15 – 22

    “I like it here, below the sea…”

    I am glad it was suggested I accompany this book to Canvey Island, an island more or less than the name, a strongly summoned genius-loci that ebbs and flows, “time” also ebbing and flowing (today in the book’s real-time being Friday), and I feel at home, although I have never specifically visited this island until now, although much of it here reminds me of the Essex estuary and sea coast that I do know, the creeks and crannies, including my familiarity with Southend, its Kursaal and its long pier. The book, via Jon as narrator, mentions the fatal 1953 floods. That is within my own living memory when I existed as a five year old in Walton-on-the-Naze just along the coast, but with a shorter pier. Is “time” itself a sort of oil that lubricates something that needs lubricating, I gratuitously ask? This book is unputdownable for me, but I am determined to indeed put it down sporadically, eke it out, savour its flavour, and tell you about it without otherwise spoiling it…

    “being here makes perfect sense”

  3. Pages 22 – 33

    “There’s a record already on it, an album by Dr Feelgood. I’ve never heard of them before today.”

    I have hardly heard of them, myself. Though I admire the irony of their name in the context of Jon’s late uncle’s sort of Tardis of a caravan on a gloomy caravan site. His uncle’s backstory and inferred interests in books and stars, his residual detritus, too. I rather relished the overheard ‘pub talk’ of a journey around Southend earlier in this section and relished, too, the Essex lady who wanted her steak well done. I am trapped in recurrence, never to get out of this book until I have recruited my own replacement reader …overcooked, but with the blood still seeping?

    “because there’s nothing else to do”

  4. Pages 35 – 60

    “This book I cannot write, this book I try to finish, to construct each day, this fucking book which is killing me because I cannot reach the truth…”

    That is not the authorial voice, by the way. Meanwhile, I have just read far more than I intended to read just now. I couldn’t put it down, even though I tried to do so, thinking: what on Earth am I going to say about it without spoiling it? Virgil makes me think of parsing and construing for my school days Latin. Then I think the word Virgil is not completely dissimilar from the word Vulgar. Or Vulgate? What I learn about Jon’s Uncle’s aspirations, and the videos, the rewriting of Virgil, and the precarious ability to film himself on videos in the 1980s, and Jon now looking at the videos in our own real-time today, when he could film something and put it on Facebook straightaway. And when I follow Jon from Canvey into Southend, I wonder at the stick he obtains to walk with, then the solitary pier sticking out across the estuary mud, the tiring length of it to walk that I already know well, and the girl on the pier, and the logistics of being left something by his uncle, and I am mesmerised by something I can’t quite explain, changing from an ordinary reader towards becoming a full colluder with Jon, without really understanding everything. But Jon is not understanding the events and ambiances flowing by, either, and the view from the end of the pier is a bit like looking back at those of you left behind on the shore, not privy to the view I see, yet even this is not the whole view…many coordinates yet to triangulate.
    A roof yet to be hawled open upon a pulley.

    “a kind of shuffle”

  5. Pages 60 – 67


    “There are its rings. I’m looking directly at Saturn, by complete chance.”

    I need to claim something here you simply won’t believe, but it’s actually true. It’s so unlikely, I have already defeated my attempts to claim it. Why did I stop last night mid-chapter on page 60? How had I not already glimpsed something significant on the next page? Depending on the answers, this is the strangest and strongest synchronicity yet in my ten years of Gestalt Real-Time Reviewing! ‘Shudder’ is indeed the word. Including similar synchronicities in these few pages today of the Dr Feelgood track and the sight of the same girl stranger swimming in the nearby creek whom he earlier met on the pier.
    Meanwhile, a cliffhanger concerning his uncle… “I want to know why he chose to live here, away from everyone, keeping himself to himself, creating his recordings, writing his unending book, listening to the sea outside his window, gazing at the stars from his shed, lost in time, forgotten.”
    This utterly intriguing and captivating book may answer these questions. This review will hopefully not do so. I will continue tentatively giving my real-time reactions below. But by their very nature, they may let something unintended slip…

    “black screen”

  6. Pingback: Synchronicity rampant… | DES LEWIS GESTALT REAL-TIME REVIEWS

  7. Pages 69 – 90

    Personal “random” observations of mine — alongside these pages themselves that have some strikingly effective observations of human life in Southend, from May Avenue to Queensway and York Road and then the Irish pub and then back to the Lobster Smack pub on Canvey —
    My own road where I have lived for the last 23 years is immediately flanked by another York Road and another Queensway.
    “…but it’s a self-service café so I get up to join the queue.” The 1990s story I mentioned earlier (“Queuing Behind Crazy People”, its text searchable on-line) features a lobster basket as well as a particular mention of a stripper who strips off her clothes, down even below her skin. “Or like I’m watching her through a lens, in real time, a more lucid real time—“ implying comparative grades of real-time? “The fact that all this is happening in real time, right now, is quite hard to believe: the birth of new stars, the death of old, the planets orbiting,…”
    More Virgil, Petrarch, ‘Rerum Vulgarium Fragmenta’, Uncle’s video about someone called Laura, the frustrating strictures and passions of writing a book… “That’s the aim … to be truthful, never to deviate, always to rewrite,…”. Meanwhile, it is also “Sunday” in my own real-time today.

  8. Pages 91 – 114

    “It all seems so fragile, too unstable, as if some fall or crash in the universe is imminent. I’ve had similar thoughts at different times throughout my life, of course. This is nothing new.”

    It is Monday in the book, too. And Jon is confident that his quest, in dour Southend, will find that girl he first met on the pier – just as confident as I am that I will find further personal synchronicities in this book and others. Here, for example, that, from Clacton, I often hear the deep rumbles across the sea of munitions testing (as I understand them to be) from Shoeburyness. And I see the same Thames Barges passing. And I once visited Toledo. But I don’t like cats!

    “She turns around, laughing, and gives him the Vs,…”

  9. “Who shall bring once again an Age of Gold
    To Latium, to the land where Saturn reigned
    In early times.” – from Virgil’s Aeneid


    Pages 114 – 140

    “It’s quite mesmerising: a series of arcs and giant ellipses, of widening degrees, sweeping diagonally downward, through the constellations, which I presume to be the path of Saturn in the night sky.”

    Monday, into Tuesday. This work seems to be capturing me as a reader just as much as Jon feels it is capturing him by means of what things it makes happen to him. A sense of kicking against the pricks of the synchronicities, and trying to assuage guilt by helping others, but others who do not want your help, and the sense of being watched through all tranches of time from one’s childhood till now. Revelation and counter-revelation, almost a Toynbeean challenge and response, that I am being forced to parse and construe. Like I once did in my Gestalt Real-Time Review of ‘Finnegans Wake’ and of some other notable books…but this ‘Vulgar Things’ work seems disarmingly simple, compelling, page-tuning as its weapon of first use.

    “Like it’s supposed to be gibberish, like the gibberish is some sort of code, and only readers who go along with it will begin to understand.”


    “Books have led some to learning and others to madness.”— Petrarch

  10. My Natal Chart specified above, showing Saturn close to my Ascendant…


    Pages 140 – 165

    “: editing this manuscript is pointless now as it can’t ever be read by anyone.”

    The synaesthesia of Jon’s Southend pub and road quest and listening to pub talk between the Southend man and woman, the dealings of drug dealer and dealt, importuner and victim, wondering whether someone is genuine beggar or thief, sex worker or genuine attachment, pub talk with effectively blank three-dot ellipses as well as real speech.
    “I yearn for Saturn, my legs shaking. Just to see it now, hanging peacefully;”
    Synaesthesia, yes, and indeed pareidolia evoked perfectly, in his photographs – and word pictures of Thames Barges and weather storms approaching Southend via rain-streaked bar window vistas. I take photos of this coast but then I often see something in them that I did not know I had taken (many of my photos shown as scrolled here: https://nullimmortalis.wordpress.com) Jon also ponders on the “silent geometry” of buildings as well as of the night sky. And feeling like an actor being filmed…

    “blank spaces between the scenes”

  11. Pages 165 – 190

    “…there’s no one to help you, except the sea, the sea helps us, we live for the sea.”

    We follow Jon spending the night among the homeless of Southend-on-Sea, still intent in his quest, and he returns to the caravan’s Canvey, still sorting his Uncle’s possessions for Jon’s own telling family backstory. His Uncle who has recorded a message also of his “elder season of pain and regret”, the search for this book’s eponymous “common voice”, tempered by another recorded thought: “Strange, marvellous things arise … and our suffering we shall know, was not in vain.” By sonnet of Petrarch or not. By Saturn or not, Jon later “knowing that Saturn is somewhere up there, with me, hanging above me, keeping me rooted.” A dead seagull contrasted with a swarm theory or hive of such birds as rings of Saturn? And the shifting identity of that girl met again on the pier, by the bell…

    “looping at intervals”


    A quote made a few days ago (in my still ongoing chance concurrent real-time review of it) from Sebald’s “The Rings of Saturn”:
    “I do not believe that these men sit by the sea all day and all night so as not to miss the time when the whiting pass, the flounder rise or the cod come in to the shallower waters, as they claim. They just want to be in place where they have the world behind them, and before them nothing but emptiness.”



    A voice from my reading today of VULGAR THINGS:
    “Fishing … Sorts a man’s life right the fuck out … I do all of my best thinking when I’m out on the pier, fishing. Everything goes away. I’m a fucking king out there, geezer, I tell you, a fucking king…” (Ken King?)

  12. Pingback: Vulgar Rings | DES LEWIS GESTALT REAL-TIME REVIEWS

  13. Pages 190 – 212

    “Living things are filthy and it’s only when death confronts us that we finally see ourselves for what we truly are: accumulations of filth.”

    Life, a series of silent alarms. Sounds and sensations as a form of mathematics. Life is, I say, also a series of catharses and sudden realisations and reconciliations of connections, like reading a fiction book about oneself for which you wrote the real-time notes without consciously doing so, till you reach that hindsight gestalt, that Saturn in the sky, made paraeidoliac or synaesthesic as a form of found art by re-recording it. Some beautiful concepts of Saturn, here, including Jon’s black and white photos of it, via his uncle’s telescope, and through his uncle’s hawling-roof. These pages have plot catharses and realisations and rejigged backstories. The arrival of infinite space to house all of us, leaving our filth behind! Soon to be bodiless as a positive form of homeless. A poignant and powerful denouement. Re-recorded here, by my review.

    “it all becomes visible”

  14. Pages 212 – 230

    “Speak quietly, and carry a big stick.”

    These pages represent a telling coda within the book and as a confirmation of what I just said in the last entry. Bearing out what I thought then, but now with a clinching coming together of the palimpsest gestalt, accomplished vividly with better words than mine on page 229. Meantime, the beacons and the food for such beacons at the end seem to echo my emotions when reading ‘The Light of Adria’ in the INNER EUROPE book I mentioned earlier as a chance concurrent real-time review, together with the similarly concurrent Sebald review that is still on-going, in fact hardly started (the Sebald book alongside VULGAR THINGS providing my most significant synchronicity in the ten years of doing such reviews). In itself, as a separate entity, VT (video tape?!) is a great novel I have greatly enjoyed parsing and construing. As you can see I could not put it down today! Virgil and Petrarch will never be the same again, nor my view of my own natal chart that I first erected when I had my own children in the early 1970s…


Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s