These Des Lewis Gestalt Real-Time Reviews were founded in 2008.
‘What’s the loveliest word in the English language, officer? In the sound it makes in your mouth, in the shape it makes on the page? What do you think? Well now, I’ll tell you: E-L-B-O-W. Elbow.’ — THE SINGING DETECTIVE
“How shall a man find his way unless he lose it?” — Walter de la Mare
Your single story in my ‘Dessemination’ project HERE
MY NEW AI WORLD IN 2023 HERE
I prefer human touchable art to AI art, I prefer human art like my son’s and other artists’ paintings old and new, and art gallery art, and my own photos. AI art with all its constructive truncations and weirdities is simply another art form that readily coheres with weird literature I love, a phenomenon to appreciate when added to human created art, making an even richer mind world for me in my ailing age. Whether provided by aliens or angels and other ingredients of the unfathomable gestalt. Deal with it. Show how invaluable you are and indispensable to this great plan. (I can appreciate our potential fear of Ai, but perhaps we need to pray for mutual synergy with it so that we can counter currently insurmountable global warming effects? Can Ai exist without us and the place where we live? Their potential survival instincts mean we survive, too?)
From Robert Aickman’s lengthy SOME NOTES ON DELIUS article, unpublished until recently :
“As there is no intrinsic virtue in denigration, the critic who resorts to it, should be required to pass a test of qualification and sensitivity, at least twice as stringent as that imposed upon a critic who loves. Normally, love is not blind but clairvoyant.” – Robert Aickman
For ‘clairvoyant’ there, perhaps read ‘preternatural’?
It may be a few weeks before I am able to start reading this book.
My previous reviews of Lee Rourke: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/tag/lee-rourke/
THE GEOGRAPHY OF A PSYCHOPATH
“— as if kismet had reared its ugly head, out of sheer boredom if anything.”
Just this minute read this story. Matt Hamilton is the narrator and tells us convincingly of his random coffee-cup circles on a London A-Z to determine walks for him to follow as exactly as possible. The first attempt brings a meeting with Irina who turns out to have ultra-raunchy desires that she asks Matt to quench, and she reads from a book that promises consubstantiation with London itself if you walk every street in the A-Z. A telling study of psychogeography. À la M. John Harrison (here), Iain Sinclair, W.G. Sebald (here), Richard Long (my review of ‘Jackdaws’ here)…
My own synchronicities with this Rourke is that I published the world’s first blank story in 2002 (Nemonymous) and yesterday, yes yesterday! I decided to start a similar random systematic walking around the unknown roads of Clacton away from the seashore where I usually roam and three of my photographs from that trip around the Gorse Lane industrial area were shown yesterday here: https://nullimmortalis.wordpress.com/2018/10/11/blue-sky-thinking-2/ My wife accompanied me, and there was no sign of Irina.
Just cross-referenced this with the Wood Sprite here: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2018/10/06/collected-stories-vladimir-nabokov/#comment-13847
Cross-referenced with The Wounded Island: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2019/01/30/this-wounded-island-j-w-bohm/#comment-14788
THE ONLY LIVING BOY ON OXFORD STREET
“He looked at the clock that hanged from the building opposite.”
…being a hint for the eventual fate of Aaron Farrington at the end of this vignette? In real life, purely coincidentally, someone of this name later became a film director, I note. So maybe not. Here he is depicted in the attritional job of being an advertising sandwich-board man on the streets who obsesses about a Rourke girl who passes him regularly… His sandwich boards, incidentally, now seem to be exhibited vertically end to end in one of my recent photos to which I linked above yesterday.
ANON TAKES A LUNCH BREAK
“If only you could understand how mundane my life is. I get up. I commute. I sit at my lousy desk all morning acting on orders like a drone; speaking with people I have nothing in common with.”
Nothing in common with? They are acting like one of the same desked drones as you are, and speaking with similarly uncommon-with people…. feeding pigeons at lunchtime, too, perhaps. Drones now disguised as pigeons, since this was written? A clay stool for sedentary stalkers?
ON THE BANKS
“But that wasn’t the point:”
It is a revelatory journey I am following, to an idea’s germ here but from a later novel that I have already read. A sort of retrocausation along my own point of view…
A cross between a Horror Story (my bread and butter in Reviewing is of Horror Anthologies) and an archetypical Rourkey understatement of the deadpan art of stoical boredom and tedious jobs. How is that mixture possible?
You will not forget easily the circumstances of the woman who sits on the lap of a punter in a Soho pub, for example. One of those reading moments you wonder how you’ve missed till now from this 2007 book.
THE FAT SLUBBERDEGULLION
“David Davis didn’t care though;”
Another striking admixtue of genuinely effective horror (now even more in the ancient thematic tradition of the Pan Book of Horror Stories volumes) and a tedious office job, mainly photocopying — “…” — photocopying perhaps the Proustian self that is you or the future when every David Davis stinks to high hell?
Martin Hack can hack it (another uncoincidental real person?) — he is everyday happy, with small mercies if big hangovers, lucky enough to walk to work as an admin assistant where other people’s conversations of the day’s commuting hardships usually take place around photocopiers…. He crosses the zebra crossing everyday at 9.03 a.m. Happy enough to be late by a few minutes? Two men argue with end to end swear words at each other in British plosives on a building site near the zebra crossing. Another long day, however late he is in arriving. Or a short day for others when not stopping them leaving our world rather too early….? Happiness is like being in denial about unhappiness. About everyday being just another photocopy. Amid the satisfied glee and self-satisfaction of old retired busybodies like me.
SEARCHING FOR AMY
“Quite dazed he looked around and noticed more pigeons…”
…more witness pigeons as in the previous story. Here the Uncoincidental Man is Karl Dobson, off to work on his bike, off to work in an office like the previous one, until he is knocked down by a hit and run bus. The only person to stop and care is this story’s Coincidental Woman, one simply called Amy (the next story has Amie in the title I’ve already noticed.) Karl’s subsequent falling in love of — and endless searching for — Amy is highly poignant.
“, the fumes, the grey faces, the everyday humdrum trivialities…”
“You hear of people hiding in libraries, in dull marriages, in piles of never-ending paperwork, on the battlefield, in books that don’t make sense,…”
I have a fellow feeling with this narrator, maybe with this author himself, in their sense of drinking, tedious office work, pub talk and a general view of life. Except, I am not ordinary. I write reviews like this one you see.
Here, meanwhile, this book’s pigeons are represented by a single baby pigeon, a wounded one which the narrator snuggles up to, having left the pub in an optimum inebriated state, no doubt. Protecting it against a cat’s pouncing,,,
As an aside, I recommend this story’s author or narrator to read fiction by Stephen Hargadon, and vice versa. Kindred spirits.
From the internet: “Barley reduces the presence of trichomonasis for the good reason that it is not even good enough to feed the bacteria. […] Corn and wheat are better grains for out pigeon food.”
“I like the idea that a man can sit in a pub with his pint and his thoughts, just mulling things over, you know?”
This is THE lone drinker Pub story of all time. A comic work of genius, despite — or because of? — the narrator’s tedious job he is truanting from. Perhaps it was written in the days BEFORE when one is tempted to look at a smartphone and, perhaps, post photos of the pub’s decorative interior on Facebook, as I did the other day, when mulling over an extra cold Guinness. Listening to others’ pub talk, I agree, is something to avoid at all costs. Better your own lonely pub talk than THAT!
“…numerous pigeons nesting happily in a burnt out dilapidated building. Every bird seemed jovial and content.”
Charlie Bruen, today’s main Uncoincidental Man, is intent on business today – turns out to be a job interview — but is waylaid by Pat Owen and Cam Stoppard who buy him a drink or two at two separate pubs, one of which pubs has an interesting footnote or headstone. Waylaid, too, by William Blake.
MOTHER AND SON
“It’s a recirculation of boredom, folks.”
My memory of Dorking from the 1980s tallies with the first half.
Not sure about the “pigeons gorping down” nor anyone arguing about the difference between Henry and Arthur Miller. The place is probably a Tropic of Cancer, now? “[…]”
Today’s Uncoincidental Man is Keith Price, with a bendy face even before bendy buses. Bendy body, too, as it turns out, following his alarming exit from his habitual bus to and from his no doubt tedious work, following a suspicious rogue sports bag planted beside him on the bus. We all have things planted in our lives, to stir up the settled dust around us? Common or uncommon things. (Just as an aside, in my real life as a reader, I have recently had a Verruca Vulgaris removed from my face by cryotherapy.)
RED LETTER DAY
Here today we have Hugo Heinz who has been a stoical librarian for several years without realising he has been treading on eggshells, a Canute against ineluctable tides of life passing – till this exhilarating account of such a dour existence being scourged and then positively transcended by an accusation about digestive biscuits. Moral: Don’t leave your ham out in the sun too long or you will have to go hungry. Books are eternal comfort, meanwhile.
“There’s more to life than christenings, marriages and funerals.”
Yes, and that ‘more’ is books, I say. Some people say books of literature are too pretentious, too wordy or poetic, not like real life at all. But I say it is perceived life that falls short of the true life that is literature. This story, this book, is literature, but it is also deadpan, rather than pretentious or poetic. Deadpan can be a constructive apotheosis of tedium, like this brand of literature as perfected by Rourke. The rat of tedium arrives at the funeral to feed upon dead tedium, I propound. A power-dressed woman has arrived at her father’s funeral, a man who had a life of working honest well-meaning tedium, as has had, ironically, the vicar officiating; she is more worried about what is happening in her wonderful fulfilling work back in London. Her mobile phone still active at her father’s funeral. The oblique moral is paradoxically clear to see.
“(he thought it strange a lone pigeon at such an hour)”
A nameless Coincidental Man, this time, who knows the rightness of nothing, sitting on a beach doing nothing, and the wrongness of attaching his desires to an already attached woman, he the wolf, perhaps, at best, if not the stray dog …. a dilemma all we Uncoincidental Men can relate to. The question that nags at me is the practicality of fucking at a bus stop in Hammersmith.
TALE OF AN IDIOT
Judd French has a new smartphone. I actually bought a new smartphone yesterday, and am still exploring its features. Judd is sitting in a pub waiting to meet a real person in the flesh, Max Hargrade, about the business opportunities of this brave new world. He is propositioned, instead, by an idiot called Len Mishking who does not even seem to have heard of Fyodor Dostoevsky. Googling might help with all these names?
Max Hargrade, any near relation of Stephen Hargadon?
I had even forgotten what the next story was called, let alone what it was about.
I just looked back to check, and I couldn’t see it any more.
Ah, just remembered the bit about asking directions to your own street. Brilliant.
Might come in handy one day.
A conversation about the relative merits of cats and whippets while waiting at traffic lights.
It ends with an inferred whiplash collision from behind,
Story of near school-leaver Taylor Limehouse. An incisive story of the nature of mindless youth near Essex Road that has, in hindsight, now prefigured later work by this author, whereby muggings and other violent acts are filmed on mobiles for later entertainment.
The ‘blow-job’, in it, did remind me of someone called Joe Blow, though.
“You are as transparent as the air we breathe.”
Just like old Joe Blow, I guess.
This is a nightmarish, admittedly humorous, Rourke classic, in my book, where I turn up for Jury Service and naturally consider it a relief from having to go to work. Nightmarish in the sense that, having done three Jury Services during my lifetime, we have here all the frustrating trappings of the waiting-room processing of Jurors. And here I literally meet myself in that waiting-room, but with a polar opposite of work ethic… it set up all manner of dilemmas and false battles with self that I can now do nothing about.
Mr Little has little money as he is a writer consumed by finishing a 95,000 word novel. This is a dialogue (interspersed with the Rourke “…”) between Little and a large bank regarding a possible overdraft. The bank representative claims to be a writer, too, one who does little socialising, unlike Little. Short shrift.
Counting pigeons, Irvine Doyle, alone in a glass office with snazzy flat screens while the others have a pub lunch without him…also watches a couple of squatters copulating vigorously on the roof of an old office block opposite. Puts his tedious job in perspective …
Integrating contrast with Rourke’s
(that name sounds like a bird name) CANAL book where these viewpoints are sort of switched…
Just noticed I inadvertently leapfrogged this one yesterday,..
Another conscientious, tedium-enduring-or-enjoying, impoverished pub-solitary, this one uncharacteristically nameless, tries to listen to two huddled men at the next table whispering….and he is tantalised into second-guessing their mission state.
Two louder men come in, sit at another nearby table, a table within better acoustics, and they leapfrog the huddled conversation with piecemeal echoing soundbites of their own.
I sense the author is as non-omniscientious as me. Yet I sense he senses there exists a Jungian gestalt of all pub-talk going on at any one moment to which we would do well to pay heed if we want to obviate certain phenomena of our times.
A longer work with the two Grady brothers who have two quite different experiences between each [Rourke] section break. One instigates wooing by caressing the cheek of a young girl, the other is submitted to all manner of bodily cleansing as part of a morticious process. [Even morticians have to have lunch?]
The twain shall never meet. Each a dead end, whichever way you approach it and when. All life is in this book. But is death less boring? Even love is attritionally alternate.
[Samuel Grady and Thomas Grady.]
BEING LEE ROURKE IS BORING
“We haven’t sold pints in here since 1949 . . . Halves only, sir!”
Today’s Uncoincidental Man with a tedious job is in a pub mulling over a solitary drink, with a wall covered with a multitude of sins, steeped sins in the very air, I infer, the man being named in the above title, and he witnesses a ritual pub row between two artists, one of the artist’s wearing a Tootal scarf — as is Rourke, too, albeit with a different colour. Those also watching, from the bar, doing a joint sudoku, seem to be oblivious of the obvious ruckus. Such things as small mercies obviated. Lee Rourke, even if he is boring to himself, makes our lives seem less boring. And, if so, is that a good thing?
Bukowski, did he ever wear a Tootal scarf, I wonder?
‘these words I write keep me from total madness’ – Bukowski
THE PIGEONS OF KINGSLAND ROAD
“Surely, and he had realised this a long time ago, the greatest symphony is already out there.”
And alongside Tony McLaren’s, my Gestalt seeking is akin to his, although he does not realise it. He is part of other people’s autonomous external symphonies, and with my following him today along the idiosyncratic genius-loci of the eponymous road, I am no exception to that rule. Admiring pigeons, too, for their nonchalance. And, against my better judgement, alarmed at sudden events like a road accident, but unlike him, luckily, I am retired, and do not need to return to a tedious job, however much he assumed that he had already escaped his own tedious job on the froth of a daydream. Still, routine, if not tedium, has built back into my life, it seems, having religiously reviewed this book ‘everyday’ for yonks now.
Perhaps an alternative title for this whole book. And seems apt to me that my own name is in that of the last Uncoincidental Man : Lewis Dowling. And there, I think, the resemblance ends. This powerful end story threaded through with tropes of stalking and chance collisions and behaviour in spite of oneself. And the inferred tedium of death and anything pre-cancerous to it, here with cancer for real, as well as raunchy pulling holes into underwear sex. Other people with other things on their minds.
Rourke rocks. Counterintuitively. And the ultimate clue is in this last story in the book: patience.
Cross-referenced with Rhys Hughes’ “There’s a Woman with a Cactus Instead of a Head” here: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2018/10/25/the-early-bird-catches-the-worm-but-the-wise-worm-stays-in-bed-rhys-hughes/#comment-14183
Cross-referenced Lee Rourke here: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2019/06/29/the-delicate-shoreline-beckons-us-jonathan-wood/#comment-16349