10 thoughts on “Their Dark & Secret Alchemy

  1. TEN OF SWORDS: RUIN by Richard Gavin

    “‘I didn’t know they made coffins this tiny,’ Celeste breathlessly declared.”

    For most of this novella, a superbly atmospheric ritual of storytelling, a Damian Murphy-like path of two sisters, Celeste and Desdemona, with methodical goals and precise constraints, e.g. a washing bowl, to welcome their parents’ return in their boat, to a house with visionary happenings, sometimes frightening. But the choice of a buried Tarot card creates a monster from the mother. And later, meaning-led tales told between them, one being about a white queen’s moon-burial and more; we are left with one sister as genius loci of a lake’s island, if people can have their own spirit of place, this sister being sought by two men (men who are lovers to each other) while the other sister is now moon-buried herself, I infer. Or the two sisters buried within each other like Russian dolls (“matryoshka” – not ‘natroyshka’, as this text has it?). The men, eventually, too?
    Connections towards gestalt, to be scried for occult meaning. I have so far failed to create this gestalt for myself. The final pages have confused me, after great inspiration earlier in this work. Perhaps you will not fail. Perhaps I myself will not fail, once revelation comes.

    My previous reviews of this author: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/john-travis-richard-gavin/

  2. THE DEAD OF MARIDUNUM by Colin Insole

    “And having made them feel discontented with the world, he made them destroy it — undermining their marriages, businesses and pleasures.”

    Whenever I hawl works, I hawl them after one reading. Many need more readings, but the hawling is done after one. Sometimes a work is read in more than one sitting, though. This was done in one sitting, an overall experience I could not put down, reasonably being, as it is, within the scope of a single sitting’s reading. Each time I read a new work by Insole, I feel I have read his apotheosis story. This is no exception. The most powerful yet, if only in the passion of the reading moment that I can remember best: the latest one. Just now. I cannot cover it all. I will cover only things that are more personal to me. It blends London 1940s wartime and a girl and her parents, blending it with Brittany, and Cornwall. A mending of the Brexit man, built into the quote I give above? More an expunging than a mending of that man, in the guise of a theatrical clown with a pipe and dead-trapped marbles (my marbles here), merging the two world wars and plagues and Middle Ages, narrated by the infected Morris men and more. Goodness, how can I re-convey the hypnotic power of the words, swathe upon swathe of text as a soul’s subsumption? No way! But that evil man may come back, with his golden mice and the box of photos and other items that the girl closely examines, the pipe brought back by some new hawler from the sea. I am reading simultaneously about Bodmin here with court dwarves and dolls. A bear here. And this book mentions Clacton where I live now, near Colchester where I lived as a boy, the oldest recorded town this side of the channel, Colchester aka Camulodunum, cf Maridunum. And Clun is also mentioned, where I went on honeymoon. I leave you to hawl your own personal connections to this story. All readers of this work will have their own connections. Some of you may even be on the side of this work’s evil, and hope it wins, but you will call it good, not evil. This magnificent work that, having subsumed me in one sitting, I am powerless to impart, to impart what it is really about! It is perhaps about evil and good’s attempt to mend evil, at least temporarily, in matchless textured and tentacular words of theatre and a mind’s dance, throughout European histories in endless pain, pain plain and purl. Creatures brought to life from all manner of things, and “seismic shifts in human thought.”

    My many previous reviews of Colin Insole: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/colin-insole/

  3. My many previous reviews of the next author below: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/tag/damian-murphy/

    THE AXIS OF THE LODESTONE by Damian Murphy

    Pages 79 – 99

    “An engineer is bound to the integrity of their initial design, while a poet seems almost to proceed in defiance of first principles.”

    We follow Bastien, with his friend Octave, and earlier with a seer woman he knows called Magna. Bastien is writing a highly original book on chess, wherein even the pawns mutiny. There is, I infer, an androgyne chess piece as axis. The half-written book goes missing, as part of some tapestry in this text of set moves and obscure paths, like a sight of a boat washed up in an intricate city, and artisan modes in a world of business corporate horror. There is even a mention of Janus that resonates with ‘Jesse’ earlier here this morning in my world outside this book. This Murphy, meanwhile, is an enthralling, entrancing, methodical, yet ornate, work, so far. The book will probably be read by me in three sittings, this being the first. Any poisoned locks or brittle picks, notwithstanding. Or workaday lottery systems of my labour here. (As an aside, I ordered a book called ‘Leviathan’, as edited by Jeff VanderMeer, earlier yesterday before reading this.)

    “The message resided on the edge of tangibility, its ambiguity gently teasing his imagination like a furtive caress from a half-remembered dream.”

    • Pages 100 – 121

      Further rarefied paths for Bastien, one with Magda, an altar she sets up with red wine douches, and another with Octave to ‘the god of machinists’ in the factory of which Bastien is heir, threading the paths of further threading or hawling-pulley machines leading to some equivalence with some stone Masonic nœud more suitable for those who know textile-looms better than they know chisels. I myself thought Bastien nearer approached Azathoth’s lair at earth’s core! This material is so rarefied it takes you to new dimensions of reading literature, and this is no idle boast, taking into account the working-practice tickets for bishops to make new chess moves without taking other pieces, where, too, for example, the “monumental pillar” by the washed-up boat resonated with Gavin’s pellar earlier in this book. This Sarob book if stolen from my room, will appear elsewhere or go missing, like Bastien’s own missing book. Shame it would make Insole’s tour de force go missing as well as Murphy’s. I hope the author will forgive me, but the only way for me to even nearly approach this book’s neo-Ligottian nœud (it is more than that, but suffice that expression for now) is to make several quotes from Murphy’s words’ “textiles”…Thomson’s dreadful city poem, notwithstanding.


      18 January 1948, 5.40 pm, Essex, England – “a conspiracy of noble stars”?

      “….and a key concealed in two different places at once.”
      “The dagger was the intellect and the wine the intoxication bestowed by pure, undefiled mystery.”
      “…as the blade traced intricate geometrical forms around him.” (Cf Georgina Bruce book here recently reviewed.)
      “, a bust of Machiavelli on a high shelf…”
      “‘agdistis’” as the rogue androgynous chess piece, split into syllables?
      “Here were created textures and weaves so rarefied…”
      Then a long description of the hawling-machines, to my mind, in the long paragraph at the foot of page 109, followed by…
      A mechanical woman, “breasts left open,” with two faces in either direction like Janus….
      “, a hidden sanctuary at once holy and laborious in which the gnosis of the ancients was extracted from insidious ores.”
      “; gears, clock punchers, strips of metal, verge adjusters, spring winders, awls and levels,” – a chess clock?
      “Their designs and patterns displayed in their weaves exerted a mild hypnotic effect. Their lattices and symmetries resembled the signature of a forgotten god whose name is unpronounceable to all but the initiated.”
      An italicised description of an unforgettable creature stemming from ‘revolving bitch’ or ‘roll paunch’….
      And then my reviewing itself…
      “Preposterous arrangements and ingenious conceits arose in complex harmonies and interrelations, each of them emerging from a single expression of pure potentiality.”
      “…the notion that the enormous wheel and the city’s monumental pillar were connected by a complex system of gears, belts, and pulleys.”
      And that Oxford comma notwithstanding… “inscrutable designs beneath a conspiracy of noble stars.”

    • Pages 122 – 142

      “…the ancient ethos of the guilds, a long-forgotten set of protocols and methodologies that would sweep like a flood across the face of modern industry.”

      I think this final novella has clinched the ethos of the whole of this book itself — the ethos of the MethODD, as I here dub it. Not the sterile Methodism as it once was, but a rich methoddity of ritual as the politicising of the patterns in human nature amid spiritual and political history, resolving the earlier perceived infusions of sexual or bodily mores in the Gavin while further apotheosising the seismic shifts of human thought as characterised by the Insole.
      In hindsight, Murphy has long been a proponent of what, today, I see as MethOdd literature, outdoing deliberated histories, while harnessing occult synchronicities, and in this final third of his latest work, there are some of his greatest-as-yet moments of set piece, the delivery as if by mule or homing-pigeon of a misdelivered letter (as I am redirecting this book itself into rightful hands), leading Bastien towards a fated meeting with a woman called Placide whose rituals with cigarette-smoking and tobacco is second to none, I am sure, in the annals of any prior literature that features cigarettes. And the subsequent chess game is, I am confident, beyond any other chess game, too, in any literature that previously featured chess. Placide’s rogue piece on the board is a pendant. EDB72E02-A2E7-44C7-BF01-5C2F9245D439A symbol of that boat which is later hawled or trenched across sand towards its awakening of the artisans of our world. All the Rees-Moggs or Trumps of this world merely ciphers or rogue pieces working in a pattern undiscerned by others playing the same game. That climate change like the above quoted ‘flood’, here upon modern industries, a flood seemingly encouraged or thwarted by those who first caused it. From evil, comes good. ‘But which is which?’ some may ask, and only literature can give answers of such mingled meaning. We all take our own meaning, and as a living being, each meaning is valuable. Chess as a symbolic template of all these forces, its rules harnessed or thwarted. Nothing is what it seems. Purpose is often a series of unpredictable real-time ricochets, whether disparate or in synergies as guilds, fraternal-ritual or instinctively practical, working against each other in the survival of the fittest or in mutual communes of the weakest first. But l’art pour l’art, as represented by this work, indeed by this whole book, has the optimal pattern of all possible forces, I sense. Didacticism itself thwarted by the ungraspable patterns woven into the warp and weft of Gestalt.

      “Now that he stood within the portal of the guild he felt further from its hidden heart than ever.”


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