6 thoughts on “Trying To Be So Quiet – James Everington

  1. TRYING TO BE SO QUIET

    I first read and reviewed this work in May 2016, and below is what I wrote about it then…

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    Trying To Be So Quiet
    image

    This being today’s note, it is addressed to everyone except the book’s author. The Dreamcatcher review below is, as ever, in fusion or symbiosis with a hyper-imaginative fiction. A NO SPOILER POLICY OPERATED THROUGHOUT. But on rare occasions such reviews can accidentally reveal too much…

    Pages 1 – 26
    “They were just building their dreary little spires up into the sky.”

    There is Marie in TS Eliot’s ‘The Waste Land’, but no Lizzie….
    This is the bereaved aftermath of the accountant’s loss of his wife Lizzie, one where the text itself and this aftermath’s environment that it describes are linked, page by page, by an accreting craquelure on the walls of the house where the couple lived, a device like Gahan Wilson’s wall-stain in Again, Dangerous Visions. There, explained, but here, just there. Rotting up. Totting up like a balance sheet, where the numbers always add up to zero.

    I am highly disturbed as well as enchanted by the accretion not only of the design but of the nature of this bereavement, its assumption of pointlessness, the building of spires in a daily office akin to the work on ancient cathedrals, work that often spanned more than the lifetime of those working on them. But Lizzie was always right when she was alive, leaving just a pause to prove that her forthcoming answer was wiser than he could ever be. All this elusiveness blended with an artful construction of the two main characters as backstory, together with his office life that he quickly resumes to help heal the bereavement, yes, all this adds, like a column of effects, to the sheer power of what I feel when reading this. And I thought I would stop here, halfway, briefly, then hurry back to work on it as soon as I post this first of two impressions, just glimpses of what the dead might leave behind, say, in bathroom mirrors, or shadows on the wall, or in remembered discussions they once held on eschatological matters during their backstory.

    *

    Pages 26 – 53

    “He longs to go and hold her, the effect is so lifelike. He wonders which would be worse if he did — touching nothing or touching warm skin.”

    I wondered, too, as I reached into the text, having flipped ahead cursorily, without yet reading the words, seen for whatever reason that the craquelure turned from black to grey towards the end. I wonder, too, how this might work in a vacuum as with digital text, rather than, as here, on paper. The text here holds any ghost true like a memory of the place where you first met the person whose ghost it is, and I reread the backstory’s beginnings in the first half of the text. The text’s backstory complete with craquelure is indeed the ghost, and, in hindsight, I may perhaps have given the wrongly shallow impression when just referring to Lizzie’s widower (the story’s protagonist) as an accountant, especially when we revisit with him where they first met in Oxford as university students. Amid all those dreaming spires that Matthew Arnold first identified.
    There are many other moments you will encounter in this text that I cannot cover here, but one of them strikes me as possibly the most powerful for my own recent circumstances of bereavement (not a wife, but a mother), something I hope is not a spoiler, and that is the concept of the latent Death Scream, one that is owing for release to any dead person who was muted by palliation whilst dying.
    And as I began with ‘The Waste Land’, I now sense, with the universe’s forward rush slowing, near the end of this book, a shade of Byron’s poem, ‘Darkness’.
    This work felt both devastating and uplifting to me. But how can that possibly be?
    And a great ghost story, to boot. Trying to be so quiet.

  2. THE SECOND WISH

    “—he had forgotten how noisy the gulls could sound when they landed on the roof directly above his head.”

    When I judge a story, I should surely not judge it, even partially, by its supposed chance synchronicities with my own life. But I am only human. As is the character here, a middle-aged man trying out his childhood bed for size in the attic bedroom, in a house where his parents had recently died, after he had been abroad on the idyllic Mediterranean coast, somehow with a successful, real or fabricated, life, just as fabricated as these gull sounds on the old roof he remembers from the past, after having met with the Lawyer and the Doctor about the demise of his parents, or was it both the Lawyer and Doctor amorphously, at once, as the same person? I was entranced by this Aickman-like and Tem-Like and Everington-eventing ambiance of shifting doubt in time and shifting place or face. Enhanced PERSONALLY by my knowledge over the last twenty odd years of the sound of sea-birds on an attic-bedroom roof, the death of my own parents over the years, reading this while, by chance, listening to Lee Patterson’s birdsong music with shifting and shimmying gulls, and having read, by equal chance, too, Tem’s Housewarming story with shifting settlement here earlier today.

  3. The woman who doesn’t feel pain https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-highlands-islands-47719718 (Recent article.)

    DAMAGE

    Pages 83 – 104

    “Her girlfriend had sat and watched the Doctor Who Christmas Special with the same affectionate bafflement Alex had felt when Alyssa had called her to see a bird in the garden.”

    Birds now inside the house, or head? Instead of on the roof. Words and their lines, spread out, relaxed, with white spaces between, some words even gratuitously lengthened by vestigial hyphens. Here a sense of bereavement and pain of the surviving partner after the mindlessness involved in the accidental death of the other one – two women lovers, one into birds and the twelve days of Christmas, like turtle doves, the other into extinction beyond our world’s warming pain, even scalding pain, and a scarf but Who’s? There was no stress, no anxiety, I could allow myself to take time, spoilt for choice between interpretations. So why make any choice at all? Just kill others without culpability for their culpability. Dead sure that whatever will be whatever. The previous story’s Lawyer or Doctor, no one ever knows which you need most or which you are nearest becoming? Killer and healer, both. Christ’s Christmas or the Doctor’s, in her scarf.

    end

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