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From Robert Aickman’s lengthy SOME NOTES ON DELIUS article, unpublished until recently :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’?
Following the Mark Valentine introduction that I have not yet read…
Pages 15 – 19
Poetic meditation on why this is written in prose — and not in poetry as a form — is not it at all, so why did I write it just now even while I am writing the same sentence that contains the wrong description of what I am reading? Tattoos, skinheads, inner demons, the act of hearing waves outside while being in the London of the small hours, then watching the car windscreen wet up on the way to the seaside within the same sentence of mine that describes him still being in London, still in bed.
Cross-referenced with Craig Dworkin here: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2019/06/29/paris-dostoyevsky-wannabe-cities/#comment-16267
—> Page 25
I am delighted. This is genuinely THE perfect description of a seaside resort, arrival there for a fortnight’s holiday from the city at the boarding-house etc. I am agog for more but am determined to eke out reading it. I am aging for more, too! I can empathise with the septuagenarians described here.
I, of course, have lived in such a seaside resort for the last 25 years, in fact born in one 71 years ago, and lived there till I was 7.
I now go on short holidays to cities. As defined.
—> Page 28
“And in the dream I have, a large gull clambers human-like in through this window..,”
Sorry, this is not really a Pinteresque boarding-house, but more a holiday flat, but it has the potential characters of a new Birthday Party, perhaps. Fried bacon et al. And a pier. You know, this stuff is so good to read for me, I may need to take smaller and smaller bites at it to eke out the dark joy of it.
—> Page 32
“I remember way back in the ‘good old days’, those claw machines included packets of Embassy Regal and BHS Special Filter with a metal-strapped watch around it and under the strap was a crisp fiver.”
I am almost having a cerebral orgasm at each observation upon this seaside resort, involving resorts past and present, and including their micro-climates!
Pages 33 – 40
“I cannot trust anyone… anymore.”
Even a reviewer who evidently enjoys your work? Well, let me say, this is my favourite Jonathan Wood so far, and that’s saying something! It is both accessible and pungently intellectual, or simply pungent. It flows better than factory-bitter. Better than best bitter, in fact. And the mysterious sounds above his head in his top flat-roofed holiday flat remind me of Aickman hearing a dying horse on his roof, and the pub scenes remind me of the wonderful Stephen Hargadon?
This work already seems to be genuinely unmissable. But, bet none of you have read it!
Pages 40 – 46
“The margarine was shocking, the cheapest I could deliberately purchase at the local mini market…”
Wonderful descriptive scenes of culinary masochism, and fish gutting, and the experience of seeing David Dickinson on TV. And we gradually learn more about the narrator and intriguingly why he is now at the seaside, maybe permanently? And I was seriously agape at the vision of On The Buses…
—> Page 55
“, sure as eggs are smashed against the wall.”
Sure as eggs are eggs, or sprats are sprats. A ‘sprat’ is made of ‘parts’, like this prose work has parts, a gradual passage through them without noticing they are parts or fragments of some greater gestalt … in synergy with the piles of jigsaws in seaside boarding houses, perhaps one day making a single jigsaw. We gradually, then, sense more to this narrator than originally met the eye, his obsessions, his hinterland of a Pinteresque Birthday Party relationship with this seaside place and its characters heretofore, his need to observe himself as if a doppelgänger, to discover the nature of the noises above his head, the non-Euclidean form of the buildings’ “rooves.” And whether the plural of roof is roofs. As well as Hargadon and Pinter, we have factoring in from Lee Rourke and Brian Aldiss’ Report on Probability A. And ice cream vans today! Butter, not cheap margarine.
“…as if butter wouldn’t melt and turned at the ice cream van…”
—> Page 75 (end)
“…as if I had seen the Argo emerge from out the classical sea frets. Unmistakeable in its contrasts of speed and deliberate plodding, it was there on the same canvas as the far distant oil tankers…”
This has the feel for me of mutual synergy with Menmuir’s The Many, yet there is something distinct about this Wood book, unique and special against all its other mutual synergies listed in my review. I could not resist reading right to the end in this sitting. I guess that is what they mean by page-turning. It is ultimately so special, it needs to be more famous as a work of fiction, and not skulk away in various unknown seaside resorts. Or even in such wonderfully produced limited editions as this particular physical book certainly is. With its obsessive Process of the Sprat (at first a rabid mix with crab and guppy, later a fly-blown suppuration), a Process of Spirit that you will never forget, plus the ingesting of time, the mutual metaphors of bungalows here and back in the city, my own seaside bungalow included, the contents of freezers, the anxious OCD of switching refrigeration processes on or off, the important disturbing implications of what we find in various cars or boots or freezers, seaside or city, the Surf and Turf, pub belching competitions with On-Naze bikers, those Beckettian others sharing the boarding house, all so brilliantly described in the characteristically matchless texture of Wood prose. “Brown to brown, soil to soil, silt to silt.” “…and pick up the pieces and the fragments…”
I am humbled by your exceptionally insightful postcards or should that be newly discovered pieces of the jigsaw…..? I am so grateful to you for the very deep dredge you have undertaken with this story. It feels like you were there. The story, although relatively short, took over a year to compose, because it could only be composed through the mind and eyes and voice of this narrator, whose signal kept disappearing and it could only be finally written when the signal was strong and clear and compelling, which eventually it was. I’ve wanted to compose this story for years and suddenly the tide turned and conditions were right. I wanted to try and capture the banal slow burn of a mind deeply on the turn littered with the histories of all our experiences and against the background of so many seaside observations. I spent years making notes, watching folk according to their ‘selves’ on sea fronts and cafes etc; some observations are from way way back. There’s a little side piece to this story coming out in Infra-Noir issue two as well, which slightly opens up some potential new ground.
Your review postcards are forever now part of the fabric of this story, like notes and drafts kept during the writing process. I also take your point about its potential in the wider reading world. It leaves me therefore to thank you again and to thank Jonas Ploeger for his patience in the waiting room and his faith and fabulous ingenuity in its presentation and to Mark Valentine for his magical introduction.
Very best wishes