My purchased copy has just excitingly arrived…
VINTAGE BOOKS 2019
Edited by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer
A huge, wide book with two close-ordered columns on each page in over 800 pages.
My previous real-time reviews of the big book of THE WEIRD: https://nullimmortalis.wordpress.com/2011/11/02/weird-a-compendium-of-dark-and-strange-stories/ and THE BIG BOOK OF SCIENCE FICTION: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2016/07/19/the-big-book-of-science-fiction/
My other reviews of classic works: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/reviews-of-older-books/
When I read this book in due course, my thoughts will appear in the comment stream below…
The stories presented chronologically, the first being 1808.
THE QUEEN’S SON by Bettina Von Arnim
Translated by Gio Clairval
“, bears, white or with golden fur, often swam in pairs in the rivers…“
If I had to imagine or conceive of the first story in this book in perfect serendipity with what I would equally imagine or conceive to be these two editors’ optimum story-as-first-story bearing an ethos that I imagine or conceive as a major part of our perception of these editors’ essence, while ALSO being a story independently worthy of starting this mighty-looking book of ‘classic fantasy’ for the period chosen, then, amazingly, this story would be that story. A story of brave womanhood against an otherwise accepted male power, amid nature’s embrace of that womanhood, her giving birth via that male power yet with loyalty to the first story conceived and born, however many stories are also later born to her. The inherited crown created to be shared as well as individuated, readers and stories alike. The story itself is beautiful whatever the whys or wherefores it was chosen. Out of this context, I may not have thought any of these thoughts about the story. Who can possibly know now? Too late even for hindsight. And the remaining stories, the forthcoming massive journey that I shall slowly make with this book, may or may not be optimum nor in any easy gestalt, whether they be in or out of this book’s context, but I do have a faith that each will somehow stir something important in me, and in you, too. Literature – as deployed by its synchronicity of choices – embodies its own faith, I feel.
HANS-MY-HEDGEHOG by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm
“Hans-My-Hedgehog cannot understand writing, and I can put down what I want to.”
And I will. That this is a story of birth, quills, a cock-rooster, bagpipes, promises and princesses. And that this whole book is dedicated in clear print “For Hans-My-Hedgehog.” A book born with promises as well as quills, till it all comes eventually together as a perfect gestalt. And this story teeming with interpretations, me of it, it of me, a story unknown by me till today.
THE STORY OF THE HARD NUT
by E.T.A. Hoffmann
Translated by Major Alex. Ewing
“O, cousin, cousin, what extraordinary stories are these!”
A review as a hard nut to crack, a near uncrackable nut called Krakatuk, not Krakatoa nor even a word ending in ‘uk’ to describe an intractable Brexit! The story needs an audit trail, one starting with a “sausagebrew”, a King whose bacon is stolen from around the sausages by a sort of Mrs Mouserinks who is possibly a mouse or a monster, and then the King’s beautiful new-born daughter needs protecting from the monster by a young man with a strengthened wooden under-jaw cracking the Krakatuk and possibly later marrying the princess if successful — with much more in each link of the audit trail so that you can audit it… no spoilers from me, notwithstanding any kernel’s further sausagebrewing.
RIP VAN WINKLE by Washington Irving
A Posthumous Writing of Diedrich Knickerbocker
“a tory! a tory! a spy! a refugee! hustle him! away with him!”
…a story, too, to hear the distant thunder of ninepins by!
You would think that at my age I would be old enough to remember reading such a now rediscovered classic for the first time, let alone again! That I would already know that the Kaatskills are near New York, the circumstances of America’s throwing off the yoke of Old England, and the way that Holland did not beat USA in the recent World Cup, yet did I know that the Dutch featured so culturally in the America of this story’s era of happenstance, or (leapfrogging retrocausally just for a moment) was the former a parallel prefigurement of the throwing off by England of a different so-called yoke today? Or am I getting really confused in my dotage? I loved, meanwhile, to notice again the expression of being given a “curtain-lecture” as a scolding from one’s wife, an expression I used in The Brainwright in 1990. In toto, this is a beautifully comfortable story despite the difficulties Rip suffers after leapfrogging time. I felt I was in the story itself somewhere, playing ninepins, perhaps. Troughing along the road in galligaskins. Seeing a purple cloud and the sail of a lagging bark. It taught me that I should be taking life easy (“that happy age when a man can be idle with impunity”) and not spending years full-time, as I have, telling you about my reading habits! Yet, it seems that each real-time review is a single leapfrog towards Gestalt that would escape me otherwise… another story of the hard nut? RIP, after all?
Now cross-referenced ‘curtain-lectures’ of termagant wives with the since-read Tem classic here: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2019/05/04/out-of-the-dark-steve-rasnic-tem/#comment-16281
I note that Rip Torn died on July 9 2019, i.e. on the same day as my RVW ReVieW above.
Cross-referenced with Gone Away by Elizabeth Bowen: https://elizabethbowensite.wordpress.com/2021/11/17/gone-away-by-elizabeth-bowen/#comment-1367
THE LUCK OF THE BEAN-ROWS
A Fairy Tale for Lucky Children by Charles Nodier
“All the same he did not shut the prongs of his hoe.”
The story of the bean-row foundling boy-to-man called Luck of the Bean-Rows, with this book’s time-leapfrogging between and around, here propelling a machine of chick-peas that also runs on “steam”, so says his potential happy ending called Pea-Blossom, a sweetheart for him as wished for by the good otherwise childless parents who found this foundling. A beautiful cross between the fairy stories up which my lucky childhood during the 1940s and 50s was magically filled, involving a path of purpose beset with naiveties, dangers, and temptations provided by those he meets along that path, a diminuendo tontine against which his inborn luck fights. Yes, a cross between all that and what I may dare to call a premonition of the later fictionatronic or ironic Rhys-Hughesian travelogues across an ironically fast-navigable Earth, with herbs, plants and spices involved…
“I will quickly ho him out and fling him bound hand and foot to your mercy. And yet,”
Just remembered to record here the link to my ongoing reviews of older works or classic books, of which this book is one: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/reviews-of-older-books/
TRANSFORMATION by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley
“The poor King, Charles the Sixth, now sane, now mad, now a monarch, now an abject slave, was the very mockery of humanity.”
…as if a template of this story itself, where I was one moment wondering if the ‘me’ of the protagonist was in his (my) own body or another’s, the respective minds mixing and matching between! At once, a confession as tale of a handsome man who was weak-willed, who consequently lost his sweetheart, but is tempted by a living stunted flotsam with a treasure chest. A Devil’s pact or An Old Man And The Sea of sorts that leads perhaps to a didactic come-uppance, or does it? Mix and match. An erstwhile tale of ancient Genoa and Paris. But ‘We’ll Never Have Paris’ (a timely concurrent review of the mentally elusive dis-individuations here)…
“Who could control me in Paris?”
THE NEST OF NIGHTINGALES by Théophile Gautier
Translated by George Burnham Ives
“, and returned to their virginal, which they had abandoned for vocal music.”
The perfect music story of yore, when motets, madrigals and villanelles were widespread abroad. A story that I now learn is what is it itself the medium that created souls from nightingales, like Shelley did just now with a quite different shape-differing alchemy – the medium for the start of the connected string of the future souls of the classical composers I love. Two girls, Fleurette and Isabeau, kept themselves whole, if increasingly thin or rouge patched, for such a sacred sacrifice… and we all can now wake like RVW to find them thus remembered, tactile like words. Whether virginal or incredibly still vocal?
Ives is also the name of a favourite American composer of mine, as it happens.
THE FAIRYTALE ABOUT A DEAD BODY, BELONGING TO NO ONE KNOWS WHOM by Vladimir Odoevsky
Translated by Ekaterina Sedia
“…various insignificant words, such as: not, or etc.,…”
A tractable tract with edicts and an official, like Boris, who, I gather, is a bit fast and loose with his father’s notebook and the words of his own decrees. This dead body under his jurisdiction is claimed by the body’s owner who says he jumped out of it. Leapfrogged? Ending in an intractable dispute like Jarndyce & Jarndyce … or Brexit? The Jacquard duvet, notwithstanding. And any card index. The jumping out of the body syndrome, meanwhile, reminded me nicely of the Shelley one earlier. Mix and match between. This wonderful book in tow.
(And Sedia, the translator, appeared in Nemonymous a number of years ago. And so did one of this book’s editors.)
Cross-referenced above with The Cascade of Lies here: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2019/05/04/out-of-the-dark-steve-rasnic-tem/#comment-16329
THE STORY OF THE GOBLINS WHO STOLE A SEXTON by Charles Dickens
The goblins, quite aptly for this book, “poured into the churchyard, and began playing at leap-frog with the tombstones, never stopping for an instant to take breath, but ‘overing’ the highest among them, one after the other,…” Meanwhile, Gabriel Grub takes pleasure in digging graves, also acting a bit like Scrooge, I guess, and one night he hits a noisy boy with his lantern, and the avenging goblins duly arrive with “a brilliant illumination within the windows of the church.” These goblins, in many ways, are arguably very much like the ‘ghosts’, as skeletons, in a 1903 novel by Olive Harper (reviewed here), a work very recently brought to my attention, i.e. taking a living human into a different realm below the graves, and granting the medicine and mending of visions regarding human nature. And a due, arguably fair, comparison of the stereotypes of women and men. Gabriel comes back, like RVW, after a period of such mental and spiritual leap-frogging….
Why is Gabriel Grub not more famous than Ebenezer Scrooge?
THE NOSE by Nikolai Gogol
Translated by Claud Field
“, a police inspector of imposing exterior, with long whiskers, three-cornered hat, and sword…”
I only quote that because, as I stumbled on it, I happened to be listening to the famous ballet music by Manuel de Falla on BBC Radio 3 this afternoon (please check the radio schedules to verify.) This famous story is a deadpan Rhys-Hughesian tale of losing one’s nose, leaving the face flat as a pancake. A barber, a bridge, a police inspector, a snub, some snuff and other stuff, some inverse courting and wooing of someone’s daughter, the missing nose appearing in many places, including actually becoming a person shaped like the nose on horseback… no doubt some Russian satire, too. But absurd for absurd’s sake, I hope. Horses jump, rather than leapfrog, but this story always makes me bounce.
And I am today bemused by the link with my earlier gestalt real-review of Sterne’s TRISTRAM SHANDY. Much about noses on the pages of the review as linked below. Knots & Noses. Many quotes to quote, but I only quote one below:
”God bless your honour, cried Trim, ’tis a bridge for master’s nose.
—In bringing him into the world with his vile instruments, he has crushed his nose, Susannah says, as flat as a pancake to his face, and he is making a false bridge with a piece of cotton and a thin piece of whalebone out of Susannah’s stays, to raise it up.”
Just put ‘nose’ in the find on the page search.
THE FACTS IN THE CASE OF M. VALDEMAR by Edgar Allan Poe
“The glassy roll of the eye was changed for that expression of uneasy inward examination which is never seen except in cases of sleep-waking,…”
Sleep-walking, too, for which I at first misread it, but, of course, Valdemar is described latterly as the sleep-waker. We never see him walking. He is too ill. I don’t need to adumbrate the story of this famous work, the halting of death by mesmerism. I will just observe that we read all manner of things about his face, and its apertures, the tongue, the eyes, the eyelids, the mouth, lips, the jaw, the teeth, and the noises and gruesome exudations therefrom, even from the eyes. But, ironically, in view of the previous story, there is nothing here at all about his nose, nor the noises therefrom, nor the more obvious exudations that normally the nose knows. As mention of the nose is thus studiously eschewed, one has to assume the “stertorous breathing” emanated from the mouth that figures so much in the description. Unless I accidentally missed a reference to his nose somewhere in it?
“Dr. D——— resolved at once to remain with the patient all night, while Dr. F——— took leave with a promise to return at daybreak. Mr. L———l and the nurses remained.”
Whatever, this story of Valdemar entering death but sort of jumping back reminds me of Gabriel Grub and my my ReVieW of RVW.
My previous review of Poe: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2015/04/20/tales-of-mystery-and-imagination-edgar-poe/
My second Valdemar real-time review here: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2021/03/25/the-2nd-fontana-book-of-great-ghost-stories/#comment-21577
THE STORY OF JEON UNCHI by Anonymous
Translated by Minsoo Kang
“From the outside, I could hear the sound of a man reading,…”
And there is a Net at the end that catches the dreams of this novella as well as its eponymous ‘hero’ himself. Being given the chance to dreamcatch this possibly first English translation of an 1847 Korean classic work feels like being secreted with its special marble in the mouth that one can keep there or swallow, with the help of footnotes. A golden girder, too. The story flows with a sort of superhero, one with mixed virtues and vices, feisty, often randy, coming out of clouds, sometimes multiplied into discrete shapes of himself, creating or riding tigers, cranes, dragons, golden crows and other beasts to ride upon, a flawed superhero often kind, as with his elderly mother, then ruthless with fox demons and other forces that nip and tuck throughout the text. Full of shuttling incidents, and events, and items, erased testicles, a giant snake, love-sickness, today’s or our civilisations’ underage girls here as women. “Due to the unfortunate state of this country, the likes of you felt free to create disturbances with magic, so I was going to execute you.” I at first misread ‘execute’ as ‘excuse’, as we walk in and out of each painting in the gallery of time. The final Gestalt is what counts, and we have not reached it yet, but we shall only reach it if Gaia allows. Or a new place opens up as refuge elsewhere by magic or hard work. “I’ve heard that demons cannot hold their appearance of a human for long.” That is a relief to know. Meanwhile, I do not think it is a spoiler to reveal that the ending of this work does not know how it ends. A nemonymous novella to cherish. And we shall always remember what the eponymous hero (now without inverted commas as I had above) spoke from within this text: “I am so good at painting that when I depict a tree, it actually grows, when I depict an animal, it walks about, and when I depict a mountain, trees and other plants appear on it. They call such a thing a radiant picture. If I do not leave behind such a painting before I die, I fear that I will turn into a discontented ghost.”
FEATHERTOP: A MORALIZED LEGEND by Nathaniel Hawthorne
“, leaving a bluish-colored knob in the middle to pass for a nose.”
The ultimate Mary-Shelleyan or Swiftian theme-and-variations of human-accretion, here a reputed witch characterfully building the eponymous scarecrow in “a dusty three-cornered hat”, whose smoking pipe as prop (in reflection of her own coal-fired pipe) becomes his essence as a gentleman handsome enough to pull a rich man’s daughter. “Her nose shall be as red as the coal in thy pipe!” Until reflection upon reflection intervenes. Yet, there is an undercurrent of not only a “jest at mankind” but also “a world of fiction”, characters becoming autonomous beyond the reach of an author’s Intentional Fallacy, and reality’s fiction-building itself. “Whose skeleton is out of its grave now, I wonder?”
MASTER ZACHARIUS by Jules Verne
Translated by George Makepeace Towle
“I, Master Zacharius, cannot die, for as I have regulated time, time would end with me! It would return to the infinite, whence my genius has rescued it, and it would lose itself irreparably in the abyss of nothingness!”
My own fear of nemonymity now assuaged by the strict time-keeping of the infinite’s real-time, by this gestalt retrocausality of review?? There is indeed a deadly vanity of solipsism to this work’s eponymous watchmaker ‘connecting everything with itself, without rising to the infinite source whence first principles flow.’ It is the story of this deadly self-Frankensteining, putting his own sweet daughter (betrothed to his fine young apprentice) in jeopardy by some pact of her betrothal instead to a Devilish old man who buys the only timepiece Z has made that continues working. Representative of Z’s very survival. Starting with the abode of the watchmaker on islanded piles close upon the flow of time’s river, as it were, putting his life and soul into the movement of each watch he makes and into their ingenious escapements. Clockwork and soul and flesh like some sort of cyborg steampunk? Wheels within wheels. Arriving at the eventual final leapfrog of his soul escaping the escapement like a spring “leaping across the hall with a thousand fantastic contortions” — followed by the due prayers of his thus rescued daughter… Meanwhile, this Verne fable bears, as if solipsistically, a moral for my whole continuing review itself, a gestalt real-time review, a possibly vain träumtrawl of what has been in this massive book so far and of what has yet to come, what is still pent up like a literary spring of fantasy?
THE FROST-KING by Louisa May Alcott
“So, gathering a tiny mushroom for a parasol, she flew away;”
On the surface an idyllic, captivating fairy story of light versus dark, cold versus warmth, and on that level beyond the blemish of any belief in intentional fallacies or false didacticisms. Yet, with the Frost-King now obviously a person trope in our world today, malleable as well as defiantly harsh, cruel and divisive as well as differently self-hallucinated, and with the good fairy Violet, yet, arguably, with her misled naivety of what cold and warmth can do together … for Gaia, a gestalt of different well-meaning fairy footsteps today. A giant leap of faith beyond polarities. “…where friends and enemies worked peacefully together.” When we come back from our own glitch or RIP.
“and till the moon sank did the Fairies toil,”
to commemorate the date today.
Cross-referenced this Alcott review with Watt’s work here: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2019/07/09/the-conspirator-a-borgesian-tribute/#comment-16430
THE TARTARUS OF MAIDS by Herman Melville
“Brittle with excessive frost…”
Beyond even the Frost-King, a journey in a pung (a low, box sleigh), a frosty, snowy journey by our seedsman to gather his paper for his seed envelopes, a journey to the wintering of what used to be a saw mill, now a paper one, a journey made in replica of the river’s “one maniac spring of sixty feet”: a pung’s veritable leaping rollercoaster of a journey, as it turns out, “up-hill” and down. But this is more than a physical journey. It is a story that I would consider a real find of weird literature, one not easily forgotten, I guess, and I thank this book for it. The sour whispering, blank-faced girls “all blankly folding blank paper”, the blank paper for blank stories, I suggest, these girls working the “iron animals”, wheels within wheels, like Master Z’s earlier ghost-in-the-machine clockmaking, the blood water of the river paradoxically making such white paper, the process of which one can follow with one’s name writ upon it. Under the gaze of philosopher John Locke. A “paper-fall” to match that earlier “maniac spring”. That process described here is something truly special in all literature. As are the “pallid faces of all the pallid girls”, enslaved, never to be ‘women.’ That blank, raggy life, still unexpunged.
“But where are the gay bachelors?”
THE MAGIC MIRROR by George MacDonald
“; and forgetting all his precautions, he sprang from the charmed circle, and knelt before her.”
…and if it ends there or thereabouts, it is a perfect ghost story. One that will haunt you. An excerpt of an excerpt. A reflection of a reflection, as in the earlier Hawthorne creation crystallising a phenomenon of identity, here a love story by the obtaining of a mirror and watching the slowly solidifying ghost of a woman appear in it, and coming and going, with or without the props of the room reflected, including its scientific skeleton of the mirror’s owner’s temporary ownership of it, or it of him. The alchemy of a self as identity, the ‘iron animals’ of Melville, the clocks of Master Z, the characterisation as a new RVW or Gabriel Grub, here with expertise in swords and other weapons. A love story of unrequitedness and jealousy. The inward life of those reflected in fiction as a mirror, at last revealed. Their body, too, is revealed, beyond the inner ghost story’s virtual closure, as the work exceeds its own magic of its literary clockwork by the end of what is printed here in full. The magic of a bespoke fiction as well as of a mirror in its likeness.
THE DIAMOND LENS by Fitz-James O’Brien
“, few desires that were not bounded by my illuminating mirror on one side and my object-glass on the other;”
A strong, beautifully written ‘mad scientist’ tale, about a man obsessed with microscopes, on one level. Also, for me, a work complementary to this book’s previous Magic Mirrors (“although I could gaze on her at will, she never, never could behold me!”), here the beloved physical ‘ghost’ is the reflection of truth in a water drop under a preternaturally obtained knowledge-by-mediumship of a diamond to be used as a lens, and a diamond later criminally obtained by thieving it from a Jew who had effectively thieved it from a ‘negro’ who had himself thieved it…. But the world’s diamonds belong to us all, I guess, equally. We perhaps need to look after our water drops for the shapes they contain so as to retain the love story that stole our heart from within it. Shapes as ever in human configuration, with no possible blemish of ugliness physical or spiritual. Here, for this now literally mad ‘scientist’, beyond any fiction genre, he sees the perfect female form. The perception he most wanted to see, so he did see it. Amid the idyllic afforestation. Unlike, for him, the more theatrical versions that corrode reality in his ugly world outside and beyond that water drop’s own priceless gem of gestalt (or Gaia?)…the solipsism of the soul. So many leaps or at least ‘bounds’ now as boundaries in this book (see quote above and, later, in her dancing leaps “her bounds were painful athletic efforts”) and this ultimate corruption of the human form he compares with the one that has now evolved in what has become a sadly neglected water drop. Cause and effect or synchronicity? Without purity, we can only see the impure. Yet, anything didactic here can be transcended by the reading mind that one brings to it. The reader encompassed by and encompassing the fiction that he or she reads. (My review written after a single reading, as all my real-time critical work tends to be.)
I think that I previously read the F-J O’Brien in the 1960s but remembered little about it. What appears to be a water drop at the end of a nose is either today’s sweat or yesterday’s snot.
Or a clear marble once swallowed?
“Reality is a running noose, one is brought up short with a jerk by death.” – Lawrence Durrell
GOBLIN MARKET by Christina Rossetti
“Lizzie most placid in her look,
Laura most like leaping flame.”
The sheer joy in reading such wondrous words about the cornucopia of fruit, and perceived good versus evil — but which is which? when perceived at whatever stage in life, in this rhyming and versified story — is enough, I hope, to erase any thought of seeking didacticism in this work. Yet the fruit is sold by a version of Grub’s goblins and Olive Harper’s ‘ghosts’, here their being goblin men (“hobbling / Flying, running, leaping…”), the two sisters, Laura and Lizzie, often, I infer, being in Sapphic embrace, but one sister is successfully tempted by the “goblin fruit for you, / Golden pulp and golden dew”, the other sister not … thus creating a synergy of sisters that eventually leads to marriage and children of their own. Read into that what one likes. And faces are described in detail or at least, in hindsight, inferred from such descriptions, fruity-smeared faces, but with any noses airbrushed, yet there are “Plums on their twigs” and other such configurations. Meanwhile, there is so much more in this work than I am able to mention here, and so much less, too, for, by airbrushing any possible moral or mores, so much more is given back instead. The rich pulse of words is everything, “its bounce was music…” like the penny given for your thoughts.
THE WILL-O’-THE-WISPS ARE IN TOWN by Hans Christian Anderson
Translated by H.P. Paull
“Poets of all countries, and especially of our own land, had been reproduced here, the essence of each had been extracted, refined, criticized, distilled, and then put into bottles.”
Another great find by this book for every lover of fantasy, but especially for any Gestalt Real-Time Reviewer of hyper-imaginative literature, giving the necessary heads up as to enemies as well as friends of that process. Preternatural lessons to the future world where we all live today. Give or take my lucky clover or lightning rod in my big toe. And I know the fairy tale WILL return one one day to our world that sadly needs it (perhaps this book is its greatest chance to do so) – and the eponymous Wisps transcended. As an essence of this book and of our world today so far, “The Will-O’-The-Wisp can take any form it likes, man or woman, and act in his or her spirit, and so go to the extreme in doing what it wishes.” And I will surely need to embed my review of this book within at least 365 people as the days in a literary year. I will take each bottle of specified literature or genre or emotional theme as listed here in Hans Christian Anderson and pour into one great vat, with multiple udder points. The gravestone will itself help radiate the healing balm. And the bog witch’s tale taken to its ultimate catharsis or purging. Each monster later rebottled, each genie put back. Including me.
“They glittered like glow-worms; already they had begun to hop, and they grew bigger every minute,…”
From ‘hop’ to ‘hope’, we now reach a work from 1870 in this mighty massive book…
THE LEGEND OF THE PALE MAIDEN: Excerpt from ‘Seven Brothers’ by Aleksis Kivi
Translated by David Hackston
“…the church spire, far away at the edge of the forest. For always in her ear there whispers a voice of hope;”
There the element of doubt resides, for me, a doubt or droop-snoot in this otherwise finally uplifting moral of the beautifully described fable of young love between the eponymous maiden and her handsome beloved, a tale of the impingement of a shape-shifting, blood-sucking troll upon the maiden when her beloved was absent, till the troll’s own black blood spurted, by dint of her returning handsome beloved’s hack with more upright sword.
LOOKING-GLASS HOUSE (Excerpt from ‘Through The Looking-Glass’j
by Lewis Carroll
“‘; it writes all manner of things that I don’t intend —‘
‘What manner of things?’”
Well, it is good, to be exposed to a familiar piece (the first chapter of this book) to find new intrinsic things in themselves as well as contextual things for this real-time-review. Meant to be. As it were, as it always was.
The kitties ‘having a grand game of romps’ with Alice’s worsted winding; her sister being one chess piece, Alice the rest; the concept of the Looking-Glass House as a variation of this book’s previous magic mirrors and the life stirring within them; “‘Imperial Fiddlestick!’ said the King, rubbing his nose,…”; “Mind the volcano!”; the wonderful ‘nonsense’ poem that all of us have within our personal gestalt of borogoves; and Alice at the end of this section providing a whole new apotheosis or catharsis for this massive book of the Revamenders: floating, not leaping.
Incredible subsequent synchronicity here with Under The Sun: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2019/07/24/a-flowering-wound-john-howard/#comment-16515
Pingback: Synchronicity rampant… | The Des Lewis Gestalt Real-Time Reviews
FURNICA, OR THE QUEEN OF THE ANTS by Carmen Sylva
Translated by Gio Clairval
A pretty girl admired (by men in particular?) for her industriousness, multitasking, as she does, when at the spring. She is tempted by an individual handsome man or two, but not by them generally, a race she probably despises. Taken over by ants and their anthill as their queen, after her mother dies, she is kept in careful protection by them and I am intrigued by the patterns of this regime, as described, and I believe the ants are indeed intended to be the multi-letters of the print here that we read, a pattern of syntax that keeps her in its thrall, gives her life in another reflective ‘mirror’ for this whole book with such seman-tics, the ants making her promise various things for them to continue treating her well. At one point she does leave the anthill, tempted by her mother’s grave and a wooing man, a bit like RVW earlier returned to his former life after his ‘sleep’. “Maybe years had passed.” Meanwhile, and I hope this is not a spoiler, the print prevails. At least up to the point where it ends.
THE STORY OF IVÁN THE FOOL by Leo Tolstoy
Translated by Louise and Aylmer Maude
“War is all right, but what is this? It is like cutting pea-soup! We cannot make war under these conditions.”
War and attrition. The attrition is this story itself, perhaps. The attritional tontine (a version of today’s Fortnite!?) in an audit trail of economics, the optimisation of scarce resources, supply and demand, kindness and ruthlessness, the respective work-methods of heads and hands, where three brothers, one the eponymous fool, grow up, and the other two tread all over the foolish one who nevertheless develops all manner of the Midas touch and wartime economics and scything… not only heads and hands, the heads split, the hands calloused, but the fool’s naïve heart, not his head or hands, is often worth more than gold in the pecking-order game of life. All three brothers beset by a jealous Devil (at one point, metamorphosed into a “fine gentleman”) and his three impeding imps in the rôle-play game of life. The Fairy-Tale Royalty, if not Loyalty, in us all. The mechanics of that anthill, again? The mechanics of exchangeable ‘money’ that comes in different forms.
I remember straw soldiers and scythes in Tolstoy before, I think, but dock-tailed imps? The best part of this attritional story is plucking out the imps like roots. While other roots are cure-alls for the avatars we take on in this tontine game. My hands are calloused from the amount of book reviewing I do. Well, the fingertips at least, as spared by the scythes.
But what of the three brothers’ mute sister, I ask? And where the fantasy?
“As soon as he mentioned God, the imp plunged into the earth, like a stone into water. Only a hole was left.”
“And just as Iván arrived at the tower, the Devil stumbled, fell, and came bump, bump, bump, counting each step with a knock of his head!”
Later cross-referenced this review with Pendulum here: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2019/07/18/interzone-282-black-static-70/#comment-16538
THE GOOPHERED GRAPEVINE by Charles W. Chestnutt
Translator required; good knowledge of the Cthulhu R’lyeh language would be an asset judging by the sheer appearance of most of its paragraphs.
I have made a rare exception here in my normal reviewing process and helped myself to the few on-line interpretations of this bewitched vineyard story in a post-Civil War Southern State. Thought-provoking as to the racial attitudes then, and I am genuinely enriched by the vicarious experience of having now read it in fragments towards an admittedly niggardly gestalt! I say all that, even though I don’t normally dig didacticism in fiction, if didacticism is what this is. The imps, meanwhile, as the dug roots in the previous story, and other feisty idiosyncrasies of the context of this whole book so far, add to the co-resonances of such a ‘reading’ experience. Rubbing a heady distillation of the words into my balding pate, even as I speak.
NB: As is my general wont in reviewing processes, I shall be fully reading the Revamenders’ introductions and other non-fiction material in this book once I have completed my comments upon each of the actual stories.
I originally intended ‘Reva’ in my review of ‘The Weird’ anthology in 2011 as a variation on ‘rêve’ — https://nullimmortalis.wordpress.com/2011/11/18/reva-menders/
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THE BEE-MAN OF ORN by Frank R. Stockton
“They know just what they have to do, and they do it; but alas for me! I know not what I may have to do. And yet, whatever it may be, I am determined to do it.”
…a fine motto, and this is indeed another fine discovery by this book, particularly for an old ornery man like me, someone, too, like the bee-man who says this motto within the story! A bee-man or become-man with a hive in his pocket on a mission to discover whence which origin of being he had been transformed, and to become it again. Another feisty imp in this story, this one very much so, plus a languid youth, and other entities or monsters in a Platonic cave of shadowy ambitions to be, but to be what? Squashed bee paste, notwithstanding. To be rubbed into one’s balding pate, again? A telling ending with a baby, with an open interpretation whether or not the theories of Anti-Natalism are tenable.
Baby, to be or not to be.
“Whatever I was shall I be again.”
THE REMARKABLE ROCKET by Oscar Wilde
“But I like arguments,” said the Rocket.
A conversation of fireworks before they are let off for the wedding of a King and a Princess. A hilarious but telling prophecy of today’s behaviour on social media, where we can all recognise ourselves in some ways. Someone like me who simply knows.
THE ENSOULED VIOLIN by H.P. Blavatskaya
“He rubbed his hands in glee, and jumping about on his lame leg like a crippled satyr, he flattered and incensed his pupil, believing himself all the while to be performing a sacred duty to the holy and majestic cause of art.”
“…all fancy and brain poetry,” I feel I am made an essential part of this classic story of a young violinist (the pupil above) and his older mentor whose role I now adopt as gestalt-maker, the latter who actually sacrifices his own bodily guts and aching cries for an accretively ensorcelled and ensouled violin, as part of the pupil’s demonic public competition against Paganini and, by extension, Tartini. There are some amazing passages of Gothic Horror and prematurely modernistic horror, too, as ingredients in this powerful rite of passage towards an Aesthetic of Art akin to my Gestalt Reviewing — butted right up to the screaming atonalities of, say, Stockhausen and Xenakis. All of us old men now. Or dead. (If not still “hopping about the room in a magpie fashion…”)
THE DEATH OF ODJIGH by Marcel Schwob
Translated by Kit Schluter
A ‘calumet’ is a North American Indian peace pipe written about here by Schwob at the turn of an earlier fin de siècle. At the time when humanity was and now is again, beyond fiction, close to perishing, with all themes and variations upon what we are already beginning to experience in our own real-time today. A ‘red gladius’ impinged upon Odjigh the timeless wolf hunter, a bloody cleft imposed by the world and also by himself for hot blood to heal or hawl us, our ice walls of polarity included, Odjigh redeeming himself for a gestalt or gaia stretching into all directions of real-time, I deem. It is written with an evocative lofty power of anything being possible – between hot and cold events and growths. Even our victims come to rescue our innards. And the bloody cleft mentioned above reminds me that the word ‘cleave’ means its opposite, too, to cleave back together as well as to open up like a gash…
My detailed real-time review in 2015 of Marcel Schwob’s ‘The King in the Golden Mask’ here: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2015/07/28/the-king-in-the-golden-mask/
Schwob’s Children’s Crusade reviewed in 2015 here: https://zencore2007.wordpress.com/374-2/#comment-662
THE TERRESTRIAL FIRE by Marcel Schwob
Translated by Kit Schluter
“They were unaware of faults.”
Well, please don’t tell me that all literature triangulated — such as by this inverse version of Lord Byron’s Darkness poem, Schwob’s short powerful prose piece from over a hundred years ago — is not the ultimate gestalt of humanity’s stay or story on this planet. We just need to complete that gestalt and send it somewhere else as soon as possible, before it is too late, on a memory firestick. Also it is a moving account of the Agra Askan young couple reaching some possible coastal salvation, a couple withstanding what we need to withstand today, our having by now reached the Schwob point. But the gestalt of literature, or of self, is never complete? Hopefully.
MY REVIEW WILL NOW CONTINUE HERE: https://nullimmortalis.wordpress.com/22826-2/
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