5 thoughts on “The Pale Illuminations

  1. A CHESS GAME AT MICHAELMAS by Mark Valentine

    “, I saw him raise his white fingers and move a piece upon the board. It blended in with his fingers so that I could hardly see where these ended and the piece began,…”

    An entrancing visit for me, the narrator, to the manor and its male owner as part of my interest in manorial and tenant traditions of rent, peppercorn or not, and for what mutual exchanges of value. I cross a landscape of monuments and flints that come back to haunt my story, a river as a bride, strumpets, trumpets or the horns of elfland, fate as a fête, a neighbouring woman herbalist called Dee, and a chess game that needs checking the pieces afterwards, an endemic game as a duty to a King upon his visits to the manor, but which King, which King if ever, some sort of secret service? Pieces of this story and this duty come together from pieces of the landscape itself as the Yew King… The topiary chess pieces and the weird chess pieces themselves. It is as if the reader is that Yew King, a You that is Me, creating this story from the pieces strewn on the page in the guise of print and from the happenstance conflux of these characters as if fated to be fêted by such a heady mixture of ingredients.

    My previous reviews of this author: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/john-howard-mark-valentine/

  2. THE OLD MAN OF THE WOODS by Reggie Oliver

    “: to me it was a delight to the eye, so gloriously distant from Grey Britain.”

    It is always good to encounter a Reggie Oliver classic; not all Reggie Oliver stories are Reggie Oliver classics. Far from it. But this one is. An Englishman, determined to finish reading Proust for the first time (although that was not intrinsic to his raison d’être or purpose), retires to France, after a civil service career and a difficult marriage (details of which marriage we learn more about, but again not something intrinsic to this story, just as not intrinsic is the bum-fluff man-boy who is ‘partner’ of a neighbouring chic woman near the Englishman’s house that he’s bought on the borders of where Vichy France once met Nazidom in the war and also edging upon the Englishman’s unexpectedly owned wood wherein a legend had it that a man once cut off his shadow and thus cut off his mis-collaborating conscience) and there was some vista, too, of a chateau where Montaigne, of the essays that I once read, lived — in fact none of all this is intrinsic to the story, but a transcendentantalising vision of the Englishman’s encounter with a intensely sad ghost (“A tunnel into the void had been drilled through his body”) you will never forget. The story has its own raison d’être and this is it, whether the author allowed his story to have it or not.

    “But all history is legend, and all legend history… […] You can be frightened into evil but not into goodness…”

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