EGAEUS PRESS MMXIX
Edited by Mark Beech
My previous reviews of this publisher here: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/tag/egaeus-press/
Stories by Cate Gardner, Albert Power, David Yates, D.P. Watt, Chris Kelso, Adam Bolivar, Angela Slatter, Ismael Espinosa, Icy Sedgwick, Kaaron Warren, Brendan Connell, Adriana Díaz Enciso, Paul StJohn Mackintosh, Hayden Peters, Leena Likitalo, Suzanne J. Willis, Kayleigh Marie Edwards.
When I read this book, my thoughts will appear in the comment stream below…
THE BONE-CAGE BLUES by Cate Gardner
“Despite this, Rag began to sing of how pretty she was, while Maxi undid the top buttons of her dress Gypsy-Rose-Lee style and released her bees.”
This impossibly tantalising story deserves the accolade of being the only one I could not nail down at all while still wholly believing it held for me a meaningful meaning. The story of Rag who fell from the sky and Maxi with her bees as motive force and Internet star Alice Packwood with birds as her motive force (I am sure the word ‘twitter’ appeared somewhere in this story but I can’t find it now!), but all that interpretation is mistaken on my part, and Death is an actual character who is in charge of a macabre theatre of curious acts with ghosts and skulls in which Rag, Maxi and Alice take part.
“Life was so much simpler when you didn’t let anyone in.”
My previous reviews of this author: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/tag/cate-gardner/
THE CRYPT OF YEDDI GUMBAZ by Albert Power
“His eyes a-smart with furnace-fanned tears unshed, the boy fled that scene of torment death, of instinct-vicious prey-snatching and the callous uncallous engorgement of nature on nature,…”
From St Petersburg in somewhat more olden days than now, a boy called Valery leaves for a place where his father is to work on earthquake studies, not far from the music of Rimsky Korsakov, the silting within his hour glass his mentor to tempt sleep or terror…and despite – or because of – the slightly old-fashioned but rich clumsiness of style and en-dash breaks with post-spaces but no prior spaces (consistently so, therefore must have been deliberate), this is an engaging, sometimes suspenseful tale of fate indeed tempted and death delayed, featuring his feisty mother and her washing-lines, some feisty, nay deadly, nature on nature bird activity, Valery’s body suddenly shoots into the fear-funnel or chute of the eponymous crypt in a Muslim graveyard… does he get out? I’ll leave you to discover. But I personally wondered if the the hour-glass was later found smashed by the helpful unhelpful, callous uncallous, instinct-vicious earthquake?
My previous reviews of Albert Power:
I enjoyed eight DEATH HAIKUS by David Yates.
My previous review of this author: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2018/05/29/book-of-the-sea/#comment-12688
SZÉKELY’S LAST PLATE by D.P. Watt
“It is a relief to know that not all of this once great country has been consumed by the inferno of arrogant nationalistic ignorance and that The Classics still flourish in some hidden corners of its pleasant, inebriated land, amongst the vomited kebabs and discarded prophylactics.”
Other than a wry smile at that passage and a reference to my home town Colchester, I have decided this is not a D.P. Watt classic but a merely accomplished workmanlike tale of “stereoscopes” dabbling with diableries, such items with the Székely name being found in antique shops, items which when backlit make dire echoes or dire premonitions that come too close to home for the narrator’s comfort. The aforementioned serial en-dashes as an idiosyncrasy– becoming a trifle wearing– come too close to home, too!
My previous reviews of this author: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/d-p-watt/
TARTINI’S FINAL DREAM by Chris Kelso
“, his jaw flapping in sync with the violin-keen,…”
Dabbling with Diablerie, I mentioned in the Watt, now, in this short amorphous Kelso, Dabbling with Diavolo, if not with Diabelli. And anything that mentions Scriabin is fine by me. I found the whole thing disarmingly träumalising.
My previous reviews of this author here
DEATH AND THE BALLADRESS by Adam Bolivar
A fine metered rhyming ballad about a balladeer but as its title implies a balladeer in a dress. One with a wifely guile to escape death himself. A folly indeed.
THE PROMISE OF SAINTS by Angela Slatter
“There’s no flesh on her, merely a fragile canvas of thin-thin skin, so she’s been wrapped in fine netting to keep all her component parts together…”
…just as this richly conceived story is fragilely suspenseful until the story’s ending bursts through. Do I dare call this story a genuine classic of religious fantasy? A story to measure up to Derek John’s Aesthete Hagiographer, and Harold Billings’ work, containing, as it does, a most lasting vision of an ancient Saint’s own bodily reliquary in a church as an attenuated bejewelled vessel of herself, and an account of her miraculous contact with a young woman called Elspeth whose mother is as determined as Mrs Bennett to find a male suitor for her daughter. Yes, I do dare.
My previous reviews of this author: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/tag/angela-slatter/
DARKNESS by Ismael Espinosa
Translated by George Berguño
“No doubt, the plague had donated most of the citizens of this terrifying underground city.”
The dead as citizens, this short Paris story is essentially a telling one of its catacombs and the historical reconfiguration of the city above. It gives a sudden realisation about the nature of Death and its living by the dead themselves…
And it is about time, in the above story’s light, that I mention a substantive work recently rediscovered that will be of considerable interest to readers of this book: ‘The Sociable Ghost’ (1903) by Olive Harper, that I reviewed here: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2019/05/25/an-obscurity-of-ghosts/#comment-16119
A work of remarkable resonance with this Egaeus Press book.
This work is followed by an essay entitled DEATH BECOMES HER — OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS TO KEEP THE REAPER AT BAY by Icy Sedgwick
I have been watching today the Albert Finney film UNDER THE VOLCANO which also has much resonance with this Egaeus Press book.
My detailed 2017 review of the Lowry book here: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2017/07/03/under-the-volcano-malcolm-lowry/
ANODYNE SOLUTIONS by Kaaron Warren
“If you see your own headless shadow, you’ll be dead within a year.”
Anno Domini, Anno Diablo, Dies Irae, Dies Mortuorum, Null Immortalis, I could go on. Here are foolhardy descriptions made public in the entertaining guise of fiction, about a woman called Anna-Dina battling with many so-called superstitions of death happening to you if you do or see a certain stipulated something. Some of them quite simple to do without thinking, like moving where parsley is planted. Arguably, this is the most un-anodyne and effective horror story ever written by being the conduit for the most angst-inducing text you are ever likely to read — facts disguised as an eschatologically personified folly. Too late for me.
My previous reviews of Kaaron Warren: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/tag/kaaron-warren/ and https://nullimmortalis.wordpress.com/2010/08/21/slights-by-kaaron-warren/ and https://nullimmortalis.wordpress.com/2010/08/18/the-alsiso-project/
Cross-referenced Anodyne Solutions with The Half-Freaks here: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2019/11/13/the-half-freaks-nicole-cushing/#comment-17474
ALL THE WILD ANIMALS by Brendan Connell
A feral Unplesant Tale: a cross between Golding’s ‘Lord of the Flies’ and Knussen’s opera ‘Where The Wild Things Are’ and pure West Papuan Connell himself, this seems to be a brutal be-zooment of Man as punishment for Climate Change and Political Correctness. Or it should be.
My previous reviews of this author: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/brendan-connell/
A MONUMENT by Adriana Díaz Enciso
“Such is, miting, the fate of all matter. But surely you know?”
Mark my words, this is a novelette you will hear of again. If this is its first publication, the book that contains it is thus privileged to do so. It FEELS as if it has long been a classic literary work of Death and Folly, of the Denizens of Death and their Monuments, especially A Dead Monument of Once Ancient Hope, a plot that is a cross between Olive Harper’s A Sociable Ghost and ‘Volcano’ Lowry’s Day of the Dead and Carousel. A Festival of Brueghel. And of course a cross with ITSELF, the original monument to its own grafting. The story of Richard Hariecumber whose character we are enabled to believe in, his graveyard visit and the luminary whose derelict tomb he discovers buried there for whom Richard is then determined to build a Monument to end all Monuments in the town of Rikeshkat. The mischievous dead who talk and listen to Richard, even be-bed him, but he is more sexually charged by his proposed mate, the heiress, Ludmila Kerkestonfhe, and, also, as we see for ourselves, she by him! This is, what is more, a Kazuo Ishiguro Unconsoled extravaganza, where the dead are the crowds and power of the soul and local dignitaries and officers conspire in absurdist huddles. Transparent corpses, sexy skeletons, you name it and here it is. But this novelette is NOT a messy farrago; it is an organic textual whole, with a style to die for. It is many things. And whether Richard gets his due come-uppance, I’ll leave you to decide. But I guess he now regrets telling a story to a dead one about his own childhood selfishness with a puppy, a story that will come back to haunt him. Oh, there is so much more I can tell you about it. Feel it coursing through your veins.
I confirm the only reason I watched the film of Under the Volcano (as mentioned above a few days ago) was as a result of this recent chance separate Facebook post that had me tagged in it: HERE
I first read the above A MONUMENT work by a Mexican writer (as I just discovered by google) today.
An anthology concerning Death & Folly without the inclusion of at least one Mexican author would have seemed almost like cultural appropriation. Adriana writes primarily in Spanish, but she wrote an excellent article on Mexican ghost stories in an early copy of Wormwood, which came back to mind when compiling this book.
Pingback: Synchronicity rampant… | The Des Lewis Gestalt Real-Time Reviews: A LITERARY PARHELION
There follow two items of non fiction:
GENTILE FANCIULLACCI PASOLINI by Paul StJohn Mackintosh
Giovanni Gentile 1875 – 1944
Bruno Fanciullacci 1919 – 1944
Pier Paolo Pasolini 1922 – 1975
PROFIT AND LOSS: Mourning Jewellery Makers, Hair Artists and Mourning Retailers
by Hayden Peters
With regard to the first above, I hear Scorsese’s follow-up to The Irishman is The Scotsman!
THE GREATEST FOLLY by Leena Likitalo
“The horse arched its neck, nostrils flaring. It was curious, of all things!”
A highly poignant and provocative folly by a filly, if that in itself is not a folly too far on my part. Call it a love of words, rather than correctness. It is a stallion of which we talk here, I guess. I am, however, correct at heart, a correctness inured as well as mellowed by age. Indeed, this Likitalo work is not really a folly at all, but an excellent fiction that utters many truths. ‘War’ is given the feminine pronoun here, for example. Meanwhile, this telling text is about the touching relations between Death and its Scythe, nay, neigh, between Death and his horse Khloros. The nature of Death as a rescue and granting of peace. Beyond the veil in our world there are many mixed emotions for personified Death, indeed on both sides of that veil, in interface with personified War, Famine and Pestilence. The vying of eternity with the relief of pain. The experience beyond the veil with his horse gives Death a new perspective. And he admires how his image has changed as depicted in the Art of mankind. And womankind. Kind woman. Though I may have read that bit INTO the text not out of it? The horse is a Swiftian houyhnhnm, if not a human, I guess. And I was also reminded obliquely of Fracassi’s SHILOH (reviewed here)…
“‘And Death rode a horse of greenish hue,’ […] He brandished his scythe and yelled at the civilisation below. ‘Behold!’” – from the Leena Likitalo story
BLACKHEARTS & SORROWSONG by Suzanne J. Willis
“: books, worn soft by countless leafing, whose words are a bottomless well from which reader after reader drinks, yet never runs dry. This imbues them with life.”
This is a truly stunning story and equivalent style to go with it. The story of Mara’s quest, Mara, once a cathedral gargoyle, now a crucifier of a Blackheart, a Cardinal Eminence who seeks to wed Sister Death. It is about Mara’s dash to return three missing pages to a crucial book. A sorcery extravaganza which took my breath away with its living stones, dragonflies, the Undercity, the Empire of the Dead and much more. A type of story beyond my usual scope in recent years, but one that today won me over completely. “We two broken halves make a whole.” “A ghost of hollow-bone and angel-membrane…” “Walls do not necessary constrain, Mara, but they do define.” “It felt like coming home.” A dash to truly touch words.
My previous review in 2014 of this author: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2014/12/13/bfs-journal-13/
EDWIN’S CURSE by Kayleigh Marie Edwards
“He watched as they kept the façade of civilisation going, despite their apathy for their neighbour’s lives and was saddened a bit more every day by old values like love and empathy being replaced by greed and narcissism.”
By falsity and polarity, too. Beyond even those of Death and Life. A telling poignant coda for this fine, eschatologically puckish anthology as well as for our world today, about a eight year old boy who is cursed not only with eternity but also with what this book’s context itself implies is Nullimmortalis, an innate curse gifted by his own mother’s relieving herself of it. Transferring such darkness between eyes, between I and I. One space before gone, one space after stayed. A sort of anti-Innatalism. A Death Wish. And thus, effectively, I sense the Book of Death & Folly enters, alongside Edwin, the Book of the Sea. Ever back to where stories had barely begun. The ultimate retrocausality.