18 thoughts on “Allus Cold by Matt Leyshon

  1. SCRATCHINGS by Matt Leyshon

    I remember the place of Leddenton from the Kollections’s Function Room, stuck in my ancient mind, and after pigging on pork scratchings in the pub George takes Eliza on a nature trail of foxes and badgers across the milkily moonlit fields. Reliving youthful excursions or simply tempting fate that their babe Maisie is needing feeding… Its head hanging low, not it’s head… like as if we’re in a DH Lawrence story, one consumed by a crazed version of Charles not Rupert Birkin? It was rabbits, not pigs, with the latter, I recall. Nasty conte cruel and suspenseful, all us cold.


    “The sudden anamnesis of split viscera sets his heart racing…”

    A chunner will probably mutter or murmur words and sometimes difficult looking words are often simpler or more common when inside his mind than when he first created them with his mouth. This getaway merchant for a band of rogues had to mouth off at an unexpected person in the house they were robbing, and ended up crushing her skull instead. And many other natural processes around Leddenton, like voles and rivers and water weed etc transcending even DH Lawrence … a whole “anoesis” with his mind as countryside and him come to be one. Until he is hung — at least in these evocatively sprinkly and biting and viscerally vitiated words telling us about it — from a noose on the old oak tree of his childhood in Leddenton. Astonishingly, I read a completely different story by Westlake but with similar ingredients, at least in what I listed in my review here, a story read an hour ago before I read this Leyshon, ingredients like the self-contained village, the Psycho getaway car, the pareidoliac oak, and the bodily encroaching of Nature as Gaia itself along with the words and the writing/reading mind that mutually created each other. The only thing missing is the cruise ship there and the skull here! Maybe the cruise ship’s coming later in this book? A good name for a ship: The Chunner or The Chunter? Doubt it though. Apophenia can only go so far. Thinking about it, does Mother Nature have a skull to shatter, anyway? Enough of my own chunnering, I guess!


    “…the overgrowth of nettles and tangled vines that leaked lurid white goo when he sliced into them… […] …the musty scent of nature unfettered…”

    Leyshon gets into an even more dark elation of his writerly stride, here now in a graveyard on the edge of Leddington (sic). The story of Kieran on community service for setting a wheelie bin alight, now having been given a scythe to clear up an overgrown graveyard, featuring a Murakami-Kafka cat that loiters there, the graveyard caretaker, the latter’s two granddaughters who often ‘play’ there, the George-Eliza piglet and later frogs that Kieran apparently and accidentally chops with his scythe, the small church, the almost prehensile stone headstones that combine Cthulhu with Kompoloi, I guess. And I will not give too much away, but there will remain little of the reader left with which to change his or her mind upon such literature as this. Suffice to say, I particularly appreciated the well-evoked oasis of calm that work in this graveyard provided, at least initially, for Kieran, bearing in mind his stressfully deprived existence typified by the all too common backstory wherein he has been brought up.


    “…and he sniffed into existence a gore map of the city.”

    A cruor-rich, word-powered portrait of Rail Track Jack on Christmas Day thirsting for blood — from whatever lies within the tracklines’ precinct of quiet on such a day — blood to be procured red from veiny quartz of living flesh, whatever or whoever might provide this feast. With a general preference of humanity over non-humanity but otherwise he has no other prejudices towards whence his Christmas dinner comes. His direction-finding orientations (sexual or otherwise) triangulated wherever the Central London lines took him. Today’s conscientious concern, moreover, for the value of his victim’s legacy felt to me most touching, especially when seen at the potential cost of his own.


    “Lawrence wore a netted marina…”

    An extremely well-written quality short story good enough to deck the selected stories volume of a William Trevor or a Somerset Maugham or a Graham Greene or a DH Lawrence or an Alasdair Gray or an O Henry. Well, I think so, see what you think. A story telling of Derek, a somehow paler version of the generation born from the Jamaican Windrush generation that once shipped to urban England, involved with the hard liquor business where moonshine helps the profits, with Derek going off to Jamaica for some rum do of a self-epiphany in interface with his heritage. A vision and word-drunken brain you will not forget thinking with. If not drinking with.


    “The name he heard reverberating through his body was Tsathoggua; it burrowed relentlessly up into him through the soles of his boots…”

    …became part of an eternal tinnitus, the cacophony or symphony of an ultra-gory battle in unglory — and hawled to the very soul of him, as Captain Hawker told strangers about it in a bar, amid the wastes in American History of Indians versus Custer and co. Depends what you think of Tsathoggua, whether this work is politically correct or not in our terms today. But that concern seems irrelevant when faced with this text that surely you will never forget – it is extremely powerful and you will not come out of it the same person as you went into it. Just as Hawker himself hid from danger inside his own dying horse. I can’t do justice to it here, Seriously. (And that last bit about the horse also reminded me that, about an hour ago, I read about the Trojan Horse in Murakami here).


    This intriguing and sometimes wildly visionary tale of a man investigating fracking possibilities in the Leddenton area. The woman he has met called Hannah, his would-be eponymous daughter as a young girl among tourists wanting claustrophobic epiphany, as seen by him through a crack by a cairn or mound of stones, the long or thin demon, and the noise of throbbing and humming, the spiritual vibration; the work’s whole ambience, in fact, is incredibly a wonderful theme-and-variations on the Murakami book I am currently reading and real-time reviewing. (As an aside Rupert Short mentioned here, and I mentioned Rupert Birkin above.)
    This story was first published in 2016 in a relatively rare magazine called Terror Tales. And the Murakami book was first published in Japan in Japanese in 2017. Translation 2018. The co-vibration of a literary gestalt I still seek.

  8. 4BEA2579-E27B-4382-A1B9-0803F14BEC83THE GROTESQUE BODY

    “Gary F. woke to find a grotesque body in his bed.”

    A very effective theme-and-variations on Kafka’s Metamorphosis, where Gary F’s near-death accident is so utterly near death, it leads not to imminent Rigor Mortis but what I call immanent Null Immortalis, an ever-becoming Zeno’s Paradox of eschatology, a proprioception creating a state of scatological ugliness as projected onto oneself, even to the extent of other people in one’s life becoming part of this process — which begs the question do these others (like you and me) experience Gary F’s process or anyone else’s as a dream or as reality?


    “…the only reason that any new customers came to his coffee shop nowadays was because they thought it was haunted.”

    Disregarding the undoubted quality so far of these stories, I also sense a preternatural force at work, too. It may of course be my imagination after eleven years of carrying out this book gestalt reviewing. But today this ghost story of a coffee shop and a man who is haunted by a shadow on its wall (at first in synergy with Gahan Wilson’s famous ‘spot’ story from Again, Dangerous Visions that has been so important in my life) have amazing resonances with my (earlier today) connections (here and here) to ‘The Dead Man’s Coffee’ read yesterday and the Murakami today (and the Guardian article today about coffee shops and mathematics)!


    “‘You just have to listen, not fade away,’ the voice says.”

    From Holly to Meek via the perfect circular sound — a sound that out-nirvanas nirvana, I guess. A remarkable story about disarmingly unmeek Joe competing in a series of Russian Roulette shows in a public betting and drinking club bar, blended with quantums of alternate worlds to decide the winner and the competitor left alive. One can actually feel the bullet entering your head, by reading this, assuming you end up in a different world, if only slightly different, to be able to remember that feeling. A tontine, towards that of a perfect telling star? Perhaps, but this is an equally ingenious conflux of inwardly mouthed words that goes into an overdrive: a wildly controlled text of scatology with much more than just Teddy Boy quiffs and quim cum: a living text that out-Azathoths Azathoth. Really!


    “The Waghorn’s home was like a poor kid dressed in hand-me-downs; nothing quite fitted and everything looked wrong.”

    Even at least two of the words in the architecture of the text are, without adequate planning permission, made to look wrong in their context: e.g. “discretely” and “peddled”… and “Waghorn’s” when repeated later also looks unsightly and out of keeping. The story of the Waghorn family in Leddenton, family members having Christian names named after some of the products they buy in the local grocery shop where Robin is the new proprietor. You will hardly credit how the descriptions here take over your mind with what I can only call a new genre: the Grotesque Grotesque. Seriousy ground-breaking. Allus stomach-turning. Robin is scatologically convulsed by his welcome to the town at the hands of the Waghorns.


    “There was a man walking ahead of him, and he thought it most likely that it was the man he had seen earlier walking through the sloping grounds of the villa towards the town.”

    Somerset Maugham-like evoked ambiance but to the ultimate bodily-contagion, blood-filamented power of, in this case, Jamaica, a white man convalescing from a heart attack with his wife in mosquito ridden villa, a sense of slave heritage guilt, language impenetrabilities around him from the smoking characters with layered or stuffed hair, white dusty visages as well as black, one a supposed security guard, a vast veiny prophylactic in a repurposed shipping container? Or a visionary description of a mis-convalescence erupting? Leyshon literariness containing ley-lines of dark wordy elation and bodily attrition together with choice veins of traditional horror.

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