A fearless faith in fiction — Employing, since 2008, a Kantian or Jungian sensibility and an ‘intentional fallacy’ consciousness — Various passions of the reading moment — Walter de la Mare, ELizabeth BOWen, ROBERT aiCKMAN and many others old and new — Please click my name below for this site’s navigation and my backstory as intermittent photographer, writer, editor, publisher & reviewer.
I read the first story in 2018, and below is what I wrote about it in its then context:
YOUR CLOTHES A SEPULCHER, YOUR BODY A GRAVE
“I shut my eyes and saw the veins snaking across your forehead, the veil slipping loose.”
This is a story of veins (felt or seen as part of the unrequited young love exchange of near cousins, in Marseille and elsewhere): and veils (with a retrocausal birthline of vampiric death and a taking of the veil as a (sanguinary as bleeding?) nun that both resonate ironically with the earlier Tobler) and I counted several uses of ‘vein’ and ‘veil’ throughout the text, plus ‘half-veiled’ and ‘unveiled’. It is a lush Proustian work with tea and teacups and hyacinths instead of cattleyas, a work that I have relished as another epiphany. This work actually used the word “epiphany”, and I also feel my mouth sucking and probing words like “nascent” and “abject”. And it also made me want to pick up my copy of CLARISSA to reread it but I can only currently find PAMELA (volume two) and that sort of defeats my purpose. But who wrote which letters to whom, pretending to be who? I shall reread this story itself. It seems to be calling me. And is slightly shorter than CLARISSA.
“a lifted vein”
Names above in upper case refer to the novels by Samuel Richardson. But you knew that already.
A comment made by someone about an hour ago to my ‘Sand Keyboard’ Facebook memory post HERE has the joke about Polish Chopin’s relationship with a woman named George Sand.
THE WOMEN WHO SING FOR SKLEP
“Civilisation had no beauty any longer, he had told someone in a Viennese coffeehouse. He wanted to compose the wilderness.”
This is a story that strongly appeals to me about music especially silent music à la Cage, so much so that I wonder whether I am going over the top in calling it a potential weird classic. It is about a composer like Zoltan Kodaly, with his assistant, searching distant Eastern European places about music with his recording equipment and notebook. The particular place in this story has the tone, for me, of some of the Midsommar rituals, but it is the silent songs from the mouths of women that gradually enchant and then entrammel him. Us, too. The rain and droughts are controlled by such rituals. From wet to desert, including an appropriate reference to Chopin. And storms of rain. Yesterday, I travelled to a concert in a named storm, to which I refer HERE in my review of it earlier today before reading this!
“Even the wettest things had become perilously dry.”
Cross-referenced SKLEP with ‘Alien Corn’ here: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2020/01/18/short-stories-somerset-maugham/#comment-18237
THE WARRIORS, THE MOTHERS, THE DROWNED
“When he swims across the river and Ana is submerged, she feels coldness but not wet. After months in the desert, shivering is unfamiliar and magnificent.”
That seems in tune with the previous story, but unsure why. Maybe in that creative area between Aztec ”dust-streaked truths” and “velvet-clad Catholicism”, Ana, with her baby Sylvie, is escaping an estranged husband’s debtors, and needs to face out the Land of Death with the grudging help of a Coyote — thus summoning from literature (as this is) the shape-shifting exchange of life as a Nagual (‘nager’ being ‘to swim’ in at least one language, I suggest), exchanged for the otherwise everlasting act of dying, drowning. The crows as souls of great explorers or warriors, not their corpses, buoying up the feisty mother, the crows or crown of the undrowned. The Coyote says it has been “starving for a few eternities and getting no thinner.” Coyote as inadvertent float or buoy? So, with the brainstorming of your interpretative help, Ana is learning the rules of crossing the dead land and thus, against the odds, will pull this off? The story itself is a self-autonomous Nagual? The reader crossing its land, trying to learn its rules, the most important rules known only to the meaning of the story, even to a meaning beyond the story, beyond the reader, beyond any authorial or other predatory intention. Brainstorming can never end. The only way towards Null Immortalis.
I read the next story only seven days ago, and below is my review in its then context…
TOO LONELY, TOO WILD by Kay Chronister
“, and if I opened the door she would be there waiting to become me.”
Wonderfully, that could have been easily written by the woman narrator in the previous story. It is as if something magic is seeping through this book already. And that is not only blood, although it is now blood, too. A fountain of it inside a silk dress? This narrator is as silent in courting as she is in marriage. Mr Szabo is now here Mr Rishner. Both women escape, in the end, or so I hope, although here Mr Rishner and the narrator try for baby but he gets a coonhound called Baby instead. Slippery with enticingly styled meaning, this story is about a close community with a tradition of witches and such beliefs, the stoically withdrawn narrator precariously inheriting this tradition in face of another woman who she believes or fears is tantalisingly tantamount to being herself! All imbued with written records in family bibles, and what we might call superstitious methods to aid fertility and love, coins in clothes and nailed trees. Not stoically withdrawn after all, but wild?
“No one goes halfway bewitched.”
I reviewed the next story last March, and below is what I wrote in its then context…
ROILING AND WITHOUT FORM
“Need help? Those well-formed letters like typeface in a book.”
A message to me, as well as Molly? As if I, too, do not know the difference between ‘ravish’ and ‘ravage’, should I read those old-fashioned romance novels she has been given. Molly who seems to work in a hotel in the heart of darkness and swamp, with a ‘mother’ who is really in charge but to whose room Molly holds the unique key. At first I believed this was some haunted enclave where normal guests sometimes turn up as if it is a real hotel, where Molly is being kept back from normal life beyond the swamp, a swamp that divides a Conradian heartland and the normal world. Until one realises with utter fright that there is no normality left to rescue you. Or, at least, that is my interpretation among the even more frightening realisation that it is one of many possible interpretations. Probably the least frightening interpretation I could have possibly made! Subsuming colours, the devious nature of words, suggested edibilities, alien invasion, shape-shifting, bodily cleaving (in both senses of the word ‘cleave’) and much more.
“When I courted the Glaire woman I really courted the Glaire house,…”
There is something dynastic or surrogate about the debt here that the men or their deputed sons have with the eponymous woman or her yearned-for daughter, or rather, her house, a house that increases a room at a timely time with each man it calls by assumed debt; it has bones in its walls, wallpaper to be peeled, “yellowed lengths of human femur…” A piano sulking in the corner, and much more to savour; this house is also prehensilely and preternaturally in mutual synergy with the wearable house in ‘The Quiet Forms of Belonging’ in a synchronous review of mine here. This story wraps me like my own bungalow house where I have lived marriage-long with my own beloved Glaire Woman (often said by her former pupils to have the severest unblinking teacherly face-stare in the world!)… The thing about this clinging and adroitly timely Chronister of a story is that it hauntingly represents a different bespoke life cycle for each reader who reads it…
“The Glaire woman watched me solidly, stopping her stare only when she blinked.”
THE FIFTH GABLE
“‘No,’ said Marigold, in a whisper that sounded more like yes.”
“‘It seems wrong to bury her where she grew,’ Marigold whispered.”
This is quite an astonishing story that grows alongside your ability to read it. Whether that is due to cause-and-effect or as-above-so-below synchronistery, I leave you to decide. Deadpan and almost Biblical in incantatory refrain, it tells of childbirth from all manner of seed groundlings and tendrils or vines and the odd items of mechanics and daily household food stuffs and domestic implements, created by some women in the various gables, and now they do this at the request of Marigold Hest, a stranger who has come up the road to the gabled house, where the women make their beds, even in the cellar, and, at one point the word ‘mangled’ turns up (wrung out, as if from a mangle, as well as being the ‘mangled’ of uglily twisted) and even mangled male readers like me can feel the pain of childbirth for themselves, perhaps beyond just vicariously? And also to feel the loss of a baby after such pain. This has some resonance with the previous Chronister story. Actually, today, this work is perhaps further deeply felt as I happened to read it on such a day as I also read a story by Toase here, and the type of Chronister baby-birth, for me, is a happenstance inverse of the Toase type of death as oldster-birth. But an inverse with similar ingredients. Seeds from the sepulchre, seeds back to the sepulchre. Ashes to seeds, seeds to ashes. “Soda ash” in the Chronister, and Todash, as I mentioned earlier in respect of the Toase.
WHITE THROAT HOLLER
“The purewater man never came to Pryor before, but before we never had bones unearthed from fresh graves, never had ten mothers disappear within two months, never had demons in the woods.”
There is something simply more than tantalising about this story; it is also equivocal about who is the behemoth as abomination and who is the gun-toting teenage girl hunting them to keep them at bay. Who is on the right or wrong side of the burn-line of Hell in the Holler to keep demons from entering Pryor community, sheriff or preacher, or their daughters? We think we get to know one of the girls and two sisters whom she hunts with. This book’s composite SynchronSister of ambivalence (nothing is black and white). Or a self-conscious storytelling that creates a new sort of Twin Peaks community as plagued by murders and now dogged by a neckful of rattling canines or a purewater Lynching party. Each holier than thou or more holistic than Holler. Blessed water holier. But the human throat is a hole that leads down to base organs, and does not reach heavenward heads up.
Whatever is inside your head, nothing is completely black, nothing is completely white… and the greatest authors often create magic unintentionally. A purewater place beyond the thinnest attenuation.
“Demons can’t speak aloud, but they can talk inside your head and tell you what they want you to know.”
“A Paley woman would doubtless have said that Rosemarie was thin-skinned, fragile to a fault, but Jane was not a Paley by birth and she had always secretly felt that Rosemarie was not really a Paley either.”
Yet Jane was wrong in that feeling, I guess. But wait till you get to the end; I don’t want to spoil whether the attendance checkbox was checked, or not. This is a tale of a family Paley, just as Melanie Tem’s Desmodus (as I happened synchronisterly to find out yesterday here) is about a different blood-feral family that is educationally insulated. Have you noticed, as I noticed, with the eponymous pet’s “funeral” — a funeral that small Rosemarie (once referred to as ‘Rosemary’ in the text) is now dangerously old enough to write a letter to attract an adult male Paley from across the previous story’s burnline (here a “property line” or a facemask’s coronal “hairline”) or did he believe it to be a human’s funeral to which he had been summoned “like digging human features out of an animal”? — that the word “funeral” is a version of unferal? And that “nourish” here is often used as an intransitive verb rather than the usual transitive? The type of edible mushroom after which the eponymous pet was named, notwithstanding.
“…the older children’s hollering interspersed with Rosemarie’s little shrieks. […] …the wet mangled remains of the cardboard box…”
THE LIGHTS WE CARRIED HOME
“So I stopped talking about ghosts, which meant I stopped mentioning Sopha.”
“I was afraid to climb the tower and hop the lines without Sopha.”
Sic. Which letter is airbrushed? Hop the lines, hope they work. The “powerlines”, the “power lines”, even here staring at a “clothesline”, “wire-hopping”. “We climbed until the air felt thin…” and red strings still binding us to the thinnest of places? Beyond another burn-line? We can all too easily misplace letters, even an ap as a monster. Or as a ghost? Sopha is the girl narrator’s sister in a place that feels like Viet Name to me. Is the sister dead or a ghost, or both? Their aunt Ming, too. Being interviewed by a film crew. Not sure what subtitles or captions they use on the eventual finished film. Lines that underpin its meaning, interpreting that meaning. Like this review’s nebulous grip of the story itself. Does my review help the story or hinder it? Well, the story sure haunts me. Even the windfall corpse, still preserved without embalming. And I am not accepting a return of the sack of rice that I gave these people for their story. Or do I mean that vice versa? And what ap or app threatens to engulf me or knock me off my perch between or upon the lines of text?
“Miss Augusta had ceased to be entirely a person when she became a schoolteacher.”
Another Glaire lady, perhaps, to match mine. She certainly had those stolid qualities at the age of 24. If not yet “weathered schoolmarm”… This remarkable and unique story (unique, whatever its inferred synergistic, synchronister liaisons with other literature or cinematic art) seems a community-blend of a Branaugh Southern-Reaching beyond the February of now, today, here, in my own real-time, toward a Midsummer when a place’s identity thickens out, crosses some line of lines, beyond May towards Midsummer dancing and other ritual confirmations against the attenuations, against the thinnings, against the walkings on air, wrought into its identity and not corrupted by the angelic reach of any Area X-Nemonymous lighthouse with its series of collected or live-captured keepers, the current keeper with a wife and daughter. The daughter who needs to check this book’s earlier checkbox of school attendance however much the Midsummer community fights against that school-attendance retrocausally….
So much else to tell you about, but you need to read this final story for yourself, and even if you have read it before it needs to be read again in this book’s hole context. A book thickened by fate’s fat. Gestated by gestalt.
A rarefied genius-loci, too. Between the clay and the mist. Thinnings are best in the end: dreams with the strength of wilting. About to leap from the last balcony cliff, at my age of 72. To see if I can walk on air, too.
The lights we all carry home.
That golden sphere in fey balance…
Cross-referenced, a half an hour later, the Thin Places story with Chapter 4 of Desmodus here: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2020/02/19/desmodus-melanie-tem/#comment-18320