Uncertainties IV


The Swan River Press MMXX

Edited by Timothy J. Jarvis

My previous reviews of this publisher: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/swan-river-press/ and of this editor as author: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/?s=Timothy+Jarvis&submit=Search

Stories by Rebecca Lloyd, Lucie McKnight Hardy, Brian Evenson, Kristine Ong Muslim, Gary Budden, Anna Tambour, John Darnielle, Camilla Grudova, Marian Womack, Charles Wilkinson, Nadia Bulkin, Aliya Whiteley, D.P. Watt, Claire Dean.

When I read this book, my thoughts will appear in the comment stream below…

28 thoughts on “Uncertainties IV

  1. 3D88B98C-95EB-4721-B034-3740D271DA4E

    Hand carved…

    I SEEN HER by Rebecca Lloyd

    “; I’d reckon she’d even lick my shadow if she could find it.”

    This is an intensely haunting ‘burthen’ of a story, that suddenly allowed me a vista of it like an unexpected birth, with which the meaning had been pregnant. Yet, one can never be sure who or what, as an intentional force, impregnated it. The story of two boys – with a well-characterised love-hate relationship of young lads in those times, whatever times, when a Victorian building has seemingly become a ‘folly’ – one of the boys Girdler whose parents created a woman as the eponymous ‘her’, as nanny for him and/or someone who visited their bedroom… both boys vying, often counterproductively, for this ‘her’, for her attention. Unfocused and mysterious. All of this seen, by the mostly trusted mentor of the other boy Jonas, yes, seen through another woman’s eyes as nosy narrator or author.

    My previous reviews of this author: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/tag/rebecca-lloyd/

  2. E5075454-76F3-4563-949D-EC9285074FFCTHE BIRDS OF NAGASAKI by Lucie McKnight Hardy

    “They cluster together, growing bigger and bigger, allowing the contamination to spread.”

    I seen you. This is your tale and your brother’s, the brother whom you call “you” here, in the hopefully idyllic past, and he is then twelve, you ten, but he is small, asthmatic and bullied at school. You are your “Daddy’s girl”. And your father has just returned from Japan. Please imagine or extrapolate upon the repercussions of that core scenario, and you may have this tale, or you may have another tale — but both will contain a cherry tree, its blossom, the hole at its base, paper cuts, origami birds, the exquisite kimono your father brought home for you, a carved samurai doll as belittling gift for your brother, the encroaching dirt-cored snowflakes that the future may (or may not) bring…. The gathering together of either of these two tales is beautiful and insidious, gathered separately at variance with each other or as a composite gestalt. And I wonder what or whom you allow to touch you now… (And as in my previous entry above — headed ‘hand-carved’ and ‘I Seen Her’ — there is carved wood here, too, not only of a samurai doll but also of a rat.)

    My previous reviews of this author: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/tag/lucie-mcknight-hardy/

  3. MYLING KOMMER by Brian Evenson

    “You washed your hands?” she asked.
    “Yes,” he said. “Of course.”

    The top cover of this book has elements of icy blue to it — and, as with all my reviews, my pencil has today been scratching within, upon its pages — sometimes indecipherable when I look back at my marks. Arguably, I feel, meanwhile, this story is a genuine ghost story classic, in all the traditions of that often scary genre. In many ways, unusual for this author, yet not really. As there is here a ‘between’ not only between Evenson and non-Evenson, but also there is one between dream and non-dream, ghost and non-ghost, photograph and non-photograph, a real great grandmother and a blocked persona non grata great grandmother, the eponymous great-uncle and not him, as we follow the main protagonist boy from age 5 (or 6) till when he is older, while he is in between ‘ghostly haunted by’ and ‘physically pursued by’ a dynastic ‘between’ of a mispencilled curse and what I see as a righteous Null-Immortalis.

    My previous reviews of this author: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/tag/brian-evenson/

  4. THE KIT by Kristine Ong Muslim

    “My bedroom mattress used to levitate, so I tied it to the bed posts, to the metal frame. But it did not take long for the whole bed to start levitating.”

    A deceptively incantatory refrain of a prose poem, spoken or thought or enacted or dreamt or dug by narrator about cages and barbecue grills and places of burial and bluebirds and mouth-cutters and summoned dispatchers and a house with more room in it than its exterior portended. A theme and variations upon a Chronister, or vice versa. An elided sONG. The combined ‘digging to bury’ and ‘digging up from burial’ of the same Self, a ritual not wholly disconnected from what comes after such sONG. And Kristine has KIT embedded, too.

  5. WE PASS UNDER by Gary Budden

    “You’ve got to laugh or all of this would just crush you, wouldn’t it?”

    The overarching ‘Commare’ (“What did our mothers, grandmothers, our ancient matriarchs, experience?”) resonates with Evenson’s triad of mothers above as composite Godmother? And with The Old Woman concept coupled with the general attitude to the male race in Melanie Tem’s Desmodus colony concurrently reviewed here. And alongside “Bangladeshi Muslims” and other here-named races, and, as in the previous story, we both dig our holes deeper as well as our concurrent digging towards truth or release, like Caroline Flack? Here we have a powerful vision of a once department store make-up counter woman in a Brent Cross genius loci underclass world of “blackened tissues” for noses where “We are all survivors.” Survivors in the sense of Coronavirus or Climate Change as well as of Abuse or Me-Too et al.
    Ironically, here, in the Budden, we are SUBvivors.
    (I would be interested in others of you gestalt-triangulating the coordinates of this story, as mine is only one possible interpretation. The ultimate uncertainties of imaginative literature.)

    My previous reviews of this author: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/tag/gary-budden/

  6. HAND OUT by Anna Tambour

    “No, history is part of a recent invasion that you can’t ignore.”

    This book so far is full of that invasion. Here, ‘history’ is a lower case woman. This work is a provocative and challenging craftworked quilt of fundraising, of financially sponsoring a foreign child who writes back to you, of researching past oppressed souls in a concentration camp of time, searching by today’s real-time on-line surveillance and investigation (like the more historical surveillance in the ‘Carnival of the Drowned’ story reviewed here a few days ago) into, say, the correspondence between soldiers and lovers in wartime — and of today’s self-fundraising (“I always knew I was good. You’ve gotta believe in yourself.”) by something called Patreon (I guess) as a now, ironically, upper case patron of writers. And cross-fertilised Facebook Friends, all now with upper case models and ability to airbrush each other.
    Maupassant’s Hawler.

    “The Internet is a major downer.”

    “I’m no racist.”

    My previous review of this author: https://expenscusil.wordpress.com/781-2/#comment-534

  7. I SERVE THE LAMBDON WORM by John Darnielle

    “, spring triumphant at last.”

    Having just read this intriguing vignette, I checked on its author who I think is unknown to me before. I see he lives in Durham, North Carolina. And so the Lambdon Worm is no doubt the equivalent of UK Durham’s Lambton Worm. And I wondered whether, like my concept of literary filters, a weir can also work in both directions of flow. And when I discovered there are indeed examples of two-way weirs, I shuddered with the implications for the rest of this book so far.

    by Camilla Grudova

    “They fed it worms, bits of meat and eel, but he said a lobster would eat another lobster if it had the chance, and would eat her too.”

    Lambton or Lambdon worms? This story is a gem — with my being convinced all the while that it is real while it is also full of fantastical things, but they are paintings, and paintings are real in themselves, Jacqueline du Pré-Raphaelite and mentors of new fancies and Carrollian Alices with red or copper hair, all autocorrected by giving children to colour (one of them wrote this story?) and naming the boys after spoons or woodstoves, the girls artists’ models with a tinge of zoological exhibits as well as angels. The food poisoning, notwithstanding. And the Granny ‘commare’ from earlier in this book. Yes, a gem, with that little bit extra. Greenhouses and Persian carpets. No quadrille, though.

    My previous reviews of this author: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/tag/camilla-grudova/

  9. AT THE MUSEUM by Marian Womack

    This is in theory an amazing piece, even more amazing than the previous story for its strange effect on me. I say in theory, because practically speaking, it FELT as if I had had a stroke – or what I imagine a stroke to be – as I realised that upon finishing it I had forgotten most of it and could not even remember properly all the stories I reviewed yesterday — and their titles and the names of their authors looked all WRONG. A combination of suddenly being in an alternate world and an inner confusion stemming from myself. I can’t explain it better than that. I then decided to do something drastic to clear my mind and went outside to give my lawn the first cut of Spring, it being 1st March today. There seems something wrong with mowing a lawn in February, even on the leap day of February 29, as it was yesterday. I do feel a little more normal now but I still can only remember certain aspects of this story and the bits I underlined. But I feel in my heart that it was a tantalising work about shadows and simulations as exhibits in a museum, a work that one day deserves a second reading. (I only read stories once for my real-time reviews, a rule I established at their inception in 2008.) One bit in this work that I originally double-underlined in pencil reminds me of what I wrote yesterday above about two way filters and weirs…
    “, maybe the liquid reality you had created with your technology would filter into our world.”
    Oh, just spotted another bit double-underlined here:
    “Our dying planet, not the first we’ve inhabited, is quickly becoming another gigantic Museum.”

    My previous reviews of this author: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/tag/marian-womack/

  10. THESE WORDS, RISING FROM STONE by Charles Wilkinson

    “: I own your imagination.”

    An accomplishedly written story of a male writer subsumed by a hoity-toity female poet seemingly stalking him at a literary festival with the pan-pareidolia of a Jungian curse… but I, for one, personally prefer her adeptly resonating oblique poetry to his more linear narrative describing it.

    My previous reviews of this author: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/charles-wilkinson-christopher-harman/


    “Words like ‘unexplained’ and ‘clusters’ and ‘impossible coincidence’…”

    The fact, for example, in my world, that the young lady Kari – who becomes concerned, even obsessed, with a reported missing girl called Alana – lives at no. 704, a fact she later gets wrong, and 704 appeared in my very first real-time review in 2008 here, as representative of God. She sort of becomes a perhaps fallible God in this planet-subsuming story, this Joel Lane-like lost-souls-diaspora of an otherwise uniquely haunting and paranoiac vision, as Kari tussles with collective memory, star-patterns, tulpas, ‘connected’ missing persons and instinctively meaningful mistakes, and it resonates, too, with Julie Travis’s ‘We Are Falling Towards The Centre of the Earth’ reviewed here. And my latest reviews’ of Chronister, Shadows & Tall Trees etc with absorption by ‘House’: “She bled into the hardwood trying to pull up the floor planks.”

    “And there were so many, God, in knit caps and reading poetry…”

    My previous reviews of this author: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/tag/nadia-bulkin/

  12. Pingback: Synchronicity rampant… | THE DES LEWIS GESTALT REAL-TIME REVIEWS — A golden sphere in fey balance between clarity and confusion


    ….as a parallel to my ‘description, interpretation, evaluation’ in gestalt real-time reviewing? This story seems to be a blend of being below Budden’s underpass and Womack’s Museum, and I think I will spend the rest of my perhaps short life seeking out empty or blank communal ceilings or underroofs in sports domes or in concert/conference centres so that I can share the Whiteley Effect. Eliza here shared the first such Effect with her father who tried to protect her from looking up at it. That rate of hourly deaths, 6316 or 6205, under some law of averages which should not be deemed an average law at all, I guess. People hang up their mobiles to shake it off or expose themselves to it without the demur of further reflection…. “A bad feeling undoes all evidence.” Realities bend and gradually break, I say. So thank goodness I felt an added value about being a father to a daughter by the end of the story. After evaluation, comes extrapolation…. Each of us ever upon different curves of the same white dome of reality, even if parts are in intermittent shadow. But the coronal colours around us become clearer, then more beautiful by dint of outer or inner eclipse…

    My previous reviews of Aliya Whiteley: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/tag/aliya-whiteley/ and https://nullimmortalis.wordpress.com/2013/07/28/horror-without-victims-an-editors-commentary/#comment-8504

  14. PRIMAL by D.P. Watt

    Although I am usually a fan of this author’s work, I am afraid this is pretty poor stuff. It stems from the father/daughter relationship in the previous story, but seems to debase it with Kafka references surrounding the new relationship of two young students, references that sound forced, plus info-dump dialogues between them, and conspiracy theories and cults. The horror finale is unconvincing, too. Sorry.

    My many previous reviews of this author: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/d-p-watt/

  15. FEEDING THE PEAT by Claire Dean

    “Too warm for February.”

    An atmospheric story about Kath and her two obstreperous children visiting Great Aunt Ida’s cottage for clearance after the latter had been hospitalised for dementia. Some striking descriptions of the nature of a whole lifetime’s clutter being cleared and the direly seeping ambiance as well as something deeply burning below the very soil of memory that haunted Ida as Commare. In this countrified place with the locals’ annoyance about ‘incomers’ taking over its properties and the men with loose dogs that seem lugubriously to hang around the woods, this feels genuinely threatening.

    My previous reviews of this author: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/tag/claire-dean/

  16. A collection, as a whole, that certainly stirred my imagination; in fact the book started to OWN my imagination, and I was relieved to be given an excuse to try rebelling against it towards the end!
    I shall now read the editor’s introduction for the first time.


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