36 thoughts on “The Dark Nest – Sue Harper

  1. 48 stories in 190 neatly handleable pages of luxurious quality.


    “But she despised those who listened to the conversations of others.”

    Now difficult, anyway, in real time, real air!
    This nifty story of Amy in the rag trade, collecting fabric remnants for her own scheme of un-svelteness. Self-isolation by dint of outlandishly designed frocks become oubliettes or unravellable corsets.
    All the rage. She certainly knew her market … at least in the hindsight of her story being told at all


    Sarah, “randy for Gothic”, enters a church graveyard and witnesses the ‘glorious dead’ — a brilliant, probably accidental, distillation in one and a half pages of the novel THE SOCIABLE GHOST (1903) by Olive Harper (reviewed here, when I was given the opportunity to discover it.)


    “Once I could persuade people to eat the jam, all would be well. And for a while it was.”

    A timely fable of a journey from a jam elixir with ingredients that include glabrous plums to a jammed elixir with ingredients more aligned to blooded spittle — exchanging miracles that fly beyond even time’s anticipation for those that stay distilled down into each self-isolated moment.
    Jam now the J’am of Je Suis, I guess. Covidual to Individual.

  4. 39A0EA04-5FEC-40FD-B72C-7306D110FDCD THE GROWLER

    I left this picture of a Growler cab as subterfuge – to divert from what this work is really about! I am perhaps the only reader who has read this Harper who has also read the whole of PAMELA and CLARISSA (HARLOWE) by Samuel Richardson when I was younger. I cannot remember anything like it in them! Still, I did mention ‘clitoral fuse-boxes’ in a review yesterday of a story by Robert Stone here! And all dark nests need baffles.


    A floor discovered under the carpet in a house, wonderfully described. But if glory can have pangs, then it does here, a glory that somehow needs to be re-concealed to prevent its song of regret sounding out. A haunting story that may be hard to forget, as if you have just dreamed it, and still are dreaming it, and now obliquely fitting for our wall-to-wall times.


    A jobbing actress considered dependable and ordinary, a self on the shelf, till she developed her counterintuitive rough edges, thus disarming the expected, and like each of our separated Proustian selves that do battle with each other, equally counterintuitively! Sometimes counterproductively, though.
    I am already thinking I have discovered a new favourite fiction author with this book. Herself optimising her self. Hopefully, accretively rather than dwindlingly. Cumulatively, not in diminuendo or ‘dying fall.’


    If I tell you too much about this work and the nest of prehensile caves and their paintings of aesthetic hybrids that we may all secretly keep as our own emotional landscape’s underminings, it would spoil this remarkable divulging vision of the story itself as owned by its concomitant author with, presumably, her own such undermining. I wish I had such a story to call mine.


    “, and by the way, did she have a chest freezer?”

    If you found a little ‘they’, later called ‘he’, in your fridge, would you submit to his wishes for coldness everywhere in your house, and frozen meals to be served unfrozen! ‘She’ did, this story’s point of view. Imagine being in denial when you finally bury such a changeling in the snow outside for what the spring may be bring this leap year? ‘We’ store up resisted repercussions at every stage of our lives, I guess. Even a mutant cold virus leaping to us humans as food chain?

    “: her nose had turned an unbecoming shed of red “


    “if you want to take your revenge, you must dig two graves”.

    A startling take on today’s R number, a notice written in Chinese.
    Following an equally startling modelling of Kali. (My wife’s name is Killy, currently my sole face-to-face contact while in over 70s self-isolation.)


    A little fable by who I infer to be a woman and her favourite dog she wishes to talk to her, and it speaks of the lessons learnt from that wish too far! Not being a dog lover in any shape or form, I have very little else to say of this work. Except perhaps to say by projection of this work’s narrator or author that stories can only speak through their narrators or authors, while the readers must sit silently, with pursed lips, like all such pets should!


    A description of “emotional crepitus” where a woman emits bodily sounds to match each of her moods, whatever she does to suppress such unnuanced outbursts. A new mood she discovers, however, emits silence the first time it is felt. So to spend a life of new emotions? Strange that I read yesterday HERE two stories (Wilkinson and Smits respectively) about a ‘creeping deformity’ called Viking’s Hand or Dupuytren’s contracture and my own wild extrapolation into ‘achoos’.


    “What I shall recall clearest of all are the sunbeams through the smeared windows, with motes of dust in them.”

    …and, later, when grown-up, a fairytale shimmering behind vitrines. I will not smear this critique of the story with how very disturbing it is. A story of a girlhood taught by nuns in a convent school, a story from a self-styled storyteller born to such storytelling.

    Sourced elsewhere, a quotation for me came to hand. If not foot.
    “In a dream I saw Jesus and My God Pan sitting together in the heart of the forest.”

    —Khalil Gibran (1928)

  13. 46791A35-1FA0-4297-9DFD-3FD872D7CFC1 DOUBLING UP

    This story of Sarah playing two men at the same time and the repercussions of sending letters (in those days of paper letters) to each one, but mistakenly switching the letters, is provocatively hilarious and should be read alongside a story I reviewed a few days ago called ‘The Red Choos’ HERE. Doppelgänger spirits of story in the process of switching inadvertently between each other while also being in subconscious mutual-synergy. Yet quite different stories, too! I genuinely believe one story does not yet know the existence of the other one – till they read this my statement of connection between them! (And perhaps the David Austin Roses situation will be solved later this weekend?….)


    “You never quite know how to deal with your fantasy.”

    Indeed, and another warning tale, as voiced by this dark nest, about what one might wish for!
    Including a body part that I shall ever more call a Clarissa.

  15. F8E8561C-6D7A-454E-8470-56E5C12914C2TWIZZLEHEAD

    I remember a children’s TV programme in the 1950s with a similar title. Yet, I do not remember the doll’s head that swivelled by pressing a button on top of its head, a head under a hood with three faces to show the world separately, faces with three inferential emotions, one emotion being anger. I must have buried it in my garden of denial. This perhaps complex fable is one whereby each of us will interpret its moral off the top of our heads. Blame memories but not self itself, I say. Proust, relish eating your heart out.

  16. THE DOOR

    “, and she felt gradually called out, with an urgency she could not ignore,”

    Like Cecile, I feel that gradual urgency, but I don’t think MY mind’s body changes seem capable of manipulating or even ‘roundly cradling’ the doorknob in order to BE called out. The efflorescing excrescences on or in my head, notwithstanding.


    “, and so he pushed his wife downstairs in order to get a newer and richer one. When he fell on hard times,”

    Jinny, thus named when a small girl by an ancestor (the paternal grandfather in the quote above), muses on the various items of chequered history of many of her ancestors, thus not looking through rose-tinted glasses at our craze for Confucian genealogy! Her own walking upon a mountainous aunt’s fragile pond of frozen blood seems somehow to neutralise her ancestors’ missteps upon hard times, even while making her own footprint stains on our carpet of dynastic histories from Ottoman to Blottoman.
    Just some of my own rambling thoughts, not necessarily the story’s. Nor yours.

  18. I can’t believe that I did not mention yesterday above that the previous story’s “mountainous Aunt” is miraculously connected (here) with The Wise Friend’s tower-block roof climbing Aunt!

    And a wise Facebook Friend publicly mentioned recently that The Wise Friend has a scene involving coughing (a scene that I have not yet reached in reading it), and so, also, I can’t believe but CAN now certainly epiphanise today’s prophetic Harper story…


    “As she became older, Florence began to hear a new cough,…”

    Florence — during the wartime blackout so in tune with today’s covivid lucid dreaming (see yesterday’s such blackout in my review of Vantablack HERE) — catches her husband with another woman by dint of recognising his cough, and in later life she ‘compiles a taxonomy of coughs’ towards close encounters with Mister Death.


    “She tasted the water:”

    The idea of a boatman on the smooth untidal sea accepting your coin covered in your own saliva to take you on toward a self’s smoothing is, perhaps unstrangely in current times, startling!
    With what I assume to be the now elided promontory of the nose, as I guess the title started you off with, are there ANY senses left, such as that earlier taste? Even the sense of your Clarissa?

  20. MARICI

    “She performed her job as a teacher without much enthusiasm but with a modicum of success: she was good at pretending that all was well,…”

    Perhaps this is the first partway epiphany of this book of many epiphlets. The story of Sasha become a Goddess called Marici by dint of her body lumps growing into Goddess-like things that I shall leave you to read about. Today’s essential covivid dreaming made real, I vouch. Dreamt both by others and by the one within the dream supposedly dreaming it. Dare I refer you to my own earlier Facebook post and its onward link here as posted earlier this morning before I read this work? It means so much to me, this story. It really works on levels unimaginable without having read it first.

  21. 427D7437-CEB1-4170-B6C3-E2A92020D0AE MOBY DICK

    Like Sarah, I am a regular beach-comber, as you can tell from my photographs. Well. It seems, unlike any seaweedy Clarissa or gannet’s nest, a Moby Dick would be far more noticeable flotsam to scry, I guess. A mournful vision of Her Man, I infer, with any frights of an accompanying riptide or not.

  22. 31B36507-A7B9-4852-9F4D-F05F8102DDDDCHARISMA

    “Conspiracy theories only work if the enemy is truly hateful.”

    Reading this bijou hardback, so far each morning upon rising, to reveal another keynote in my lockdown, as if it’s a prayer book with new imaginative truths to cast both light and whatever is needed as darkness upon the rest of my day. This tale of Stella and her obsessive man friend who becomes her Casaubon of Communism’s Philosophy and who lands her with a responsibility as a legacy of discipleship that she earths in a tree rather than unearths for the rest of us to see. There is something stoically, counterintuitively wise about this. It tempts me to revisit my own ‘tree of death’ today, one I have long called ‘Yieldingtree’. Not a yew, though, but often addressed by me as ‘you’.

    • I also happen by chance to be reading (here) another book with a similar design on its front cover.

      85DB5C8A-2748-41CE-B513-36D9E0C90A4F 8CABA8C4-9FE0-4C98-9F8E-2C83D1C59602

      It looks to be a version of the drill people-carrier that journeys by drilling to the centre of the earth in Nemonymous Night (2011 Chômu Press)


    A doll with downy hair to act as a REBORN, a mock baby. Reminded me of the photo recently of the PM’s new baby! This one belongs to Sarah whom or which she names after her late mother who is in a grave that later has settling earth, a sort of potential sinkhole. A transmigration of souls that start today upon reading this … I sense that Renata or Renato will soon be a favourite name for such newcomers from this our age of uncaring deaths. A positive settlement, a key to unlock our lockdown.


    “I put in extra baffles and some felt.”

    … being perhaps the only way to help block out time’s ominous ticking sounds.
    In addition, this gem, on a different level, is an excellent found-hidden-door story.

  25. Pingback: My BIG books of 2020! | THE DES LEWIS GESTALT REAL-TIME REVIEWS

  26. Pingback: My Best of 2020 | The Des Lewis Gestalt Real-Time Reviews

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