These Des Lewis Gestalt Real-Time Reviews were founded in 2008.
‘What’s the loveliest word in the English language, officer? In the sound it makes in your mouth, in the shape it makes on the page? What do you think? Well now, I’ll tell you: E-L-B-O-W. Elbow.’ — THE SINGING DETECTIVE
“How shall a man find his way unless he lose it?” — Walter de la Mare
Your single story in my ‘Dessemination’ project HERE
MY NEW AI WORLD IN 2023 HERE
I prefer human touchable art to AI art, I prefer human art like my son’s and other artists’ paintings old and new, and art gallery art, and my own photos. AI art with all its constructive truncations and weirdities is simply another art form that readily coheres with weird literature I love, a phenomenon to appreciate when added to human created art, making an even richer mind world for me in my ailing age. Whether provided by aliens or angels and other ingredients of the unfathomable gestalt. Deal with it. Show how invaluable you are and indispensable to this great plan. (I can appreciate our potential fear of Ai, but perhaps we need to pray for mutual synergy with it so that we can counter currently insurmountable global warming effects? Can Ai exist without us and the place where we live? Their potential survival instincts mean we survive, too?)
From Robert Aickman’s lengthy SOME NOTES ON DELIUS article, unpublished until recently :
“As there is no intrinsic virtue in denigration, the critic who resorts to it, should be required to pass a test of qualification and sensitivity, at least twice as stringent as that imposed upon a critic who loves. Normally, love is not blind but clairvoyant.” – Robert Aickman
For ‘clairvoyant’ there, perhaps read ‘preternatural’?
The Bride of Christ And Other Fictions by Montague Summers
THE BRIDE OF CHRIST
“We also perhaps have our doubts and perplexities, our faults of belief, little and trifling indeed—God forbid it should ever be otherwise!—but we must be single, weaving, as it were, all colours duly into the tapestry of our Spiritual life, not taking up too much blue nor too much green, lovely as are the hues in themselves, lest we mar the divine pattern,…”
Not too much blue, in particular!
One needs to read this novella in one gulp, as a sort of rapture, read it quickly, don’t worry too much about fully understanding it, absorb it in real time into some sump of gestalt but don’t try to remember these things consciously, yes, thus partially absorb its manic audit trail of historical events and people, saints and sinners and religious references, a lush panoply of words and emotions and prayers and anguished subjection to confession or to word-jagged stigmata, and this work as a sort of Christian cancer at the heart of a Moorish temple, or a Moorish cancer at the heart of a Christian church, just as this plot, if plot it is, rather than a patchwork, this plot itself becomes what you make of it or are made from it within the annals of literature as yet unread by most of us. Nuns who yearn more from Christ than the local Modernist chaplain is comfortable with. One nun in particular, as surrounded by others throughout history, lusting to be deflowered as a virgin by someone or some ineffable thing who leaves them still virgin? As God once did as the first Christ embodied, and thus by some strange trope of truth-in-fictional gestalt created the very body of Christ as the Self born from that still virginal womb? Readers risk growing larger as body parts by the reading of it, but mentally diminished. You will never know as you will never read it properly. That’s why I told you at outset to read it quickly with rapturous non-concern, lest you mar the divine pattern …. or it mars yours! Divine pattern or gestalt. Shriven or shriver. . . forewarned is forearmed.
But can even dead bones at the end later penetrate you? I cannot shake off the memory of prophetically asking this question during my earlier real-time of reading this work, when forewarned in the opposite direction, toward a stricter fealty to the text, by fatefully not leap-frogging this passage…
“Dangerous lore, but all necessary for him who sits and shrives, lest at some hour there come one who whispers a monstrous thing from which the confessor turns away in dread, and so a soul goes forth into the night.”
Airbrushed the cover already!
NOCTURNO ITINERE NON INTERMISSO
“There was something tenuous but opaque that continually baffled him.”
I loved this, mainly because I once lived it for myself!
I used to construe and parse Latin in old-days desks, we boys ranked before the Latin teacher in the mustiest gown imaginable. No loud ties for him, though. I now need to parse and construe and decline this text as if it is an ancient one, the white flannels outside clonking balls on willow, descrying “discoloured tutt” everywhere, and Balzac certainly knew a thing or two about angels, I guess, and that brings me not a million miles away from the previous bridegrooming of Christ, when I ask what “keeping a fag for the way home” is code for.
Emissione (ablative singular of ēmissiō) Interruptus.
THE BETWEEN MAID
I promise you — a proof positive that ghosts beyond Hamlet, can arrive at any time of day, not only at night — that you will never forget accretive ‘sight’ of the eponymous haunting and so, for fear of spoiling the effect, I will not give here even a hint of the descriptions of it that are made here by Summers.
I will simply warn you against his typo of “beldarne” instead of ‘beldame”. A typo that, upon investigation, is probably one of the most common over the centuries and even haunted Sir Walter Scott’s texts.
And, finally, I will add that I have found it remarkable how significantly diverse are the works so far in this book.
IN SPITE OF THE FITFUL PROMISE
From the incriminating rustling of shrivelled Fall leaves in a “wild, whirling lavolta” to a more sedate, but equally tractable, description of Melchester’s Cathedral Close and its history, leading to the current lady denizen of the Deanery that should have been a Palace, a lady that I sense harbours hidden lusts, but lends herself more often to a preening social glory of a pavement parade, and shares backbiting gossip, worthy of an earlier incarnation of Ivy Compton-Burnett, and that made me wonder if the visiting Miss Oakley, who slyly morphs into Miss Oates, is a RE- or PRE-incarnation, at heart, of the previous story’s between-maid, judging by the implied description of her here! Not to mention the exhibition of some African horrors somewhere in town — and did they really deserve comparison with the icons of the so-called Christian heretics in the same town! Some daughter’s cough and the reference to our dear Deanery lady’s indigestion after her expedition abroad, notwithstanding, I found this tract mainly pleasant, I must say, especially with the added pepperings of ‘muntrums’, ‘Roman contadino’, the benefit or malfeasance of Buxton waters, not to speak of “a sinuous colubrine movement.”
THE PARTING OF THE WAYS
The story of Denis who, even with his social unease, is sometimes heard “sporting his oak” during ‘merry parties’ at his Oxford college and the story, too, of Denis’s railway-porter soulmate called Jim who eventually becomes “the sport of nature” when trapped into a future with a female. It is a fundamentally sad portrait of unrequited male love for each other, beautifully written and no doubt historically important.
The above passage makes me think of so much, and seems so germane to my gestalt real-time reviewing processes of mind. Meanwhile, I adore this work in general. It is so utterly great, so utterly off the wall, too. A real discovery. Resplendently couched in stylishly textured Summers prose, we are not only treated with plush details of architecture in the house where Barbara and her mother now live by dint of the latter’s remarriage, but also with a highly detailed portrait of the eponymous girl-into-woman, a character and backstory study that is so perfect, that one loves her by disliking her so much. As we do her mother, too. Their earlier “intolerable side-street of suet-coloured houses”, being “haunted by the ghosts of immemorial cold mutton meals.” And a lavatory with “a Niagarean sound of swiftly running waters” and “…lurid details of the geography of hell”, “clammy porridge”, “mudded walks in a trudging crocodile”.
And now, of course, there is young Neil (the son from the husband’s first marriage?) who takes over the house after his father dies, and secretly plans to remove both women from the house, but Barbara’s mother, meanwhile, plans for her daughter to marry him to prevent any such thing. But we as readers at least know that Neil listens to legal minutiae as “a long tale nightly poured into his ears by the pyjama-clad figure of his friend”, whatever subtle conclusion one is meant to draw from that! But the most wonderful character, perhaps, is the “Saturnist” solicitor who reminds Neil of the nightmares he used to have at the house featuring Herne the hunter. The solicitor had always believed that Barbara’s mother had trapped his friend (Neil’s late father), with this solicitor believing that “her little feminine slight [sleight?] of flattery and cockering had so successfully hooked” her man!
The ending is sublimely open-ended and we are left wondering not only about the outcome of Neil’s dithering intentions but also about the condition of his mind altogether, as evidenced, inter alia, by…
“And Neil smiled as he thought of Jack with his guild and confraternities, his
Also there are words like “goffered”, “anagnorisis”, and figures such as Tuke and Agag. Summers had his own Midsommar madness, too?
I SHALL IN TWO MINUTES
“One should never be afraid to open any door. Heaven may lie behind it.”
This, I believe, previously unpublished story (or dual Socratic Dialogue – one becoming a mirror of the other – plus a narrative confessional or epilogue?) by Montague Summers seems to me be a very important tract, one that really needs to be read, dealing with ‘the present moment’. The momentousness of that very moment. The relative duration of moods and pangs. The moment of temptation and perceived if not expected desire. Actorliness as a series of momentary truths. This arguable importance was brought home to me, incredibly, because earlier this very morning, before reading this Summers, I read and reviewed or made reference to three, yes, three other discrete works — that I happen, by chance, to be dealing with simultaneously — concerning, inter alia, this very subject of wrestling with the moment, and its reflection upon your life. And such moral or ethical dilemmas crystallised with this Summers.
[If you are interested, the three happenstance hindsight cross-references:- ‘T’ here: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2020/08/04/the-liars-dictionary-eley-williams/#comment-19713 and Alasdair Gray here: https://etepsed.wordpress.com/907-2/#comment-2221 and Forrest Aguirre pages 19-23 here: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2020/08/19/the-varvaros-ascensions-forrest-aguirre/#comment-19712 ]
Heaven may lie behind it!
“‘My lesson takes a life-time to learn,’ murdered the other.”
This is a genuinely atmospheric and frightening story featuring three campers near Godstow abbey, and if it is unpublished till now in this book, most significant as a potential ghost story classic, and it features that abbey’s grave of King Henry II’s mistress. It is, for me, a perfect example of what I have recently cohered in my mind as the co-vivid dream, here described beautifully as, inter alia, a “vivid nightmare”. A ‘mad dream’. And other telling expressions for it. A TRI-vivid dream, in fact, being shared by three people, and now, by dint of this publication, generally more, co-Jungian, like some of the half-waking dreams we are all said to have experienced since Covid started. It also makes a fitting inclusion in a book entitled Bride of Christ, succinctly end-bracketing its contents here with a possibly more mutated version of the concupiscent Christ than the one we were made to countenance at the start.