37 thoughts on “Nostalgia’s Boat — David Mathew

  1. I
    1 – 3

    Possibly the most compelling opening to any novel anywhere! No joke.
    I certainly believe that upon the reading passion of having just read these opening passages.
    As the THEN nine year old narrator Lucas, along with the au pair, re-meets his Uncle Raymond, the twin birth once paired with Lucas’s mother’s. While remembering a jazz artist the uncle once named in the past when Lucas was only two.
    I somehow do not dare to turn the page, no exaggeration.
    But I certainly fear I will, eventually.
    (No spoilers intended, as far as any real-time book review CAN have no spoilers.)

  2. 4 – 9

    “Although nostalgia might seem an inappropriate emotion to attribute to a nine year-old boy, it’s the best way I can think of to describe how I felt at that moment.”

    And there are 9 parts in THEN, too.
    I remain fearful of, if also exhilarated by, this book, in a new lockdown sort of way, as if dark things become much lighter in hindsight, and nostalgia is far more a launch than a delving into backstory, although we as readers are made to delve back that way, too, and here it is through a backstory’s gateway, not to an expansive Narnia (not even to the insides of Lucas’s family’s generational dog called Narna), but to an Ark as, indeed, what I just called a new lockdown, an older man’s equivalence and/or contrast to the booktitle’s younger-seeming, flight-ready boat. Meanwhile, other than wholesome mutual hugs, Uncle Raymond does not otherwise touch you, Lucas, does he, although you touch him, big time, bit by bit. Do we believe you, though?

  3. NOW

    Why did she say a piano lesson, Billy wonders, if she meant a swim?”

    Don’t down whoever taught you to swim from their boat?
    I love these shortish paragraphs, I love their sleights of stylistic hand, often clipped, sometimes textured, literary-legerdemain, prestidigitations of modernity, and unexpected turns that perhaps only happen in fiction’s version of truth, and empathy with young people as they start off in life, being teased by powerpoints, or each other, the slip-easy love scene, the local Mathew pub, a mature student on work experience in a biscuit factory, deafened by thin walls where such people live, and much else, and how efficiently we’ve already got to know Billy and Jemima. But what has this couple as non-couple got to do with the earlier Lucas? Rhetorical question. Now is now, but what will be, will be, I guess.

  4. 2

    Lamella Legally

    Lapsus (unless it is a double ‘p’) Libido (Jacques) Lacan Lorraine lactose (intolerant) Mahler Shost Schnapps streets’-network Carol ‘Purple’ Hayes Purple = Leppur? Elgar = glare, regal, words to his music Enigma lounge = lunge Katalina decibelage MUSE


    “– and when she drops her lips into his lap…”

  5. 3

    “the coincidence of the homophone,”

    This long chapter often seems as if this book has become this book in a biscuits factory rather than a dictionary publishing firm! And I mean that as an enormous compliment about complementarity of both genius books. This one is vintage Mathew, now with longer paragraphs and a tying up of the plot’s erstwhile loose ends of events and characters and wordplays, inter alia, involving the Biscuits Inspector (a literary character that, if this book is read at all, as it should, is likely to become seminal) and a group of homeless in the town square the description of whom is priceless, and a dog in a car that reminds someone of a boy in an ark as well as a plot arc.

  6. 4

    “– as he was the last time that he used these bones, these lungs; that most people fail to identify their own alterations, because they have no alter egos to use as controls that recalibrate the scales.”

    “…when the scientific law of bodies moving slowly in a confined space dictates that he will have to speak to Frank Tucker. He can avoid him no longer. […] ‘Epidemiologist by background.’”

    This rolling stuff of words is sometimes the literary equivalent of finding oneself eating rats. Then they turn backward into a shiny word star. The sharp schizoid ability of this book to cohere itself, to morph its persona to suit different closed-in reading-carrels of existence. Written ABOUT pre-Covid times, and I sense written BEFORE Covid happened, this novel nevertheless presents a pukka co-vivid nightmare coming together, a prophetic example of the ‘homeless’, headless (autonomous alter-ego) dreams that we all experience today. Laced with our mœurs of familial and business and academic day to day life, and, here in this chapter, a family party where an ex-spouse is invited to meet his ex-wife’s new spouse. And the later adopted ‘homeless’ scenes where there is talk about the Flood, and other factors, make me think this increasingly and uniquely mind-splitting Mathew-instilled book is now in, perhaps temporary, complementarity with this book instead.

  7. 5

    This book is infuriatingly good to read, and I am still tussling with some of the nested coincidences and characters and backstories and possible ghosts and quick-change schisms of personality and body, and its tantalising classical music allusions and vulgarities about body-servers. This book also seems to have the power of changing what I remember each time I pick it up. As if my mind is at home one day and homeless the next. This book one day and this book the next, the latter book now without a hyperlink!

  8. 6

    This book is a Floored Masterpiece. Or rather has one within it.

    “…that if there’s one thing worse than heavy metal music, it’s amateur heavy metal music.
    He has a quick wash and then slopes out to The Anchor.
    The pub’s as full as a train at rush hour; bodies are pressed tight against one another. Inside, it is as warm as a llama’s tongue. Tables have been moved to the sides to accommodate more punters;”

    And NOW we all know where that all leads! Still, Billy’s houseshare IS a bubble, and they can do the back garden together. More office politics and heavy toilet shenanigans at the Biscuits Factory. And a guest re-appearance in a dream by that dog called Narna. But you’ve probably forgotten about it.

    My senile dementia does, however, allow me to continue appreciating Mathew’s prose style that is seconds to none and minutes from Marginal Amis’s.

  9. 7 & 8

    “I’ve come to learn – already – that we are being remembered, like nostalgia. But we don’t have to be remembered the way we are if we don’t want to.”

    There are other ruminations here about ‘nostalgia’ that give a whole new slant to some of the processes of gestalt real-time reviewing. And to this book itself. Meanwhile, I have had some very strange things, recently, that have happened regarding my teeth and the jaw where they are socketed and later its homeless gums. If homes CAN be called homeless? Words here and there continue to remind me of the playful neologisms of the Liar’s Dictionary, neologisms, though, that are not neologisms at all. And I will not look at cremation ceremonies again in the same light as before, nor their celebrants nor the flies buzzing round. I think I have said this before about this author’s works; they actually change the shape of one’s brain as well as as what is in it. Nobody seems to be reading this review. Perhaps they have all been killed by the earthquake? Or they are not dead at all but are wandering around to find their proper homes to match who they are?

  10. II

    “Memory constructs the past, and reconstructs it. This is not a question of revising the facts but, as with the modifications in neurological pathways, of placing experiential information in new – sometimes larger and richer – contexts. In that sense, the past changes under the pressure of the present, as well as vice versa.”

    Seems to be the only feasible explanation to my obsession in these gestalt real-time reviews over the years to ‘retrocausality’! This book arguably now seems to be seminal to my pervasive thought-patterns. An earthquake of literary proportions. I hope the author forgives me quoting such a large chunk of his priceless text.



    “He yowls in a voice and lexis less than human.”

    A smelly ‘army’ of homeless ‘soldiers’ on a train with Lord Biscuits. Literary mayhem now! An army of tramps versus other tramps. With super strength lager supplied like luncheon vouchers. What concerned me more was that the same ticket collector on the train seemed to be working a double shift, as he collects their tickets on the long journey north to the battle as well as (LATER) back from it. A seismic multi-zero hours double-shift of gig-economy tectonics?

  11. 3

    “Nearly twenty years earlier, when he had first been awarded his PhD, he had insisted on being called Doctor at every happenstance.”

    I know someone in real life who uses the Dr. prefix on his or her Twitter handle!

    “Coincidence is what happens when God wants to remain anonymous . . .”

    Much plotwise comes together in this chapter for me, regarding Lucas and his mother and her twin, his uncle, and much else. And Nostalgia’s Boat itself.

    “Déja vu”, too, in contiguity with what I said about my vintage use of the word ‘retrocausality’ (and, extramurally, can the Hadron Collider cause earthquakes?) and the use, in this chapter, of the word “interloper”. As an aside, I recently had cause to study its derivation from ‘leap’; that may be coincidentally relevant.

  12. 4

    “The word Lorraine is in the air, as a musical note that both of them can hear but to which neither knows how to respond.”

    Claude Lorrain, Alsace-Lorraine? The latter place has had many 3.3 earthquakes over the years.
    This book seems ground-breaking material, some of its material that has permeated my gestalt real-time reviewing over years, a fearless faith in fiction and its preternatural powers, and my later thoughts on co-vivid dreams, collective memory, retrocausality, the powers of nostalgia I had not even considered before, many things I had not considered before, conjuring up real people, dead people… Still rough-edged homeless theories trying to find their home in truth?

    “Was it Freud who had suggested that two likeminded individuals, with sufficient reason to do so, could conjure up a member of the dead, back into life?”

  13. 5

    “By hook or by crook he is going to get to the bottom of all that confounds him. He has grown sick and tired of feeling confused.”

    We test our own backstory-memory of retelling our own prior reading of this very book back to ourselves as well as testing Lucas’ own ability to do so to Jemima.

    As is often the case with Mathew matter we need to negotiate the taste of rat, as well as any memory of Mathew’s past treatment of hyperthymesia in his whole literary canon.

    To suffer the sapience of sapor. To measure the tectonics of past time beneath the crust of now.

    “Oh, I very much doubt it’s a coincidence. In fact, I’ve lost faith such things even exist. It’s all connected, in ways we sometimes see but usually don’t.”
    Especially in a book like this.

  14. 6

    “What about life outside of the manuscript you happen to be drafting?”

    The concept of this chapter’s reference to “casual hugs” has now taken on a new perspective in the world outside this book’s ‘script’, and ‘what does nostalgia mask?’, and I sense fiction such as this one itself being a means to remember things for its readers, to transcend any “liquid shuffle” between two people or between a single person’s two genders or even between different personae within a single person — like moving tectonics or the sliding notes of same freewheeling jazz improvs… my review one such improv, I guess. The plot, meanwhile, fills in gaps in its past as well as helping me remember past items, already read in the plot, that I had forgotten.

    “Have you ever attached future meanings to any particular ages in your life?”

  15. 7

    “It’s a big leap, Derek; are you sure?”

    Wonderful stuff framed in the thoughts of our train ticket-collector about the nature of train travel, past and future. Worth buying this book just for that. Also some intriguing conversations between characters about coincidences and the leaps between them. I really love this book but I fail to remember all I should remember in it, and even checking back seems to fail me. And I also fail to know how to do justice to this book without issuing plot spoilers, genuine plot spoilers as well as those deriving from my own personal confusions. You will have, in this day and age, plenty of your own confusions to deal with, without having mine, too! Perhaps we shall all meet one day in the Scarlet to discuss it…

  16. 9

    “Doubts ferret along the tunnels and rope-bridges at the back of his mind.”

    “Jemima had floated into his bed and picked up the tail-wind of her own dreams. In sleep she had sailed away quickly,…”



    “The ocean is made of memories – and made of dreams.”

    This remarkable book — evidently conceived and created before 2020, indeed before the Covid pandemic had even set sail — depicts mankind’s long-endemic anxiety traumas THEN but prophetically in relation to our times NOW, as if historical psychological techniques and theories leading up to this moment prefigured such a moment, — all of this coming together, possibly in attempts of healing, with the co-vivid dream experienced in 2020 by most of us, a phenomenon that is a potentially, if sometimes frighteningly, co-mutual or Jungian ark, half dream, half real … just saying.

  17. 2, 3 & 4

    “Their lives take place on a massive ship, someone says. A ship taking experiences to other universes.“

    “Nostalgia’s Boat is sailing closer, you know that, don’t you? Can you feel it sometimes? Approaching?“

    “We are someone’s evocation of the good old days. We are someone’s nostalgia. We might be firing in the synapses of One Who created planets.

    Those Sunrise days as cross-reference yesterday, linked above?

    “, I must admit there’s a certain poetry to this. A beauty, almost.”

    This book is beautifully developing into the primest examples not only of my past interest in retrocausality, Cone Zero, Zencore and CERN Zoo, not only the development of gestalt real-time reviewing itself, plus empirical synchronicity as a shameless faith in the preternatural power of fiction, but also today’s empirical and anecdotal co-vivid, covidual, collucid dreaming that arguably resonates into as well as from this book. (I would love one day to know exactly when it was written.)

  18. 6

    Interesting take on Pinter’s Birthday Party, two consecutive performances, the second one with one or more different actors somehow making it a different play…

    But we do go into the Ark two by two, I guess. Each of us has a twosome within us, one who remembers me better and makes fewer mistakes…. My thoughts, not necessarily this book’s.

    And a woman my dream […] disembarked. She grabbed hold of one of her breasts and started to tear herself into two people.



    A long seminal chapter for this novel’s themes that I will leave you to read on your own. Scared to read it unaccompanied? Well, let me just say to you that it returns to the plot of Carol and Andreas, spinning out of jazz and classical music improvs and from structured pieces, too, and how he has co-opted more than just her sexual services solely to him, as he is moulding her into various memories embodied by the backstory of having read this book. Failing to understand this book would have least been a safeguard against its wiles, but even half-undesrtanding it is enough for it to get you. As Andreas does with Carol, morphing the past from today’s present, like, just as one example, magicking away Venice and her false or true memories of it and the accordion player she recalls as being there, magicking Venice away in one fell swoop (as if in an inferred psycho-geomantic earthquake?) Or simply Death in Venice? Or me creating the wrong gestalt from a series of false clues?

    “Carol creates a mental performance of folding her available inspirations and clues into a single demonstrable whole.”

  19. 2

    “It feels like we’re in the grip of group hysteria; but I don’t know the reason.”

    Things come back to me like the dog explicably trapped in a car in the Biscuits factory car park and a policewoman called Ms Bark if I really remember them, and the chute in the Biscuits factory, when someone else was aged 9, a shorn-off shotgun, a “prison psychiatrist”, deviously mixed now with someone’s late beloved Granny and a fountain pen that brings her back when as an adult you still write to her with it.
    This seems to be a very skilful book (by instinct and/or pure deliberation), one that brings back memories of itself as prior plot and/or of your own self having read it and even remembered it, a sort of false literary self-googlesearch or a false literary déjà vu or a real one.
    Is there any book quite like this one? Proust is one suggestion I give, the ultimate disguised nostalgia. The massive Proust book that I once said, on an independent site (here), I wanted to be buried with!

    “It’s like you were planting a clue for yourself, […] a way of defending yourself against a future failure of memory.”

  20. 3

    “No. I’ve just been inside Coronet Confectionaries. I’m invisible. Nobody sees me. It’s depressing. I’ve waited twenty-five years for someone to notice me; still nothing.”

    I haven’t checked by looking back into the words of my review above, but I am pretty sure the statement in that quotation from this chapter clinches the parallel with what I think I said earlier about another genius book — The Liar’s Dictionary by Eley Williams — and, when compared to Mathew’s Biscuit Factory, the Dictionary Publishing office had someone similar in years past placing false words into the dictionary that stayed in the dictionary forever as real words!

  21. 4

    From a doctored dictionary to the ‘spiked diary’ described in this chapter…
    In fact ‘scopolamine’, I assumed this was one of the dictionary’s false words, but I have just checked on google and it seems indeed to be a drug exactly as described in this final chapter.
    I wonder if this has all along been a spiked novel, having reached such a denouement! A book that is so disarming it takes the reader’s brain along with their arm! I shall probably spend the rest of my life wondering things about it all. And whether it has already instilled false memories in my mind. From when the time I was homeless and ate rats. To the time I was buried with Proust.
    The Earth itself is a boat, I guess, a ship we all share. Subject to all its tremors and troubles. Take care of it, and I might be able to take care of my selves: my Proustian selves. Even as I speak, my still on-going backstory morphs into the precariously pent-up tectonics of the past.


  22. Des, you have done me more than proud. I’m so excited by your review. You review with such depth and precision that it’s astonishing. Thank you so much!

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