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From Robert Aickman’s lengthy SOME NOTES ON DELIUS article, unpublished until recently :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’?
My real-time review of ‘famished’ will commence below in due course…
cave venus et stellas
An evermore pharmacopoeia of thematic ingredients shelved as meanings above and below the lines — a Deadpan Book of Horrors ‘conte cruel’ factored into the rich prose about a captivating willowy woman (sip sip) and the carpenter she employs from off the different, indifferently cold street outside. But who has the more adept manipulation of their materials? Just watch the diminuendo of spaces that you read between. A siphonage of stars: As Above, So Below.
“But different, different!”
Each book I choose to read, choose via some unknown knack, a pattern, a jigsaw to scry, and this one promises well. The second storylet has a highly rich oblique rapture of words and captivating chamber music, justice to which cannot be done in any short review of it, but I so sense that I have now discovered an author bespoke for my literary tastes, and wondering whether the gardens at the back of this story are better ‘maintained’ than those at its front. A story as the house itself, and I also sense an eventual joy in containment here, not a neurosis, the gestalt of souls of those who once maintained a life there whatever the duress from outsiders, including the duress upon the new wife of the cocky man who buys the house from two seeming sisters of the elegant willowy lady in the first story above, the same but different, the man who plans to co-opt the nearby village as his own droit du seigneur. But this story of a house’s spiritual lockdown forcefield happily co-opts him first, I hope. If “a jigsaw never done…”
what he choked on
“Frightened to sleep for fear of falling into a death crevasse, all littered with Manchego and nasty odiferous hauntings, which opened beneath his feet with each falling-to-sleep jump.”
A Jungian co-vivid nightmare of childhood’s arty chokes including Liar’s Dictionary words such as “turophile” and “affineur”, plus a variegated glossary of culinary semantics reeking with offal and other more piquant tastes …a boy’s grandmother who tried to kill him with kindness, poisoned him and eventually the man he shrunk into with the co-dared adventures of Thai tapas mixed with the schoolyard cruelties that seemed concomitant with this work’s food-scarred wordplay. The tangible text creates ingredients in the boy’s recipe of fate, as well as in a more universal self-perpetuating compost of fate: a still protracting archetype of vividness in experimentally destructive dreaming by fellow dare-devil readers encouraged by disbelief in any review of what they might not yet otherwise have read ….
seaside rock and other homicides
“When we meet love that sees us as what we are, we blossom.”
An eventual irony that, and an irony, too, I just read today’s poetically wrought prose gem in a similar seaside resort, a story about seaside rock that has text through it. Well, I have lived in this resort for over 25 years and was born on this coast just over 72 years ago, and this still could be my Midsommar, I guess, judging by today’s September heatwave. This is a story of a Welsh woman who keeps a rock shop (also selling floss, fudge and knick-knacks) and she is potentially rescued from dullness by whoever or whatever is here described as an English erotic. (My English mother married a Welsh man and gave birth to me.) I tend to pick at fiction texts and see what runs through them, teasing a text from within a text, as it were, like erotics tend to tease at other things, but I still find myself wondering about the woman’s big-toed sister who works in the shop. And the story’s title. And the fudge.
a tale of tripe
“, but Catherine found that her thoughts were leaping from vivid hue to hue –“
The matriarchal offal in an earlier Vaught story above now made into an apotheosis of tripe, and you will never forget this gorily synaesthetic description of it! By means of conveying the narrator’s co-vivid dream, and I think this one equals the very recent archetypal such dream in ‘Cast Lots’ here as an example of co-vividness that we all experience today. This theme blends into further dreaming of the narrator’s favourite culinary writer who I take to be Elizabeth David. And it suddenly strikes me that Vaught shares kinship with culinary as well as non-culinary Katherine Mansfield, too, whose complete story canon I recently reviewed in detail here. Taking Mansfield into the horror genre/ rich poetic prose balance that I mentioned about the first story above.
I remain fully entranced by this book, so far.
nanny lovett and pop todd
“I’ve been spending days basking in saporous memories.”
A few days ago here in a concurrent review I mentioned the ‘sapience of sapor’! Meanwhile, this is wonderful worded stuff about gestalt complicity and this engaging narrator’s flawed Grandparents, but Grandparents who transcended their own flaws by running a pie shop with pies containing things like Trump and others of his ilk (that’s my interpretation, anyway!) and we all ate their pies because they made such delicious pies.
Lampreys (sometimes inaccurately called lamprey eels) are an ancient extant lineage of jawless fish of the order Petromyzontiformes, placed in the superclass Cyclostomata. The adult lamprey may be characterized by a toothed, funnel-like sucking mouth. — from Google
henry and his surfeit of lampreys
“Men strive ’gainst rules, and seek forbidden things.” — quoted in Historia Anglorum, Henry of Huntingdon, 1129 and 1135.
Like eating lampreys, then lampreys eating us from inside! A sister story to those other stories here about offal. Awful, a story that eats away at you as you read it. No joke. Educational, though, especially with the side-research I did after reading it. And we humans do tend to have an instinct about striving against rules, but today’s face masks DO at least help stop lampreys getting in. Or should I say, escaping!
Symbioses or synergies or hosts and parasites, there seem to be many unspoken mysteries that this book disarmingly covers under the guise of high literature.
hot cross buns, sharp teeth and a tongue
“Although I did go to Asda to get some hot cross buns and, well, I was so disappointed by how doughy and soft they were, not like—”
A delightful treatment of hot cross buns and their modern downgraded ubiquity and a youngster’s idealistic vision of supplying old people like me with old-fashioned buns with traditional quality at a gathering at her house – the ending of the story being hilarious and it started me thinking about the benefits of ‘drinking and whoring’ against those of self-isolation.
Or going to the socially distanced dentist.
A significant cross-reference with the Neo-Decadent Cookbook here: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2020/09/14/the-neo-decadent-cookbook/#comment-19882
“…there was that sneeze-powder, pretend parmesan, and there was the real thing, properly aged.”
Can there ever be such a fabulous descriptive story – with a moral – of being downright common in eating low-grade foodstuffs (here beautifully listed) or with habits of picking off crusty tastibles from cooking dishes etc etc? NO!
There is no shame in shame. Love transcends everything. Even low-level love is love….but can you ever transcend the false clues or decoy trails of snorting on sneeze-powder, I wondered, off piste?
“, the cucumber sandwiches – without crusts, to be sure –“
The different qualities of innuendo beneath a civilised high tea in Virginia and England. The degrees of hidden malignity and resentment. I wondered about the knife’s whereabouts that cut off the crusts. I left the en dash hanging there.
(As an aside, I wonder whether it is significant that Amish is a word ‘famished’ tops and tails.)
Significant cross-reference with the Catherine Dousteyssier-Khoze story here: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2020/09/14/the-neo-decadent-cookbook/#comment-19901
shadow babies’ supper
“In my head, I said the Welsh word for longing: hiraeth, hiraeth, hiraeth.”
A substantive work evoking a Southern porch where the customary rocking chairs sit, here with three children, or perhaps Ligottian dolls, in Transatlantic communion with the Welsh half of me. An intensely dark story that shines out as something really special amid my long experience of reading and dealing with the Horror genre of fiction, here, a poetic blend of many authors I could name. Telling of a mother with her own two children arriving at this porch and it would probably break my strict rule — of only one reading of a work before gestalt real-time reviewing it — in order to fully understand it or do full justice to it. Suffice to say that the trafficking of hair between the living and the dead to pay for burial and this book’s inferred archetypal high tea as its restrained interlude between horrors (“A silent tea. Dry and polite sandwiches; all about will, not appetite, elbows in, table conversation.”) plus many other haunting factors already make this a significant reading experience. I will read it again.
“Vistas of what ifs and maybes and happenstance in the lives of others;”
This is an amazing tour de force, a word fountain, literally, figuratively, semantically, phonetically, syntactically, word-visually, defying description, interpretation or evaluation by any critique. A ‘pickled egg and cads’ woman called Donna, a mid-life donation to crisis, an elixirish way-station of a chocolate cascade for the cads’ children through her, and her more hoity-toity women friends and their gooder children, from pickled egg to avocado, and vice versa, via a version of chocolate flows transcending both polarities (negative and positive) of what such an eponymous fountain looks like and likely to taste like, too! Well, that’s what I managed to get on only one reading.
Cross-referenced again: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2020/09/14/the-neo-decadent-cookbook/#comment-19909
jar and the girl
“When you bask in colour, you may push back the horror and what dreams may come, if only for a slender moment.”
If you want a sheer hedonistic synaesthesia in the tumult of words pickled on the page jars of print, then this is it.
Miriam between Virginia and the South and an achingly wanted Ball preserving jar, and what such jars can pragmatically do for food and trapping its flavours almost or actually forever, or what they can do for sheer beauty of colours by the marbles or whatever objects you place in them for l’art pour l’art show. Or a blend of both these purposes.
The ball jar or bell jar is preserving one’s time-sieved blend of Proustian selves, such selves today in tactile life as well as in pre-stored death, becoming the eventually unique and only pickling of Miriam?
“You probably know this, but it is possible to construct a belief system around anything. There are those who revere Prince Philip, whose cult revolves around a deity of jettisoned cargo. There are those who pace and faint around Our Lady and those for whom a leg of lamb caparisoning with caper sauce brings forth the gift of tongues. There are acolytes who, replete already in their belief, add to it with a miracle, a tapestry of Jesus that wept, an incorruptible body or the bleeding yew tree of Nevern in our Wales.”
I hope I will be forgiven for such a large quoted passage from this work! My excuse is, within a relatively brief story, it itself repeats this whole passage as refrain! The longest and most hallucinatorily effective refrain in literature, I feel. It becomes the perfect extended prose refrain and will echo in my mind forever more as a sort of Welsh epiphany of reading. Half-Welsh in my case.
You WILL need to read this book yourself for the rest of this story to gain knowledge of why I say what say above. It all works together perfectly — the story of a Welsh man with his own serial epiphanies of the spirit by means of an old-fashioned sherbet dab. Erotic, too. You probably know this.
bread and salt
”But forgive me. I am also too old.”
A comfortingly earthy tale of a homeland where bread and salt — here fulsomely summoned in its salacious sense of unguent lips as well as traditional good manners and humility and charity — a fable that allows our old age at least one sweetly discomfiting tease in the tail end of life’s story! Or is it really a tease at all?
This is my 72nd year which is also my own Midsommar leap year, from imminent aphasia to this story’s ‘vaught’ as protracted “aphotic eye”; the green ball here is another version of such a ritual leap or vault into nothingness, stemming from this intensely rich banquet miraculously couched in vaughtian style, and I cannot praise it enough. Nor am I able to do justice to its details. This is vaught in substantive creative overdrive. Yet, I could have done without the pesky “pretty boys” attempting to dis-ungulate me and soothe my other appendages! Yet I sensed another prose refrain here to prize. And, yes, I found the wooden hen’s figpeckers a bit sickly, too. Rats in the wall were as nothing compared.
“In those days. The before days.”
This is, in the passion of the reading moment, the most supreme coda to the book’s symphony of tasty words. If I were — as one of the “past children” in this archetypal sweet shop of the 1950s, as I remember it to be in real-time — famished at the start, I am now happily replete… complete, even. Thanks so much. Beyond even any Jungian co-vividness. And beyond even when, sadly, any of my residual teeth have long since come home to roost in the walls of closing time! Sweetie, the book says to me, under its breath, I somehow sense. Nothing can change that. You probably know this already.
[As a postscript — this remarkable book needs no mutual synergy to enhance it, but there is a sort of bonus synergy to be gained, I found, when simultaneously reading it alongside the above linked ‘The Neo-Decadent Cookbook’ that I have been doing quite fortuitously!]
Cross-referenced this book with ‘Nervous System’ by Inna Effress: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2020/09/16/strange-tales-tartarus-press-at-30/#comment-20012