23 thoughts on “Attrib. and other stories – Eley Williams

  1. The Alphabet
    (or Love Letters
    or Writing Love Letters, Before I Forget How To Use Them 
    or These Miserable Loops Look So Much Better On Paper Than In Practice)

    “; a cunning stunt.”

    I now know I should have read this ‘story’ before having read and reviewed this author’s later excellent novel THE LIAR’S DICTIONARY. ‘The Alphabet’ is a neatly cerebral work as an exercise in words and letters, “in non-trivial ways”. The latter expression and my other references reminding me of another Lewis famously saying recently (since I read The Liar’s Dictionary) that the Government was being unlawful in a “very specific and limited way”!
    An engaging wordplay of a work about personal losses of objects or of people in the shadows of letters as cognitive shapes, and aphasia needing to build into aphrodisiac, and much more. Leaving A as an awful eyeful! And the weight of dictionaries….

    “The heaviest book in the house is the dictionary. I know because to fill my days I went around with a scale and measured each one to learn the weight of words.”


    By miraculous happenstance, I reviewed two old classic, but perhaps little known, stories, in linguistic mutual-synergy with this Eley Williams one, from the recently Vintage Books published ‘The Big Book of Modern Fantasy’, here—
    THE WEIGHT OF WORDS by Jeffrey Ford
    THE WORDEATERS by Rochita Loenen-Ruiz

    My weighty bold.


    Above the swamps of subterfuge and shame, all the pupils around him would shout on the first day of every term to the tune of a thudding piano,…”

    The school song. But these pupils have ‘irises’ I guess, with variegated swatches of colour. Just as Medder had a wife called Iris in the aforementioned Veit story and King Eglon from the Bible had his brick-red heart disentangled from his fat glaive-stabbed body with difficulty? I’m hopeful that my glaiks-derisively far-fetched real-time reviews have also have the benefit of coincidentally sparkling glaiks of perception, too, as I gather perhaps more from this story than was intended? A story of two boys, who once sung that school song, coincidentally now sharing the same cupboard in a birthday party hide and seek game. Two boys with kingfisher eyes of variegating colours and a tint-machine of meanings’ own mixed bespoken colours … not forgetting the kingfisher’s marsh-mallow herbs.
    I rose madder.

    “in the meat of his iris”

  3. CB586EAC-8731-4E1D-9651-1FCCEF8FD16D


    We all now know to what this title can be attributed: the rib in its halting by the above dot of word- if not woman-shortening. Another cunning stunt or truncation. A rib-tickling, truly word-magical tale about the sadly unattributed sounds-engineer — with noise baffles and microphones — preparing, as the story’s narrator, a guidance audio recording with sounds effects for patrons of a Michaelangelo exhibition. With a cat-flap and other tricks of the sound-effects trade revealed. So unattributable, I do not even know the narrator’s gender even after the cherry was popped. Although we do know Eve was said to look a bit like the narrator.

    “Sissinghurst and gourds.”

  4. Smote AE953CF7-EC52-4579-AA16-9AD1CC188D4E
    (or When I Find I Cannot Kiss You In Front of a Print by Bridget Riley)

    “: looking at this painting over your shoulder and taking your hand is like trying to taste wordplay…”

    Plot embodied in subtitle. And this sporadically spaced-out prose’s ingenious re-living of Gerard Manley Hopkins verse evokes gallery exhibits of dizzying paranoia and snow-blindness, with a final resolution-to-quandary as just one simple smitten refrain’s puff upon a dandelion. I know. I was that gallery attendant.

  5. 426560B1-8EC4-4191-8FE4-6D9FFC6F71BE

    “The bird and the bee could set up, I think, a lovely B&B…”

    Like the sudden instinctive kiss in Bridget’s gallery, this work represents a fleeting apotheosis of three thoughts (the sound of an early morning tube train firing up between buffers, a bird singing through its syrinx outside the bedroom window and a bee trapped with once kindly intentions in a Nutella jar beside the bed overnight) as you wake, and beside yourself: your naked lover. I can easily imagine this prose work pent within the constructive constraints of an award-winning sonnet. Seriously.
    (Bridget’s painting shown with the previous story above is now seeable as a pair of sound baffles? Sounds still buffering into actual sounds?)

  6. Alight at the Next

    “; I wish someone had a protractor so I could show you how precisely at forty-five degrees this man’s nose was but who carries protractors on the District Line?”

    “….distracting;” when this text also has paragraphs beginning with commas or semi-colons, like I have long done in my real-time, it seems for centuries, when quoting from works! This one seems to have taken wordplay beyond play into serious insanity or co-vivid dreaming, as the narrator, with a finger, freezes in time an irritating looking male passenger boarding a tube train, while talking to you (at least in mind’s ear), you who are this narrator’s lover. Mind the madness. Alright?


    “I wondered whether you had made this particular call in a place that was near water with skippable stones or somewhere that might serve you the black circle of an espresso on a white table.”

    A phone call – between lovers? an argument? a destructive slamming down of one of their phones? – all evoked in precise detail at one end, with the postcision via the skilled eyepiece magnification of adept hindsawing. A wonderful Robbe-Grillet like anti-novel pixelated into the otherwise pointless pointillism of a few pages.

  8. And Back Again

    Timbuktu, cockatoo, tickety-boo. The city’s name is a word that charms and comes bubbly and saffron-scented against the tongue.”

    A free-wheeling monologue based on a song from Oliver! A fictional hotel in Timbuktu, a gratuitous book by Camus behind the bed, starlings and a ‘you’ whose mind’s eye is this text’s test of a reader’s forbearance. I would forgive this daydreaming author anything!

  9. “…this taught him to consider Sophia as a most delicious morsel, indeed to regard her with the same desires which an ortolan inspires into the soul of an epicure.”
    — Henry Fielding (‘Tom Jones’)

    Fears and Confessions of an Ortolan Chef

    “, all bloodlust and dirty tricks beneath a cloche.”

    What it says on the lid.
    The well-known shameful facts of songbird Ortolan buntings; their cooking and eating are here extrapolated Eleyly, including the buying and selling, supply and demand in our undercover eating provisions for others, me and you, our relationship, the knives in the kitchen drawers, the dishwasher and the co-vivid if not corvid dreaming…a gross faith.

    “As far as I can remember you have only ever appeared in one of my dreams.”

  10. Synaesthete, Would Like to Meet

    “Always wearing shades and looking either wary or disgusted whenever I leave the house can make for quite a lonely existence.”

    …and I don’t know how that tantamount-to-upper-face-mask parallels today’s emergence from home when wearing a lower-face one? A taste and smell synaesthesia?
    Those who read my gestalt reviews regularly over the years will already know much about the various versions of synaesthesia in life and in literature. And this story of a woman, I guess, is the perfect expression of synaesthesia of sight-to-mind’s colour-object over-synergy. Bravo!
    This story — about tantamount-to-dating with a blank man who, when in his presence, expunges her disabling but spectacular synaesthetic condition, and with her doctor, who trials her condition in certain public entertainment situations — is enthralling. A fine oblique fable, with today, in retrocausal hindsight, a moral that startlingly involves a blinding kiss!

  11. “When he inhales, deeply, he sees his breath. As a youngster his mother told him it was his own soul he was seeing. […] He coughs.”
    Quoted in yesterday’s chance real-time review of the effect of cold air in ‘The Corpse Painter’s Masterpiece’ here: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2020/09/15/you-have-never-been-here-mary-rickert/#comment-19981


    “…and the morning was cold enough that our conversations could be seen writ faintly in the air above our heads as breaths met in the early winter sky. They appeared first as threads from our lips that briefly formed one shape, connective and fragile like a wishbone.”

    A group’s characterisation by the narrator with a hidden lanyard who is from the local natural history museum, a characterisation of people, chance-gathered round a stranded whale (and all its evoked gossip scientifically real or fanciful) amid the gulls and waltzing-near sea. Including a tearful woman with an urn, someone’s left picnic on the beach with the name Anna, and thoughts of using, for fear of germs, knuckles instead of fingertips on a mobile’s numbers, but I don’t know where I got that from. Or whether a dead whale explodes or has a heart bigger than me. I could see this whole scenario pictured on a screen I squint at, and we would have our own memories of this and other flings.

    “‘Drown in air?’ echoed her young rumpled man, unconvinced and affectionate.
    ‘It happens,’ she insisted.”


    “Earlier in the week I was eating a bowlful of Alphabet Soup and I swear the letters I dragged out that made anagrams of your name tasted sweeter.”

    You remain imbued in the very air I breath, I guess, Yet amid the panyoutheism of your departure on a train forever from my life, you remained immanent as well as ever imminent again even in your left laundry bits and the pigeon noises around my garden despite or even because my now blown-up photograph of the moment has shown that the squirrelly pateform of some man’s headpiece is blown up, too, in the perhaps windy backdrop of your train’s departure and this event had much to pay for the eternal abruptness of your own wave goodbye. I felt this piece conveyed everything that needed to be conveyed about the ever imminent air loss of you from your lover’s ever future thoughts.

  13. Rosette Manufacture: A Catalogue and Spotters’ Guide

    You can’t often say that you have just read an exhaustive essay on the extrapolative meanings of the word “rosette”! When I was a little boy in the early 1950s I remember I SPY pamphlets on various objects to track down and tick off. But I can’t remember one on rosettes. There should have been, in hindsight.
    Also with Remembrance Day close, may I ask if a pinned poppy is a rosette? Some people seem to have all manner of hierarchical accoutrements of splay and spray on their poppies to mark them out as great remembrancers.

  14. “Come back with your shield – or on it” (Plutarch)


    744EA671-0EE7-4F3D-99C4-764DA94C01C4 ADCBB913-D3C3-41F7-85BC-0C07D25D0DFD DD7A06B8-4A2C-4802-94DD-576993F89220

    Just one more of Zeno’s Paradoxes. A prose poem, triangulating museum artefacts, and needs reading on and on and on — eventually never to get at the meat within life’s crunchy burger.
    Until merciful deadening from today’s helpful bladerunner? I’ll get my coat or lose my cool or simply go and shield.


    “The idea is that a person’s given name can play a significant part in shaping particular aspects of their profession or character.”

    Eley is eely with words, and was born in Ely, where our best cathedral lives? Cathedral as a word has rat in it, and that is only slightly less clever than clever that this story is. About a first person singular you as a narrator in desert mine disposal using a thus-named rat as a sniffer out of mines. Mines that effectively became yours. A rat with testing whiskers and you as its chief. Well there are many yous already as a singular love interest in this book so far, a gestalt of yous, and there is also, in this MISCHIEF, a clever clever gestalt of serial words and punchlines about the rat and you. A story with the ultimate mischiefed punchline punched out by what happened next, &c.

  16. SPINES

    “‘Is that a rat?’ she called down.”

    No, it was not one but two hedgehogs that simply became asterisks instead of etceteras.

    (Otherwise, an engaging, eelly-worded story about a family holiday – parents and newly teenaged son – in Toulouse, with a swimming pool.)

  17. SPINS

    “When London is late and undefined like this, when you imagine that lamps are being lit only to scorch the moths and the clouds make a candy-colour of the evening, the passers-by have conversations that marble together like endpapers.”

    Words as whirls within worlds, as spinning semantic fields to winnow. A spiderous story evoking the marbled page in Tristram Shandy or often improving on wordplay in Finnegans Wake (my detailed real-time reviews of these two books HERE and HERE)
    Madness along with stylistics, ripe with description, interpretation, evaluation, an Eley apotheosised. Syntax, phonetics, graphology. Stylistics inspired anciently in 1960s, as I was, under the tutelage of Anne Cluysenaar. Intentional Fallacy et al.
    And ancient Ss, here, too.
    So — what word do I call out as this book leaves the room? Not the word that this ‘I’ seeks so agonisingly to use so as to call out to the departing ‘he’ in this story whom I might valedictorily want to curse not merely fare him well, indeed, not calling out to this ‘he’, not to a ‘she’, not even to a ‘you’, but to the book itself. What word shall I call out not only in sporadic anger or frustration at this book’s clever cleverness but also in envy and, yes, love, too? An attritional or attributional Adieu….
    —— I was just suddenly interrupted in my ponderings by a FaceTime call from my daughter’s mother-in-law with whom we often have discussions about poetry. She told me to look up her latest poetry homework. – The Last Rose of Summer by Thomas Moore, and I found it ending with this stanza –

    So soon may I follow,
       When friendships decay,
    And from Love’s shining circle
       The gems drop away!
    When true hearts lie withered,
       And fond ones are flown,
    Oh! who would inhabit
       This bleak world alone?

    Sometimes one word is not enough.

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