17 thoughts on “You Have Never Been Here — Mary Rickert

  1. Four of these stories were read and reviewed by me in 2011, as follows –

    ===================================

    Memoir of a Deer Woman

    “Frightened of leaving the children too long with madmen about, …”

    Or with a word called “her“?

    A dense and textured fable, but paradoxically expressed in a simple way – blending Katherine Mansfield and Angela Carter? The previous story had ‘Holiday’ as a character’s name, here a ‘real’ holiday? The process of growing into what one wonders can exist, amost like cancer growing, a prehensile creative-writing paper chase that is so utterly utterly poignant…about how to pre-figure death and departure with one’s animal soul from those other animal souls one loves, wrapped round with genuine constructive obscurity or randomness. (7 Feb 11 – three hours later)

    Journey Into The Kingdom

    “He had already lost some of his life-like luster, particularly below his knees where I could almost see through him.”

    This substantial story of ‘story’, at first, reminded me of the salt-puddle stirrings of lost husbands to the sea in my own ‘Down to the Boots’ together with the ambiance of ‘The Caul Bearer’ by Allyson Bird that I reviewed in mid-2009. But it takes its place, too, as a real classic of the communion of ghosts, depending which ghost knows who is ghost and who isn’t in turn from inside their own souls – revealing the grief of cancer (cf the deer story) – and the art museum’s inimical synergy between vision and ‘story’. This book itself has some wonderful wonderful artwork. But we return to the story and the victory of love through recognition of death and death’s breath. This story almost overfeeds the readers, like the ducks, with its riches…. to prevent any “danger of floating away or disappearing.” (7 Feb 11 – another 4 hours later)

    Holiday

    “I’m a writer. I notice these things.”

    A tender evocation – by a male protagonist narrator – of ghosts in his house, reminding me of how I imagine children’s traditional ‘imaginary friends’ to resemble – ghosts that, if real, would importune him. I assume but do not know that only a woman as head-lease author could write through this narrator (as if the narrator, especially when dressed as a clown, is ‘her’ ‘real’ ‘imaginary friend’). This is coupled with the past’s ‘baggage’ weighing down the evocation of such ghosts (with telling interruptions from more detached characters), ‘baggage’ within the pecking-order of narration at whatever collusive or non-collusive remove. Very intriguing and certainly haunting. [Another thing I shall remember about this story is the handy hint on how to gain the trust of a woman: tell her you like her ear-rings.] (7 Feb 11)

    [I note a positive synergy between the story of ‘Holiday’ and that of ‘Being of Sound Mind’ by Roy Gray in the CERN ZOO anthology.] ( 7 Feb 11 – 20 minutes later)

    You Have Never Been Here

    “…you sink further into the vague cushion of the seat, …”

    For me, this is a symphony of ‘The Hospice’ and ‘The Unsettled Dust’ both by Robert Aickman and ‘Never Let Me Go’ by Kazuo Ishiguro and my long-term ideas on nemonymity and, today, I’ve been reading and writing about King’s ‘schizms’ (my word, not his) in his Dark Tower series, so it’s that, too. There are children, too, like those playing in the corridors of a hotel. But, then, suddenly, it’s not a symphony at all, it’s none of those things I just wrote about this wonderful story, because it’s about ‘you’, not me. And ‘you’ need to decide, by entering it for ‘your’self. (9 Feb 11 – another 2 hours later)

  2. THE SHIPBUILDER

    “This was what happened in Bellfairie. He was being sucked into its crazy.”

    I feel this important story that I have never heard of before is my own Bellfairie (“no one came to Bellfairie on purpose; it was always a wrong turn in someone’s life”)! The story of Quark, a taxidermist, who returns to “its crazy”, its something-different-from-and-beyond-Innsmouth atmosphere, parts of it built from the wood of a shipwreck, returns to the people he once knew there, and to Thayer, his father (or is it his grandfather), who had recently confessed to various murders in the town, including the murder (instead of it being suicide) of Quark’s mother Starling when Quark was, arguably, eight years old. Even talking about this story makes me feel crazy, as if it is a co-vivid dream (“Dreams could be predictions, omens, mysterious clues to the shipwreck of the mind, or utter nonsense.”)
    Once as a child, presumably as a budding taxidermist, Quark built a ship on his plate from the catfish he was eating. Later we hear of an old sea captain who “swallowed the anchor.” Today Thayer is building a ship or ark in the garden of the house where Q once lived with him. Q has ‘ark’ embedded in his name as well as a name sounding like a seagull’s cry. I ate black seagulls in Bonnyville. Yes, this Rickert is an important story that is so unashamedly, sometimes plot-disjointedly, haunting, you have to haunt it back. A synergy of arks. The right turn of the tide, somehow, in a reader’s life, after all? So many rivers running into the sea, and the sea is not yet full.

    “A man hit by lightning can see the future. Read minds. Talk to ghosts.”

  3. COLD FIRES

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    I consider this work to be one of my most significant reading experiences; I get them now and again, and today was one of those rare occasions. A couple, as I deem myself to be one half, in their coldness-beset home that lit fires ought to warm them against but fires that seal them instead inside the lockdown of that wintry ice house, a couple who, warming at least their imaginations or abilities to scry each other at last, take it in turns to tell each other tales supposedly from the past, but strike me more as co-vivid dreams than as realities they remember. The woman tells the man about the preternatural coincidence of pregnancy of her great-great-great grandmother and of the strawberry girl helpmate the great-great-great grandfather had brought home. A tale that is so captivating and so obliquely relevant to our lives today. And the man tells the woman, when it is his turn, of the capture of beauty by art, and you can be a bad artist and good artist at different times, even almost overlapping. So many images I could record here, but I’ll only mention a few …. the red bulbs of fruit, the red lips of sin …. the firelight making her seem “like a statue in revolt” …. sweet cough drops and other intermittent coughing …. a stained glass window by Chagall and other artistic references, even the ensuing of classical music …. the painting of Our Lady, the need to paint an icon …. “the need to take a deep breath as if suddenly the air consumed by one is needed for two.”
    A masterpiece of weird fiction.

  4. THE CORPSE PAINTER’S MASTERPIECE

    “—anything can be beautiful if looked at long enough,…”

    …even (or especially?) this story. And they keep on coming, another story whereby I ask myself: how could I have spent so much of my life without having read it till now?
    A story that now seems a premonition of Long Co-Vivid, a dream and a reality so clotted together, a hope and a despair so clotted, too. The sometimes comforting nightmare that ensues the bereavement of the Sheriff and his wife, their son killed by an accident before he is 7, and we learn also of the Corpse Painter whose help the Sheriff seeks for his wife’s Christmas present. We learn of the latter painter’s relationship with his father, his painting of corpse bones, and the light (a cross between an elusive refrigerator light and a buried corpse light in the sky) that leads the Sheriff on his exhumation mission…. so utterly beautifully hinted at as something indefinable that I cannot convey to you other than by urging you to read this story for its enlightenment that I can’t give you here.

    “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.”

  5. THE CHRISTMAS WITCH

    I tried hard with this work, but, well-written even as it is, I could not finish it. I have never really liked Halloween stories especially with school children dressing as local witches etc., wishing each other dead etc. Sometimes they do work for me, as in some Rasnic Tem stories, but not this time, I’m afraid. My fault.

  6. THE CHAMBERED FRUIT

    “The dead can’t make phone calls but the living can lose their minds.”

    C.R. Rite makes royalties from her paintings of frightening scenes of abduction and of stories narrated like this one, although much of the story feels essentially true within the constraints of it also being fiction. There, I’ve brought the two together, the well known painter and a narrator within leasehold fiction as facilitated by the freehold author whose surname also begins RI. And once I never knew what the author’s initial M stood for. Here, the complex nature of the dead is explored, the dead ones who return to us, those we loved and about whom we feel that we did not look after properly before they died. As facilitated by others, too, those who are naive, such as M. Dwinder, within the story, and, after our first significant meeting with her, we learn, on the next page, about the narrator’s wood supply ‘dwindling’. 3CA603C5-DD7E-41AD-96D4-8C0FAC68BA8D “All these coincidences”, dark intentions. This story has a meaning like the eponymous fruit. And here it works through to us like fermenting wine. As if life is buoyed upon the pungent lift of words, like some chamber music, however darkly couched.

    Indeed, this is a compelling and poignantly poetic work, one whose syntax flows beautifully without seeming effort, telling of a couple and their daughter Steffie as spurned by the community considering them to be a hippy artist type family. The couple, though, eventually allowed computers into their life and Steffie is groomed and finally abducted. The narrator, I sense, amid the constant snow as static, believes her husband was to blame for allowing the computers, and he has now gone. But at whose impelling? Who knows? Both daughter and husband, the story hints, have been somehow abducted from between its narrative lines. As my computer has just now groomed and abducted this remarkable story, too.

    We are all strangers one unto the other. Once there was a time “before the world was enchanted by screens” and we all now need paintbrushes, instead, for our digits to wield.

    “We are like one of my paintings. Small, in a vast landscape.”

  7. ANYWAY

    “Everybody is freaking out and just pretending that they aren’t.”

    Here, inter alia, we have “invisible fungus” killing a family’s memorable giant tree? Some echo of why today some of us have lost the sense of taste and smell recently, so that this work’s bloodstones we suck remain effective in life’s Tontine between good and evil, between individual destiny and universal repercussion. A self-paradoxical conundrum used as a meditation discipline. This story its own such conundrum, where a middle-aged woman deals with her mother’s Alzheimer’s in a care home, her brother’s erstwhile death, her lately broken marriage, her son’s own wish today to become a soldier thrown in the path of danger, and her own inescapably strange behaviour when given her mother’s bloodstones by her father, a gestalt, a story that is possibly the most oblique and most off-key I have ever read while being otherwise disarmingly meaningful and straightforward, a work now ever-resonating because of its mutual synergy with the blend of three authors whom I have also real-time reviewed in recent years: Virginia Woolf, Katherine Mansfield and Ursula Pflug. Literature works anyway it can. Almost autonomously.

  8. THE MOTHERS OF VOORHISVILLE

    Pages 211-220

    “What does ‘beginning’ mean, anyway? What does anything mean?”

    “Duct tape holds Voorhisville together.”

    I have never been here before. It appears to be a short novel that I have just begun being captivated by. Gathering information together from the sources of the mothers themselves, gathering into gestalt, mothers with children that can fly? Also about their narrated arrival of a man even more captivating perhaps than this novel, who possibly seduces them, and we hear it from their point of view, from girls as well as women, coughing up angels into Maddy’s ‘shit’, arguably in tune with this RRM story that I read and reviewed earlier today. Becoming pregnant without having been with men? This captivating man, possibly an angel, turns up in a hearse, arrives at the local yoga group, and the local writer’s group, and one of the women still seeks the poem he wrote and pressed into one of her books like a wild flower. This is not a fantasy version of a real Voorheesville, more a Devours-His-Evil? It says here somewhere that fantasy writing is rightfully not to be scorned, as it literally means ‘a making visible.’ Voorhisville, as a word, does have at least some assonance with Visible, I guess. Fantasy is, after all, real. Thus, a new coming, and I gather still…

    “Why would anyone choose this ruined world.”

  9. Pages 220-234

    “We would like to make it clear that we believe the women of Voorhisville were always beautiful, always interesting, always evolving, always capable of greatness.”

    …not only the women that Fall, never ‘penis-glorifying’, not necessarily an evil befallen the ville, as they are made to seem beautiful by pregnancy or whatever had befallen them, seeing beauty as well as being seen as beautiful, but also this short novel in itself with themselves as its eponymous Mothers is turning out to be beautiful and to be those other ‘always’ things, too …. always, always has been, though it is my first experience of this novel. I have never been here. Better late in my life than never. Poignantly beautiful, often, amid the mothers’ sometimes near and actually tragic backstories, as filtered through to us by the parts that make up the whole (a gestalt eventually like Lara’s painting), the disloyalty in being thus captivated if not captured, and the unusual pain, like “scraped raw”, of the women’s confinements judging by what would grow on or already grown on the babies’ backs, et al. Just to mention, in passing, that Sylvia’s husband before he died of cancer was a carpenter. Yesterday, for some reason, in the previous review entry above, I had somehow thought of another carpenter.

  10. Pages 234-249

    “Tamara knew it was uncommon for pregnant woman to have horrible dreams, but she was sure hers were the worst.”

    …and it is then perhaps significant that Prospero’s speech in The Tempest — about co-vivid dreamstuff on which, in this hindsight, we are all now made — soon follows on from the Masque of Juno that involves love’s loyalty in contrast to Ferdinand’s overt salaciousness. Furthermore, like the front cover of this book. did not Ariel have wings on his back? Or are they arms? And, perhaps ironic that Theresa’s husband is often found watching ‘The Godfather” like a couch potato?
    Some more beautiful, seemingly archetypal writing here whereby we learn that the magical hearse-man’s captivation by impregnation of Voorhisville (the new Twin Peaks with its paper mill instead of timber, or even Peyton Place?) covers the maiden daughters of the town as well as those who are already mothers, or at least one of their daughters… so, he certainly seems to have made it HIS ville, by whatever means.

  11. Pages 249-265

    “Voorhisville in June: those long, hot nights of weeping and wailing, diaper changing and feeding, those long days of exhaustion and weeping, wailing, diapering, and feeding.”

    …being a variation on these pages’ prose refrain of such a June, a diaper-changing almost as a would-be diaspora? It also seems pre-destined that I was meant yesterday to mention Juno in preparation for this book’s particular attritional version of her namesake June? And I feel these pages are literally inspired fiction as felt truth, that the writer must possibly have been ‘flying’ herself as she wrote them. The mothers gradually realised what has happened to them, one particular mother and daughter together in feverish realisation of recurrent and separate birthing, ever-latching nipples onto the babies’ gums, fearing, when asleep, the rolling of their own suffocating bodies upon them, and much more. This is special unclassifiable stuff, bordering upon arguably creative postpartum madness, madder, mader, mater, madere, madur, madyr, madyre, maddir, madir, mædere….

  12. 0B33C732-A17B-47D4-B5DD-896E556602CB

    Pages 265-288

    “Who can be bothered with keys, in this world that no one wants?”

    That seems to be the wisest, most prophetic rhetorical-question I’ve heard for our times today, when it derives from the context in this novel. A new Twin Peaks scenario of what is happening here, the unforgettable breast-baiting by the mothers, by the gestalt of these mothers, their communion, as beset by the perceived murderous madness and perhaps a new incestuous Mairzy Doats of one of their menfolk, whatever the nature of the ‘angel’ to whom they earlier succumbed for such inadvertent revelation! This work is both hilariously farcical and spiritually moving. No mean feat.
    As the rumours spread…

    “The mothers packed diaper bags, left work, left home without explanation…”

  13. Pages 288 – 311

    “We rolled over. Closed our eyes. We tried to believe it was a dream. We tried to believe we weren’t even awake, but the screams pulled us back, and we fell to the earth.”

    Whether this be the mothers — all of them suddenly discovering they’d been “fucked” by the same angel, the one called Jeffrey as underbridger of time’s river — or whether this be their babies that they have released to the skies’ freedom like birds, this is the prophesised apotheosis of today’s co-vivid dreaming where belief works like a filter that works in both directions of flow. And despite their attritional battle against selves as well as against enemies like the past’s wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, this finale now presents the revelation of eventually finding the keys for unlocking our newer lockdowns….

    “‘People mistake them for angels but they aren’t. Apparently this is one of the ages.’
    ‘I don’t know what you are talking about.’
    ‘They’re coming into fruition. There have always been some, but we live in a time when there are going to be thousands.’”

    “She felt like she was being swallowed but not by something dark and frightening, not by a beast, but more like something with wings, something innocent she’d always been part of but only now reconized. She wanted to tell the others…”

    We are such stuff as dreams are made on.”

    end of this book’s real-time review

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