20 thoughts on “Powers and Presences — John Howard & Mark Valentine

  1. THE DANCE OF GOLD by John Howard

    Chapter 1: The Rector at House

    “The shelves, bookcases, and cabinets were bathed in the orange glow of sunset;”

    I love ministering unto cabinets. I love Oxford commas, too, and I think this work a wonderful world to enter today of all dark days, this work’s world being rural and dare I say slightly feudal, but also (despite my frowning slightly at this) containing the Rector’s Revorie upon his own advancement by dint of a cabinet minister — soon to be Chancellor of the Exchequer, even Prime Minister — who has recently moved into the Manor house next to next door. I enjoyed, above all, the adumbration of the Rector’s study room In contrast to his garden. And his current more-than-just-a-hobby in writing treatises upon Arthur’s Kingdom of Logres, a realm bordering upon the Saxon Lands near where I live now.

  2. Chapter 2: The Rector in Church

    “a gift for malapropisms”

    ….as maybe I vaguely did yesterday when coining ‘Revorie’ to resonate with Rector, although this book itself had it correctly with ‘revery’… and this chapter — another delight, “straightening the kneelers”, for another dark morning in my own world — has a new coining! A remarkable gold coin, relevant I sense, as found in the Sunday Service’s collection box… amid musings of a rigorously worshipful country church of the times but here unusually with a more exotic sense of incense and a Queen Victoria-donated thurible…. “Gazing into the pit of centuries…” alongside considerations about choirboys with “cigarette cards.” And the book’s awakening inner sense of powers and presences…

  3. Chapter 3: Conversation in the Library

    “…that it would be possible for him to cut his hand on the man’s shadow.”

    And, despite the sense of calm here, I fear interruption in my own world. Meanwhile the Rector socially networks with the cabinet minister and his shadowy secretary at the manor. Shadows are usually soft-edged things I have found. As to the coinage in the domain of Logres, my mind has, perhaps irrelevantly, turned to Logos as the Word that was in the Beginning. And has also turned to thoughts that money and its assumed gift, if not accident, of wealth are dependent on a similar projection of faith as that faith one has in the Existence of one’s God? Ontological or teleological? The Word was, after all, with God. Powers and Presences, indeed.

  4. Chapter 4: Visitor in the Morning

    “Always stand on the side opposite to the hinges, son,”

    This has become, at least temporarily, a delightful Father Brown type story (my reviews of all these stories: here, Powers and Presences now making a potential great title for a new FB collection?) and one of the suspects here in this Howard is a man of religion, one perhaps less adept than FB! Still, he has time to worry about his own unpolished shoes, which says a lot. And there is an arguable malapropism approximating ‘Numismatism’…and, oh yes, that aforementioned secretary to the would-be Prime Minister makes a dubious car journey…!

  5. Chapters 5 – 7

    “‘It’s as if there’s an invisible sponge-like substance between key and lock,’ he had said. ‘I push but can’t move forward.’”

    It is almost as if G.K. Chesterton, or Charles Williams, or C.S. Lewis (whose name strictly rhymes with my own initialled by-line), had come back to life as the freehold narrative ‘God’ or God Himself or a so-called pagan god controlling, or trolling, this leasehold author’s book of page-turning, speed-chaptered ‘popular fiction’. With themes of hiding in plain sight, our wrestling with conscience as intentions or propensities or orientations often kept blocked even from the self that harbours them, plus the autonomous motive power of inanimate objects such as a gold coin, even metaphors provided for the pushback of our own lockdowns today, lockdowns not only within ourselves but also within others’ planned speech-bubbles of sermonising truth or fiction…

  6. Chapter 8

    “Had there been a gigantic coincidence:”

    This is incredible writing, I truly believe. Without demur, I call this chapter the apotheosis of the Howard in all his aspects that I have grown used to over the years. There is so much I can quote to prove my point above and my points yet to be written in the next paragraph. Yet I cannot cover all the points increasingly possible to cover here.
    I believe Needham, as the secretary to the would-be Chancellor of the Exchequer and then Prime Minister, is a brainstorming non-didactic portrait of Cummings. Read it and see for yourself, in several places. Counterintuitive deceptions, too, just like Cummings’ – for example all this now being tied by him into this Rector’s English church being more Roman than it should be, involving Confessionary techniques, and the resistant locked-down coin being concomitant to the Eucharist. Not to mention the cake! In The Times, Gove once accused the then PM Theresa May of being too Roman in her Church of England ways.

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    Chapters 9 & 10

    “: a variety of extraordinarily vivid, waking dream?”

    …as a premonition of our similar co-vivid ones today?
    The Rector — inexplicably (to him) — experiences the morning’s synaesthesia of his senses, particularly his hearing of the tweets of the day. After a night absorbing his eventual daring to examine the gold coin again. Considerations, too, of the economics of the day, the Gold Standard, the new Chancellor of the Exchequer… I am utterly entranced by this old-fashioned ‘popular fiction’, and Wells is mentioned today and inklings of others, but it is carried upon a surface text with so much of it deeper to scry, whether those depths are intentional or instinctual, or both. So beautifully set in its times, too. A countryside idyll, but hiding what?

  8. Chapter 11

    “Although he had opened windows and taken walks around his garden, he felt hemmed in and under observation. […] He was pleased that his sense of sound, smell, and touch remained as they should:”

    Yet “no disease to rival the ‘Spanish’ Influenza had appeared, to stalk the world and reap its human harvest;”… Some amazing stuff here, taking place between the two wars, and we now truly co-share a co-vivid dream of the above gold coin, share it with the Rector, a dream that threatens to prevail beyond the reality people normally relied on. Amid the Gold Standard politics of the time including a Bank of England Governor with a beard, if not a shadow, trimmed to a point as “sharp” as himself! — Influence as a new influenza?

    “People were accustomed to things being a certain way—but it seemed that could no longer be relied on.”

  9. Chapters 12 & 13

    “…that the financial system of the nation was not under any threat and full confidence in the currency continued to be justified.”

    …as well as the confidence of a faith in God or in Fiction. This fiction of the between-the-wars economic crisis in particular. Here a co-vivid dream amid a page-turning story. One where I sense the growing threat of today’s nation’s miscultivated core of belief in an unholy weight that breaks its hearth, “if not the earth itself.” Bring back the equally counterintuitive holism of a different Father Brown to save us all as it did in a more recent crunchdown in 2008, I say! (NB: 2008 was when the gestalt real-time reviewing of fiction was started.)

  10. Chapters 14 & 15

    “Perhaps it will be better to say I can see the full picture, whereas the rest of you are aware of parts of it.”

    …and I include myself in the ‘you’ addressed there. It is as if the Rector’s group-enabled spiritual catharsis — equivalent to the denouement conducted by Father Brown or Hercule Poirot — has to be taken on trust. Our nation’s hearth or heart mended, the gold coin restored after having been in the Rector’s care, a duty that had been so hard for him to carry. The Logos of Logres as the Golden Word can only be concealed within the optimum of instinctual fiction that awaits all readers’ revelation by gestalt, a triangulated release by gilt or guilt. Not all gold doth glister. Not all choreography works. Not all dancers can keep in step. Not all dreamers can dream beyond their own dreams. Not all readers can reach a fearless faith in fiction. But we try. SPOILER: Just as an aside, I am duly satisfied that Needham got his due deserts when driving his car.
    “Well, I came to the conclusion that he represents nobody and nothing — except himself and his ambition.”

  11. THE WHOLE MAN? by John Howard

    “ideas of exchange and co-inherence”

    …which somehow blends with the currency exchanges of the previous novella. Here a retrocausal introduction to it – with a touching account of the author’s Aunt who brought him to Charles Williams, C.P. Snow, C.S.Lewis (who I have already mentioned), and others – especially Charles Williams, an affirmatively informative essay that now makes me think I have done a didactic disservice to the novella above. If so, I apologise. The whole man needs to wait for his gestalt with a patience that is golden? And I am no exception, I hope, tentative as I always try to be in my real-time reviewing, real-time being another method of exchange with the bits of time it imperceptibly becomes.
    Like those alive becoming those who are now dead?

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    The real-time reviewer, many years ago, standing in Louth, Lincolnshire, by the gravestones of those found missing in the nearby floods, floods as recounted in ‘Kraken Tide.’

    KRAKEN TIDE by Mark Valentine

    An adventure in Lincolnshire immaculately as well as rousingly expressed by Valentine with his accustomed high standard of story-telling, an adventure of a pen pusher at the Ministry of Works, someone whose adventure is somehow presaged by listening to the Shipping Forecast and reading a book about ancient pious wars, and their emblems, here travelling towards a position as an emergency worker following the erstwhile floods, with notes ranging from Immediate to Doubtful, one of the latter leading him, along with an acquired colleague called Flint, to face another man called Ferment who ‘foments’ the ‘watters’ with highly visionary serpentine results, “vivid dreams” becoming tantamount to real co-vivid ones of realities we suffer or enjoy today. All involving such shuttling realities, here, of an old Templar tower, a black smelly miasma of mist that later becomes a fog, an under-tide, mouldy swedes and turnips floating, &c. &c.

  13. Below is my review first shown here and please note its onward link to Parypinski etc. in it!

    “There is nothing else. Only the chant. It ceases being a word and it takes a new power from that.”
    I have often made words incantatory in refrain, where they eventually have new meanings. Here, we have a story about a Wordplague, with the frightening need to keep the words staunched behind the teeth. A touching, as well as tantalising, story in rite of passage, as a young woman travels to seek a cure by the seaside, seaside seaside, seaside… (ah that’s me chanting not the story!), with her lock knife to protect her from the other survivors, and her sister whom she loves is at home waiting and wilting with the Wordplague. “How it’s not about sound, but meaning.” Homonyms are OK? Speaking in one’s sleep is OK? Speaking in someone else’s body à la Daniel Carpenter is OK? Who knows? Best not to know, I guess. Something by chance even more uncanny – there was an anthology which I recently reviewed here where I happened to mention the word ‘pomegranate’ four times in its connection, an anthology that contained a story by Joanna Parypinski who is also here in this Black Static. ]]

    I have thus felt haunted by hunting a pomegranate before (while gestalt real-time-time reviewing) and the next story in ‘Powers and Presences’ was thus even more powerful for me…

    SEEK FOR THE POMEGRANATE by Mark Valentine

    To éclat and éclairs, this is a most civilised story of a mild-mannered scholar in a backwater museum as he is sifting Roman and other remains from its backstory reserves downstairs, just to freshen up the public display after interminable years of passing rain-shelterers. And a scholarly woman with a comforter soft toy hare called Lepus, who had recently preempted the above scholar for a university job nearby. With a comforting narrative, they join together in this story’s own haunting search for what I think I seek, too. Joined together, as he had joined together two pieces of forgotten exhibits into what she sought by the dint of happenstance in gestalt real-time translating an arcane text, and there ensues a sometimes blackly frightening visionary trip for them both, separately and then together, the S of a dodgy typewriter ribbon becoming the S of a Serpent, from Mysteries more mysterious than Roman remains. The nature of the scholarly woman’s amber cigarette, notwithstanding!

    “The truth was shadow and shade, was half-light, was always partly withdrawn.”

    This Valentine work is somehow special, and I felt I had discovered a text forgotten, not one that is newly written, and like my friend in the story itself, I have now brought a rare book to light, fitting it together with concepts previously missing to help give me what I sought. Or rather the editor of this book has done this. Or the authors themselves in collucidity have done this.
    Not daydream nor even delirium, but something with which only today’s co-vivid dreaming — however evilly sourced — can grace you. Replenished my soul. And completed this book’s vintage connections with a darkly inspiring flourish of illumination … “imagined into us.”
    Making us all the book’s gestalt, as well as its singular scion.

    “Everything’s significant to you, isn’t it?”
    “Yes, it is, rather. Isn’t it to you?”

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