28 thoughts on “London Gothic — Nicholas Royle


    Vignetted catch-all of colour-coded keys, and the places of stowage up and down — an aide-memoire intended for those renting a city flat. A book kept flat may not reveal to you what is actually stowed within its lockdown of various places within a gestalt’s hold-all. Until, that is, you fan out the pages of this its welcome mat. As self-evidently must already be the open and shut case for me. With all its flatly deadpan implications blossoming in so luridly vivid a reader’s mind as mine happens to be! A collucid dreamcatcher now set to have netted nightmares more covidual?

  2. B97F1EF7-096A-49ED-835F-DB220B3309DE


    “He knows it’s at the top of the house in the way that you know things in a dream. But he also knows he is not dreaming.”

    …except none of us ever KNOW. And I left this story on the snib, knowing I can regain entry to its haunting Hackney building whenever I need to check it out…. Whichever the two street doors I choose and to whatever joy division or joy cleaving it leads. Red or green. Black or white. A story that is certainly page-turning and I genuinely felt crept out. Its protagonist’s own backstory door when once working in Japan and the blonde haired woman with whom he became obsessed when working in a London office job twenty years before he remembers going to Japan, and the disarmingly strange nature of the Hackney building today whereto he regularly stalks her or whoever she once sat next to at work, another reader of the story who, like me, left it on the participatory snib, too, I guess.

  3. L NDON

    “Woodchip wallpaper, […], closing the door behind me and quietly dropping the snib.”

    This Peckham story is pointless unless you are me. Me, I can find a point in anything. But if I told you about my point in this case, that would likely be a plot spoiler, a space replaced. I am probably too perspicacious a reader for my own good, a reader who needs erasing to prevent spoiling stories, this story, in particular, with its subtly inferred erasures to make guest lists to weddings or funerals strictly manageable in this day and age of restricted numbers, a day and age, too, when places like Jan’s Bar need to close down, at least temporarily, and, yes, when flying to Madeira for pleasure is an anxious problem, having once happily flown to Japan. Erasure, though, by what means? Meetings at what distances of walking? Yet, however pointless this story is or whatever its interpretation, there is a decided frisson to be felt. And I have the added fear of self-erasure, having now completed the authorial signposts.


    “‘You don’t have to sit all the way over there, you know,’ she said.”

    In her flat, off-white, with bare walls. Eventually embracing, kissing, even if nervously on his part. Too nervous, possibly, for this story first published in 2012.
    Four self-contained flats, presumably in L ndon, with double entrances within each front porch. The off-putting neighbours’ echoing mœurs with theirs may explain some of the nervousness. Their second meeting is no better. Self-conscious, as we all are today, as preluded by this still haunting story of a TV drama’s false tropes. No lockdown without a feasible snib to toggle or ease? I’ll get my coat.

  5. 8AE2F50B-1DB1-4C12-9E10-88533A840822TROMPE L’ŒIL

    “Douglas Gordon’s Feature Film made exciting use of the Atlantis Building on Brick Lane.”

    “‘Not exactly,’ Toby admitted. ‘But it’s sort of connected.’”

    This is another of Royle’s sinister, adroitly wrong-footed ‘Not Exactly’ fiction works… Toby or not Toby. That is the question. And I have been wandering the Brick Lane area in my mind recently with ’XX’, as I did for real in the early 1970s between the art installation façades of L ndon. This story’s plot is literally its own title. A disarmingly fluid triangulated partnership of Mandy, Me and Toby. In the art journalism business, with a tangled romantic backstory, whereby, later, following someone from gallery to gallery means following on from where they’ve already been. And when I look away from this story everything else now seems faux, too. Especially following what happened yesterday.


    DFL? FFS

    A wonderfully cynical editing, (complete with a ‘trompe l’œil door’ and a ‘brandXX’ and much more engagingly aligned with this book’s imaginative ethos so far), an editing by interpolated underlined texts within the original text, an original text about arty lifestyle L ndon with pretentious installations in a Hackney Old Bakery done over itself as a studio by a modern couple of artists and their children. Or is the whole thing as gestalt a self-confessional written in the triangulated shape of the start of a first novel with its own critique built-in (see my own pretentious novel ‘The Visitor’ written in 1973 and pretentiously linked on Amazon HERE with its own original independent critique baked-in as the world’s first real-time review!)…?


    “Geomancy had something to do with seeing the future in patterns of scattered soil.”

    …as I do in the textual territories of so-called fiction books, although I, for one, eschew Aleister Crowley sitting on my bookshelf! The method of opening envelopes, described in this story, and the henna patterns as would-be perforations on a tall woman’s neck somehow resonates with the inadvertent connection with yesterday’s above mentioned Making Friends With Fold-out Flaps. Sinclair Road, meanwhile, in West Lond n is real, and by exploring a map of it I can see its connection with the railway track described. And the discrete levels horizontal and vertical in such rows of old terraced housing, and the paranoiac need to assuage this madness, even with a different madness. Better than visiting Estate Agents for letting lists or continuously pimping one’s film work to the BBC staff drinking in pubs those days in the Shepherd’s Bush area. This continuously relishable story is utterly this book’s soul. So ahead of its own buffers, even if by precisely measured inches.


    “Please stay 2m apart.”

    We are all in isolated constraints now, well, tomorrow, even more so. Yet, perhaps paradoxically , we are now covidual not individual. And a certain ondon route’s outside street signs are recited here as a prose concrete pottery of words discretely linking, by dint of departure and destination points, suicide and success. Arguably a major work for our times as based on two innovatively instinctive literary forebears. I feel tempted to ring some of the apparently real telephone numbers in this text. The DF Lewis signed sign outside my own door since last March, in my own handwriting: “Please leave any packages here and ring the bell. Thanks.” Nobody has so far demurred.

    “Danger of death.”


    “That was how I knew you wouldn’t be watching it, because it was on ITV.”

    Despite having once been a regular watcher of Manchestuary Corrie from when it started in 1960 until about 2004, I, too, regularly eschew ITV. And I am sure I am right to do so, however pretentious that sounds! I have just looked up my Amazon Prime film channels to see if I could watch this story’s eponymous Delvaux film with Anouk Aimee, Yves Montand and Michael Gough from 1968, and was disappointed at its apparent absence, despite it having a significant Wikipedia, and with no memory of having seen it before, I shall have to take the walks through Wapping, Bermondsey etc. — something I often used to do myself about fifty years ago — for granted. The recognition of that pervasive ‘you’ whom the narratrix recognises as you when using an underground train on a line mapped as not central, not even a district, but something with an ampersand, I recall. The filmic shots of disorientated dances by doppelgängers from dramas, a broken romance, and the detached view of perhaps not success but constructive riverside suicide enacted as a dance. Filmed and posted back in a sad sae. I’ll get a Corrie to go with my Sam Smith beer.


    “Placing one room over the other in his mind,…”

    Here, the V&A Museum, as we follow a tense, if basically loving, couple, Tim who’s not paid much for his articles on films by leftfield magazines, and Henrietta having landed a lucrative broadsheet article on one of her favourite novelists, both of the couple here together / separately on research missions for their respective projects. His on Hitchcock. Here, too, we echo the filmic doppelgängers of the previous story with a fresh Hopper of obliquities that are factored into the “psychogeography” of entrances and exits important to this book. There is a memorably Hitchcockian action denouement that gives a bloodthirsty chill to the headscarf that I’ve now inferred from the title. Texted on the move.

    “Me too x x x.”

  11. …from the “green flock wallpaper” in the previous Hitchcockian story, to a resolving camera through the ‘rear window’ in…


    “Bare wall.”

    I was privately discussing DVDs and VHS tapes with someone recently, and this a multi-POV story about easing one into the other, including the POV of the shopkeeper who did that process, plus slants of past relationships, even the POV of a mysterious shadowy shape in one of tapes, the Cartesian XX ghost in a machine, another trompe I’oeil creepily trumping today’s real-time, and the Zeno’s Paradox progress through halls and half-landings, making me realise, as an aside, that halfway has only one letter changed from hallway!


    “The Béatrice Dalle lower lip trembled.”

    This, as a story box, contains the air breathed out over Christine’s lower lip here earlier today. The fingering as a Cōnfingō, a pout of manufactured pathos now become a storage of other looks, expressions, action shots of actors, moues and demurrals preserved otherwise on film posters or VHS tapes or DVDs in their own boxes, but now tantamount to empty rooms seen from a passing train whereby one can repopulate such rooms with the framed fingering of an otherwise pretend camera. This story FEELS genuinely to me like a classic Royle story, the Royal Classic now occurring to me as the name of an old collectible cinema, now derelict, or completely lost. A story of a collector of such bricks and mortar cinema auras in empty boxes, fooling a woman (one who fronts an expensive film poster gallery that he visits) about the difference between genuine empty boxes he uses to can these auras and JUST empty boxes. An important fiction work that, perhaps inadvertently, deals with the nature of fiction as pure emptiness versus an emptiness full of everything we want to know or get excited by or are moved by. Hitchcock’s FRENZY, meanwhile, mentioned again in this book, among many other famous films, and there is this book’s further glimpse of a ‘rear window’ as an on-track, if not on-line, ‘reader window’ for the likes of me.

  13. GUYS

    “Well, debatable, sure, but, if we were to have the debate, I think I would win. Ha ha!”

    I’m sure I’m not always right about literature, although I always think I am! This short chatty piece, that mainly went over my head, is addressed to some ‘Guys’ grouping on a pavement, not outside the White House, but outside the Muswell Hill flats, once the residence of Dennis Nilsen. A man giving a sort of guided tour around the sights of Nilsen’s once serial crimes?

    “But try not to point your phones into people’s bedrooms.”

  14. I reviewed the next story, L0̸ND0̸N, here: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2017/01/05/dead-letters/#comment-8940, as follows….




    “Go ahead. Skim. I’m just telling you what I saw.”

    This is a conflation, or is it? A story within a story, or is it? A picture within a picture, then? Maybe, if you count ‘found art’ like a red vase or an unknown contraptiveness in a railway station subway… Or a novel within a novel? Yes, maybe, if it is a novel about the Belgium coast (and its postage stamps) facing the coast of England, on this very day, this very moment, when the tides encroach in real-time upon where I sit on the Essex coast waiting for lands to touch each to each, as if in a Geographia poem by TS Eliot, or a tale of dark diaspora by Joel Lane.
    This is a wonderful work for me. I take ‘found art’ photographs like red vases etc for some of my real-time reviews, including in 2013 a novel by Nicholas Royle. This story also gives useful advice on the etiquette and art of using Twitter and Facebook. It is a seminal work for our strange times of pervasive communication and the conflation between self and unself that results. A ‘mise en abyme.’ Nicholas Royle fiction writer/editor etc. and Nicholas Royle Sussex university literature professor.
    I saw the Gilbert and George video about Gordon’s Gin in Cheltenham art gallery a month or two ago. Possibly my last holiday.

  15. THE VOTE

    The difference between train stations and railway stations, and between ‘London weighting’ and ‘a wet box of tissues’, depends on the direction your lens is pointed, I guess. This hotel situation is a perfect rendition of some of the hotels in Ishiguro’s THE UNCONSOLED and I expected the hero from that book to walk down these corridors with his weighty ironing-board under his arm, or a medieval morning-star or a torture rack. This one does have a Romanian waiter, after all, in bobbly black gloves. I have been to hotels like this one in the no man’s land between urban London and the countryside, eyeing the books purchased by the yard, and debating the strange rules that often confused or fazed me, even when accompanied by my wife. Imagining another guest to be a composer of music, and, yes, I know hundreds of women composers, including Amy Beach whose piano quintet I watched yesterday on YouTube. A brilliant, otherwise unique experience reading this work, its mysterious voting system that would confuse Trump today even more than the one he is grappling with even as I speak! And the cheek of the narrator in going into empty rooms, my expecting then a train to pass by, here where there is no station at all. The honesty bar, what a wonderful idea. But what is a TEFBUA? A BUF(F)ET — in a hotel — whereby you have to mingle strategically with others on foot while juggling food and/or drinks and holding business / socialising conversations? My own nightmare. Gestalt real-time reviewing is a breeze by comparison, especially when dealing with special harvestable provocative books like this one, a book that eventually may be found in one of our future hotels-without-guests — left inside an otherwise empty voting box?


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