Chiaroscuro Void — Goyesquean Fictions and Visions

Raphus Press MMXX

Stories by Rhys Hughes, D.P. Watt, Karim Ghahwagi, Jonathan Wood, Brian Evenson, Wade German, Colin Insole, Stephan Friedman, Fernando Naporano, Alcebiades Diniz Miguel, Joseph Dawson, Fábio Waki, Thassio Capranera, Jean du Bois, Timothy J. Jarvis.

When I read this book, my thoughts will appear in the comment stream below…

20 thoughts on “Chiaroscuro Void — Goyesquean Fictions and Visions

  1. THE DISTANT CRITICS by Rhys Hughes

    “Goya is heading our way.”

    A cut-off land beyond the jungle is promised a visit by the original painting of Saturn devouring his children. But a promise is only a promise as long as it remains unfulfilled, I guess. With additional reference to Arcimboldo, this is a classic Rhyshughesian study of art aesthetics, the uniqueness of each artefiction as a mutant artefact or vice versa, the role playing of a painting as a means to assuage disappointment at its non-arrival, and also dealing entertainingly and provocatively with other otherwise wise things from this still unfulfilled fount of ironic fantasy.

    My previous reviews of this author:

  2. QUINTA DEL SORDO by D.P. Watt

    This is one of the most powerful pieces of prose I have ever read. Highly recommended as the latest apotheosis of Watt’s writing. Men facing the dire elements of death after a lifetime of sinking into women’s bodies whence they originated — these and other thoughts distilled into darkly exquisite words, thoughts, now fully expressed by this medium, that I infer passed, while painting, through the artist’s mind, if inchoately, when he was living at the eponymous villa.

    My previous reviews of this author:

  3. F9D4A552-EA35-466A-8502-3EDD66C8ABA4DANDELION SPRING by Karim Ghahwagi

    “In the moment when his eyes had fallen upon that seeding dandelion husk, it was as if an alignment of elusive ideas had converged into a singular configuration.”

    A movingly poignant portrait back into and from the dandelion husk and a man’s particular bereavement for his wife expanding into and back from the truly mind-blowing vision of time and space – his later invention, as healing of life’s conundrum, a lemnsicate of memory, retrocausal and forward convergence, a new CERN Zoology that takes off without intention, a commonality of nationhoods into gestalt as an autonomous force with its own yearning for survival and investigation into eternal projection as well as its its own null-immortality, the “hauling of usable fissile material” as mining or, what I might call, the hawling of mine from and back into the cosmic unified yours.
    Cannot do justice to this powerful work. My mind hurts!

    D46072A4-AD53-437D-A372-8C7C6BF5B271 00ADF30F-EBAA-4028-8E7B-6873B099E259

    GOYA’s ‘SPRING’, from dandelion husk to flowers, or vice versa?

    My previous reviews of this author here: &

  4. …from the above Karimic visions created by the touch of personal minutiae with cosmic eternities, we now reach the equally powerful, unrelentingly prose-textured ‘warps’, ‘never-ending attic voids’ and ‘waking dreams’ of…

    THE FACE THAT IS NOT THERE by Jonathan Wood

    “We are surrounded by futures of abject death from all quarters and in all handshakes and kisses that we engage in. To smile is to die.”

    In the house where the paintings on the third floor are forbidden, we share the passions of male lovers, one older and more vulnerable than the other, the older one as model of the younger one’s art, and the waking dream of the younger one becoming the mutual co-vividness of their loving backstory and the nakedness they both might wield like post-orgasmic pendulums, and what I deem to be the essence of Goya art echoing the younger one’s earlier dalliances with women in darkness and salacious seediness. So utterly poignant, so utterly memorable. Vibrancy now a still life. Here the Chiaroscuro Void itself becomes tangible. God as Goya?

    My previous reviews of Jonathan Wood: here & here.

  5. 4CEC3945-B4DA-494D-88EC-995396E1CE43

    Goya’s ‘eye’

    THE DEVOURING by Brian Evenson

    I need to wake up, he thought. And then thought, Am I really asleep?

    This is the third time today that I have had strong reason to proclaim a fiction work as the optimal portrait of today’s co-vivid dream (see here and here). Here, a tantalising vignette depicting at first finding an eye in the ground of the earth, later a woman’s face embedded in the ground with her body inferred as being backboned by the earth itself, as the narrator ‘dreams’ of hiking towards her own earth-devouring dream of self failing poignantly to re-establish herself, bodily belonging by bodily belonging.

    My previous reviews of this author:

  6. 8DCBC9FA-FF0D-4752-8D46-C8679C7ED85D


    “Here, in this antique railway carriage — all gewgaw and sickly sweet — with its mannered decor, was the germ and conclusion of all things — the lethargy, decay and mockery.”

    Whenever I approach, over the years, a new Insole story, I simply know it is likely to reach a new apotheosis of his work. But this one reaches even beyond that expectation, and this is surely some sort of achievement that will never be beaten, Insole’s back catalogue even being “a vain sideshow alongside this.” This story, I thought to myself, had been issued through the iron gate’s slowly lowering before it clanged shut in lockdown? My own iron gate, rather than this author’s? Those who have the means to read this story will know exactly what I mean by all that. Resonating with the Goya’s Bordeaux bone people sculptures legend, we follow a young athletic married couple into the realms of the museum where such entities turn out be housed in the form of inmates in a Robert Aickman/Thomas Mann/John Cowper Powys sanatorium or hospice of healthy show-offs and lethargic sickies, amid the ultra-pareidolia of the éboulis. The long bedroom of a railway carriage. A co-vivid dream supreme that reaches beyond the “suffocating cloying” one that had beset the wife earlier in the morning. And I can do no real justice to the nightmarish details of this dream-area between “worlds of sleep and partial consciousness.” I have merely tried to make clear to you what you might expect beyond even your most superlative expectation of this work. And the eventual lessons the couple learn about themselves and each other. As an aside, one is (perhaps intentionally?) brought to a halt now and again in one’s otherwise brain-athletic dash of readerly enthusiasm through this text by its own many dashes being more like hyphens, e.g. “…their journey-gaped wide…” but perhaps not wide enough! Even if not that narrow, either. My quote from the text above perhaps shows how it should have been done?

    My many previous reviews of this author:

  7. THE FIERY SERPENT by Stephan Friedman

    A powerful, evocatively textured account or Mircea who seeks shelter in the outhouse belonging an old crone, the latter morphing into a beautiful and lustful young woman in the middle of the night and raping him, all of this being tied to the eponymous image that genuinely frightens me as I sense there are serious and real darkly magical undercurrents to this prose.
    This prose’s own relief at Mircea’s “renowned scholar” outcome are indeed capped off by the same author’s two poetic codas entitled THE DOG NIGHT and THE FULL MOON that continue to confirm my original reservations, even as I speak.

    My previous reviews of this author:

    • My previous review of The Full Moon:

      “A poem as a truly reprehensible coda to the previous story.
      This book is not for the faint-hearted. This book’s pages are not ‘marmalade’ after all, perhaps but some unnameable colour that has become strangely more fitting to its contents.”

  8. SOPLONES! by Alcebiades Diniz Miguel

    “, swallowing delicious child meat,”

    I feel like one of the Soplones by telling you about this story, even about this whole book and thus perhaps being in denial about the potential effect on you! Other than that quote above, I will airbrush certain aspects of this story from my memory, I hope, by dwelling on the indeterminate old age of the book collector, and the type of books that Goya himself helped to bind. But the smells are what I remember ‘best’, some worse than others, so I will merely mention the book collector smelling like old books. The other smells? — you will have to pray for Covid to help you airbrush them, I guess!

    My many previous reviews of this author:

    • FUTILITY AND WONDER by Joseph Dawson

      “If there remained to me some chance of you”

      I do not consider myself to be expert on critiquing poetry, especially longer poems with complex scansion and some rhymes. Also my strict rule is always to real-time review each work in a book upon the tipping-point of its first reading, and sometimes that is not enough for poetry. Suffice to say, that my sole experience of this poem has been a reading aloud of its lines to myself, and I felt duly impressed by its enunciated sounds of Goyesquean meaning, but could not judge exactly how. Perhaps osmosis takes time. The futility of wondering about this further, till it comes together.

      My previous reviews of this author:


    “Faeces were fucking leaking out of their bowels!”

    “I placed the bowl by his side on the bed and he kept his eyes on the paint, perhaps wondering how that pasty smudge could become a land-scape, a silhouette, a memory, a dream, a victory.”

    Accompanied by the evoked and spoken traumas of war, a painter is called to a monastery to teach a dying soldier to paint. This is an important, substantive and serious story about art aesthetics, but a moving and poignant one, too. The painter ends up painting the soldier’s subject as the soldier turns out to be too disabled by war to do so himself, deploying an evoked gestalt as context of the soldier’s illegitimate granddaughter as spoken by the soldier’s words to the painter, as if the words themselves painted the painting. A painting that eventually bears both their names.

    “…I realised that every work of art has its own spirit, its own aura, its own reduction of itself — this living, undying matter that gives it that which it is, that by which it is to be recognised, that from which it is to be felt throughout the ages.”

    My previous reviews of this author:

  10. Adolatry is the only sin that masterminds all the sins…


    “Maybe the one who hears me now doesn’t understand my words, but I don’t have any requirement in order to please the listener, since I no longer care about the time to come, or what I leave for the world that saw my birth.”

    Words expended for their own sake, as it were, and this seems the perfect demonstration of the previous story’s painting with the power of words that are expended into, say, “a dull yellow paste”, but that paste itself spreads like a wondrous disease of a “lustful broth”, that you will surely never forget. Two men reach a lagoon and have the most powerfully evocative sex with a human-like creature that would surpass even your own yearned-for or feared imagination-strength within you. Reaching, even exploiting, the darkest apotheosis possible of errancy’s punishment by Goyadolatry for your earlier admittedly spurned or reluctantly relished pleasures of specialised erotica that this word-painting provides. And I do NOT exaggerate.

  11. A THING OF NATURE by Jean du Bois

    “…where older men sought refuge in wiry, capriciously anonymous arms, protected by hidden thoughts,…”

    And there I assumed I had already attained apotheosis with this book, but they keep on coming! Changing the nature of apotheosis itself. This highly poetic prose portrait of a painter in pantheistic embrace with his own painting of a peasant girl, herself permeated by the drystone wall whereby she had been painted. Textured with “night smears”, too. “…the fleeting goddess of the grove”, and the pantheism extends the story’s visitor to the scene as if we are all thus embraced, all thus fading, yet equally bolstered by the artist’s own handprints and other designs upon the house itself where he lived at the time. So much here, I feel as if teeming with it. Again, I do NOT exaggerate. Superlative, yet hedonistically containing rich superfluities and retrospective tautologies or pareidoliac paradoxes of words, too. As if we cannot absorb enough of them. We are whatever it throws into us.

    “Phallic sconces gutter and drip with the nocturnal night sap from heaven knows where and when, spattering the bare paint festooned boards at the knots and the grain that look like eyes, that look like gnarled faces beneath the spike.”

  12. My previous reviews of the next author:


    1DE256F4-9EF8-48F2-A438-D88A887A69F6”….and she realized she clutched a pitchfork in her hands, and that before her was a giant vulture standing up with its wings spread wide and terror and pleading in its eyes.”

    Having once decided to start this book, it was as if we were always meant to arrive at this point’s end, but before I try to prong it finally, I need to assuage my own co-vivid dreams of guilt, by wondering whether you, as co-readers of this book, are all big-headed people with too much inside the skull and it needs trepanning or drilling as your due, to excise the imp or bug of dark imagination. But by excising it, you effectively release it and what you fear most, infecting one’s own closest to you, will more easily happen. This story of Goya’s daughter — one that evocatively travels a journey of his infected paintings — is a ritual of the huge skull he once wore being used as a chance Ouija pointer by his daughter, with a warlock’s selfish help, to reach wherever whatever resides upon the dial of exorcism as a set-loose ulterior motive … a dire contagion of creativity that curses those who carry it. So my question: which is the real vulture — you the dead corpse it feeds upon or the entity whose own inherent nature forces it to be sin-eating from you?

    This book itself, once allowed within our heads. seems to have had us all trepanned, because Goya had already trepanned its authors and publishers that created it. The incalculable strength of darkness in Goya’s many paintings has made this very book similarly powerful, a power utterly beyond words. I really really do think that. Be seriously warned.
    Or letting light in to take the darkness out? The double-edged Chiaroscuro of the Void.


  13. Pingback: My Best of 2020 | The Des Lewis Gestalt Real-Time Reviews

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